Ruger Mark I pellet pistol: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

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

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.

Ten RWS Hobby pellets made this nice round 1.073-inch group at 10 meters.

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.

Ten JSB Exact RS domes made the best group of the test. It measures 1.059 inches between centers.

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.

It only looks like nine holes because two pellets went through the same hole next to the number 7 at the bottom of the bull. Gamo Match pellets were not in the running, with this 1.595-inch group.

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.

Ruger Mark I pellet pistol: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

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

Several readers indicated an interest in the Ruger Mark I pellet pistol, and we had one warning to watch the plastic frame for cracks. I’ll do that throughout all testing; but I can say that after today’s shooting, everything is still sound.

One reader commented that his pistol was the worst-dieseling airgun he had even seen. He may have said dieseling, but I think he really meant detonating, given what I see with the test gun. The test gun detonated several times at the beginning of testing, then settled down to just a diesel with every shot. But because of the type of oil or grease the factory used, there was a lot of smoke with every shot.

In this respect, the test pistol acts identical to the B-3 underlevers I tested back in the 1990s. It’s grossly over-lubricated at the factory and will continue to smoke and smell like frying bacon for a long time. As a result of this over-oiling, we have to look at the velocities with a certain skepticism.

Once again, I must report that this pistol cocks easily for its power. It’s definitely meant to be used by an adult male, but you should be able to cock and shoot it several hundred times in one session without a problem. The cocking effort with the cocking aid installed measures just 25 lbs. — BUT — you can easily get a much higher number when measuring this pistol. It’s obvious when cocking that the mainspring isn’t lubricated very much, if at all. So, as the gun is cocked the spring crunches and pops as its coils slip into the piston skirt and over the spring guide. When that happens, the scale can go up above 30 lbs. pretty fast. The secret to cocking the gun with the least pressure is to use all the mechanical advantage that’s available and to cock the gun quickly and smoothly. Don’t hesitate during the cocking stroke, or the mainspring will hang up and the effort required will increase.

A proper lubrication of the powerplant with some spacers to take up what feels like excess space around the mainspring would reduce the cocking effort to exactly 25 lbs. each time. I doubt that it will get any lighter than that, even with extensive break-in, as long as this mainspring remains in the gun.

This gun has a heavy two-stage trigger. The trigger is adjustable for the length of the first-stage pull, but the pull weight cannot be adjusted. The advertised pull weight is 5.5 lbs., and my test pistol averaged 6.7 lbs. over 10 pulls. It does feel as though the trigger is breaking in, so that weight may decrease with use.

While this is a heavy trigger, it isn’t too heavy for good shooting. You want a heavier trigger on a handgun to help control the gun. That’s accomplished when the pistol is drawn into the web of your shooting hand by the force of pulling the trigger. This one goes way beyond what’s required for stability, but not so far as to be excessive.

I started by testing the gun with Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellets. The first shot went 409 f.p.s., then the next five were all above 500, with one going 596 f.p.s. Then, the gun calmed down, again, and shot this pellet at an average 456 f.p.s. This string ranged from 451 to 462 f.p.s., and the pellet produced an average 3.65 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Next, I tried the RWS Hobby pellet. Although the gun was still smoking on every shot, this time it didn’t seem to detonate as much. It was just dieseling, which is expected, but not detonating.

Hobbys averaged 473 f.p.s. and ranged from 466 to 486 f.p.s. There were no impossible velocities in this string, so I think the gun has calmed down. At the average velocity, this pellet produces an average 3.48 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The last pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak — a heavy .177 pellet that’s out of profile for use in a pistol of this power. Even though it won’t be used, it’s good to see where the boundaries of the gun lie, and the performance of a heavy pellet is one of the things you have to look at.

Kodiaks averaged 360 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 348 to a high of 366 f.p.s. Like the other two pellets, they’re reasonably consistent. At the average velocity, they averaged 3.05 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Umarex advertises this pistol to shoot at two different velocities — 500 f.p.s. shooting lead pellets and 600 f.p.s. shooting high-velocity non-lead pellets. So far, the fastest we’ve seen from lead is one shot at 486 with Hobbys, so I thought that it was important to also test this gun with the high-velocity, lead-free pellets. Shooting 5.2-grain RWS HyperMAX pellets, the pistol averaged 554 f.p.s. with a spread from 542 to 574 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 3.54 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

I wondered whether seating the pellets deep in the breech would affect the outcome, so I shot a second string with the pellets seated deep, using the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet. These pellets really popped into the breech, so the resistance their skirts provided was significant. Set deep, they averaged 567 f.p.s. with a spread from 562 to 573 f.p.s. That’s an average 3.71 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. So, the average speed increased and the spread tightened, even though the maximum velocity did not change.

I read many reviews of this air pistol — both on the Pyramyd Air website as well as other places. Some have compared it to the Beeman P1, the RWS LP8 and the Browning 800 Express. Apparently, they think this pistol is in the same power category as those three, but it isn’t.

For what it is, the Ruger Mark I is a consistent spring-piston air pistol that’s relatively easy to cock and produces reasonable power. The shot-to-shot consistency is very good. When taken as a whole, we must also consider the heavy trigger and the accuracy that hasn’t been tested, yet. It’s too soon to make any pronouncement about whether or not this is a good air pistol. It’s certainly very smoky to shoot and does need the cocking aid. But none of that will matter unless it can also group.

One final thought. One customer review I read said the shooter was grouping from five meters. I will test the pistol at 10 meters unless there’s a compelling reason not to. A pellet pistol with a rifled barrel ought to be able to shoot that far with some level of accuracy if it’s to be considered for anything.

Ruger Mark I pellet pistol: Part 1

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.