Much of my foundational marksmanship development was learned with a Ruger predecessor to the 22/45, the Ruger Mark III Target. As many fond memories as I have with that classic pistol, I can recall as many frustrating flashbacks of how I never did get the hang of shooting with it. When my dad was first teaching me to shoot, after he was confident I had mastered the safety rules and understood the fundamentals, I immediately switched to shooting his Springfield 1911 A1 Loaded and fell in love with the 1911 design. Years later, I found a happy medium in the Ruger 22/45 Lite. It retains the range performance of the earlier Mark III design, with a distinctly 1911 grip feel, at a comfortably light weight.
The grip is the one feature that most sold me on this style of .22 LR pistol. One of the advantages of the popular single stack .45 design is that it is narrow, but long enough to accommodate a wide range of hand sizes for women and men. The 22/45, with its 1.13in wide grip and diamond checkered black wood laminate grip panels, emulates that popular angle and ergonomic grip well. Unfortunately, if you were looking to pop on your favorite 1911 grip panels of choice as conveniently as with a standard 1911, the Ruger doesn’t accept them without a few hours of tinkering. The Ruger 22/45 Lite also features front strap serrations, and rear strap checkering. However, 1911 lovers will note a couple of minor differences between the 22/45 and typical 1911 grip in the controls. All three right-handed controls, including the magazine release, bolt stop, and manual safety use cylindrical knobs with delineated faces—standard for Ruger Mark III style pistols, but a detectable break from the 1911 style the grip mimics.
After an initial takeup of ¼ inch, it breaks crisply after an additional 1/16th of an inch. What surprised me, though, was the weight of the pull—5lbs 9.5oz, on average, according to my Lyman digital trigger gauge. For single action pistols, in general, I don’t consider a five-ish pound trigger hefty, but when measured against its weightier Mark III Target brother, it is found wanting. The 22/45’s trigger pull weight is more than 2lbs heavier than the Mark III’s average pull of 3lbs 1.5oz. If the heavier pull is an issue for you, though, there are a number of aftermarket options available that are designed to improve the 22/45 Lite’s pull. One of these, the Volquartsen Accurizing Kit, advertises a lightened pull weight of 2.25lbs.
As a .22 LR target pistol, the Ruger 22/45 would be incomplete without adjustable target sights. The Ruger’s rear sight is adjustable for height and windage. The front sight is affixed to the 22/45’s fluted barrel shroud with a single screw. On that note, I have a little story to share about my experience with these sights at the range.
After a few boxes of .22, I raised the pistol to fire a fresh magazine, only to realize that the Ruger 22/45’s front sight had rotated 90°. Fortunately, I happen to carry a little tube of Gun-Tite in my range bag. I applied a drop of it to the swinging sight’s screw and tightened it back into place with my little Leatherman Skeletool. I checked the sighting to make sure I could continue with my review, and got back to “work.” The whole fix took less than five minutes, but it would have ended my review work on that pistol for the day had I not happened to be prepared.
The black-on-black sight picture (especially when I’m shooting a black bullseye) that target sights offer isn’t my personal favorite—it always takes me a mag or two to get used to them. I also noticed that the front sight blade isn’t textured, which, in some lighting conditions, causes a bit of a glare. Conveniently, that issue is quickly remedied with a dab of model paint (or fishing lure paint, or, for the particularly thrifty, nail polish) on the front sight. That cuts the glare when shooting in sunny conditions, and it provides a higher contrast sight picture for quicker alignment.
If you want to step up your Ruger 22/45 Lite’s game with some sweet optics, Ruger has your back. In the box, they include a Weaver rail that attaches to the receiver with three screws. Add a little Loc-Tite, and you’re set to throw on your favorite optic.
The 22/45 Lite’s gets its designation from the lightweight receiver and frame it utilizes. The upper receiver, including its fluted barrel shroud, is made with aluminum. Ruger’s unique receiver design houses both its internal bolt—which Ruger markets improves accuracy over traditional short stroke moving slide designs—and its 4.4 inch barrel. The barrel itself features a 1:16 twist (with 6 grooves), ending with 1/2-28 TPI threaded muzzle, which will fit a wide variety of suppressors. A few I’m debating picking up are the Griffin Armament Checkmate, the Silencerco Sparrow, or the Advanced Armament Pilot 2. Ruger ships their 22/45 Lite with a a checkered black anodized thread protector in place. The left side of the receiver also features a tactile and visual loaded chamber indicator. When a round is loaded and ready to fire, a slim bar, marked “loaded” on its upper face with a red marking protrudes from the left side of the receiver.
One area where Ruger was able to greatly effect weight reduction is in its frame. The 22/45 Lite features a polymer Zytel frame, which brings the pistol’s full weight to an airy 23.0oz, unloaded. That’s over a pound lighter than the traditional Mark III Target’s 41.4oz weight. The lightweight Ruger features right-hand only controls, including bolt stop, (lockable) manual safety, and magazine release. At 1.13 inches, the overall width is a narrower than my Springfield Range Officer 1911’s 1.25 inches overall width.
I received my Ruger 22/45 Lite in a white cardboard box, plain except for the Ruger branding. The Ruger, wrapped in plastic, rested on top of a slim, screen printed (with Ruger’s logo), zippered soft case. The 22/45 Lite also came with the standard manuals and gun lock, a small key for locking the manual safety, the Weaver rail, and a pair of ten round magazines.
Aside from the weight reduction, there are a few differences between the Ruger .22 LR pistol brethren. For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep the comparison to the Ruger 22/45 Lite, the Ruger 22/45, and the Ruger Mark III Target.
|Ruger 22/45 Lite||Ruger 22/45 Target||Ruger Mark III Target|
|Capacity||10 rounds||10 rounds||10 rounds|
I picked up the trusty Mark III Target along with my new 22/45 Lite for a side-by-side comparison. Not surprisingly, the most obvious contrast I detected was the difference in weight—the bull barreled Mark III has a hearty nineteen ounces on the featherweight 22/45 Lite. Some of that is in the difference in material; the Ruger 22/45 Lite utilizes a combination of polymer frame and aluminum receiver to reduce weight instead of the Mark III Target’s steel body. The Lite’s shorter barrel also contributes to its reduced weight. The Ruger 22/45 Lite features a 4.4in barrel within its fluted aluminum barrel shroud, instead of the Mark III Target’s 5.5 inch bull barrel. The extended barrel contributes to the Mark III’s greater overall length of 9¾in, compared to the Lite’s 8½ inches overall. In another subtle change between the Mark III and the Lite is the width; appropriately, the Lite is a mite more slender, measuring an overall width of 1.13 in, instead of the Mark III’s 1.20″ overall width. One final difference is in the bolt release on the pistols. The Mark III Target utilizes a thin, curved tab with a lightly serrated face, where the Ruger 22/45 Lite features a round bolt stop that slides upward to lock the bolt, or clicks downward to release it.
Apart from their side-by-side comparison, these two Rugers run different on the range, as well. What bummed me out a bit was the difference in the trigger pull. I may not be in love with the Mark III’s grip angle, but I do like the trigger. After my experience with the heavy target gun, I was disappointed that the 22/45’s trigger would be so heavy. Although the 22/45 Lite is so much lighter than the Mark III, it doesn’t do anything noticeable to perceived recoil. What I did notice, however, is just how much every slight movement in my grip altered my aim. It’s easier to keep the hefty Mark III steady. For me, that issue is offset by 22/45’s more comfortable grip angle. However, thus far, I’m not quite as accurate with my new 22/45 Lite as I am with the Ruger Mark III.
Unless you’re a pistol-wielding robot, practical accuracy is the result of the pairing of firearm and shooter ability. Regardless of this pistol’s benched ability, I found that, despite my preference for the 22/45 Lite’s grip angle, I wasn’t able to dial in my accuracy as well as I had hoped. I can narrow down my issues to a few features. First, as I mentioned earlier, the target sights are challenging to align quickly, especially in varying light conditions, or when aiming at a black target. The some of the elements that make the 22/45 Lite so light have an adverse effect to maintaining accurate shots. The 22/45 Lite’s barrel is shorter, and the overall weight is lighter, which is a bit trickier to keep as steady as the weightier steel Mark III. The dark sights can be easily remedied with a bit of paint—or if you’re going whole hog, there are several hi-vis options available, such as replacement fiber optic sights. Eventually, through continued shooting, I have started to develop a firmer, steadier grip, which has begun to improve my groups, but that lack of “solidity” is an inescapable tradeoff for the reduction to the overall weight.
Reliability & Ammunition
The little Lite is a picky eater. I went through several different ammo manufacturers to determine what seems to work best with it; thus far, CCI Mini Mag is the favorite. With other ammunition brands, such as American Eagle or Eley Sport, I experienced a handful of errors—a light strike here, a stovepipe there—with every box. Even with the CCI, if I didn’t keep the bolt lubricated with a drop or two of gun oil every 300 rounds or so, the dainty Ruger hiccuped on me. Generally, I could tell the bolt was getting dry when the pistol didn’t cycle correctly, resulting in failures to feed, or eject. Fortunately, I keep a small bottle of Hoppe’s Elite in my range bag. With two stops for fresh oil, the Ruger 22/45 flew through over 1,000 rounds. It’s not the hearty beast that the Mark III has proved to be. My family’s trusty Ruger has easily burned through over 20,000 rounds with all sorts of .22 LR with little lubrication with virtually no issue—and it hasn’t been cleaned in three years (10-15k rounds ago).
Although the Ruger 22/45 Lite is a featherweight, it still handles .22 LR without becoming jumpy. As you can see in the slow motion footage above, even when firing single-handedly, the muzzle rise and perceived recoil are slight—hardly noticeable. The comfortable, light grip and muted recoil experience make for a terrifically fun plinker for as long as you can feed it .22.
With a MSRP of $499, the 22/45 Lite’s list price is nearly on par with its steel target .22 counterpart, the Mark III, with a list price of $469 (for the base model). It’s worth noting that, although Ruger’s website quotes the 22/45 Lite’s price at just under $500, I’ve seen gun shops only charging $400 for new 22/45 Lite pistols.
There is considerable debate on whether .22 LR is a viable self defense round, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Personally, I’d not feel comfortable with relying on the tiny .22 round to stop an attacker, but there are some who do opt for .22 LR for home or self defense. If you are considering the 22/45 Lite for concealed carry, I’ll briefly discuss some of its advantages and disadvantages for that purpose. For a full size pistol, the Ruger 22/45 Lite is narrow, remarkably light, as well as low-recoiling. This means that it’s easy to control during sustained fire, and it’s comfortable to carry.
On the downside, however, the 22/45 Lite is fitted with target sights. Not only is the sight picture tricky to track, even in ideal light conditions, they’re nigh impossible to align in the dark (or near dark), not to mention, they don’t employ a draw-friendly snag-free design. I’m among the number of gun owners who dislike the Ruger’s magazine disconnect safety feature for carry pistols (if you don’t dig it either, the magazine disconnect can be altered fairly easily). Something else that might be considered a disadvantage for concealed carry is the Ruger 22/45 Lite’s magazine. When released, my magazines don’t drop clear of the pistol—a commonly reported problem (which your local gunsmith can likely remedy, for a fee). Instead, when released, the magazine only drops a half inch or so, forcing the shooter to pull the spent mag from the pistol before replacing it with a fresh one.
The Ruger 22/45 Lite is just as it advertises: a grip that emulates my favorite kind of .45 in a surprisingly light package. It does have its quirks with its ammunition preferences, and its light weight and dark sights make it trickier to be as accurate as with its heavier predecessor, the Mark III. But, if you’re looking for a little plinker for shooters of any skill level, the 22/45 Lite will show you a fun time.
Caliber: .22 LR
Capacity: 10 rounds
Frame material: Zytel® polymer
Upper receiver: Black anodized aluminum
Barrel length: 4.4in
Overall length: 8.5in
Overall height: 5.5in