The purported firearm used by J.T. Lane, the alleged Chardon High School shooter, is one of the world’s most iconic and recognized .22-caliber rimfire handguns.
It is said that Lane was in illegal possession of a Ruger Model Mark III .22-caliber pistol when he allegedly went on a shooting spree Feb. 27 that killed three Chardon High School students and wounded two others.
This firearm has been continuously made in one invocation or another by the Sturm, Ruger Company since 1949. Its current form is the Mark III model, available in four versions ranging in suggested retail price between $379 to $659.
Though Ruger - now located in Prescott, Arizona - makes a couple of other .22-caliber models the Mark III clearly is the flagship of the line.
Statistics provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say that in 2010 - the last year for which such statistics are yet available - Ruger made 94,777 .22-caliber pistols, the bulk of those being the Mark III in its several variations.
To illustrate just how popular is this firearm the ATF’s statistics note as well that in the United State during 2010 there were 374,505 .22-caliber semi-automatic pistols manufactured. Thus, the Mark III accounted for about one-quarter of all .22-caliber semi-automatic pistols made in the U.S. during 2010.
When renowned firearms designer Bill Ruger created the pistol that eventually evolved into the Mark III he used a World War II Japanese Nambu centerfire handgun for part of the gun’s shape and action.
Ever since then the model has become hugely popular as a “plinking” small-bore pistol, accredited target pistol, and versions often used by small-game hunters and trappers.
In general the firearm weighs between 35 and 41 ounces, again, depending upon model version that can be made from either blued steel or stainless steel.
All versions employ a 10-round magazine. Another cartridge can be accommodated in the firearm’s chamber.
Even so, the .22-caliber round cannot be dismissed entirely as an under-achiever. It can be lethal when fired at close range.
By way of history the .22-caliber rimfire is the world’s oldest continually made cartridge and also is its most popular. As many as 2.5 billion .22-cailber cartridges are said to be made annually worldwide.
The round began its storied life in 1857 as a smaller cartridge that eventually grew into today’s familiar .22-caliber long rifle cartridge.
Its payload ranges roughly from a 35-grain to a 40-grain bullet, typically made of lead but non-lead bullets are now also being manufactured.
These bullets generally travel at speeds of around 1,100 feet per second to about 1,300 feet per second, depending upon type and amount of powder being used as the cartridge’s fuel source.
Muzzle energy - the so-called “power” of the round - is almost always less than 200 foot pounds.
By comparison, the 9mm center-fire caliber that is widely in use today by law enforcement and the military has muzzle velocities of between 950 feet per second and 1,400 feet per second for upgraded, so-called, “P” versions.
Importantly, the 9mm’s power runs between 295 foot pounds and 500 foot pounds, depending once more on the particular cartridge version.
And the 9mm cartridge boasts a much heavier bullet as well: At least twice as weighty as the heaviest 22.-caliber bullet, and typically much more.
Thus while the .22-caliber cartridge is pretty much universally considered an inferior one for personal or home protection, it has some connections as a weapon. It is believed by IHS Jane’s that both the cartridge and Mark III pistol are used by Navy SEALs in covert operations.
The round likewise has been used in one noteworthy assassination and one assassination attempt.
On June 5, 1968 now-convicted murder Sirhan Sirhan used a .22-caliber revolver to kill then-New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.
And on March 30, 1981 John Hinkley Jr. used a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol in his attempt to kill newly installed president Ronald Reagan, who was wounded in the attack.
Jeffrey L. FRischkorn