Handguns chambered in .22 Long Rifle rank as among the fun and useful to buy. The .22 single action revolver has proved to be especially durable. These mimic the lines and function of the legendary Colt Single Action Army of Western lore and they have some of the same attributes that made the old Colt great. .22 six-shooters can be very accurate, are easy to shoot, and are largely insensitive to the ammunition you put in them. Ruger makes the best single-action .22 revolvers on the market, but not necessarily the most affordable. Over the last twenty years, Heritage Arms has sold countless numbers of their Rough Rider revolver. The Rough Rider has consistently sold for ¼ of the price of a Ruger over that time. In 2019, Ruger chose to compete directly with Heritage with the debut of the Wrangler series of revolvers.
Ruger Wrangler Specs
- Caliber 2 LR
- Action Single Action
- Capacity 6
- Safety Internal Transfer Bar
- Front Sight Fixed Blade
- Rear Sight Fixed Notch
- Frame Aluminum
- Grips Synthetic
- Barrel Length 3.75 in
- Overall Length 8.62 in
- Weight (loaded) 27.8 oz
Ruger Wrangler Background and Features
The Ruger Wrangler is a relatively new single-action revolver on the market. However, it traces its linage back to the Ruger Single Six revolver, which debuted at the dawn of the TV Western in 1953. The Single Six is a full-sized steel-framed revolver with a six-shot capacity. They initially offered it in .22 Long Rifle, but the large size of the Single Six allowed Ruger to make a slew of handguns based on the action in calibers up to .327 Federal Magnum. After 1974, the Single Six series has used a transfer bar safety, allowing the user to carry all six rounds loaded in the cylinder while being totally drop safe.
The Single Six is still in production today, but its fit, finish, and materials make it an expensive pistol to buy. In the late 1990s, Heritage Arms introduced their Rough Rider revolver. It is another .22 revolver with Colt-like lines. These pistols feature a zinc alloy frame, a stamped ejector housing, and an external manual safety. The Rough Rider is a more cheaply made pistol, but they generally shoot straight and for what most folks will use a .22 pistol for, the Rough Rider will suffice. Ruger ultimately responded with their Wrangler. It shares the same action and grip-frame as the Ruger Single Six, but it has an aluminum-frame, zinc grip frame, and they finished it in a durable but inexpensive cerakote. The initial version of the Wrangler came with plow handle grips and a 4 5/8 inch barrel. The lineup has expanded to include a 7 ½ inch cavalry model and a Super model with a 22 Magnum cylinder and adjustable sights. My version is the compact model with a bird’s head grip and a 3 ¾ inch barrel.
Ruger Wrangler Features
1 Single Action
Hammer must be cocked for each shot.
2 Transfer Bar Safety
Trigger must be depressed for the hammer to hit the firing pin.
3 Short Trigger Pull
Trigger breaks out of the box at 3 ¾ lbs.
4 Freewheeling Cylinder
When the loading gate is opened, the cylinder can spin in either direction for loading and unloading.
Models and Variations of the Ruger Wrangler
The Wrangler currently comes in the following basic types, although grip material and cerakote color can change to suit your tastes.
- Bird’s head with 3 ¾ inch barrel (my example)
- 4 5/8 inch model with fixed sights
- 6 ½ and 7 ½ inch with fixed sights
- Super Wrangler 5 ½ inch model with adjustable sights
Ruger Wrangler Review
I need little convincing to shoot a Ruger rimfire revolver. The first handgun I ever shot was a Ruger Bearcat, the smaller and lighter companion to the Single Six. I shoot a Single Six regularly and carry it while hunting and fishing. These guns lend themselves well to teaching new shooters, popping tin cans, or getting small game for the pot. But when the Wrangler came out at a fraction of the price of those models, I had to wonder: how low can you go? How inexpensive can you make a handgun without a tradeoff? The Wrangler feels like a Single Six and mostly operates like one. The only obvious shortcut is using a cerakote finish instead of the rich blue or brushed stainless steel you will find on a Single Six. That is fine. Since the Wrangler has an aluminum frame and zinc grip frame that cannot be blued, the only question of substance is: How does it shoot?
The Ruger Wrangler, with its Colt-like grip frame, is a naturally pointing pistol whose sights index on the target as if you were pointing at it with your finger. Even my particular short-barreled model is surprisingly pointable.
If you are coming off of shooting modern semi-auto pistols, the sights on the Wrangler might be a bit of a shock. Most models will have a front blade that is fixed to the barrel and a rear sight that is simply a square notch machined into the top strap of the frame. The sights are low, but the pointability of the Wrangler allows you to find the sights easily to line up a shot. One additional knock is that the sights are fixed. Your revolver might shoot dead-on with the sights with your given ammunition. Otherwise, you may have to play with ammunition or do some careful filing to get the sight and ammo combination right. But at distances most of us will shoot a pistol, the few Wranglers I have owned shoot close enough to not require any hard work to be done. One merit of the sights is that the wide square notch and thin blade allow you to see smaller targets. Other single action revolvers come with a coarser notch and a thicker blade, making it hard to hit to drive tacks.
The shooting experience itself is fairly effortless. The Wrangler is a single action gun, requiring the hammer to be thumbed back in order to fire a shot and the trigger pull is short, breaking clean at about 4 lbs. Out of the box, the trigger has a bit of mush, but that goes away after some rounds downrange. The trigger on the Wrangler can be improved greatly by removing the grips and unhooking one leg of the hammer spring. This got the trigger pull weight on my Wrangler down to 1 ½ pounds. With or without this trick, it is easy to get hits with the Wrangler. While the .22 LR barks out of a pistol barrel, there is negligible muzzle flip and no noticeable recoil.
Like all other single actions that mimic the Colt, the Wrangler is a gate-loader. Opening the gate on the recoil shield on the left side exposes the cylinder for loading and unloading. Opening the gate also frees the cylinder to rotate. Loading is done by inserting loose rounds into the cylinder, indexing it as you go. Punching out the empty cases is done by opening the gate, indexing the cylinder, and hitting the ejector rod housed on the left side of the barrel. Quick reloads are not the Wrangler’s strong suit. Thankfully, Ruger incorporated a completely free-wheeling cylinder. This allows you to double back to a cylinder if you skipped it by accident, since the cylinder will now turn either to the left or the right. On most single action revolvers, the cylinder will rotate only one way and you have to spin the cylinder all the way around to load or unload the missed chamber.
Most of the work involving firing the single action revolver, as well as loading and unloading, is done by you. Single action revolvers also don’t depend on the power of the ammunition to cycle. We expect guns like these to be reliable. But a revolver also requires some care to make. The hammer, hand, trigger, and cylinder stop—as well as the springs they power on—must be machined and tempered correctly and work in unison. Revolvers on the lower side of the price scale tend to work fine in the short term, but become problematic with spring failures or timing issues down the road. I have picked up Heritage Rough Rider revolvers whose timing was off out of the box, yet others can go for a thousand rounds as a weekend plinker without a problem. I’ve owned the original Wrangler and this Birdshead grip model. Both came from the factory perfectly timed and neither gave me an issue over the 1,600 rounds between the two revolvers. The Wranglers also never failed to fire, even with some of the largest dud-prone bulk pack offerings out there.
If you like Western movies or had the occasion to game play Red Dead Redemption, you will probably have an idea of the ergonomics of the Ruger Wrangler. The loading gate, ejector rod, sights, and general handling characteristics are like that of an old Colt. The Wrangler does save you from having to half-cock the hammer to spin the cylinder, and the cylinder goes in both directions for loading and unloading.
Most Wranglers come with black plastic grips. These do not feel cheap in the hands, particularly the checkered square-butt grip that is available on most models. My bird’s head model has a slick-sided, rounded grip. Like the other options out there, it has a wider palm swell at the base of the grip that tapers thin toward the top. As it is based on the Single Six, it is a full-sized handgun that gives you a full five-finger grip and a feeling of density in the hand. This is great for holding steady, but overtime smaller-statured shooters might find it fatiguing.
While the fixed sights may dictate slight point of aim variances, the Wrangler is capable of printing good groups and hitting targets. The trigger pull and that narrow front sight certainly helps. At fifteen yards, I could coax six rounds into a group smaller than three inches while shooting offhand. I occasionally shoot the Wrangler out to forty to fifty yards on eight-inch steel plates and gallon-sized water jugs and, as long as I play my part, I can hit them.
The Ruger Wrangler is an exceptional value if you want a fun gun, a backpacking companion, or an overall good tool for your kit. Outside of the personal defense realm, this is probably why most folks buy a handgun, and it is where a single-action 22 is not only viable but even ideal. To truly access value, we need to know the role and what the competition has to offer. The Wrangler does the job, but does it do it any better than what is out there? Unfortunately, the Wrangler is partly in competition with others in Ruger’s lineup.
The Wrangler came out of the Single Six. Ruger’s Single Six is an objectively better handgun, but it is over twice the price of a Wrangler. The Wrangler shoots just as accurately, has a true free-wheeling cylinder, and is just as reliable. Perhaps the only knock is the final finish. The Ruger Bearcat is just as expensive as the Single Six and its smaller size makes it better for belt carry and smaller hands. In spite of their differences, all of these models compete with the Heritage Rough Rider. The Wrangler is priced best, yet it still retails for a bit more than the Heritage. But the finer sights, better materials, and internal safety make the Wrangler worth the premium.
Ruger Wrangler Pros and Cons
- Transfer Bar Safety – The Wrangler can be carried fully loaded without the need for a manual thumb safety.
- Widened sights – Narrow front blade and wide square notch allows you to see small targets.
- Chunky – Large size based on the Ruger Single Six.
- Low Capacity – For its size, the cylinder could hold more than six rounds.
Regulate ammo to sights. Afterward, the shooting experience is flawless.
Better than the competition in a few ways.
Shoots like a Single Six at a near-Heritage price point.
Ruger Wrangler Starter Pack
These items are must haves for all firearms owners and range trips:
- Eye Protection: Protect your eyes with the best shooting glasses!
- Hearing Protection: Check out our favorite hearing protection to keep your ears working better for longer.
- Gun Cleaning Kit: Gun maintenance is easy with a high quality gun cleaning kit.
- First Aid Kit – Keep a good first aid kit on hand for your range trips.
Ruger Wrangler Gun Deals
Upgrades and Accessories for the Ruger Wrangler
The revolver is not the most upgradeable firearm, but we do have a few additional items to pick up for your Ruger Wrangler. Snap caps help you practice reloading and dry firing safety. Knowing good gun handling is critical to being a responsible gun owner.
We also recommend picking up a good holster for all handguns.
Upgrades and Accessories for the Ruger Wrangler
Pachmayr Plastic Safety Snap Caps
|Buy on Amazon|
Premium Gun Grips Ruger Wrangler Rosewood Grips
|Buy on Amazon|
|Buy on Amazon|
Best Ammo for the Ruger Wrangler
Here are some deals on 22LR ammo for the range and self defense.
Other Revolvers to Check Out
The Ruger Wrangler did not make our list of best single action revolvers. In this case it lost out to the Heritage Rough Rider
Budget 22LR Competitor Heritage Arms Rough Rider
An affordable single action revolver chambered in 22LR
- Shootability A
- Reliability A+
- Ergonomics A
- Accuracy A
- Value A+
Based on 7 Reviews
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How to Care for Your Ruger Wrangler
Here is a video walking you through the complete disassembly process for the Ruger Wrangler. For most maintenance, you wont need this level of disassembly, but it is nice to know. We also included a cleaning video from Ruger on how to clean a single action revolver.
Important Links and Manuals for the Ruger Wrangler
Check out the links below for the manufacturer’s website and operator’s manual.
Bonus videos on the Ruger Wrangler from the author:
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023