Contrary to popular opinion, there is one nice feature of getting older: You’ve had time to accumulate some treasured memories. Near the top of my list are the Colorado camping trips with my two daughters while they were growing up in the 1980s. Since I had not been educated on the perils of gender identity issues back then, the girls were able to do all the things that kids of either sex like to do when camping. They slept on the ground in tents, learned to relieve themselves in the great outdoors, caught and cooked trout for dinner, rode downsized Hondas and Yamahas on Colorado’s mountain trails, and learned to shoot. While the shooting may not have been their favorite pastime, aside from gaining an appreciation of the great outdoors, I’m convinced today that it was the most useful skill acquired on those trips.
Lots of toys and gear accompanied us on our outings with their selection depending on where we went and how long we’d be gone, but the item that joined us on every trip was the Ruger single-action pistol in .22 LR that I had acquired at the age of 16 in the 1950s. While the little handgun did not hold 17 rounds of center-fire ammo approved for self-defense, it had all the capabilities required to teach someone, particularly a young person, how to safely operate a handgun and master the basic shooting skills. That old revolver provided hours of fun while preparing the girls mind set for a later transition to the defensive use of handguns.
Since then, Ruger has designed and built an even better camping handgun, particularly for families with young kids. It’s the Wrangler, or more accurately, the second generation, downsized Wrangler. Immediately noticeable in the new model is the shorter barrel of 3.75” and the rounded grip frame. Ruger retained the Cerakote finish from the original Wrangler, a finish that is pretty much impervious to typical camping hazards like being doused with carbonated beverage spills. Also maintained but not immediately noticeable is the transfer-bar system that allows the gun to be carried with all six chambers loaded. The grip frame has been fitted with slightly fatter grip panels that add comfort to a variety of hand sizes. Not essential on a rimfire revolver is the cylinder that turns freely in either direction when the loading gate is open. Interestingly, some of the Wrangler’s features result in cost savings to the buyer while still adding both cool and useful features to the gun. There are no sharp edges on the gun, almost like a “carry gun” that has been purposely melded.
The Wrangler has the same frame size as the original Ruger Single Six, which means there is more room inside the trigger guard for an index finger making it slightly easier to manipulate than the smaller framed Ruger Bearcat. But with an aluminum alloy rather than steel frame, shortened barrel and rounded grip frame it’s easier to carry and, if necessary, conceal than other models of Ruger single-action 22 revolvers. In addition, several ounces of weight are shaved by switching to aluminum alloy. And while that’s not terribly important given the .22 long rifle’s minimal recoil, it can make a difference to a young, small statured new shooter. I’m not fond of the term “universal,” but I think the new Wrangler’s rounded grip is more adaptable to different size hands than older Ruger models. Perhaps most attractive feature of the Wrangler is an MSRP $500 less than the company’s .22-cal. steel-frame guns.
At the risk of offending some citizens who might get upset at the thought of kids learning about guns at an early age, my daughters were shooting on camping trips before they reached the age of 10. It was carefully supervised with the emphasis on safety and recreational fun. The relationship and importance of handguns to self-defense were introduced to them later. For the record, Gunsite Academy, with the approval of parents, offers one-week handgun training classes to young teenagers. Incidentally, the kids’ performances at Gunsite in shooting skills and constant safety awareness have far exceeded that of many adults.
So what’s the downside? None! The kids become keenly aware of the hazards of firearms in the hands of bad people, a much harsher reality than existed when I was growing up. If they proceed in acquiring defensive training with a handgun, they learn how to deal with those threats, skills that unfortunately have become extremely important in today’s environment. And perhaps best of all, you will build some great memories to enjoy later in life. Check out Ruger’s Wrangler. Great fun at an affordable price, and perhaps the most important insurance you will ever purchase for you and your family.