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Bill Ruger and his firearms legacy

Every year, when the shooting or hunting season nears, enthusiasts who are interested in firearms, seek out the catalogues of the arms makers. This year Sturm, Ruger & Company has an exceptional catalogue to offer free to its potential customers. You can get one free if you ask the personnel at the local Lakes Sports Shop.

Ruger's 2008 catalogue is more of a magazine than a catalog. Featuring hunting or shooting articles by thirteen well-known gun writers, it is a very good resume of the design, accuracy, features, and online descriptions of Ruger shotguns, rifles, pistols and revolvers.

In the field use by writers such as Layne Simpson, Wayne Von Zwoll, Sheriff Jim Wilson, and Craig Boddington describe the field use of guns by Ruger. Of course, these guys get paid for saying complimentary things about the guns, but they're critical too, pointing out peculiarities in various gun models, which could use adjustment or change.

The "catalogue" is 138 pages long, and has a review of the earliest beginnings of the American arms company started by Bill Ruger in Connecticut in 1946. The profile of founder William B. Ruger, Sr. is a good one. Bill was a gun nut who worked for the Springfield Armory and for the Auto Ordnance Company, maker of the Thompson machine gun. It was in these arms plants that Ruger was able to hone his skills as a gun designer and tinkerer, which led to the invention of a small semi-automatic 22 rimfire pistol. Selling for $37.50 it undercut the sales of the Colt Woodsman severely and was an immediate success. The famous single six revolver, a single action copy of the Colt Six shooter was next. Within two years, the Ruger factory needed more spacious quarters, and financier Alex Sturm provided the money and Bill Ruger the designs.

Bill Ruger is described as a man who had an uncanny knack of determining what the shooters of America would want long before they realized it themselves. Most of Ruger's gun designs were practical, and functional. One of the secrets of success was the use of investment castings, the preparation, of major parts by the casting methods, eliminating the expensive machining of frames, smaller parts, most everything excepting springs and screws. The resulting elimination of tedious man-hours and pay to workers reduced the cost considerably. Ruger's guns of every style and caliber sell for a good deal less than equal models by other manufacturers.

Other Ruger successes

The sales of the original semi-automatic pistol and the single six 22 rimfire sis gun were followed by an over-under shotgun that was named the Red Label. Brought out in twenty gauge instead of a twelve, it was a sweetheart of a shotgun that found instant appeal. It appealed to upland bird hunters. If afforded an action that was just then catching on in America, which had traditionally seen slide action or semi-automatic shotguns for use in the field.

A bolt action rifle in all of the popular calibers for small game, for deer sized animals and, finally, for the big five critters of Africa were in a new gun dubbed the Model 77 Ruger. Innovative features such as integral scope mounting bases appealed to shooters, who abandoned the Model 70 Winchester, which had been cheapened after 1965. The Ruger bolt gun also sold for less money than Remington's Model 700 rifles. Another Ruger success.

Ruger delved into uncharted fields. One of these was the single shot rifle. This gun had an appeal that Ruger foresaw, when other manufacturers worldwide were avoiding.

The extensive line of revolvers made by Ruger attested to his design genius. Ruger was active in the daily production of the guns, including the Blackhawk revolvers, and their development in such heavier calibers as the 357 magnum and the big, big bore the 44 magnums. The small factory located in Southport, Conn., has long been inadequate and factories in Newport, Conn., and Prescott, Ariz., were built as the demand for the extensive line of Ruger firearms, were selling in the millions of units every year.

Military orders

The U.S. Ordnance Department realized that training for soldiers could be expanded considerably with the employment of 22 rimfire pistols, and a standing order for Ruger's semi automatic was placed. The U.S. Army has a large number of these in its arsenals, and they are eagerly used by many of the branches of the American government, which has personnel who need to be equipped for many functions, other than such branches as army infantry.

The current line of Ruger arms

They include the extremely successful 10/22 rimfire rifle, of which over five million have been made. The single six with interchangeable cylinders for the 22 long rifle and the 22 Winchester rimfire magnum post big numbers, and this is growing every year. The Blackhawk and Bearcat revolvers are joined by a complete line of semi-automatic pistols that are setting records in sales every year. Ruger's guns continue to use the investment casting method wherever possible, and this keeps the retail price down below the price of competitive firearms. The Model 77 center fire bolt action rifle is being fine-tuned and refined continually, and has made it's mark in taking the big five critters of Africa, as well as big game worldwide. The Model One, a single shot rifle continues to be a big seller.

Not every Ruger design has been a success

Sturm, Ruger & Company entered the competitive field of trap and skeet guns about fifteen years ago. The company brought out an innovative single shot 12 gauge, designed for trap shooting. It appeared to be of good design but it didn't sell well. Very few found their way onto America's trap fields and they're not offered on the used gun market very often. It was not a good seller in a very competitive area, dominated by the popular Browning Citori, and the more expensive, guns made by Beretta, Krieghoff and Perazzi.

Ruger, after Bill Ruger

William Batterman Ruger, Sr. was the heart of the design and production of his company for decades. But he finally succumbed to arthritic maladies and had to leave the leadership of the company to hand-picked associates, whom he had trained, and trusted. Ruger was right, far more often than he was wrong. He had almost single-handedly built a giant arms company, doing an annual volume in the hundreds of millions in sales each year. Now it is in the hands of successors, the president being a lawyer named Stephen Sansetti, who came on with Bill Ruger in the early 1950's when things were in development.

Bill Ruger's legacy

Bill Ruger is rightly remembered as a man who built guns that Americans loved, as he had a tremendous talent for figuring out what shooters wanted and then thinking out a design, making an affordable, reliably functional firearm that could be sold at a low, low price, and make a profit. His very innovative designs continue to be forthcoming from the present Ruger Company, supplying "reliable firearms for responsible shooters," a proud phrase that is used in company promotions. Ruger is the only company in America that is producing a full and complete line of arms of every type, and doing it very successfully.