Gun Digest

Handgun Review: Ruger Single Nine

Workman tried both CCI and Winchester .22 Magnum loads and found that both performed superbly in Ruger’s new single-action.

When Sturm, Ruger announced the stainless steel Single-Nine in September, I had to get my hands on one immediately, and that’s just about how this handgun review happened.

Within several days, this .22 Magnum single-action “nine-gun” was getting acquainted with my gun-hand palm. It is an idea I wish Ruger had come up with back when I was a much younger fellow, hunting raccoons with a guy who became my mentor. It’s a revolver I could have used on any number of occasions when I bumped into a bunny at dusk along some abandoned logging spur or out in the woods and tangles along the Snoqualmie River’s Middle Fork Valley.

For plinking, the Single-Nine is a winner. That Champion target is about 6 ½ inches tall, and anyone who can hit that thing consistently at 25 yards will have no trouble putting rabbits in the cooler.

The .22 Magnum is a flat-shooting, hard hitting little rimfire and out of the Single-Nine, this cartridge realizes its potential thanks to the 6 ½-inch barrel topped by a Williams fiber optic front sight, and the Williams click-adjustable rear fiber optic sight. Being a fan of tritium night sights, I can say without fear of rebuttal that fiber optic sights are the next best thing in subdued forest light, and Williams did it right with green tubes.

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What caught my immediate attention was that this revolver tucked rather well into an old George Lawrence holster I had built several years ago to accommodate a Ruger Blackhawk with a 6 ½-inch barrel. Packing this “hogleg” in the woods became no problem at all.

It is widely known I’m a sucker for Ruger single-action revolvers. I own, uh, several in .45 Colt, .41 Magnum and .32 H&R Magnum. The only credible reason I don’t own a Single Six is because I own a vintage Ruger Standard semi-auto that was designed with the nine-round magazine, and is a remarkably accurate pistol.

If I want to clobber a rabbit or grouse with a rimfire, I’m set, and for those longer shots, well, there’s that Ruger 10/22 semi-auto rifle topped by a 4X Bushnell scope that frequently rides in my pickup truck.

Ruger calls the laminated hardwood grip panels “gunfighter” grips, but I don’t know a gunslinger who would risk such a pretty pair of panels in a shootout where the handgun might be dropped. Suffice to say I was favorably impressed with the smooth feel and comfort, which I think contributes to the long-appreciated Ruger frame’s accuracy. A gun that fits the hand well enhances a person’s ability to comfortably aim and squeeze the trigger, and Ruger’s Single-Nine is no exception to the rule.

However, I confess to not really caring for thin grips on a single-action because they just don’t fit my hand as well as traditional wider grip panels.

Nine rounds, count ‘em! This new Ruger single-action has plenty of firepower.

The action on my test gun (Serial No. 815-00323) was superbly finished with a matte stainless surface that was consistent from the butt to the muzzle. The cylinder is counter bored so case heads are fully protected, and naturally, Ruger designed this wheelgun with its proven transfer bar and frame-mounted firing pin.

Now, for the very good news: Out of the box, the Ruger Single-Nine shot right to point of aim at 20 yards. I did not have to adjust the rear sight one bit. I cannot guarantee they will all come like that, but my test gun did and I’m impressed.

I had a Champion target, one of those self-sealing rubber numbers that spin around on a tubular steel frame when hit, and I set it at 15 yards with a tree as a backstop and began pumping rounds through it. Mine was one of those orange models about the size of a chipmunk, with a weight at the bottom to — in theory anyway — bring it back standing right side up. I hit that thing so hard with a couple of rounds that it stuck upside down, which just about spells what this revolver will do on live game.

Anybody who can hit one of those rubber targets repeatedly will have no trouble at all hammering cottontail rabbits or snowshoe hares all winter long. Raccoons are doomed, and if you want to put the hurt on a coyote, be my guest.

A .22 Magnum hollowpoint to the noggin of some yodel dog is going to ruin his whole day, and the handgunner who can do this consistently will never have to prove himself or herself in any other way.  My guess is that the accuracy is due to six lands and grooves cut on a 1:14 right-hand twist.

Check how those fiber optic sights light up.

Oh, yes, this revolver would be a gem for the ladies because there is virtually no recoil thanks to the weight. That 39-ounce weight diminishes recoil to zero for folks used to shooting centerfire revolvers.

Ruger’s chronograph results were pretty much my experience. A standard 40-grain bullet out of that barrel will clock around 1,400 fps, and that’s bad news for any small game on the business end within, say 50 to 100 yards.

I remember once shooting a raccoon out of a very tall tree late one afternoon many years ago, using just .22 Long Rifle rounds out of a nine-shot Harrington & Richardson revolver that was my dad’s. It had a thin barrel, the sights were pretty basic and that gun — I keep it tucked away for nostalgia — would not hold a candle to the Single-Nine under any conditions.

The Single-Nine is rugged, like every other Ruger single-action revolver I’ve ever fired. Like the Blackhawk, I doubt if you could break this gun without deliberately abusing it with a ballpeen hammer, and even then I’m not so sure the Single-Nine wouldn’t still come up shooting. It seems just that tough.

The stainless steel construction is perfect for my Pacific Northwest home country, and is good for guys who like hunting big grouse late in the season up in Southeast Alaska. That fiber optic sight will just soak in every bit of available light, and in those drab gray days of winter, that’s the kind of edge that small game simply can’t escape.

Here’s an inescapable fact: Ruger’s new Single-Nine is going to be a smart investment for a small game handgunner who likes the extra punch of the rimfire magnum round. Anyone who purchases one of these single-action sizzlers is going to love it, or he’s just not from around here.

This article appeared in the Gun Digest the Magazine 2013 Shooter's Guide

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