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Ruger 22/45 Lite Review

Ruger 22/45 Lite Review

In case you haven't noticed, .22 Long Rifle ammunition has been a bit hard to find for the last two years or so. This lack of rimfire ammo has affected the sales of rimfire firearms to varying degrees. But as they say, if you build it, they will come.

The Ruger 22/45 is a variant of their Mark III which features a grip designed to emulate the look and feel of the iconic 1911. It has been a very good seller for Ruger, and recently they introduced the 22/45 LITE model in the series. Not only that, they continue to come out with different Ruger 22/45 LITE variants.

Why would they do this when no one can get .22 Long Rifle ammo?


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The look of a bull barrel, without all the weight — plus a number of extras! That's the Ruger 22/45 LITE, the latest iteration of Ruger's classic rimfire.

The ancient adage "This too shall pass" is perhaps a good place to start when discussing the current dearth of .22 Long Rifle ammunition in the marketplace. Well, to be accurate, manufacturers are making as much .22 Long Rifle ammo as they ever have, but consumers are buying it in larger amounts. And hoarding it, I presume. That said, ammo has been making it back onto retailers' shelves—even rimfire ammunition. While prices are still elevated, that won't last for long.


The Ruger Mark III features some changes from the Mark II, including a loaded chamber indicator on the left side, a button-style magazine release behind the trigger guard, and an internal safety lock.

There is nothing wrong with the original Ruger .22 grip, other than it's more angled than most people prefer on their carry guns. It is most often thought to resemble the angle of the Luger P08 9mm pistol.

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An ultra-light bull barrel might seem a contradiction in terms, but Tarr says the looks are great and the weight minimal in this new 22/45 autoloader.

The Ruger 22/45 has a 1911-type grip angle so it can perhaps be used as a training pistol, but the interesting thing to me is that the magazine of the Ruger 22/45 keeps the same angle to the bore as the standard Mark III. It slides through the grip at a much steeper angle than what the grip presents.

Those of you who have shot NRA conventional pistol will remember a similar technique was used to adapt magazines from the "slant grip" High Standard pistols to the "Military" models. Except for the baseplate to match the frame of the Ruger 22/45 the magazine body is the same as that which feeds the other Mark III pistols.


At first glance the Ruger 22/45 LITE looks anything but. The blued model appears to have a heavy bull barrel with some flutes, but sometimes looks can be deceiving.

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If you were wondering if suppressors have really gone mainstream, consider the threaded muzzle of the LITE, with a supplied thread protector.

The fat "barrel" is actually an aluminum shroud over the actual steel barrel. This gives the pistol very cool looks and the impression of a bull barrel, without the weight. It also allows Ruger to offer some very interesting versions of the LITE.

Currently the Ruger 22/45 is offered in two variations—the black anodized model with a fluted receiver, and one featuring a cobalt blue receiver ventilated by dozens of holes (70 if I've counted correctly). The ventilated holes make that model look a bit like a Sterling submachine gun, albeit one in a color the Brits never would have approved of.


The Ruger 22/45 LITE features a 4.4-inch barrel. This has six grooves with a 1:16 RH twist. Overall the pistol is 8.5 inches long and 5.5 inches in height. The name is attractively laser-etched into the right side of the receiver just forward of the ejection port.

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What looks like a bull barrel is actually an aluminum shroud over the narrower steel barrel. This provides the sexy looks of a bull barrel without the weight.

The bull-barrel-looking receiver is a full inch in diameter. The barrel of the LITE actually extends 1/2" past the receiver and is threaded for use with sound suppressors if desired. The pistol comes with a checkered thread protector the same diameter as the receiver. There is also a washer provided to keep everything tight.

The front sight is a smooth steel post, the base of which is screwed into the receiver. The rear sight is a notch fully adjustable for elevation and windage. These are target sights, and when you look through the sights, there is not much daylight around the front post.

The plain black front sight is fine for target shooting, but if you want to use your pistol for something else (such as small game hunting) you might need to put some colored paint or nail polish on it just so you can see it.

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Controls on 22/45 models are in 1911 style. You can't flick up the manual safety with the side of your thumb like you can the safety on a 1911, however.

The receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting a scope, and the pistol actually comes with a Weaver-style scope rail base and screws. The rail is 4, 5, 8 inches long and covers the entire receiver from the front of the rear sight to the back of the front sight base.

The frame of the pistol is constructed of Zytel polymer, the same material used in Ruger's SR series pistols. Between the aluminum receiver and polymer frame, the black fluted LITE model weighs 23 ounces even. The cobalt blue version with the ventilated receiver weighs only 22.73 ounces. I guess drilling 70 holes into the aluminum shaves a little weight.

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The front sight is a simple post. The top of the pistol is drilled and tapped for a Weaver-style rail that will fit your favorite scope or red dot sight.

The Ruger 22/45 was originally meant to mimic the look and feel of a 1911. As for having the feel of a 1911 grip in the hand—it's not exact, but it's pretty darn close. The controls are in approximately the same place as you'll find in a 1911, and move in the same manner, even though they do not necessarily appear the same.

The safety on the Ruger 22/45 is at the top left side of the frame, similar in location to the thumb safety on a 1911. Up for safe, down for fire. It is not possible to sweep the safety up with the side of your thumb as you would a 1911, however. You'll have to use the pad of your thumb. As with the 1911, the safety on the Ruger 22/45 cannot be engaged unless the hammer is cocked.

The bolt release is about where the slide stop is located on a 1911, but instead of the 1911's lever, it is a button. With a 1911 you can drop the slide by pulling back on it — that will let the slide stop drop back into position.

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The rear sight is fully adjustable. Tarr found the sights just fine for target shooting, but thought the black front sight would be easy to lose in the field.

One idiosyncratic thing I have noticed about this pistol is that when you insert a loaded magazine with the bolt locked back you can't chamber a round by pulling back on the bolt ears and letting it fly forward. Nothing happens if you do that. You will have to depress the bolt stop to chamber a round.

The button style magazine release is at the rear of the trigger guard as found on 1911s. Magazines do not drop free of the gun when you depress the magazine release. The pistol comes with two 10-round magazines, and is supplied with a soft case.

Grips on the black model are a black and brown laminate. They have a double-diamond pattern and are checkered, with the Ruger logo in the center. They are held in place by Allen head screws and are replaceable. They look very much like traditional 1911 grips, and look like they are made of fine-grained hardwood in person. The cobalt blue model Ruger 22/45 LITE comes with molded black rubber grips which are also replaceable.

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The laminate grips look very much like traditional 1911 double-diamond grips. They are replaceable with the almost infinite variety of 1911 grips out there.

This pistol features a magazine disconnect safety and a manual thumb safety, but it is a rare day when Ruger engineers can't figure out how to add an extra safety or two to their guns. The Ruger 22/45 LITE also features an internal safety. A key is provided to work this safety, and the keyway is on the frame just below the pistol's manual safety. Engage the manual safety, and when you turn the key on the internal safety it will be impossible to disengage the manual safety on the firearm.

Trigger pull was two-stage, a relatively short takeup followed by a crisp 4-pound break. While a heavier pistol would actually be easier to hold steady for more accurate shooting, the beauty of this pistol is in how light it is.

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Tarr says 22/45 magazines have different baseplates at a different angle than found in other Ruger Mark pistols, and are not interchangeable with them.

It is well balanced, unlike most bull barrel .22s, but even so, recoil is minimal. It seems ideal for new shooters, or for anyone looking for a good-looking .22 that won't weigh them down. My 12-year-old really liked shooting this pistol, and he and his older brother burned through several hundred rounds in about half an hour. If only .22 ammo was as cheap as it used to be! Suggested retail on both versions of the Ruger 22/45 LITE is $549.

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