by B.B. Pelletier

The Ruger Mark I pellet pistol is a powerful spring-piston gun.

I first saw this air pistol at the 2012 SHOT Show, though it had been selling in Wal-Mart for about six months before that. The Ruger Mark I pellet pistol is a breakbarrel spring-piston single-shot pellet pistol that seems normal in every way. The velocity claimed for the gun is 600 f.p.s. with non-lead pellets and 500 f.p.s. with lead, which means it’s both powerful and also somewhat difficult to cock. A cocking aid is supplied with the gun and slips over the muzzle to increase the leverage.

I’m a handgunner at heart; and whenever there’s a new handgun to test, I really want to try it out. I was delighted when the Wal-Mart exclusive elapsed earlier this year, and this pistol became available to the rest of the airgun world. The Ruger Mark I air pistol is available only in .177 caliber at this time.

For the record, I’m testing pistol number 00030570.

Not that hard to cock
I read the customer reviews on the gun before taking the gun from the blister pack. Many said it’s hard to cock. I disagree. What you have to do is learn where to put your hands, and this pistol cocks easily enough when the cocking aid is installed. Keep the gun close to your chest when cocking to keep the leverage as optimum as possible. If you want to see an air pistol that’s hard to cock, try a Browning 800 Express or, better yet, a Walther LP III. Those guns will put hair on your chest! This one just takes some getting used to.

One person said he left the cocking aid on the gun when shooting. Good idea! I did the same, and it seems to work well. I suppose I ought to test it for accuracy with the aid both on and off the gun.

Several people commented about the long trigger. The second stage is quite long and slightly creepy, but it isn’t the worst trigger I’ve ever used. In fact, it’s a lot nicer than some other air pistol triggers I have tried. And the creep can be adjusted out, as I soon discovered.

The first-stage pull length is somewhat adjustable. I tried to make it as long as possible, which should shorten the second-stage pull. It seemed to work, though there was still a lot of stage-two travel present. But the creepiness seemed to be abated. I think I can get used to it.

The sights
The sights are fiberoptic, of course. That part I don’t like, as all precision goes away. But the front red tube is bright enough indoors to aim with, and that’s important. The rear sight is adjustable in both directions, and there’s an arrow for elevation and a scale for windage. One owner stripped the elevation screw because he said his gun was shooting too low and he tightened down the rear sight screw (?) as far as it would go. Of course, he should have adjusted it up, because the strike of the pellet moves in the same direction as the rear sight.

There’s a short 11mm dovetail cut directly into the spring tube for an optical sight, but it needs to be one with a very short base. And there’s no provision for the scope stop that this pistol definitely needs. So, if you want to use optics, think BKL.

First impressions
The firing behavior is quick and free from vibration. There’s a definite forward jump when the gun fires. Your hand will rock forward on its own. You’ll have to adopt an artillery hold to get any accuracy from this air pistol.

The chisel detent that holds the barrel closed is very aggressive, and the cocking aid needs to be slapped to break open the barrel. It locks up tight and gives a great feeling of confidence. If the barrel is rifled well, I bet this pistol can shoot.

This gun smokes like a teenager at the mall! It’s been over-oiled at the factory and will not require any oiling for some time. This will also make the break-in period longer, and you’ll have to get used to the smell of frying bacon.

The pistol balances very well in the hand. The use of synthetics puts the bulk of the weight above the web of your firing hand, and that gives the gun a very neutral balance.

The barrel is nicely rifled with 12 shallow lands and grooves. It’s jacketed with a synthetic sleeve that has four large flutes; but since you’ll probably leave the cocking aid on, the barrel will look longer.

The grips are contoured to fill your hand, and they’re completely ambidextrous. The only feature that favors right-handed shooters more is the safety that’s a button that pops out on the right side of the frame when applied. It’s pushed in (to the left) to make the pistol ready to fire. It’s not automatic, so you can leave it alone and just cock and shoot the gun. This safety blocks the trigger and can be applied at any time — even when the gun is uncocked.

Use of synthetics
This gun has a lot of synthetic parts. The grip frame is actually a subframe that houses the spring tube. It’s entirely synthetic, but the spring tube is a conventional steel tube. The barrel is a thin steel tube housed in a synthetic jacket that includes the base block. The synthetic trigger blade is fat and nicely curved. The cocking aid is also synthetic; so except for the spring tube, most of the outside of the pistol is plastic. But it doesn’t look bad or out of place.

The gun is mostly matte black. Only the spring tube is polished steel, and the level of polish is just one step better than matte. So this is a black gun with a matte finish.

So far
Thus far, this pistol hasn’t been in the hands of many airgunners. It was sold through Wal-Mart, with no way of knowing how well it was received. But now that it’s in airgun market channels, it’ll be time for a thorough evaluation. How does it hold up against other powerful spring-piston air pistols?

I’m so glad this is a pellet pistol and not a BB gun, because there’s a good chance for accuracy. It holds well, the sights seem usable, and the trigger isn’t that bad. Cocking is easier than many have said, and I am hoping the pistol will continue to surprise me downrange.