|Ruger Rifles & Carbines: a Long Gun Legacy|
Sturm, Ruger & Co. has no equal when it comes to the variety of rifles and carbines it has introduced, plus the company's bolt-action Model 77 happens to be the most popular rifle of that type among sportsmen.
his year marks a half-century of business for Sturm, Ruger & Co. The company, started and still ramrodded by Bill Ruger, has a legacy of rifle and carbine introductions that has no equal for variety and innovation. And the company's centerfire bolt-action Model 77 Mark II is today the most popular rifle of that type.
Before we get to a detailed "inside" look at the Model 77, let's take a look at Ruger's first offerings in the way of long guns. Sturm, Ruger's long list of centerfire long guns began with an unlikely first introduction in 1959/60. In America, where the bolt rifle is supreme, Ruger introduced an autoloading carbine as its first centerfire long gun, and it was chambered for a handgun cartridge, the .44 Magnum. The Ruger Deerstalker, whose name was later changed to the .44 Carbine, was and is a very practical choice for hunting whitetail-size game in heavy cover. It is short, lightweight, and has moderate recoil with four magazine-housed rounds available for a few quick follow-up shots. After more than a quarter-million units being produced, the .44 Carbine is no longer made.
In 1964 the .44 Carbine received a companion-looking piece when Ruger announced the 10/22 rimfire carbine. One of the outstanding characteristics of the 10/22 was the barrel attachment system with a dual-screw dovetail or wedge block system that provides exceptional barrel/receiver rigidity. The rifle also has a patented detachable rotary magazine. The 10/22 has been and remains an outrageously popular .22 with six major variations: Standard Model, Standard Model with stainless-steel barrel, All-Weather, Deluxe Sporter, International, and Target. And new for 1999 is a .22 Magnum version!
Even Ruger's second major centerfire introduction in 1967 was a surprise because it was still not a bolt action; it was a single shot. The No. 1 is a falling block with a finger lever separate from the trigger guard and with a safety instead of an exposed hammer. It features an investment cast steel frame with steel trigger guard and barrel rib or sight blocks cut for Ruger's patented scope rings. The rifle, one of Bill Ruger's favorite designs, is elegant and of high quality with the practical advantage, due to the shorter action, that a longer barrel can be used for a given overall rifle length. For this reason the No. 1 is a good choice for long, belted magnum cartridges, and it remains popular with 23 caliber offerings in six basic variations: Medium Sporter, Light Sporter, International, Standard, Tropical, and Varminter.
Five years later, in 1972, Ruger introduced another single shot called the No. 3. It was a plainer, classic-style version of the elegant No. 1. The No. 3 had a Winchester Low Wall-style trigger guard/finger lever, a carbine-style stock, and a barrel band fore-end attachment. The No. 3 had a shorter 22-inch barrel and was made popular with milder cartridges such as the .45-70, .22 Hornet, and .30-40 Krag. The No. 3 is no longer in production.
The Ruger Mini-14 came along in 1975, a smaller look-alike to the M-14 service rifle. The Mini, of course, took the .223 Remington cartridge while the service M-14 fired the .308. The Mini-14, while looking like the M-14, has several different mechanical designs internally. The Mini-14 was followed by the Ranch Rifle in 1982 and the Mini Thirty (7.62x39mm caliber) in 1986. Variations of all these continue to be popular and remain in the current Ruger catalog.
The bolt-action Ruger Model 77/22 came along in 1983/84, and as a good-looking, high-quality .22 at a reasonable price it has no peer. The 77/22 looks a lot like the centerfire Model 77 Mark II, with the same safety and trigger, integral scope mounts, and stock lines. The 77/22 has the rotary detachable box magazine of the 10/22. The strong lockup of the basic 77/22 action has allowed it to be followed with higher pressure chamberings, including .22 Hornet, .22 Magnum, and .44 Magnum (77/44). All have rotary magazines specially designed for the respective cartridges.
About three years ago Ruger surprised everyone again by introducing a lever-action rifle, the Model 96. This one has some of the external characteristics of the 10/22 but with an actuating lever having a short 54-degree throw. Of course, other internal mechanisms are unique to this model. The Model 96, with its short lever throw, is a fun gun to shoot, fast to get on target, and easy to carry. It is available in .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and .44 Magnum.
New for 1998, besides the bolt-action 77/44RS, Ruger introduced an in-line muzzleloading rifle, the 77/50RS, and 9mm and .40-caliber autoloading carbines, the PC4, PC9, PC4GR, and PC9GR.
For those not familiar with the PC4 and PC9 autoloaders, they are blowback-operated carbines that utilize Ruger P-Series pistol magazines. These carbines are intended for sporting, personal-defense, and law enforcement use and feature steel barrels, receivers, slides, and recoil springs and a checkered synthetic stock with rubber buttpad. Barrel length is 16 1/4 inches, and sights are a post front and a Ruger-designed ghost ring rear. The receiver is made with Ruger's integral scope mounts for easy installation of optical sights.
The above mentions only the highlights of Ruger's rifled long gun introductions. There have been a great many variations on all of them: stock designs, finishes, construction materials, and attachments from buttplates to sling swivels. To list them all is the scope of a book, and perhaps the best on the subject is Ruger & His Guns by R.L. Wilson with photographs by Peter Beard and G. Allan Brown.
Page One - 50 Years, .44 Mag carbine, 10/22, Mini-14, No. 1, No. 3, Model 96, Model 77 Variants, Auto Carbines
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This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in March, 1999.