As a reformed competition shooter you really need to go handle everything out there. Then you should ask what everyone's opinion is about the ones you like.
I say this because I've stood on the line with guys shooting every brand you can think of, back to the old days. Ruger, Browning, S&W, Hi-standard, Colt... Certain guns will fit you, others won't. While I have nothing bad to say of the quality of a Ruger, they just don't fit me. My best friend can shoot the snot out of his MKIII, I can't. Let me walk to the line with my Browning and I'll beat the pants off you all day.
Now that being said. My vote will always go to the Buckmarks. For a factory gun they are one of the best "out of the box" guns. Again, nothing wrong with the Ruger, but to really make them shine you need aftermarket parts. That is what Volquartsen does for a living, make Rugers more accurate.
As for wheel guns, if you're serious about going that direction, look at the older Dan Wesson's. I have a personal thing against S&W, so I won't even speak of them. Rugers are good guns, but again they need work to make them shine. Dan Wesson revolvers are just amazing the way they come. I have a 357 and 44, with plans this winter to pick up a 22.
Remember, shoot straight and shoot often.
Good... Bad... I'm the guy with the gun.