With a 1950s price tag of only $37.50, the Ruger cost less than half the price of top .22 target pistols of that era, and any doubts about its reliability and accuracy were erased when Jim Clark, a Louisiana pistolsmith, used one to win the 1958 National Pistol Championships. Its rugged simplicity has invited numberless modifications by professional and amateur gunsmiths alike. No one, however, has been busier modifying and improving the pistol than the Ruger people themselves. Progressing through the Mark I and Mark II series, there have been more variations than I can keep up with, and this latest, the Mark III Hunter, not only has a host of honest-to-goodness improvements, but to my eye is the most fetching yet. Aside from its polished stainless steel construction and checkered cocobolo wood grips, the most striking feature of the Hunter is its fluted barrel. Usually I don't get excited about fluted barrels, especially when done only for fool-the-buyer cosmetic purposes, but the deeper and wider than usual flutes in the Hunter are smoothly cut and have the effect of shifting the balance more to the center of the hand. The tapered bolt "ears" are easier to grasp than the old ones and the magazine release button is a welcome improvement over the old bottom catch.