Monday, February 25, 2013
MArooned Product Review: Ruger 22/45 Lite
So, I've had the Ruger 22/45 Lite for a while now, and figured it was about time to give it a proper review. The good folks at Sturm, Ruger & Co. were kind enough to send a model to me towards the end of the summer, just in time for fall shooting and winter indoor practice. My gun club has a small indoor range under the clubhouse with a simple angled steel plate that deflects rounds into a sand trap, and is limited to lead bullets only. This means that for the colder months of the year I'm shooting a lot more .22LR.
Which, given the recent ammo shortage and price increases, would have been happening anyways...
The 22/45 was designed in 1992 as a rimfire trainer for the 1911 (interesting to note, of course, that Ruger's 1911 wouldn't be introduced for nearly two decades). The 22/45 has the same grip angle and control location as the 1911 (slide release, magazine release, and safety), and some models have removable grip panels that are quite similar to the 1911. The 22/45 Lite even goes so far as to add in the cocking serrations, although I don't recommend trying them unless you want funny looks at the range (ahem)...
Here's what arrives with the 22/45 Lite:
There's two magazines, the infamous Ruger lock, a nylon pistol case, and a rail:
That's mighty slick right there, I do have to admit. Remove the three screws from the top, position the rail, tighten it down (Ruger provides slightly longer screws, even). Looks like the process might take two or three minutes. I'm tempted to put it on, because this gun just cries out for a nice red dot or reflex sight, however it defeats the purpose of having the Lite if additional gear is going to be added. Then again, putting on a small red dot sight would bring the total weight to that of the standard 22/45...
The weight of the 22/45 Lite is the big selling point, of course. The aluminum receiver assembly shaves more than half a pound off the weight of the 22/45 - the steel assembly tips the scales at 32 ounces even; the Lite comes in at a svelte 22.8 ounces. Those 9.2 ounces aren't missed in felt recoil - this is .22LR we're talking about - but if you're teaching a new shooter, they make a world of difference when the new person has been holding the gun getting used to it for a while.
This model also has the changeable grip panels, which means that you can upgrade the rubber grips for nice wooden grips, like those made by Rimfire Designs:
as seen here. This is a nice feature that allows for some customization. Also evident on this model is the threaded barrel, which would be a much more useful feature for someone in a state that allows suppressors. That's another advantage to the lighter weight; adding a suppressor to the 22/45 Lite generally won't even bring the overall weight up to that of the steel version.
What did I like about the 22/45 Lite:
Well, first and foremost, how it shot, but I'll save that for the end. Now, I'm an unabashed fan of the 1911 platform, so I really like how the 22/45 is modeled after the iconic autoloader designed by John Moses Browning (PBUH). The option of adding on a rail for optics is nice to have, and will allow for all sorts of different options down the road. The changeable grip panels are also nice, allowing for a chance in look and feel if one so desires.
The weight on the 22/45 is just about perfect. It's light enough that if you want to add a red dot sight or a suppressor you're not hefting around a three pound rimfire gun, yet it's not so light that it would be off-putting to a new shooter. This is a fantastic gun for starting out a new shooter because of the weight - a great balance between being able to hold it for an extended period of time and enough heft to damper recoil for novice shooters.
Mechanically the 22/45 is exactly what you'd expect from Ruger. It's built like a tank, runs exceptionally well, and is more accurate than I am. I didn't take the 22/45 down once in the time I had it - just ran a boresnake down the barrel, wiped the bolt clean as best I could, and oiled the bolt - and it still ran great. It fed nearly everything I put into it - it HATED PMC Sidewinder - and, best of all, ran my beloved Federal bulk 36 grain CPHP like nobody's business. Yes, like pretty much ever .22LR pistol I've ever shot, after a couple hundred rounds it starts getting dirty and having feeding issues, but until it gets to that point it runs like a clock.
What I don't particularly care for about the 22/45 Lite:
Magazine disconnect. Okay, so they more or less come standards with all Ruger autoloaders; that doesn't mean I have to like them. I find mag disconnects to be pointless and stupid, and simply another part to break. Must look into removing it. Loaded chamber indicator. Okay, so this one is required for MA compliance, but man, a pop-up timer ... out the side? Really? I thought the pop up flag coming off the top of the slide was silly on the LC9 and the SR9; on the 22/45 it comes off opposite the ejector port. It's no big deal, mind you; mere aesthetics, but it was somewhat distracting to see it hanging off the side there.
Shooting the 22/45 Lite:
This, really, is where the 22/45 Lite shines. At the heart of it, it's a Ruger Mark [X] - you know it's going to shoot well. I've taken it out close to a dozen times, put well over a thousand rounds of mostly bulk .22LR through it, and pretty much all of the targets look like these:
One bulk, one mid-range, and one higher end rimfire target. There's not a lot of difference in those three targets; granted, a more skilled shooter would almost certainly be able to tighten up those groupings and might even be able to tell the difference in ammo grades. In the case of the left-most target (the aforementioned PMC Sidewinders), the first few rounds out of each magazine (each target had at least 4 magazines run through it) were fired more or less as a single shot. All were shot at 25 feet in a dimly lit indoor range, all were shot freehand in rapid(ish) fire.
At greater distances, the groups open up, but only slightly - the center target saw the first magazine at 50 feet. Any further out and the accuracy is diminished by operator skill (or lack thereof), however it was no difficult task to repeatedly ring an 8" plate at 25 yards. The sights are all black and can get lost on a black target (I prefer orange for the front sight for this reason); however that's mostly just personal preference. Using everything correctly, the 22/45 will put every shot precisely where you want it to go, every single time, with almost boring regularity.
There's a lot to like, and not much to dislike, with the Ruger 22/45 Lite. While we could live without the magazine disconnect and the side poppin' loaded chamber indicator, pretty much everything else is spot on. The design is excellent (of course it is, it's set after the 1911), the weight is perfect and allows for modifications, and the gun functions exactly like it should all day long. The accuracy is excellent, reliability is very good with one noted exception, and even without a complete takedown (which, the internet tells me, isn't as horrible as some people claim), it keeps running like a top with minimal fuss.
I'm a big fan of the Ruger 22/45 Lite - so much that I decided to keep it!
That is all.