Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Building a Ruger Mark III custom lightweight pistol

The term "Golden Age" usually refers to a time of peace, abundance or excellence. By that definition I think it is safe to say that we are living in a new "golden age" of firearms. Let me explain....

You can now build a Ruger 10-22 rifle without using one factory Ruger part. You can do the same with a Glock pistol. When it comes to AR-15 sporting rifles, you can choose between dozens, if not hundreds of manufacturers for the parts...not using one Colt or Armalite piece.

The cost of CNC machines and the associated labor with performing machine work has dropped to the point that small companies are springing up, dedicated to making gun parts for popular models.

Parts that were once limited only to the factory can now be made down the street or available from online retailers.

This post chronicles the building of a lightweight Ruger Mark III pistol, using mostly off the shelf components.

The owner of this gun is a long time friend and local forum member. He goes by the screen name dj_fatstyles....the name is a joke, kind of like calling a fat guy "slim".

fatstyles was one of the first people I met that owned a silencer, and is what I would refer to as an expert on the subject of gun mufflers.

He wanted to build a lightweight, suppressed Ruger Mark pistol. He could have bought a new or used Ruger pistol and went about changing the parts, or he could just buy the pieces and assemble them himself. Part of this post will be to examine the costs and estimate whether or not he saved money in doing so.

We'll start with the serialized part of the gun. On a Ruger Mark pistol the upper barrel/receiver assembly is the serialized part and the only one that must be purchased through a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer.

His choice for the upper was the lightweight PacLite unit from Tactical Solutions. The barrel & receiver are made from Aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminum. The barrel is sleeved with a 4140 button rifled steel liner featuring an 11° target crown and is threaded for 1/2" x 28 tpi (an important feature for this build).
The ejector is made from hardened stainless steel.

These come in a variety of colors, anodized shiny or matte,  flutes are also an option. 

The receiver is drilled and tapped for the Tactical Solutions scope base and come with front and rear adjustable sights.



For the frame he purchased an assembled unit from Volquartsen.
Unlike the Ruger's stamped steel construction, this frame is made from CNC machined aluminum. It comes assembled with an EDM cut, adjustable target trigger, factory set with a "crisp" 2 1/4 lbs trigger pull.
The sear is also wire EDM cut. The disconnector, extended bolt release and extended safety are all made from Titanium. 

A few important features:

  • The magazine disconnect was eliminated (allowing the pistol to fire without a magazine)
  •  A spring loaded magazine ejector was installed
  • A Mark III style magazine release is utilized which means that only Mark III magazines can be used.



The whole unit is hard coat anodized in a variety of colors.  


Senor Fatsytles did use at least a few factory Ruger components....he purchased a complete bolt from Gunbroker


A main spring assembly from Ruger
And a few Mark III magazines from Midway USA


DJ really likes fiber optic sights (who doesn't?) so he purchased a set of Williams Fire Sights from Brownells


 To keep control of the pistol, Mr Fatstyles installed a Hogue overmolded rubber grip with finger grooves (one of my favorite upgrades to any target pistol)


Finally the finishing touch is the silencer. He chose a Gemtech Outback IID.
This fine little unit is only 1" in diameter, allowing the use of factory sights. It is 5 inches long and weighs a scant 2.7 ounces.
The matte black anodized body is made from 7075 aluminum with Titanium threaded inserts, which enables it to be user maintained.
The threads are the typical 1/2 x 28 tpi


Most important feature of suppressors is the sound reduction, believe it or not this unit is capable of 39.4 db sound reduction. Keep in mind your standard ear muffs only reduce sound by 7- 20db (depending on how the reduction is calculated).

Here are the pictures of the completed pistol:


 You can see the diameter of the Gemtech suppressor is almost a perfect match to the diameter of the Tactical Solutions upper....like they were made in the same factory or town or sumthin'
 The colors are a very close match as well.
 The Williams rear fiber optic sight
 The business end....


Fully loaded the gun tips the scales at 30 ounces.

On to the cost analysis, here is what the owner paid for the items to build this pistol:
  • Tactical Solutions Pac-Lite upper: $315
  • Volquartsen lightweight replacement lower: $280  
  • used Ruger bolt: $50
  • Ruger mainspring housing: $36
  • Ruger magazine: $25
  • Hogue rubber grips: $22
  • Williams gun sight: $55
  • Gemtech Outback IID Suppressor: $295
Total investment: $1,078



DJ could have purchased a new Ruger 22/45 Lite and saved the hassle of assembling the parts. These guns retail for $350-$375, add the Gemtech suppressor, Williams sights and Hogue grip and you are in the $725-$750 neighborhood. 

Then again to get the upgraded trigger, over sized mag release and other niceties, you would spend another $150-$250 putting us in the $875-$1000 vicinity, but you would still not have the magazine ejector installed or magazine disconnect removed.

The weight of the 22/45 Lite is advertised at 22.7 ounce, so with this gun and the Gemtech suppressor, you would be a bit lighter at 25.4oz.

This may not be a fair comparison as the Mark III and the 22/45 are different guns with completely different grip profiles. The 22/45 is designed to mimic the M1911 pistol (thus the 45 in the model name).
Just because you love a Mark III doesn't mean you will love the 22/45. The Mark III is based on the German P08 Luger and is said to be the most natural pointing grip profile ever devised....so at least you have that going for you.

In the end building a custom gun is about personal choices, sometimes you don't know what you really want going in and that always costs more time and money.

Besides there is something about having a unique gun.... 




Sources
Gemtech
Volquartsen
Tactical Solutions
 Hogue
Brownells
Ruger
Midway USA
Williams 
monkey wrench