Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ruger Mark III Target - Must Have Upgrades for Fun and Competition

I fell in love with the Ruger Mark III Target Model 10159 the first time I saw those beautiful wood target grips.

I'm a long time fan of the Ruger Mark II 22LR pistol.  In my opinion, there is no better all around 22LR pistol for target shooting, general plinking, and even small game hunting.  Ruger updated the Mark II design and came out with the Mark III, which for me was a huge step backward in many regards, but did move the magazine release to a better location.  The Mark III also included several other upgrades to help it pass muster for sales in States with special firearm requirements.  I'm specifically referring to the LCI (loaded chamber indicator), Magazine Disconnect, and Internal Key Lock.

I had a really bad experience with my first Mark III.  It was a 22/45 Hunter model with a 4.5" fluted stainless barrel.  It looked great, but I soon found out all those added safety items made a big difference in the way I cared for and maintained the Mark III vs. the Mark II.  It was a learning exercise and eventually it all smoothed out and I've come to like the Mark III 22/45 well enough to keep it around.

I've been toying with the idea that I should probably build a Mark III pistol similar to the Mark II model that I use for competition.  My wife gave me a Cabela's gift card for Christmas and Cabela's started doing random $50 off any rimfire handgun promotions from time to time.  I happened to hit everything right one day and found the Mark III Target model with the super nice factory target grips in stock at my local Cabela's while they were running one of their $50 off promotions.  I actually found it ages ago, but the magazine shortage kept me from building this handgun earlier in the year.

The 2014 NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championship is coming up next month.  It's being held within a short drive and I've never competed above the State level so I decided to participate this year.  I've been saving up parts to make the Mark III more competition friendly and recently completed my Mark III build after I managed to secure some spare Mark III magazines.

At this point let me add a disclaimer to this post.  It is your responsibility to fully understand your local laws and regulations governing making changes to your firearms.  Making changes may be illegal in your home state or municipality.  If in doubt, please do your research before you order your parts.  

I used parts from TandemKross and Volquartsen Custom for the build because I've used stuff from both companies in the past with good results.  They have become my go-to parts sources for projects like this.

From TandemKross, I used the following.
1)  Mark III Magazine Disconnect Bushing.

2)  Mark III LCI Replacement Insert.

3)  "The Challenger" Ruger Mark III Charging Handle.

All three TandemKross products came with detailed instructions on how to install the parts.  The instructions even included color pictures.  If you need even more help installing the parts, you can find excellent installation videos on the TandemKross website or on YouTube. 

From Volquartsen Custom, I went with the following:
1)  Mark III Accurizing Kit.

2)  Mark III Picatinny Rail Mount.

The Picatinny Rail Mount is pretty self explanatory.  I specifically went with this model because you do not have to remove your rear sight to install it and the iron sights are still visible through the U channel running down the center of the mount.

The Accurizing Kit will need a bit more explanation.  It is a kit of precision made parts and springs that are all direct replacements for the Ruger factory parts.  The kit comes with detailed installation instructions that covers the install process.  If you are familiar with the names of the various parts, it is an easy road map to follow.  If it's your first attempt at working on a Ruger Mark II or Mark III pistol, you may want to keep these links handy to help you through the installation.  The source I've used the most is with color pictures and text description of the field and detail stripping of Mark III and Mark III 22/45 pistols.  It's a real national treasure when it comes to working on the Mark III.  Volquartsen Custom also has videos available on their website, but I didn't have QuickTime video viewer loaded so I couldn't use them.

As you can see, the Accurizing Kit contains several new parts to replace the factory items.  The Mark III kit does not include the hammer bushing as pictured.  I used the TandemKross bushing in addition to the Volquartsen Accurizing Kit with no problems with compatibility.

You may wonder why someone would spend the money and take the time to install all these new parts and accessories on a brand new gun.  Here's my one beef with Ruger Mark II, Mark III, and Mark III 22/45 pistols.  The triggers are not up to par for competition.  They may be fine for general plinking and target shooting for fun, but can stand some improvement.  When all my work was completed I did a before and after comparison test on trigger pull weight.

Trigger Pull Weight from the Factory - 5 lbs. 11 oz.

Trigger Pull Weight After Upgrades - 2 lbs. 6 oz.

In addition to a lighter trigger pull weight I also picked up some other improvements.  Moving from the rear to the front of the Mark III, all of the following were improved.
1)  No more pinched fingers on the sharp edges of the Bolt and Receiver.
2)  Easier manipulation of slide stop/release.
3)  Trigger weight reduced and trigger now adjustable for pre-travel and over-travel.
4)  Magazines now drop free and are forcibly ejected from the magazine well.
5)  Chamber and breech face are easier to clean without the LCI in the way.
6)  Solid platform for the optic of my choice with iron sights still usable.

I do have a few tips for you from my experience working on my Mark III.  The first is to allow enough time for the work at hand.  You can literally take hours with this work if you run into issues.  As you can see from the photo of my work area below, try to find a place with good lighting.  I also used a flashlight from time to time.  Don't be put off by the hammer in the picture.  If you don't have a plastic tipped hammer, you will probably want to get one.  It was a big help in re-installing the mainspring housing.  While you have the Mark III detail stripped, take the time to clean it.  I was working with a brand new gun so it was still covered in Ruger packing grease.  If you are working on an older gun, take the opportunity to eliminate all the accumulated crud.

The only real problem I had was removing the pin holding in the LCI.  I used two different magnets, but it wouldn't budge.  I ended up tapping the receiver on the blue bench block to get it started coming out and finished with the magnet.  I wasn't ready to catch the LCI when it flew out of the receiver under spring pressure so I lost one of the springs.  Learn from my mistake and be ready when that LCI retaining pin comes out.

Save your original parts.  If your Mark III ever needs to go back for service, you better have the factory parts in it or there is a good chance that Ruger will replace your aftermarket parts with Ruger factory parts.  Use the baggies from the replacement parts and put all the bags in the shipping box the pistol came in.

 I had the chance to get the Mark III out to the range yesterday afternoon and work with some different optics choices.  It was the first opportunity I've had to test my work and make sure I had installed everything correctly.  I had no issues with firing.  I did have one stove pipe ejection out of 150 rounds, but that was when I was shooting from the bench rest.  Off-hand shooting was 100%.

The pistol appears to tolerate Federal 550 bulk pack ammunition so that is what it will be fed at the shoot next month.  I had some other options queued up, but they won't be necessary.

All in all it was a fun afternoon of bench work followed up by a great afternoon of shooting.  The work wasn't particularly difficult, but working on firearms is a skill that improves with experience.  Don't get frustrated and if you find yourself totally stuck you should tap into the gun talk online web resource or one of the many videos available from TandemKross, Volquartsen Custom, or other YouTube contributors.

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