If you value the true essence of hunting, this great-looking rifle is for you, says Bruce Potts
A single-shot rifle may not be for everyone, but if you are a little more discerning and value the true essence of hunting, then the Ruger No.1 is a beautifully crafted and great-looking rifle. Many sportsmen and women enjoy the quality and designs of times long gone, but also demand top-notch accuracy and reliability. The Ruger No 1 fulfils both these briefs and is one of the classic rifles of this century.
Action, trigger and safety
The No.1 was introduced in 1967 and its single-shot design, with falling-block action, gives a very strong lock-up not dissimilar to the old English Farquharson rifle.
- 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 compact, with no visible external pins or screws to mar the appearance, and only the mainspring housed outside the action. This sits on a welded section to the front of the receiver, which 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, which secures the Farquharson-style lever. This finger-lever latches directly on to the trigger-guard, which precludes the painful act of wedging your finger between the trigger and the lever.
- To open the breech, the lever is moved downward, thereby unlatching it from the guard, and there 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 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.
- As the cocking lever is raised, the hammer system is fully engaged by the sear, the extractor cams back and pushes the breechblock back into position. It is a special feature of this system that the breechblock itself moves slightly rearward as it is lowered, eliminating drag on the rear of the cartridge, and conversely as the breech is raised this movement aids in chambering difficult rounds.
- The trigger mechanism is a bit pedestrian, as it has a long lock time — that is, trigger pressure to firing pin striking the cartridge’s primer. It is fine, but you have to use correct follow-through once the trigger is used for best accuracy.
- This rifle had a pull of 4.85lb and a small amount of creep, but it is adjustable for weight of pull and travel.
- 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.
Barrel, sights and stock
Ruger No.1 Tropical rifles are available as light Sporters, varmints or tropical gun configurations, but this medium Sporter version with open sights and barrel band is perfect as it stops that recoil cutting your hand if the sling was placed on the fore-end as on a normal rifle. The barrel is 24in long, and barrel diameter is 0.674in at the muzzle and not threaded.
- The open sights — the bead up front without hood and simple folding rear sight — are very usable at shorter range, so 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.
- There are also scope mounting attachments helped by the free 1in scope rings supplied with the rifle.
- Another strong point is the Ruger’s classical stock lines, which are practical, with a plain but durable construction of walnut and a matt lacquered finish.
- A straight comb, without cheekpiece, allows you to ride the recoil with control.
- The fore-end has the traditional Alexander Henry style, which adds to that old-fashioned look, and the large solid rubber recoil pad is tactile.
As No.1 owners will know, the accuracy of these guns can be excellent but also annoyingly contrary. Any problems that people have with these guns emanate from the fact that the forearm exerts a good amount of upward pressure against the barrel, affecting the bedding and consistency of the gun’s performance.
This can be rectified in several ways. You can 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. Alternatively, the amount of torque exerted on the fore-end screw can affect the gun’s performance, particularly accuracy, both group size and point of aim.
To the bench
With a .30-06 Springfield round, you have a huge choice of factory loads. One of the best is the Sako 123-gr Gamehead load. The No.1 shot honest 1.25in groups with a scope fitted at 100 yards, and with open sights at 50 yards was about the same, with a velocity of 2,920fps and 2,329ft/lb energy — more than enough for any British deer species.
The Remington Core Lokt 165-gr shot 2,707fps and 2,685ft/lb, and the Hornady 180-gr SST loads grouped at 1.25in at 100 yards and 2,610fps/2,723ft/lb.
Reloads can boost performance, both with regard to velocity but more crucially accuracy. The Hornady SST 150-gr load with 50 grains of RL 15 powder achieved 2,813fps for 2,636ft/lb. A lighter 125-gr Nosler Ballistic Tip shot 3,057fps and 2,595ft/lb with 55 grains of Vit N150 behind it. A better deer load was the 165-gr Nosler Partition bullet with 54 grains of Alliant RL 17 powder, which shot 2,767fps/2,805ft/lb and 1in 100-yard groups.
The Sierra GameKing 180-gr bullet and a load of 57.5 grains of Reloder 22 powder is deemed classic for the .30-06 and gives the hunter 2,685fps and 2,882ft/lb.
I know it is old-fashioned-looking — so am I — but the Ruger No.1 is reliable and accurate. I think it looks superb and, with a scope or not, shooting a No.1 is always a pleasure. With only one shot to hand, it certainly sharpens up those stalking and aiming skills. These rifles are quite pricey now, but isn’t everything? It is a true modern classic and in a classic cartridge, too.