Pistol weight has been a problem for many handgun hunters and target shooters. All-steel target pistols often have heavy barrels that reduce vibration. This promotes accuracy by limiting variation in the exact position of the muzzle when bullets leave the bore, producing tighter groups, but many bull-barreled handguns are just too heavy to shoot in day-long matches or lug around in the field. Whether I’m hunting, plinking, or target shooting, I want a pistol that doesn’t leave my right arm stiff and sore the next morning.
Over the last twenty years, Ruger has taken the lead in reducing the weight of its popular .22 semi-auto target pistols. In 1993 the company introduced the MK II 22/45 pistol. It had a Zytel polymer frame that had the same grip angle as a 1911. In addition to the 22/45, Ruger also introduced models with fluted steel bull barrels. This keeps their weight down while retaining their large diameter (which dampens vibration). Fluted barrels also have more surface area and cool faster than unfluted ones.
This year Ruger introduced the Mark III 22/45 Lite. This pistol combines the Zytel frame of the Mark II 22/45 with an upper assembly housing made of ordnance-grade aluminum. The rear of the housing is the receiver and the front is a fluted bull barrel shroud. This pistol weighs only 23 ounces, which is a little over half as much as Ruger’s stainless steel Mark III Competition Model. When Ruger announced this new gun a week before the SHOT Show in January, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one so I could compare it to the all-steel bull-barreled Mark I Target model I owned in the late 1960s.
When I opened the shipping box at the Florida Gun Exchange, I found a very attractive pistol. The aluminum upper receiver housing had a matte black anodized finish. There is a large ejection port on the right side of the housing and white lettering that designates the pistol as a Ruger 22/45 Lite. In addition, the Zytel frame has a matte black finish that closely matches the housing. The frame also has a set of black laminated wooden grips that are cleanly checkered in a “double diamond” pattern. Altogether the gun’s clean lines and subdued appearance make it one good-looking firearm.
My 22/45 came with two sighting options. A set of target sights is mounted on the gun. The front sight is about .5 inches back from the muzzle to leave room for the muzzle cap that protects the suppressor mounting threads on the barrel. The front sight is also slightly ramped. I prefer a ramped front sight because such sights are less likely to snag when the pistol is drawn from the holster. The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. It is mounted about .75 inches ahead of the rear of the upper receiver housing. This provides clearance for the bolt stop pin to be removed during disassembly.
In addition to the iron sights, the 22/45 Lite comes with a mounting rail that can be quickly installed in three threaded holes on the top of the upper receiver housing. All one needs to do is remove the short screws from the holes in the housing, line up the rail, and then use some red Loctite to secure the longer rail mounting screws that are supplied with the pistol. The rail fits Weaver-type mounts and my EO-Tech Mini Red Dot Sight (MRDS) fit it perfectly. My version of the MRDS is the one with the 3.5 MOA dot which is sufficient for Bullseye shooting or small game hunting out to 50 yards.
The sight is parallax-free and can be used with both eyes open…making it very desirable for quickly getting on-target with small game. The MRDS can be mounted in a sturdy Docter housing that protects it from the rigors of field conditions. The sight and housing are finished in flat black, which nicely complements the overall look of the pistol.
No review of a firearm would be complete without evaluating it for quality of manufacture. Before field stripping the 22/45 Lite I went to the Ruger website and watched the disassembly and reassembly videos. They were very helpful.
Once the pistol was apart, I couldn’t find any tool marks or signs of inadequate workmanship. The parts fit very well, and there were no gaps or tight spots that could affect reliability. Looking closely at the gun’s exterior, all edges were clean and crisp without being overly sharp. The lines of the gun inside and out were smooth and straight. The grips were cleanly checkered. In addition, the striations on the front of the grip and the checkering on its rear are well executed. These features provided a secure hold without digging into the palm of my hand.
Finally, a brief function test was conducted before taking the 22/45 Lite to the range. The trigger pull measured a very consistent 3.5 pounds. The manual and magazine safeties worked well, and the pistol locked open on every empty magazine.
Story and Photos by Dr. Martin D. Topper