Firearms

Review: Ruger Wrangler Birdshead Grip .22 LR Revolver

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead grip frame revolver with wood grips

If there is a relative bargain in the Ruger single-action revolver lineup, it is the Wrangler. The Ruger Wrangler Birdshead .22 LR revolver is a handy, fast-handling, and accurate revolver that gives shooters a taste of cowboy action on the cheap.

Like many modern handguns, the source materials are based on economy. Then again, you don’t need a lot of strength in material for a .22 caliber revolver. At present, the Wrangler revolver is available in a dozen or so variations. Most variations are based on the finish, However, there are also differences in grips and barrel length variations.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead revolver with black finish right profile
The standard Ruger Wrangler is a fine all-around .22 as well. The Birdshead is simply a fun option.

Ruger Wrangler Features

The finish is Cerakote. This makes it easy to apply a black, blue, bronze, or silver finish, which makes for some fun, new looks for a revolver of this type. The barrel is as carefully forged as any. The cold hammer-forged barrel is supplied with a 1:14-inch turn.

All Wrangler revolvers have fixed sights. A groove in the top strap and a post front sight are standard. The revolver resembles the Ruger Single Six a great deal and that is the intent. The Wrangler uses the same ultra-safe transfer bar-type ignition of the Ruger Single Six and all modern Ruger single-action revolvers.

Like all modern Ruger single-action revolvers, the Wrangler is loaded by opening the loading gate. Cartridges are loaded in the individual chambers one at a time. The capacity is six cartridges. The loading gate cannot be opened when the revolver is cocked.

Most configurations weigh about 30 ounces. The revolver is fired by cocking the hammer and then pressing the trigger. Unlike the old-style revolvers with a leaf spring, the Ruger Wrangler uses a coil spring. This hammer spring is long-lived and never seems to give trouble.

I’ve fired several Wrangler revolvers. They have all proven reliable — no surprises there. They are accurate enough for marksmanship training. The safety features and handling make the revolver an ideal piece for training young shooters.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead .22 LR revolver with bronze finish right profile
The Wrangler Birdshead is offered in a wide variety of finishes.

The Wrangler is accurate enough for small game hunting and makes a fine field piece when the threat profile is a reptile but nothing much larger.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead

Ruger made a big change in the new Birdshead grip frame revolver. The revolver may be supplied with the standard black synthetic grips, some have wood grips. The main difference is the popular Birdshead grip frame. This frame — not used that often in old west revolvers — became popular with small-frame guns.

Today, many like the looks of the type. The Birdshead grip handles and fits small hands well. Birdshead grip models fit all Wrangler and Ruger Single Six holsters.

Ruger Wrangler Birdshead .22 LR revolver with silver finish right profile
The Wrangler Birdshead revolver was well balanced and had an interesting appearance.

The barrel is shorter than the standard Wrangler. The overall appearance is elegant and the revolver balances well. The 3.75-inch barrel length will deliver good velocity and accuracy. Most 40-grain high velocity .22 Long Rifle loads will break just over 1,000 fps in this barrel length.

The revolver is offered in black, bronze, and silver. While the grip frame differs, the sights and operation of the Ruger Birdshead are identical to the original Ruger Wrangler. As for price, on average the Birdshead revolver is only $10 more than the standard Wrangler. That is a bargain!

Open box of Fiocchi .40-grain .22 LR ammunition
Fiocchi’s .22 Long Rifle ammunition offers first-class accuracy potential.

Handling on the Range

The Wrangler Birdshead handles well, but use extreme caution when practicing your fast draw! Grasp the handle and draw, but never cock the hammer before the revolver is almost lined up on target. Many shooters over the past 160 years or so have suffered leg or toe shots from going too fast.

You will be faster simply grasping the handle and cocking the hammer just before you get on target. I mention this because the single-action revolver invites practice and cowboy shooting.

The Wrangler is accurate enough to take small game out of a tree or a straw bed at a few paces. I have fired the revolver with a good mix of ammunition with good results. This isn’t a match-grade revolver, but instead a useful, all-around plinking, training, and field revolver.

Accuracy was good enough for most chores. I would say the Wrangler is a 15-yard gun for most uses. I tested the revolver by carefully laying it over the range bag, lining the sights up, and pressing the trigger straight to the rear with every shot.

The Wrangler Birdshead was properly regulated for 40-grain loads — every shot landed just above the front sight. The most accurate loading tested was the Fiocchi 40-grain High Velocity. The Fiocchi load is superbly accurate in most any .22 and burns clean. At 25 yards, a 5-shot group went into three inches. Most loads averaged three­–four-inch groups at the same distance.

Specifications

  • Type: Single-action revolver
  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Cylinder capacity: 6 rounds
  • Barrel: 4.62 inches
  • Overall length: 10.25 inches
  • Width: 1.41 inches
  • Height: 4.75 inches
  • Weight, empty: 30 ounces
  • Grips: Black checkered synthetic
  • Finish: Bronze Cerakote barrel and frame, black oxide cylinder
  • Sights: Fixed groove rear, blade front
  • Trigger: 5-pound pull (as tested)
  • Safety: Transfer bar firing mechanism; loading gate interlock

DeSantis Wild Hog Holster

DeSantis Wild Hog two-tone leather holster with Ruger logo
DeSantis offers a wide range of quality holsters. The Wild Hog is supplied with the Wrangler Birdshead .22 revolver.

I was surprised to find the Wrangler Birdshead revolver supplied with a quality Wild Hog holster from DeSantis. This is an ambidextrous holster that may be worn cross draw or with a strong side forward cant. The holster is a mix of top grain and center cut leather, reinforced where it should be, and with an adjustable retention device. Separately, the holster may also be ordered for a wide variety of revolvers and self-loading pistols.

Conclusion

The Ruger Wrangler Birdshead is a fun gun. I like the price, as it doesn’t hurt my retirement fund. The grip fits most hands well and may allow a tad easier access to the hammer. Accuracy was more than adequate, and the Wrangler is a fine marksmanship trainer for all — including myself. It is just one of those handguns you must have.

Everyone loves a good .22 LR pistol, and the Ruger Wrangler Birdshead models scratch an itch most never realized they have. Do you prefer the Wrangler Birdshead in black, silver, or bronze? Share your favorite in the comment section.

  • Blue silhouette target with bullet holes and the Ruger Wrangler revolver
  • Ruger Wrangler Birdshead grip frame revolver with wood grips
  • Ruger Wrangler Birdshead .22 LR revolver with silver finish right profile
  • DeSantis Wild Hog two-tone leather holster with Ruger logo
  • Ruger Wrangler with Birdshead grip frame right quartering
  • Blue silhouette target with spent .22 shells
  • DeSantis Wild Hog two-tone leather holster with revolver
  • Ruger Wrangler Birdshead .22 LR revolver with bronze finish right profile
  • Ruger Wrangler Birdshead .22 LR revolver with black Cerakote finish right profile
  • Ruger Wrangler Birdshead revolver with black finish right profile
  • Open box of Fiocchi .40-grain .22 LR ammunition

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Well I now have both the original Wrangler and now the Birdshead. As for the color, my wife who’s not into guns saw the Wrangler in the burnt bronze color and insisted I buy it. As for the Birdshead Wrangler I could never find one for sale anywhere in Alabama, l finally found one used in excellent shape and I’m glad it was burnt bronze so my wife didn’t mind me buying yet another gun. I can be happy with either the black or burnt bronze.

  2. I was hoping Ruger would make the Wrangler with a birdshead grip, and was fortunate enough to hear about it in time to find one of the rare TALO models with the wood grips and holster. I already own 3 older Wranglers, all with the black finish & custom grips. I’d probably buy one in the silver, if only the cylinders weren’t all in black. I’m guessing they only make one color cylinder to keep costs down.
    The Birdshead is a super fun little gun to practice your draw, unloaded or with snap caps of course.

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