other By: Stan Trzoniec | May, 20
Looking back at Ruger Firearms history, it seems the owner, Bill Ruger, always had a knack for finding the right gun at the right time for the right shooter. We have seen it with his popular Model 77 centerfire rifle and all of the single-action army type revolvers he brought online. However, the one gun that stands out for its uniqueness was his Ruger No. 1 Single Shot. Introduced to the shooting public around 1967, original offerings were by numbers different from the final version and at that time, Ruger had the thought of naming his new creation the “Victorian,” obviously thinking of a gun of this heritage in the shooting world.
Knowing Bill and talking with him at shows, I concluded that older-type weapons were his forte – only because he loved the older works of art, cars and rifles from the past. In his collection, he had a nice assortment of classics – to wit, the Sharps, Gibbs Farquharson, Henry’s and others – all I’m sure influenced him with the decision to bring out his own single-shot rifle. The result was the Ruger No. 1, and in his wisdom, he designed the rifle with a price point acceptable for most, and it’s now going on 50 years on the market.
In the end, the Ruger No. 1 could be called a modernized Farquharson and through its lifetime has been chambered for just about every, or any cartridge you could list. From the .204 Ruger to the .458 Lott and four dozen more in between. Being a varmint hunter, I naturally gravitated to the smaller .22 caliber guns with a few wildcats thrown in on my own. Depending upon where you look, the product history of Ruger is probably your best bet for serial numbers and
cartridges being chambered in the No. 1. For example, I count 40 different cartridges being chambered in the gun, and some of them, I wished I had purchased at the time of production. Ruger took his gun seriously over the years with modern chamberings to include the .357 Magnum, .38-55 Winchester, .460 S&W Magnum, .404 Jeffery and even the .450/400 Nitro Express.
Checking the history of the gun, a lot of research went into the manufacturing
Both of these parts again had important duties on the gun. The ejector spring could be adjusted as to either eject the spent case with enthusiasm out of the gun, or by loosening it, allow the case to just move out of the breech to be retrieved by the shooter for handloading duties. Incidentally, the simple design of the ejector allowed the use of many cartridges, both commercial and wildcat, to be used in the gun without much trouble in any direction. With reference to the forearm, Ruger again came up with a design that mounted the stock screw on an angle to the rear. When tightened, it pulled the forearm firmly up and towards the receiver securing it in place.
Overall, the No. 1 is made for the majority of hunters in both style and price. When it came to the stock, Brownell seemed to hit it right on the head. Ruger is known for not having guns with glossy finishes, high combs or fancy tips. The stock on this gun is classic in all appearance’s sans a cheekpiece which, intentional or not, makes it perfectly ambidextrous! Being a single shot, there is
no bolt for one and with the shotgun-styled safety that blocks both the hammer and sear, and mounted on the tang, southpaw shooters could not have asked for a better gun for their needs. In the beginning, the gun started out with a very conservative checkering pattern, but as the years moved on, they added a little bit of flair to the pattern by extending it to the bottom rear, nearest the grip cap. Since the inception of the gun, the finish has remained a subdued, satin coating reminiscent of the oil finishes of old masters.
When the gun was being introduced, it was in some venues touted as a gun for the connoisseur with the quality of the metalwork and wood above reproach. With my first gun purchased in February of 1976, the wood was a cut around a selected or semi-fancy grade of American walnut with good color grain and some fiddleback radiating from the comb down. Over the years,
When manufacturing guns, Ruger is remarkably consistent in the manufacturing process. On the No. 1, I can take my 44-year-old gun and placing up against my newest; find the bluing, polishing and final finish to be virtually unchanged. The receiver is trim, well-finished and along with the bottom operating lever add that just right appearance to the gun. It’s also nice to keep in mind that since the receiver is short means that you can have a 26-inch barrel on the Standard model while still keeping within the traditional overall length and weight of most bolt guns. This allows for an increase in velocity in both the standard and magnum calibers in both carbon and stainless steel barrels. Interesting to note is the notation that reads, “Made in the 200th
Year of American Liberty,” stamped neatly on the barrel in 1976.
While there are a variety of barrels depending upon the model, my favorite – the Standard 1-B has a quarter rib mounted just forward of the receiver. This Ruger has machined notches for its universal rings that, as an added value feature, come at no cost to the owner. One thing you might want to consider, and I don’t know if it is the design of the gun or my physic, but I find that with some high-powered scopes, I have a hard time seeing the entire eyepiece and reticle without crawling the stock. The simple remedy here is to purchase a set of Ruger offset rings that allow you to move the scope further back for a more comfortable sight picture.
Finally, and before we get into some of the various models and insights I’ve had with the gun and calibers, while Ruger has cut down on in-house distribution of the No. 1, handing them over to Lipsey’s (a wholesale distributor) for various special editions in both cartridges and models.
From the onset, Ruger has offered a wide selection of stock configurations, calibers and barrel lengths to suit all with the barrel lengths in parenthesis. You can have a 22-inch Light Sporter with a folding leaf sight on the quarter rib, the 22- and 26-inch Medium Sporter, which is the same gun with two barrels depending upon caliber. The 26-inch Standard is my favorite with all my guns for my varmint duties, as with a beavertail type forearm, it makes it easy to find an impromptu rest in the field and use it fast if need be. Ruger’s Special 24-inch Varmint with a heavy barrel, steel blocks and Ruger rings standard, or 24-inch Tropical Rifle for big-bore calibers and finally, the 20-inch International complete with a Mannlicher-styled forearm.
My collection of No. 1’s has grown to include both commercial and wildcats, which I seek out through various contacts and editorial sources. Starting out with my first No. 1, I ordered it in the .22/250 Remington, installed a Leupold 3-9x 40mm scope with an adjustable objective and gathering up a bunch of new, unfired Winchester brass, loaded up 60 handloads for testing. The best of the day was a loading of 33.7 grains of IMR-4320 for groups that never seemed to go over 9/16th inch with a Hornady 60 grain spire point. At that point in time, I did not have a chronograph, so I went by the loading manuals, which stated I should be looking at around 3,500 fps depending upon the gun and barrel length.
Ruger No. 2 is chambered for the high-stepping .204 Ruger cartridge. I spotted this one with dark-figured wood and by luck it was in the cartridge I was looking for at the time. Figure on the stock came from the comb down and to me, was right in the semi-fancy category. Considering the terrain I hunt in for chucks and such, I mounted a Leupold 6.5-20 scope complete with an adjustable objective.
The .204 Ruger was born as a partnership with Hornady and formed from the parent .222 Remington Magnum case combined with an improved shoulder that was moved forward with the resulting short neck. Out of the box, Hornady 32-grain factory loads hit .750-inch groups at 100 yards with 3,970 fps. Working with handloads, the best group with that bullet in my gun hit 3,956 fps with three-shot clusters around .650 inch with 29.5 grains of Varget. With H-4895, groups expanded to .670 inch with 28 grains at 3,920 fps.
The .218 Bee was next, and it was introduced to the public by Winchester in the late 1930s. Surprisingly, it was brought online only a year after the .219 Donaldson made headlines and will be the subject of a No. 1 wildcat later. In any event, the Ruger was found at a huge sporting goods store in Maine and when I saw it, the deal was done. Home, I placed a Redfield 10x scope on the gun I had in stock and I was ready to go. Wood on this gun was great, so it seems the wood selection and stock at Ruger can vary from month-to-month.
With the Bee, the Remington 50-grain hollow point punched nice half-inch groups with the combination of 12.5 grains of IMR-4227 and CCI 400 primers. Another winner was the 45-grain Speer spitzer and 12 grains of Alliant 2400 propellant. Other powders to consider would be IMR-4198, H-322, RL-7 and AAC-1680. All gave better than average velocities and groups circling one minute of angle.
Feeling a bit of nostalgia, my next No. 1 adventure was with the barreling of a
rifle from the .243 Winchester to the .225 Winchester. To further the old look, a 26-inch full octagon barrel was put on the gun that tapered down to .685 inch across the muzzle flats. While looking fantastic, this barrel did add some weight bringing the rifle up to just over 10 pounds. The rifle was re-bedded to accommodate the new barrel and for testing, I installed a new Redfield 6-18x scope, again with an adjustable objective. Wood on this rifle was bordering on the fantastic, so I was definitely moving up in my collection of No. 1 rifles.
Overrun by the popularity of the then introduced .22/250 Remington; nevertheless, the .225 Winchester is a neat cartridge to have in your battery. While there is one factory loading available on a forecast basis, the numbers ran 3,567 fps with 1.365-inch groups. Handloading is the way to go, and with my favorite .22 caliber bullet weight of 55 grains, the best group, .590 inch, was with a Nosler spitzer with 30.9 grains of IMR-4064. Next was a .610-inch group with 34.3 grains of H-380 for 3,418 fps. This particular Ruger is one of my favorites as with this unique barrel it gathers compliments and starts conversations everywhere.
Last up is something that I wanted to do for a long time regardless of the rifle. For some reason and probably from hunting in New York state as a kid, the .219 Donaldson Wasp has always been on my list. My call went out to the Blueberry Barrel Works and my No. 1 that I recall was chambered for the .22 Hornet, was shipped to them to be cut for the Wasp. While the Wasp takes more than a few steps to form, it is worth it. I did mine from .30-30 Winchester brass and looking back, seven steps were necessary to form the brass for testing.
For field use, I installed a 6-24x Bausch & Lomb scope that I was saving for such a rifle with nicely figured wood. In the end, the results were worth it. One of the best groups came from a load of 28 grains of IMR-4064 for .75 inch at 3,160 fps. Out of the 13 loads I tried, six went into an inch or smaller. After years of waiting for all this to come together, I was pleased. And so was ‘ole Harvey Donaldson I’m sure!
The Ruger No. 1….thanks, Bill!