The rimfire craze continues through the proliferation of new gun owners and “seasoned” shooters as people compute the all important cost-per-round versus the practical usage/fun-factor that goes into the consideration of any new gun purchase. Whether it’s that old single-shot, bolt action that belonged to grandpa, or the tried and true Ruger 10-22 that got pulled out of the closet, no one can dispute the longevity of the .22 rimfire.
That being said, while handgun sports and home defense requirements lead some shooters to rimfire handgun options, we should pay homage to two of the very best .22 LR handguns on the market today for their practicality, superb craftsmanship, ease-of-use and of course, the all important price point. We hereby give you the Ruger Mark III and the Browning Buckmark.
Hoping to feed off of the past popularity of the Mark II, the Mark III series launched with different stylistic models available. Whether it be the “standard”, “hunter”, “competition”, or any other variant that the Mark III comes in, you’ll be reminded that none of these should be mistaken for the 22/45 variant (different grips, action, takedown, etc.).
Out of the box, you are greeted by a typical “Ruger Mark Setup” with plastic case, security lock, keys, paperwork and 2 magazines. We normally toss the cheap Ruger plastic-box right into the trash and switch it with something sturdy, but foam lined on the inside, to help prevent the dents and scratches that will undoubtedly occur. Ruger also follows the manufacturer doctrine that one generic instruction booklet is good enough for any number of handguns, despite any differences or uses they may feature (as many manufacturers do). We can imagine the sentiment would be similar to a new shooter trying to learn about his or her new handgun and finding a lot of generic “may or may not apply” information. Fully adjustable iron sights and the inclusion of a picatinny rail for mounting optics (competition models) offset some of the aforementioned cheapness.
How does it shoot? Ruger Mark III’s have developed a reputation of “feed it anything and fire” and it lives up to this reputation. Our gun has been fed everything from pricy CCI-Match Grade ammo to the cheapest Federal bulk-pack dirty ammo that money can buy, and the gun has never complained a bit. As a matter of fact, the only time we ever had a jam or a misfeed in the gun was due to operator error (ours).
We like to use the Ruger Mark III as a competition pistol, creating, flower-like one-inch patterns at 25 and 50 yards–but at no time should you think that this gun has not been put through its paces, completely unmodified, at some good old-fashioned, fast-paced plinking practice. This is an exceptional and accurate gun – clean or dirty – with plenty of accessories available for it to be modified to your hearts content.
A warning to the new shooter (or those less knowledgeable about guns in general) is the fact that Ruger Mark III pistols are notoriously frustrating to take apart for cleaning and frequently prompt gnawing on the edge of the table while trying to put it back together.
It’s rare to find a handgun that takes seventy-six steps to take apart (we’re exaggerating a bit, but feels like it) including steps that actually require you to point the gun in a upward or downward position during certain stages of the disassembly/reassembly. Ruger has tried to accommodate for this by creating a few videos showing the procedure on their website, but the procedure goes so fast that it is laughable to try following along. You’ll be better of finding a high-rated YouTube video showing the procedure, or better yet, find someone in a gunshop who has done it before and have them show you.
Price point on a Ruger Mark III is $379.00 – $659.00.
The Browning Buckmark
Technically called the “Browning Buckmark Practical URX”, this pistol also comes in a myriad of styles and operational variants, many of which are completely unnecessary given the most common uses for such a pistol.
Out of the box, the Buckmark is pretty typical considering the higher price point that you will pay for any product with the name “Browning” on it. The Buckmark comes with a security lock, generic instructions (although a little more specific than Ruger’s), plastic box and one magazine. The plastic box is another one that can (and should) be tossed in the trash and replaced with a higher quality box.
This pistol is one smooth character. It’s got a crisp trigger with very little creep and even less overtravel, adjustable rear sights and a fiber-optic front sight and a lightweight aluminum frame that ties this package together. The Buckmark does live up to the standards of its Browning name. Two-hundred rounds in and she is still smooth as butter.
After about three to four-hundred rounds of shooting you’ll start to feel some differences. The trigger upon breaking may start to feel a little gritty. The slide may have a little more “grip” when racking after loading a new magazine. Maybe a round won’t feed properly. Perhaps a spent cartridge won’t expel properly. Locking the slide back and taking a peek into the action will reveal something to make onlookers gasp… the entire inside of the action will be absolutely filthy.
No problem, right? You’ll just clean it real quick and be back to shooting in mere seconds. We now come to the most prominent drawback of the Browning Buckmark. It’s a nightmare to clean. No pulling of a boresnake for you. Oh no, you’ve got two little screws that have to be removed by Allen key, a slide that is awkward and held under pressure by the spring–which is attached to this little plastic “buffer” that had better not fall out of your hand. Spray it down with CLP or Ballistoil and watch as copious amounts of black goo fall from your gun. Wiping, patches, picking and re-spraying are all in store before you put it back together and hope that you have not “misplaced” any of those little parts.
Price point on a Buckmark is: $381.00 – $653.00.
So which is better?
We really like both of these guns a lot, we love the simple elegance of the Browning as well as the unerring reliability of the Ruger. As for which is better, that would greatly depend on what you plan to use the gun for. Outlined below are the most common uses for a .22 and our recommendations for each:
- Plinking: Either gun. Neither is a better “plinker” than the other with the slight exception that the Ruger can easily go through a thousand rounds without cleaning before problems arise.
- Concealed Carry: Neither gun would be appropriate for concealed carry.
- Competition (action shooting): Either gun. Steel plate or other “game” shooting competitions that allow .22 rimfire would be equally well served by either gun.
- Competition (target shooting): Ruger Mark III. Distance shooting using controlled shooting technique and trigger control would be much better accomplished by the Ruger.
- Home Defense: Browning Buckmark. The Browning’s more compact size and controllability in tight quarters makes a better HD option.
- Hunting: Ruger Mark III. Controlled shooting is required for hunting and the theory that the first shot is also the last shot, well, the Ruger meets this condition nicely. Not to mention the fact that if you drop the Ruger in the mud, it will probably keep firing (not a test we would recommend though).
So by a narrow margin, the winner is the Ruger Mark III. Both are excellent and highly recommended guns for the new shooter or professional. Now go shooting.