By Bruce Potts
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Ruger No.1-H Tropical .450/400 Nitro Express rifle: This old classic in modern form is unbeatable, especially with expanding ammunition.
A single-shot rifle may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you are a little more discerning, the Ruger No.1 is a beautifully crafted and great-looking rifle, especially in its Tropical format.
The Tropical version is able to handle impressive big game cartridges, but the model I was testing was for the old-fashioned .450/400 Nitro Express cartridge, which meant the combination of a great old calibre with a classically styled rifle.
While the .450/400 Nitro may not be an everyday hunting round, after I’d reloaded it the accuracy impressed me and led me to think it would make a great woodland stalking round for tough old beasts during the rut in the UK.
Furthermore, if the Tropical version is not for you, the Ruger No.1 is also available in standard deer or vermin calibres, as well as light stalking, a varmint, medium sporters and even a full-stock version.
BARREL AND SIGHTS
“Big” is the best word to describe the barrel on the Tropical No.1 rifle.
And there’s a reason for its size: the large calibres used in the Tropical range, such as the .375 Holland & Holland, the .416 Ruger and the .458 Lott, really kick, and the extra weight of the barrel helps to reduce the recoil felt at the shoulder.
It also looks very impressive, especially with the traditional barrel band-mounted sling swivel attachment to stop recoil cutting your hand, which it would do if the sling was placed on the fore-end, as on a normal rifle.
A .458 Lott barrel diameter is 0.815in at the muzzle, whereas this .450/400 is 0.75in.
That’s also reflected in the overall weight of the rifles — a normal Tropical weighs 9lb, whereas this .450/400 weighs just 7.75lb.
The open sights — bead up front without hood, and simple, folding rearsight — are very easy to use on the Tropical rifle, mainly because, for big game, the range is usually short, and quick target acquisition with open sights works well.
The rearsight is mounted on a steel quarter-rib, which adds to that authentic old English look, and there are scope-mounting attachments, helped by the free 1in scope rings supplied with the rifle.
ACTION, TRIGGER AND SAFETY
Having a falling-block design — whereby the locking mechanism is in the form of a large steel block that traverses up and down in the action — means the receiver is very compact, which is ideal as, with a 24in barrel, the overall length of the rifle is not too long.
However, the lock time (the time it takes for the hammer to fall on the firing pin) is long, as the Ruger design gives the hammer a very long arc, so you need to be good with your follow through on the shot to ensure that the sluggish lock time and reasonably heavy trigger pull will not affect your accuracy.
To drop the falling block and gain access to the chamber, the elegant operating lever that locks into the trigger-guard needs to be pushed forward with a thumb on the release catch, which is within the lever.
The block drops and you can simply slip a cartridge straight into the chamber.
Being able to see into the chamber makes it easy to check on the cleanliness of the barrel, and simplifies cleaning of the chamber.
There is a protruding extractor claw that fits behind the rim of the case, as it is chambered, and the extraction of a spent case is initiated with the action lever pushed fully forward so that an off-set toggle hits the extractor and ejects the case.
The force of ejection can be varied by a small screw sited in the bridge of the fore-end.
The trigger mechanism is adjustable for weight of pull and travel.
The factory setting was quite heavy, at 5lb, with a little creep, but a good gunsmith would be able to rectify this.
The safety is also quite a contentious feature. It is located on the top tang of the receiver and operates by blocking both the hammer and the sear.
This means the action can be operated while engaged to facilitate the unloading of the rifle, but its raised nature often means that the rim of a case — especially with the large .450/400 cartridges — catches on it as the case is ejected, which stops it from fully ejecting from the action.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
All the reloads used Magnum primers to ignite the large powder charge consistently. No factory loads were available, and I loaded Hornady and Woodleigh bullets.
The optimum bullet weight is 400-gr, and you can choose either expanding for soft game or solid for dangerous game.
I found that both solid bullets shot less accurately than the expanding ammunition. The bullet diameter is actually 0.41, not .400, as the name suggests, and Reloder RL19 powder gave a good blend of load density and burn rate.
I worked up from 74-gr to 80-gr, making sure the neck tension was crimped tight for positive ignition.
The Hornady DGX at 2,030fps delivered 3,661ft/lb and, at 60 yards — a typical range for this type of rifle — grouped three shots into 1in.
The best groups came from the Woodleigh Soft Points with a load of 80-gr of Reloder RL19 powder, giving tight, clover-group clusters.
The stock is plain yet durable and, more importantly, strongly built from walnut with a matt lacquered finish.
The low but straight comb, without a cheekpiece, allows you to ride the recoil with control, while the chequering on the pistol enables you to grip, without it biting your hand.
The fore-end has the traditional Alexander Henry style, which gives it that old-fashioned look, and the larger, solid rubber recoil pad is another welcome feature.
A Ruger No.1 rifle makes you take your time over the shot to enjoy the essence of stalking. This is enhanced by Ruger’s new range of old British calibres, such as the .303 British, .300 H&H and this .450/400 Nitro Express.
If you want an old classic in a modern form, you cannot beat the Ruger No.1-H Tropical, and the .450/400 cartridge, when reloaded, can span the range from deer to Cape buffalo, and for a lot less money than a custom gun or vintage gun in this cartridge chambering.
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