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Ruger® 75th Anniversary Mark IV™ Target 22 Semi-Auto Pistol

In 2024, Ruger celebrates its 75th (Diamond) Anniversary. From the humblest of beginnings in 1949, Ruger has become America’s most successful gun maker, and arguably the greatest firearms company in history. The story of Ruger is the story of America from the second half of the 20th Century onward, and is also largely the story of my own life, as I have walked life’s pathway from my youth onward with Rugers by my side.

And it all started with a simple little 22 semi-automatic pistol.

In 1949, a young inventor named William B. Ruger (who would in time become known as the greatest firearms designer since John M. Browning) approached a young financier named Alex Sturm with a prototype of a new 22 rimfire semi-auto pistol. The pistol was a soundly designed piece that was inexpensive to produce, reliable, and had pleasing lines to boot. Ruger had the original design and the manufacturing knowledge to make it a reality, but he needed the venture capital required to start his company. Sturm, a young aristocrat with a love of sport shooting, invested $50,000, and Sturm, Ruger & Co. was born. A favorable review by Maj. Gen. Julian S. Hatcher, then Technical Director for the NRA, brought the innovative new 22 to the attention of the American gun buyer as a fine, reliable little 22 that could be had at a very economical price. The modest 1949 American Rifleman advertisement that started it all offered “The .22 Ruger Pistol” for only $37.50 (a little over 460 of today’s dollars), heralding it as “An Achievement in the Great Tradition of American Arms Makers”. This proved to not be hyperbole, as the little 22 has since proven to be rugged, reliable, and accurate, and quickly became America’s favorite 22 pistol.

Thus, Sturm, Ruger & Co. began a journey that would lead to the company becoming the largest and most respected manufacturer of sporting firearms in the U.S. The little gun that started it all was a simple, reliable and attractive 22 rimfire blowback-operated semi-automatic pistol with a tubular receiver and a cylindrical bolt, a distinctive slim-tapered barrel, and a profile that was somewhat reminiscent of the famed German Luger 9mm pistol, as well as the Japanese Nambu 8mm pistol. The Ruger 22 pistol, called the “Standard Auto”, was blued steel with the bolt “in the white” or unfinished so as to give an attractive contrast to the blued steel receiver.

Boge shoots the Ruger 75th Anniversary Mark IV Target

Ruger’s 22 auto pistols have been in continuous production throughout the life of the company, and millions have been produced to date; the Ruger 22 pistol has dominated the market for three-quarters of a century, and shows no sign of slowing down. It is available today in many different configurations: standard or target models, fixed or adjustable sights (all optics-ready), short or long barrels, tapered or bull barrels, stainless or blued steel, and even aluminum or polymer frames with different grip angles.

75th Anniversary Mark IV Target (top) compared to an original Standard Auto (bottom)

As the decades have gone by, Ruger has continually upgraded their 22 pistols, adding design features that have substantially improved on the original design. First, in 1951, Ruger introduced the Mark I Target Pistol, which was basically the original Standard Auto with the addition of a 6-7/8″ Heavy-Tapered barrel (as opposed to the Standard Auto’s 4″ Slim-Tapered barrrel) and fully-adjustable target sights (as opposed to the Standard Auto’s fixed sights). Ruger introduced the Mark II in 1982, with the addition of a bolt stop to hold the bolt open on an empty magazine. The Mark III, introduced in 2005, saw the magazine release mechanism change from the original European-style heel release to the more familiar magazine release button located on the frame’s port side behind the trigger guard, as well as scallops milled into the rear of the receiver to allow the bolt’s cocking ears to be grasped more easily. Finally, the Mark IV was introduced in 2016, with a much easier disassembly/assembly mechanism. Earlier versions stripped by use of a takedown lever in the backstrap, requiring three hands, a big hammer, and an extensive vocabulary of expletives to reassemble the pistol; the Mark IV disassembles by simply pushing a button at the rear of the pistol, and tipping the receiver upward off the frame. The pistol reassembles intuitively in reverse order, taking only seconds and eliciting tears of joy for those of us who have spent many hours over the years cussing the earlier versions. The Mark IV also saw the addition of a much-improved safety lever, which is better located and easier to operate, as well as being an ambidextrous design, which was especially welcome to the Southpaws among us.

Port side of pistol
Controls: Bolt Stop, Thumb Safety (shown in FIRE mode), Magazine Release Button, Trigger

While the profile of the grip frame remains the same as the Standard Auto and later Mark Series pistols (with the exception of the 22/45 models, which employ a 1911-inspired polymer frame design), the construction is entirely different. Since 1949, the grip frames on most Ruger 22 pistols have been constructed of stamped steel, welded together and fitted with the fire control parts, with the trigger guard being a separate piece. The Mark IV grip frame is CNC machined from solid stainless steel or aluminum, depending upon the pistol’s finish, with the trigger guard being integral to the rest of the grip frame.  Stainless pistols have a stainless grip frame, while blued pistols have a lightweight aluminum grip frame, making the blued pistol about six ounces lighter than comparable stainless pistols.

Checkered Wood Laminate Grip Panels give the traditional appearance of walnut

The bolt stop has been redesigned for the Mark IV, making it easier to use than the bolt stops on Mark II and Mark III pistols. Internal changes to the hammer, bolt, firing pin, and sear, along with the welcome elimination of the loaded-chamber indicator of the Mark III, makes the pistol run smoother than before. Mark III magazines will also work in the new Mark IV pistols, and the sights are the same, so Ruger sights, as well as aftermarket sights, will work on the new pistol, and the Mark IV also uses the same optics mounts as the Mark III pistols.

To commemorate the company’s 75th Anniversary, Ruger has just introduced the latest version of the Mark IV, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV™ Target pistol. Featuring all the design improvements of the Mark IV, the 75th Anniversary model seeks to recapture the spirit of the original Standard Auto, and does so in fine fashion.

Crafted from blue-finished alloy steel with matching-finished aluminum grip frame, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV evokes the spirit of the original 1949 Standard Auto, but is in reality closer to the 1951 Mark I target version, due to its barrel and sight configuration. Like the Mark I, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV sports a 6-7/8″ barrel; but rather than the heavy-tapered barrel of the Mark I, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV’s barrel is slim-tapered, a longer version of the 4″ slim-tapered barrel of the original Standard Auto. Also, like the Mark I target version, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV features a superb set of fully-adjustable sights, as opposed to the fixed sights of the original 1949 Standard Auto. The 75th Anniversary Mark IV’s front sight is a pinned-in, undercut Patridge style blade in a barrel-band base, while the rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, and dovetail-mounted into the receiver. Also, like all Mark IV pistols, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV is drilled and tapped for a Weaver or Picatinny-compatible optics mount; the excellent open sights and optics capability allow the shooter to take full advantage of the outstanding accuracy afforded by the pistol’s cylindrical bolt design and stationary sights.

Undercut Patridge-blade front sight
Fully adjustable rear sight

The Mark IV’s ambidextrous safety is a feature that was heartily welcomed by left-handed shooters, and it works wonderfully, but for some right-handed shooters the starboard-side lever might possibly get in the way a bit. For those who would like to delete the ambidextrous control, Ruger includes a delete kit, consisting of a drop-in part that is very easy to replace. I will leave mine alone, thank you, but the option is there for those who want it.

The 75th Anniversary Mark IV’s grip panels are wood laminate, giving the pleasing, traditional appearance of nice walnut, and are fully checkered, with a Ruger medallion inlaid into each panel. These are, of course, interchangeable with any grip panels that will fit the Mark IV pistols, with many choices available from Ruger’s Online Store (https://shopruger.com/), as well as other sources. I consider the factory grips to be quite attractive and effective, so I see no need to change them, but to each his own.

Receiver is drilled and tapped for Weaver / Picatinny optic rail
Special 75th Anniversary markings and serial number

A peaceful afternoon of 22 Long Rifle shooting is always a pleasure, especially when shooting the lightly-recoiling cartridge from a pistol as accurate and ergonomic as the 75th Anniversary Mark IV Target. The sights performed perfectly, presenting a crisp and clear sight picture, regardless of the sun’s position. The pistol’s balance was superb, with the lightweight aluminum frame more than offsetting the extra weight of the added barrel length, perfectly balancing in the hand and hanging without a wobble. The lightweight aluminum, grooved target-style trigger released at an average of 2 pounds, 3.3 ounces on my example, meaning that any pine cones, walnuts, rocks, or other targets of opportunity within sight were definitely in jeopardy. When it came to more formal group shooting, sub-one-inch groups at five yards were easy to achieve with a variety of loads, from standard-velocity target solids to high-velocity hollowpoints. Reliability was nearly 100 percent, the only bobbles being one failure to eject using ancient Winchester target ammo, and one misfire using some old Remington fodder; this was not the pistol’s fault, as the rim had a good dent in it, and subsequent attempts to ignite it also failed. Even my favorite standard-velocity target loads, CCI’s Standard Velocity 40-grain solids, ran perfectly in the 75th Anniversary Mark IV; this is often not the case when using the CCI ammo in semi-auto pistols, as the lower-velocity ammo sometimes lacks the power to reliably cycle a pistol’s slide, but the CCI target load runs like a champ in the Mark IV, thanks to the Ruger’s cylindrical bolt having less mass than a typical slide. The 75th Anniversary Mark IV Target is more than adequate for informal plinking, competition, or hunting use, and I highly recommend it.

The 75th Anniversary Mark IV Target is very accurate, as shown by this five-shot group, fired standing offhand at five yards

As would be expected on a commemorative model, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV Target has special markings to distinguish it from its plainer sisters. The rear face of the bolt bears a 75th Anniversary logo, consisting of “75” inside of a diamond, over a banner bearing the legend “1949 – 2024”. The starboard side of the receiver, behind the ejection port, bears a similar logo, and the pistols are serially numbered with an “R75” prefix. These decorations are meaningful and tasteful, while adding basically nothing to the cost of the pistol.

Like all Mark IVs, the 75th Anniversary Mark IV ships with two ten-round stainless steel magazines. The 75th Anniversary package also includes a special commemorative cardboard box, along with the usual paperwork, a cable lock, and a nice 75th Anniversary sticker that will find a place of honor on my main mandolin case. The Ruger 75th Anniversary Mark IV Target pistol is an accurate, beautiful, fitting, and affordable commemorative, fulfilling the original 1949 Standard Auto’s promise of economical quality. Current retail price of the 75th Anniversary Mark IV is $599.00 US, which is only $30.00 more than the base Mark IV with fixed sights.

Bill Ruger would be proud.

SPECIFICATIONS – Ruger® 75th Anniversary Mark IV™ Target 22 Semi-Auto Pistol

Model #: 40175

Receiver: Alloy Steel, Blue Finish

Barrel: Alloy Steel, Blue Finish, 6.88 Inches, Tapered Target, 6-Groove, 1″16″ RH Twist

Grip Frame: Aluminum, Black Finish

Grips: Fully Checkered Wood Laminate

Overall Length: 11 Inches

Overall Height: 5.58 Inches

Overall Width: 1.20 Inches

Weight: 32.8 Ounces

Front Sight: Fixed Undercut Patridge

Rear Sight: Adjustable

Trigger: Aluminum, Grooved Target Style

Trigger Pull: 2 Pounds, 3.3 Ounces

Magazine Capacity: 10+1

Magazines Included: 2

Accessories Included: Commemorative Box, Manual, Cable Lock, 75th Anniversary Sticker

Available in CA/MA: NO

UPC: 7-36676-40175-8

MSRP as of January 2024: $599.00

To locate a dealer near you visit www.lipseys.com/dealerfinder

About the Author:

Boge Quinn is a life-long shooter, born and raised in the Great State of Tennessee. A co-founder of Gunblast.com (https://gunblast.com/)in the year 2000, along with his brother Jeff Quinn, Boge has continued on with Gunblast after Jeff’s passing in 2020. A Lifetime Endowment member of the NRA, Boge serves on the Board of Directors of The Shootists (https://shootists.org/), an organization started by John Taffin in 1985, as did his brother Jeff. Boge appreciates firearms of all types, but his soul is particularly stirred by the “older style” guns: lever-action and single-shot rifles, along with Single-Action and Double-Action revolvers and 1911-style pistols. As a former professional artist, Boge appreciates the aesthetics of a fine gun, as well as its mechanical precision and practical application. His particular affinity lies in the world of handguns, and he has hunted mostly with handguns of all types since the mid-1970s. A regionally well-known musician, Boge is also a Deacon in the same Baptist Church where his brother Jeff formerly served as Deacon, and where their Dad finished his 50-year career as Pastor.