by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, here’s a followup to yesterday’s blog on the importance of stock length. I discovered, thanks to blog reader Mike, that the No. 4 SMLE has both a long and a short stock. Apparently, when there are complaints that the rifle kicks, the stock is always a short one. I tested that at the range yesterday with a friend of mine. He had a hard-kicking Mark III and, sure enough, it has a short stock. But my No. 4 stock is at least .75 inches longer and feels like a mild 30/30 when shot.
Okay, on to today’s blog.
There’s a lot of interest in this pellet pistol, and I’ve learned a lot more while testing it. Before I did this report I read as many reviews of this Ruger Mark I pellet pistol as I could find — both on this site and on others. I discovered something while doing that. There’s a sharp difference of opinion about the gun that divides around the age and airgun experience of the person writing the review. Those who are either young or have little experience with airguns say the Ruger is hard to cock and not very accurate, but they all praise the power they think it has. But veteran airgunners who own chronographs have learned that the pistol isn’t as powerful as advertised, but it’s easy to cock (very easy for the power, if you use the cocking aid) and also relatively accurate. So, come with me today while I show you what the Ruger can do.
I shot the gun for accuracy at 10 meters, because most of the reviews I read talked about shooting at distances from 25 feet to 10 meters. In the end, 10 meters turned out to be exactly the right distance for the gun.
I shot off a bag rest with both hands holding the pistol out just past the bag, so there was no contact between the bag and the gun. My forearms were resting on the bag. The sights are fiberoptic; but when held at arm’s length, the front sight just fills the rear notch perfectly. It’s possible to get a precise sight picture that can be repeated with every shot.
Trigger and cocking effort
The trigger-pull is very heavy — to the point of being a distraction. Blog reader Victor asked me to report on the trigger-pull and cocking effort after this test; I guess because he wanted to see if there was any change during break-in. After this accuracy test was completed, the gun had a total of about 140 shots on it. The trigger-pull measured 5 lbs., 13 oz., and the cocking effort with the aid installed is 26 lbs. That’s a pound higher for cocking, and the trigger is a half-pound heavier than the last time I checked. Both numbers are probably just due to how they were measured and no real change has occurred.
The nice thing about testing a gun with open sights is that it’s usually on the paper right out of the box, where a scope can be almost anywhere. This pistol was shooting high and left, but it was on the paper at 10 meters. It took a little elevation reduction and a lot of right adjustment to get the pellet to land in the bull. I sighted-in with RWS Hobbys. Then, I shot the first group of 10.
The first group surprised me, but that was when I realized that many of the reviews had been written by new shooters. I say that because the Ruger Mark I is an accurate air pistol when you use the correct holding technique. You hold the pistol firmly but do not try to prevent it from bouncing around in recoil. It’s not as accurate as a Beeman P1 or an RWS LP8, but it’s accurate, nonetheless. But only the experienced pistol shooters will know how to get this pistol to perform its best.
Ten RWS Hobbys grouped in a 1.073-inch group at 10 meters for me. The group is open but also nice and round. It was a lot better than I’d expected.
Following the Hobbys, I was in the right frame of mind for all further shooting. Next up was the JSB Exact RS domed pellet. We know from past experience that this pellet often does well in lower-powered springers, though I don’t think I’ve tried it in a pistol before now.
This time, the RS pellet did very well, indeed. In fact, it was the most accurate pellet of the three I tested. Ten made a group measuring 1.059 inches between centers. Though this group isn’t much smaller than the Hobby group, the smaller holes made by the domes make it appear smaller.
The last pellet I tried was the Gamo Match wadcutter. Sometimes, they surprise me by being the very best pellets in a gun, but this wasn’t one of those times. Ten pellets grouped in 1.595 inches between centers — hardly in the running with the first two pellets.
At this point in the test, my trigger finger was hurting from the weight of the pull, and I was concerned that further shooting would be affected by it. So, I ended the test. It sounds like it shouldn’t have hurt, but the pull is so long that it really does hurt.
The bottom line
If you want a powerful spring pistol at a budget price, I don’t think you can do any better than the Ruger Mark I. It demands good shooting technique and rewards it with decent accuracy. The power is respectable, and the cocking effort is low for the power generated. The trigger is heavy and the sights aren’t perfect, but they do adjust and the pistol does respond to them very well.
Most shooters will like the shape of the grip, which is reminiscent of the Luger. The Ruger Mark I is just about right in the weight and balance department and encourages plinking with its surprising accuracy.