By Bruce Potts
Tuesday, 22 August 2006
Ruger 1B .243 rifle review: The Ruger No.1B .243 stalking rifle is an accurate, modern gun with a reliable, traditional side.
Ruger 1B .243 rifle review.
Over the years, Ruger products have shown a flair for combining modern technology with a hankering for firearms designs of the past. These guns possess the best of the future along with a timeless quality of yesteryears that stimulates a sense of pride in ownership.
The Ruger No.1 rifle is one such gun. With an obvious 19th-century single-shot design, the Ruger possesses a falling block action that gives a strong lock-up. Its clean lines and great handling qualities make for an unusual yet fail-safe stalking rifle.
Introduced in 1967, Bill Ruger, the owner of Sturm Ruger Inc, saw a gap in the market for a quality single shot when most manufacturers were pushing the bolt action rifle as the design to have. However, Bill realised that many sportsmen and women enjoyed the quality and designs of times gone past, but also demanded top-notch accuracy and reliability. Therefore, he designed the No.1 with this group of shooters in mind and came up with one of the most classic rifles of the past century, leaving a few other manufacturers eating their words of indifference.
Like most good designs, the No.1 is simple and uncluttered with nice clean lines to its profile. The entire trigger, sear and safety mechanism is housed within the tang section at the rear of the action, rather like a shotgun. This means that the entire design of the receiver area is extremely compact. It has no visible external pins or screws to mar the appearance and only the mainspring is housed outside the action. This sits on a welded section to the front of the receiver, and it not only houses the ejector spring, but also serves as an attachment base for the fore-end. The only visible external screw is that of the pivot pin that secures the Farquharson-style lever.
This finger lever latches directly on to the trigger-guard, which therefore precludes the painful act of wedging your finger between the trigger and the lever as in other systems. To open the breech, the lever is moved downwards thereby unlatching it from the guard where it begins the downward movement of the breechblock. When the breechblock is level with the exposed rear end of the barrel, the final downward movement of the lever works the extraction of a spent case, with the last few degrees of movement initiating an offset toggle that hits the extractor and thereby kicks the case rearward clear of the action.
There is a small screw on the fore-end bridge that can vary the force of the extraction process ? so reloaders do not have to go fumbling around in the mud after precious brass.
A new cartridge can then be placed in the breech and thumbed home into the chamber. Ideally suited to right-handed shooters, lefties can still use the system, though the receiver wall is higher on the left side, precluding speedy reloading. As the cocking lever is raised, the hammer system is fully-engaged by the sear, the extractor cams back into position and pushes the breechblock back into position. A special feature of this system is that the breechblock itself moves slightly rearward as it is lowered, thereby eliminating drag on the rear of the cartridge and, conversely, as the breech is raised, this movement aids in chambering difficult rounds. Because of the design of the action, the No.1 has a good, strong extraction system that can cope with modern high- intensity rounds.
The trigger mechanism is also an extremely good unit that is fully adjustable for weight of pull and travel. The factory setting was fine and broke cleanly at 4.5lb, though there was a slight creep on first pressure take-up.
The safety is located on the top tang of the receiver and operates by blocking both the hammer and the sear with the added bonus that the action can be operated while engaged to facilitate the unloading of the rifle.
Keeping to the traditional lines of the gun, there is an old-style express quarter rib on top of the barrel, which acts as a scope mount base to receive Ruger's own scope rings that are supplied with the rifle. Also, as there is no bolt operating system, the Ruger's short receiver allows the use of 26in barrels to be fitted and still have an overall length of 2.5in shorter than that of the 24in model, which is a bonus. With the 26in slender sporter barrel fitted, as on the test gun, this makes for a nice compact overall design with the advantage that if the rifle was to be threaded for a moderator, the overall length and balance of the gun would not be unduly affected and compromise the length of barrel.
Overall handling is favourable as the generous rounded fore-end and stock without cheekpiece allows a speedy mounting procedure with excellent pointing characteristics. It feels natural in the hand and, despite the high left-handed wall of the receiver, it was equally at home in my right or left shoulder. Wood quality was also extremely good, usually No.1s come with a better grade of wood than other models in the range and this was no exception, having both good colour and defined figuring.
As for the gun's accuracy, I selected a wide selection of .243 factory ammunition as well as some tried and tested homeloads, and mounted my trusty Leupold 1.5-5 x 20 scope and headed for the test range. As No.1 owners will know, accuracy of these guns can be excellent and also annoyingly contrary.
Any problems that people have with these guns (this is rare) emanate from
the fact that the forearm exerts a good amount of upward pressure against the barrel, thereby affecting the bedding and consistency of the gun's performance.
This can be rectified in several ways.
The first is to glass-bed the forearm to the fore-end hanger and then free float the barrel to allow the barrel to vibrate consistently after every shot. Or, the amount of torque exerted on the fore-end screw can really affect the gun's performance, for example, accuracy, group size and point of aim. This is because the fore-end screw is angled rearward so that it pulls on the fore-end against the receiver. If this receiver join is not identical on each side when the screw is tightened, then the fore-end sits at an angle and thereby pulls the barrel to one side or the other causing inaccuracy or inconsistencies.
As it happens, this model with its 26in Sporter weight barrel shot extremely well ? most groups were an inch or less at 100 yards, with Norma factory 100-grain bullets shooting some nice ¾in groups. True to form, the handloads shot slightly better and 40 grains of Hodgdons H414 sent a Sierra Game king 100-grain bullet down range at 2,998fps to group into just more than 0.6in at 100 yards when seated just off the rifling lands. Taking the fore-end off served not to tighten groups but only changed the point of impact 2in high and to the left.
One inch at 100 yards is more than adequate if you are deerstalking, though half of that would be useful if you intended to go for a longer range hill shot. In real life hunting situations, the Ruger No.1 shot well. I liked the traditional layout of the rifle combined with a lightness and ease of handling that was appreciated out in the field ? I never once felt that one shot was a draw back. The action was uncomplicated and reliable, and if you play fair, respect your quarry and make the first shot count, the Ruger No.1 can put a little class back into your stalking trip.
RUGER NO.1B .243 STALKING RIFLE
- Elegant and simple design
- Great balance
- Slower reloading for left handers
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