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 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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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
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.
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.