The New Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Single Action in .22 LR

Some guns you just buy because they’re fun. Yeah, I know about utility and where something fits in your system, but shooting is fun, or it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to beat an afternoon of knocking over soda cans and the like. The ammo situation being what it is, you gonna do that with 9mm? Maybe so, but there’s always room for a good .22 just for plinking. The Ruger Wrangler fills that role nicely, and now, Ruger has come out with a new version sporting a shorter barrel and a cool birdshead grip.

We ran across this great video from Boge Quinn at Gunblastdotcom telling us all about it. We’ll give you the rundown, then you can go check it out for yourself. Make sure to watch to the end as Boge lays some nice bluegrass on us that he plays himself.

Boge Quinn with Ruger Wrangler Birdshead SA .22 LR
Boge Quinn gives us a good overview of the Wrangler Birdshead. Go for the gun review, stay for the Bluegrass.

Why a Wrangler?

Ruger introduced the single-action Wrangler .22 Long Rifle Revolver a couple of years ago and it’s been a great success. We have two of them and they are just a pleasure to shoot. As Boge tells us, the Wrangler is “A good, solid, well-built, quality .22 single action revolver for half the price of Ruger’s other single action offerings. If you’re looking for a nice little .22 to have a lot of fun with, without spending a ton of money, the Ruger Wrangler is the way to go.”

Two Ruger Wranglers
The author’s original model Wranglers. The gun on the left has aftermarket grips.

Boge thinks the new Birdsheads are the nicest Wranglers yet. Like the originals, the Birdsheads have a flat cerakote finish available in black, tungsten, and burnt bronze. The hammer and trigger are left “in the white” for a nice contrasting look. The cylinders on the tungsten and bronze models are black. We agree they’re nice-looking guns.

The new Wrangler Birdshead is a slick-looking little gun.
The new Wrangler Birdshead is a slick-looking little gun.

The New Wrangler Birdshead: What’s Different?

The latest Wrangler chops the barrel down from 4.625 inches to 3.75 and adds a slick birdshead grip that gives it a nice look and, according to Boge, a nice feel too. He says that the birdshead is his favorite revolver grip, though not for larger calibers. He sets the limit at about a .44 Special. The big magnums or a heavy-loaded .45 Long Colt will beat on the center of your palm pretty hard with a birdshead. The Wrangler Birdshead is the same design as past Ruger birdsheads, which Boge says is very good. It’s smooth synthetic with no checkering, tapered top and bottom with a nice palm swell, with a slight groove for where the middle finger wraps around.

The birdshead grip features a slight groove for the shooter’s middle finger.
The birdshead grip features a slight groove for the shooter’s middle finger.

The shorter barrel and birdshead grips give it a balanced look and feel. It’s also two ounces lighter than the original Wrangler and four ounces lighter than the classic Ruger Single Six. The weight and cost savings on all Wranglers is achieved by using cast zinc for the grip frame and cast aluminum for the cylinder frame, but “everything is steel where it needs to be steel:” the cylinder, barrel, hammer, trigger, and internals.

Ruger shortened the base pin head on the frame to allow for easy brass ejection with the shorter barrel.
Ruger shortened the base pin head on the frame to allow for easy brass ejection with the shorter barrel.

The shorter barrel may lead to some worry about not having a long enough ejector stroke to punch out your spent brass. Ruger shortened the base pin head on the frame, so the ejector has more room to operate. No problems there. The hammer is a spur with good checkering for the thumb.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead SA 22LR hammer
The Wrangler has a nice, checkered spur style hammer.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Basic Specs

  • Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
  • Capacity: 6
  • Barrel: 3.75 inches; cold hammer forged steel; six-groove right-hand twist
  • Overall length: 8.62 inches
  • Weight unloaded: 28 ounces
  • MSRP: $279.00

Safety Features

All Wranglers have two built-in safety features found on New Model Rugers built since 1973: the transfer bar firing system and the loading gate interlock (on single action guns). The transfer bar prevents the force of the falling hammer from transferring to the floating firing pin unless the trigger is fully depressed. It acts as a drop safety and makes the gun safe to carry with a live round under the hammer. The loading gate interlock prevents the hammer from being cocked while the loading gate is open.

Ruger Wrangler safety features
(L) Ruger’s transfer bar firing system and (R) loading gate interlock are standard safety features.

Shooting the Wrangler Birdshead

The trigger itself is wide and smooth, with a nice curve that feels good on the finger. Out of the box, the pull is about 3.75 pounds. Boge says it’s reasonably creep-free and doesn’t feel gritty. That has also been our experience with the original Wranglers. At this point, Boge details his “Poor boy’s trigger job” that he performs on all Ruger New Model single actions. I’ll let you watch the video for how that works, but it does sound interesting and it’s very simple. His example in the video reduces the pull to 1 pound, 11 ounces.

Ruger Wrangler trigger and cylinder
(L) The Wrangler’s trigger is wide and smooth (R) the Wrangler is a true six-shooter.

The sights are a simple rounded front blade with an integral rear notch and groove on top of the frame. The front sight is thin and provides plenty of daylight on either side through the rear notch. The rounded blade means it may appear different to the shooter at different times of day or in changing light conditions.

Boge asserts that the combination of the quality barrel, good stock materials, and decent sights makes for “a surprising level of accuracy,” though he is quick to point out that the Wrangler is not meant to be a “paper puncher” or a competition gun. It’s meant to be “minute of pinecone” or “minute of tin can,” or whatever it is you’re plinking at. He was, however, surprised at how well it did on paper.

Ruger Wrangler sights
The Wrangler’s sights are simple but effective, and the gun is surprisingly accurate.

If You Can’t Have Fun…

To sum up, Boge strongly recommends the Wrangler if that’s the kind of gun you’re looking for. It’s a “surprisingly accurate, surprisingly, nice, surprisingly good looking little sixgun for a very reasonable price.” It’s a bargain for everything you get. He notes that a Single Six costs twice as much. “It puts the quality, ruggedness, reliability, and accuracy of a Ruger single-action within reach of anybody.” It’s inexpensive but there’s nothing cheap about it.

Having owned two original Wranglers for over a year, we concur. And to go back to the original point, they are just fun. That’s what they’re meant for.

And, as Boge says, “If you can’t have fun, you might as well go to the house.”

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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