[Review] Ruger Wrangler: Single Action .22LR Fun

A plinking gun is a great thing to have.

They’re fun, cheap, and great to train new shooters.

But not all plinkers are made the same and many of them are so cheaply made they defeat the goals of having one!

Ruger Wranglers and ammo
Ruger Wranglers and some ammo

That’s why when Ruger announced they were going to release a cheap version of their Single Six, I was trepidly hopeful.

Not to be held back though, I pre-ordered two of them and then spent a lot of range time with both to see just how they did–and the results are outstanding!

What Is The Ruger Wrangler?

In a nutshell, the Wrangler is a cheap version of the Ruger Single Six.

However, the Wrangler isn’t Wal-Mart brand chips vs. Lays, it’s more like the Toyota Tacoma Vs. the Toyota Tundra.

Tundra Vs Tacoma
Tundra (left) Vs Tacoma (right)

Smaller, lighter, and a whole lot cheaper.

How To Make Something Good

To really understand the Wrangler, you need to know a little about the Single Six since, without it, the Wrangler wouldn’t be here.

Ruger’s Single Six is a rimfire revolver modeled after the classic Colt Single Action Army and has been around since the early 1950s, although with some changes over the years.

A pair of Ruger Single Six, sold at Rock Island Auction
A pair of Ruger Single Sixes, sold at Rock Island Auction

Today, you can get a Single Six in a whole bunch of models and shooting .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR–and nearly all of the models come with at least two cylinders, letting you shoot at least two of the options.

Steel alloy frame, steel alloy cylinder, cold hammer-forged barrel, adjustable rear sight, ramp front sight, and will cost you around $550-600 retail.

530
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s a great gun, but that is also a fairly steep price tag for what most people will only ever use as a range toy plinker.

How To Make Something Good… But Cheaper

The Ruger Wrangler answers the problem of price but also cuts down on the features.

First off, no more second cylinder and as of now, there isn’t any upgrade or conversion cylinders out.

Other than that though… you don’t really miss out on much.

Ruger Wrangler, two of them
Ruger Wrangler, two of them!

The steel alloy frame has been replaced by aluminum alloy, fixed rear sight, blade front sight, and a Cerakote finish instead of blueing.

BUT!

The cylinder is still steel alloy and the barrel is still cold hammer forged. And these are the true heart and soul when it comes to long term durability.

Best of all… this little guy is running a fraction of the price.

200
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

On The Range

After a crapload of ammo, a sore thumb, and a lot of old-timey reloading, I’m here to say that this gun is awesome.

Period.

Right out of the box, everything fits and functions perfectly. Nothing about this gun says “cheap” when you look at it or use it.

The Single Six is 32oz, the Wrangler is 30oz. I love that it feels like a good little gun should. Not too heavy, not lightweight either though.

Groupings

If you’re looking for precision fire with a <5″ barrel in .22LR… you might be asking a bit much.

But for the size, I was actually very pleased with my Wrangler. It is consistent and is more than able to put shots where you want them at a fairly reasonable range (for .22LR and a <5″ barrel).

Ruger Wrangler Group
Ruger Wrangler Groupings

However, the groups were a little odd. Ignore that bottom right corner, that was me shooting my CZ 97b… review on that coming soon!

All of the groups shot were at 10-yards, a nice plinking range.

Aguila Super Extra

Aguila Super Extra is my plinking .22 LR ammo of choice and it performed very well in the Wrangler.

Wrangler Colored and clippped

Point of aim was the middle of the red diamond and it was only a touch low and a very tight group.

3
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

One thing to note, Aguila Super Extra bullets are dipped with a very thin copper coating – these made them a little tight and a little sticky to load, but really caused no problem at all.

Aguila 22lr ammo (2)
Aguila Super Extra .22lr ammo

CCI Subsonic

The grouping was lower and more open, but they were SO SOFT to shoot.

If you were wanting to train a new shooter or let a young give have a go, CCI Subsonics would be a great option with how soft and quiet they are.

Sadly, you can’t mount a suppressor to the Wrangler so that is out.

Federal Target Match

I had to shoot this grouping twice because half of the first grouping wasn’t on paper.

I don’t know how but these were even lower shooting than my Subsonics were.

Wrangler Colored and clippped
Both Federal Target Match groups on the bottom left.

First group was aimed at the red diamond and the first shot clean missed the paper, I rose a little and clipped the paper, rose again so I was aiming two 1-inch squares above the diamond and finally landed some shots in a row.

The second group was all on paper, but the point of aim was a full 3″ high of impact. 3″ low at 10-yards was…surprising. But they all fired, they all loaded with ease, and were fairly consistent once I knew the POI Vs. POA.

I’ll finish out this box of Federal Target Match but I don’t think I’ll be getting more.

Wear and Durability

Coated in Cerakote, these guns are designed to last longer than the average cheap plinker should last. So far the Cerakote is holding up outstandingly well, although I do have a couple of scratches from where I set it down too roughly on concrete.

Ruger Wrangler wear after several hundred rounds
Ruger Wrangler wear after several hundred rounds

I’ve put a little under 500 rounds of .22 LR through it so far and the cylinder looks to be in great shape, exactly what I would expect from steel-alloy with Cerakote on top.

Zero marks in the steel itself, while the coating on friction surfaces is clearing away as expected.

Quirks, Heat, and Transfer Bars

While the Single Six and Wrangler were modeled after the Colt SAA, they’ve come a long way since then and have a number of features that the old Colt doesn’t.

The big one is the use of a transfer bar safety.

Transfer Bar Safety

Quickly speaking, the transfer bar is a safety feature that prevents the gun from firing if the hammer is hit while resting on a live cartridge.

Ruger Wrangler transfer bar (2)
Ruger Wrangler Transfer Bar

Instead of the hammer with an integrated firing pin or the hammer striking the pin directly, there is a bar between the two.

The hammer hits the bar, the bar hits the pin, the gun goes bang.

And that bar is only in place to be hit when you’ve fully depressed the trigger. Cool, right?

Loading Gate and Cylinder

Secondly, the cylinder lock-up system is different–how and why isn’t that important or interesting, the key thing to know is that when the loading gate is open the cylinder can rotate BOTH directions. This makes loading and unloading nicer.

It also means that the loading gate isn’t just a loading gate… the loading gate is connected to the cylinder lock-up so opening the gate cams a pin down to let the cylinder rotate.

Side view of Ruger Wrangler
In the bottom gap under the cylinder, you can see the small locking bar in place–that is what you cam out of the way when opening the loading gate.

This makes for a VERY stiff loading gate to open, but adds a level of safety.

Heat Build-Up

Since this is a plinker and since it requires more manual manipulation than most guns, I wanted to try and see how hot it would get and how quickly.

Bottom line–even with trying my best to shoot and reload as quickly as possible, in 100-rounds I still wasn’t able to get it hot enough to be uncomfortable to handle.

Ruger Wrangler chamber wear after several hundred rounds
After a couple of hundred rounds, it can use a bit of a cleaning!

The barrel was toasty and the cylinder was warm, but both were still cool enough that it didn’t hurt or feel like it was getting too hot.

You have a lot of things working in your favor here, first is that .22 LR isn’t super spicy. The cylinder and barrel are both steel and are fairly beefy for being a .22 LR gun.

And… it’s a single action. You can’t exactly speed load or mag dump with it!

Who Is It For?

Everyone.

Plinking gun at the range, great shooter to introduce people to firearms with, maybe even some small game hunting if you’re feeling quick and sharp.

Everyone, Gary Oldman
Commissioner Gord- I mean, Gary Oldman agrees–EVERYONE!

If you want a cool pistol that you can put an obscene amount of rounds through, you won’t go wrong with a Ruger Wrangler.

By The Numbers

Accuracy: 3.5/5

The sights are very… classic. They are a little small but they do their job well enough to get by.

sight picture of Ruger Wrangler
Sight picture of the Ruger Wrangler, not bad…not awesome.

Compared to the Single Six they are a lot worse, but sacrifices have to be made.

Ergonomics: 4/5

A little on the small side, the grips are clearly not made for super large hands but more of a middle ground. I thought I would have more problems with them than I did and actually, once I found my grip, it was fairly firm and comfy.

Looks: 5/5

I love it. Cerakote wasn’t my first choice, but after getting it in hand I’m very pleased with how smooth and even it is, Ruger did a great job. Plus everything seems to be holding up really well.

A pair of Ruger Wranglers

Customization: 1/5

The grip panels for the Wrangler are the same as the “New Model” Single Six, so there are actually grip options out there! Other than that though, you’re out of luck. I really hope Ruger puts out some conversion cylinders or something, but I don’t have my hopes high.

Bang For Your Buck: 5/5

MSRP is only $250, street price is commonly around $180–I paid $175 before tax and such. You don’t have many options lower than this and NONE of them can hold a candle to the quality and durability of the Ruger Wrangler.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Parting Shots

I love this gun, it’s cheap, it’s a fun plinker, and I can take it the range for some relaxing shooting without spending much on ammo.

200
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The sights aren’t the best, but they are good enough. And the loading gate is really stiff, although it has started to break in a bit.

My hold out hope is for more cylinders, but even with just .22 LR I’m very happy with it for the price I paid.

What is your favorite plinking gun? Got a Single Six? Let us know in the comments! For a rifle to pair with your awesome Wrangler, take a look at the Henry Golden Boy!

Henry Golden Boy
Henry Golden Boy!

18 Leave a Reply

  • Topherb

    That pistola looks mighty fine. I have been plinking with my heritage rough rider .22lr which I bought from crazy gun dealer for $99 just fine as well. Then added a 22 mag cylinder for it for under $50 for more fun.

    1 second ago
  • Jack Webb

    Wish it had a 22 mag. cylinder.

    13 hours ago
  • Steven kelnhofer

    I got one of these for my 11 year old. I put the rosewood grips on it. It’s awesome. So much fun for him to shoot.

    1 week ago
    • Caleb Johnson

      Small world, I am looking at this for my 11 year old as well. Good to know it's a good choice.

      1 week ago
  • John W Weber

    I have a Ruger 50th anniversary single six it has a 4.62" barrel. I'm contemplating on if I need a Wrangler, if they come out with 6.5" barrel I will definitely get one.

    1 week ago
  • Jp64

    First pistol I ever bought was a Single Six 40yrs ago and I still have it. Tens of Thousands of rounds downrange and it still shoots like new. I have 2 Heritage .22lr but I'll be getting one of these.

    1 week ago
    • Art out West

      I've got one of the Heritage revolvers, and a Ruger SR22, plus a Ruger Mark III.. Now I want to add one of these.

      5 days ago
  • James Crum

    I got two, and like them. It will be hard to pass them on to my kids though... ** 36 grain Federal seems to tumble, but others are OK **

    1 week ago
  • Clifford Bloom

    the first gun I purchased 45 years ago was a Ruger stainless steel single six from a dealer just over the Chicago boarder. I moved and have been living in rural Northern Illinois for the last 40+ years. With about 10 other handguns, Glocks, Springfields, Colts, etc., the Ruger is the primary "go-to" tool we use out on a farm. Rats in the chicken coup, check; coyotes in the chicken coup, check; wife uses it, check; teach grand kids how to shoot a handgun, check. Load with 22 long rifle or shot shells; check.

    1 week ago
  • Ron King

    I love Ruger. Nice looking single six. I have had a Texas Ranger single six for 30 years. It was a cheap well made single six. Two cylinders 22LR and mag. $75.00. I must have the Ruger.

    1 week ago
  • Ian VanVranken

    As for the 22 mag cylinders, I'm pretty sure I had seen a video with a ruger rep saying they had no plans for a conversion, something about the alloy frame not being strong enough

    1 week ago
  • ORR

    Im a Big fan of Ruger....& Especially their Revolvers...However I think they missed the mark big time on this 22 caliber Wrangler...Its not even close to being as good as the cheap Heritage 22 SA Revolver for a price of $130 to $180.00 and comes with an additional 22 Magnum Cylinder . The Ruger Shopkeeper is another excellent Ruger Revolver but it way way over Priced.Anytime a 22 cost as much or more than a Large caliber like a 9mm or 357 Mag than ya know its over priced and the sales suffer.

    1 week ago
    • LazrBeam

      Even though I’m quite fond of Ruger (I have six of various flavors) I’m with ya on the Heritage revolvers. Got two for $99.00 each NIB. One with the 4 1/2 in bbl, other with 6 1/2 in bbl. Then, ordered the mag cylinders from Heritage for, if I correctly recall, $37.00 a piece. Are they Rugers? No. Are they made well? Yes. Do they serve their purpose as plinkers well? Yes. With the mag cylinders are they able to take small game? Yes. So, I don’t have a need for a Wrangler. I’m good.

      1 week ago
    • Joe

      I purchased a Heritage Rough Rider in March of this year. Had it less than thirty days, before it started key holing every round. The barrel was so lose that I could move it a quarter inch with my thumb and index finger. Taurus, who owns Heritage has had the revolver eleven weeks now. They stated it would take twelve weeks to repair. Do yourself a favor and purchase the Ruger Wrangler.

      1 week ago
    • Ian

      Why is it not as good as the heritage? I have one and I love it, but from what I can tell, the wrangler fit and finish is lightyears ahead of the rough rider...for not that much more $ Not trying to start a fight, just curious as to your reasons

      1 week ago
      • Art out West

        The Ruger is clearly superior to the Heritage. I own the Heritage, and I like it. The Wrangler is better. If you need the .22mag, on the cheap, to Heritage. Otherwise Wrangler. My Heritage didn't come with the mag and I don't think I need it anyway.

        5 days ago
      • James Crum

        I agree - the Ruger is a quality looking - and feeling - pistol. Has real presence. The rough riders were just cheesy enough for me to hold off on getting a pair.

        1 week ago
  • DerYetti

    Try a Henry H001 with the Aguila Super Colibris. Quiet and fun for the back yard.

    1 week ago
New to Guns ? Check out our beginners guns video course. Start Now