Gun Review: Ruger No. 1-A in .30-06 Springfield

Ruger No. 1-A in .30-06

My dream rifle is currently in the hands of Kiote Corporation. Although it will be significantly modified, it started its journey as a Ruger No. 1-H in .375H&H Magnum.  Almost as soon as I shot the 1-H, I realized I had a problem . . .

I liked the rifle. I really liked the rifle. And I was going to ship it off for the next six months. What’s a man to do? Well, he’s to head back to the same place he bought the first one and pick up another. This time a 1-A chambered in .30-06.

photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Everything you read about the No. 1 says it’s a single-shot Farquharson style rifle. That would be John Farquharson of Daldu, Scotland who patented his rifle in 1872. In the end, the Scott didn’t make very many of his own rifles, probably less than 1,000. But he inspired many more.

Over the years, manufacturers have copied the design’s basics. The Ruger No. 1 — with its single shot falling block action and internal hammer — certainly found inspiration in Mr. Farquharson’s firearm.

The only other thing the two rifles have in common: their general dimensions. The Ruger No. 1’s internals are fully modern — or at least they were in 1966 when the rifle made its commercial debut.

Jack O'Connor (courtesy gundigest.com)

The Ruger’s genesis began in what must have been one of the most awesome Yukon territory hunting trips in modern history. The attendees were no less than Bill Ruger, Robert Chatfield Taylor (creator of the .416 Taylor), legendary hunter and writer Jack O’Connor (above) and one of the preeminent stock makers of his time, Lenard Brownell (not to be confused with Mr. Robert Brownell of Brownells.)

Bill Ruger told them all that American hunters would appreciate a high quality, affordable single shot rifle. This was not the age of the single shot. This was very much the age of the modern bolt action rifle. All of the folks with whom Ruger was hunting were famous for their contributions to the bolt action rifle and bolt action rifle hunting.

The hunters agreed that there was a market for Bill’s brainchild. Several ended-up helping with the project.

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter rifle (courtesy frontierarms.com)

The Ruger No. 1 was an instant success; it has remained a solid sales performer for Ruger ever since. Like the Farquharson, the No. 1 inspired other manufacturers. If you hunt with a Thompson Center Encore (above), a Dakota 10, the Mossberg SSI-1, a newer Browning 1885, you can thank the No. 1 for the single shot revival that either created or kept those models going.

photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Bill Ruger put Brownell in charge of the No. 1 project. Beyond fashioning a rifle with classic beauty, Lenard Brownell created one of the strongest, if not the strongest, rifle actions ever made. “There was never any question about the strength of the action,” Brownell pronounced, “I remember, in testing it, how much trouble I had trying to tear it up. I never did manage to blow one apart.”

In fact, many reloading manuals have separate loadings for the No. 1; it can withstand far greater pressures than other actions. In some cases, such as the 45-70 Government, the No. 1 has been known to take pressures that are literally double the SAAMI maximum.

For most calibers, this is overkill. Literally. Hot loads will likely lead to a target that’s just as punched or an animal that’s just as dead as a target shot with a lighter load. Only with a lot more pain in your shoulder. And a less precise shot.

Over the years, the No. 1 has been chambered over 50 different calibers including .204 Ruger, 6.5×284 Norma, .38-55 Winchester, .404 Jeffery, .458 Winchester Magnum, 9.3×74mmR and .450/400 Nitro Express. Ruger currenty makes very few models available each year. Ruger only widely distributes one caliber a year, and it’s a different caliber each year.  There are a few others that are TALO exclusives each year.

Ruger No 1 .450 Bushmaster

This year it is the .450 Bushmaster in stainless steel with a 5R cut 20′ barrel (above). That’s kind of a weird one, but to each his own. If you want a caliber that’s not on this year’s list, look to the used market. With a few caliber exceptions, the availability is vast. After all, Ruger’s been making this rifle for over 50 years.

This rifle above is the 1-A: the “Light Sporter” model with a 22″ barrel and an Alexander Henry style fore-stock. In case you’re wondering, Alexander Henry was yet another 19th century Scottish gunsmith. (What is it with these dudes?) Famous for his hunting rifles and shotguns, Mr. Henry eventually became gunmaker to the royals.

Mr. Henry preferred an angled groove cut into the front of his fore-stocks. Perhaps he designed his rifle for bracing on a bag or shooting sticks, or wanted to incorporate a tactile reminder for the shooter’s hand position. Anyway, Bill Ruger’s boys copied the feature.

Ruger ships the No. 1-A in .30-06 Springfield with scope rings, a hex key to attach the rings, and sling studs to attach to the detachable studs. The scope bases are built into the rib of the rifle, into the barrel itself, as is the front and rear sight. There’s nothing to add to mount a scope and get hunting. Nothing sits on the receiver. That’s because the receiver is extremely short.

The short receiver means that the barrel gets to start sooner, bringing the weight back to the center of the rifle. This Ruger No. 1-A’s full length is closer to a bolt action rifle with an 18″ carbine length barrel. When I have my 26″ barreled 375H&H finished it will have the same overall length as a long action chambered Remington 700 with a 22″ barrel.

With its lighter 22″ barrel, this .30-06 points like a stick and hits like a hammer. The balance point is immediately in front of the receiver. As the gun only weights seven pounds, I can carry it all day with ease. It’s also very fast to the shoulder and easy to balance off-hand or from the kneel, where most of my hunting shots take place.

The falling block action is just like it sounds. A light tug on the lever releases the breach block which falls down behind the chamber. The single round is then slid forward into the chamber.

After spraying a tiny bit of Rogue American Apparel Gun Oil into the action, the No. 1-A’s action was exceptionally smooth. The top of the block is grooved and polished to act as a ramp for the round into the chamber. It works well; I didn’t have to place the tip of the round into the chamber carefully at all. To extract and eject the round, pull the lever back again.

The spent cartridge tends to deflect off the safety (now pushed forward) and fall to one side. If that annoys you, you can remove the ejector spring and set the rifle for extraction only. You’ll have to reach forward and pick up the cartridge from the ramp. If you’re using the No 1-A as a target rifle, it’s a feature not a bug, keeping your brass clean and unbent.

The default ejection mode is wonderfully efficient. With a little practice, I could shoot, angle the rifle down, release the action, pull a fresh cartridge from my jeans pocket, drop it into the chamber, bring the rifle back up and close the lever. I could unload and load a new round in a total of 4 1/2 second, from shot to shot. Not bad, and I have no doubt I could make that a lot faster.

I had no trouble loading and unloading the No. 1-A. Nothing jarred loose, nothing got stuck.The rounds never failed to easily load into the chamber, and they never failed to extract and eject cleanly.

The falling block action isn’t particularly simple, but it’s extremely robust. I put 400 rounds through the gun so far. I’ve never had a problem with it of any kind.

The safety is a simple: a toggle that slides forwards and backwards on the tang behind the receiver. The raised bar in the center of the safety grabbed the meat of my thumb, gloved or not, and slid on and off with ease. The action’s lever and tang mounted safety render the No. 1-A ambidextrous.

The trigger broke right at three pounds; it was a single break, without creep or slack.  The trigger shoe is gently curved and textured for a solid placement whether or not you’r wearing hunting gloves.

Certain No. 1 models sport better wood than others. This is one of the others. While the grain’s straight and strong, but it lacks color and contains little to no burl or swirl. The shoulder stock and fore stock are checkered, but it appears a bit shallow. The stock makers who can upgrade wood for the No. 1 are not cheap, but quality rarely is.

The No. 1-A’s bluing is a dark blue, almost black. The polish is not terribly shiny, but I could see my reflection in the receiver. The entire finish was even, without tool marks or chattering, inside and out.

The No. 1s has a reputation for inconsistent accuracy between rifles. The two No. 1’s in my possession are not not the first I’ve shot. I’ve seen them shoot sub MOA, and I’ve seen them shoot twice that. My 1-H Tropical shot 1 3/4″ five round groups at 100 yards. As did the test gun chambered in .30-06 — and half that as well.

The rifle’s accuracy varied dramatically depending on the round. The store-bought Hornady American Whitetail 150gr SP round shot a perfectly consistent 3/4″ five-round group on average for 20 rounds. The Nosler Trophy Grade 180gr Accubond was the worst shooting round, grouping at an average of 1 3/4″.

All the other cartirdges I shot — including the Federal 150gr SP Non-Typical, Hornady Superformance 150gr SST, Hornady 168gr ELD Match, Federal 150gr Vital Shok, and Winchester 180gr Ballistic Silvertip — punched paper at just over 1″ groups. There was basically a 1/2″ gap between all of those rounds and the 180gr Accubond.  What can I say? Every barrel is an environment unto itself.

I shot all those rounds using an Atibal Nomad 3-12 scope dialed to 11 (literally) mounted with a set of Ruger rings. The No. 1-A comes with a set of target-style iron sights. The rear sight folds down to clear a scope. It’s elevation adjustable by unscrewing an insert and moving it up and down. It’s also windage adjustable by drifting the sight.

The front sight is a problem. The teeny tiny dull brass disk is great for getting small groups under bright light.

Shooting under the indoor lights at The Range at Austin, taking my sweet time, I was able to get regular 2.5 to 3-inch groups. That puts me in the breadbasket of a white tailed deer out to about 300 yards. Only it’s pretty rare that I get to shoot at deer in a bright shiny day where both my target and my rifle are well lit. Most of the deer I want come out when it’s almost too dark to see.

On a cloudy afternoon, shooting outdoors on my home range, the Ruger No. 1-A’s front sight was all but worthless. It’s too small, and too dull. I shined it up all I could, and I was still shooting 6″ groups at 100 yards, making that my effective range. I highly recommend replacing that tiny dull bead with something a little larger and a whole lot brighter.

The Ruger No. 1-A in .30-06 is a light, maneuverable, reliable and accurate (when scoped) rifle and enough gun to take anything in North America. Its balance and power have made it my go-to gun for woods stalks in the Hill Country. But well beyond it’s objective capabilities is the gun’s pure class. It will take down game with one shot placed with precision and care.

I don’t think I’ve ever had an animal take two good shots with a quality hunting round and live very long. I recently had dinner with Craig Boddington. The best known living Cape Buffalo hunter says he’s seen maybe two or three animals that required more than a single shot to put down.

Most of us that hunt know that. And yet we want that “anchoring” shot, or that missed-entirely-time-for-the-next- round shot available, just in case. But there’s something deeply respectful in the resolve to constantly aspire for one shot, one kill.

The Ruger No. 1 is the tool that gets you to that commitment. It’s not a firearm for everyone. It’s a firearm for the hunter that’s patient, knowledgeable of his prey and confident in his equipment and abilities.

Long after his death, Bill Ruger’s Ruger No. 1 lives on. It’s still a great rifle. And consider this fair warning. If you walk into deer camp with a Ruger No. 1, people expect you to only need that one shot. Practice. This rifle will not disappoint. Make sure you don’t either.

Specifications: Ruger Model 1-A in .30-06

Stock: American walnut
Sights: Bead
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Barrel Material: Alloy steel
Barrel Twist: 1:10″ RH 6-groove
Capacity: 1 round
Finish: Blued
Weight: 7 lbs.
Overall Length: 38.5 inches
Length of Pull: 13.5 inches
MSRP: $1,499

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * *
With its long lines, swoops and swirls,Bill Ruger called the No. 1 “The Victorian” during it’s development.

Customization * *
Detachable swivels and rings included. Anything else will cost you dearly.

Reliability * * * * *
All five stars and then some. Reloading manuals devote entire sections to the No. 1 to take full advantage of the rifle’s Herculean strength.

Accuracy * * * *
Fed most rounds, the Ruger No. 1-A will shoot 1MOA or better. That said, results with store-bought ammunition vary from 3/4″ to 1 3/4″.

Overall * * * *
The No. 1-A’s less-than-ideal front sight and standard wood keep it out of the five star category. But it’s a reliable, accurate, easy-handling and distinctive rifle that forces you to take your time, slow down, and pay attention. In the  woods, that’s worth the price of the admission. And then some.

comments

  1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

    No doubt this rifle will pull Ruger out of its stock price slump. Especially in such a hot caliber as the 30-06.

    But seriously, it looks like a fine rifle and a welcome diversion from all the near useless tactical crap lining gun store shelves these days.

    1. avatar Evan says:

      Right? I was hoping it just wasn’t me. I love old walnut and painstakingly rust-blued steel and intricately engraved metal as much as as my “mall-ninja” stuff. Maybe moreso. Only problem is Beretta and Benelli and Holland and Holland want used-car prices for a shotgun. Not saying that they aren’t worth it, but I work for a living. Although I’ve always had a suspicion I’d be awfully good at being one one of those rich British Aristocracy types that are in the Holland and Holland ads…

  2. avatar PeterK says:

    I’m a big fan of this style of action. Looks cool, shoots great, lightweight. Definitely winners in my book. Someday I’ll make one mine.

  3. avatar DrewN says:

    Davidson’s has 30-06, .243, .35 Whelen (!!), ,44 mag and the previously mentioned .450 Bushmaster. If I had a use for it that .35 would be in the mail right now.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      That 35 Whelen was last year’s release and would be a fantastic caliber for anything in North America as well as most of the game in Africa.

      1. avatar DrewN says:

        I have a 9.3 x 62 from a few years already though JWT! I just can’t justify it.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          But what if someone went hunting with you? Perhaps they are down on their luck and could not afford a rifle? It would be rude to not offer them a suitable firearm for the outing. And we don’t ever want to be rude.
          I have many, many, such “held-in-trust for visitors” rifles.

        2. avatar Nigel the Expat says:

          @jwtaylor

          I’m glad to see there are more folks than me that keep extra rifles just for guests (and for guests for various activities).

        3. avatar DrewN says:

          Eh, I’d love to, but 2 new (ish) No 1s in such similar chamberings seems silly to me, plus 9.3 is GTG pretty much anywhere. I’d rather have the .44 I think.

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      I know someone who 15-20 years ago bought a Ruger No1 in .458 Winchester Magnum. It included 1 and three-quarter boxes of ammunition. I should catch up with him to see if he still has the rifle and how many rounds he actually fired in it.

  4. avatar joel says:

    John, how about a little white paint on the sight? I’ve dabbed a little white paint on several sights over the years with very positive results.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yes, I think that would help a lot. I’ve had mixed results with painting sights as it tends to get rubbed off. I’ll likely end up drilling through this one and inserting a fiber-optic rod.

      1. avatar Snatchums says:

        UV cured gel nail polish is pretty durable, and you can get it in nice bright colors.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Man, I gotta step up my nail game.

        2. avatar Snatchums says:

          Sometimes you pick up some things when you have a girlfriend.

  5. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Why do we do .30-’06 rather than .308? Larger case capacity?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The first Ruger No. 1 that shipped in 1966 was actually in .308.
      As far as why I choose a .30-06, I appreciate the ballistic advantages it offers over many cartridges, including the .308, as well as the extremely wide range of bullet weights as well as commercial availability anywhere in the world.

      1. avatar mark s says:

        The 06 is still the best all round caliber , lots of competitors and many worthy of respect , but if you ask me to shuck everything in the cupboard but one , I’m clutching one of my 06’s . I will not compromise .

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Time out, I have been under the impression that ’06 and .308 fired the same projectiles, at near identical velocities. Is that wrong?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          You are both right and wrong. They can fire the exact same projectile, but with the long action caliber giving you more speed and about 10% more energy. Or, you can load up the 30-06 beyond the 150 grain mark and get ballistics that are more superior to the 308 the farther down range the bullet travels.

      3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Ruger made a very limited run (I think 50) of .308s in stainless steel with walnut stocks last year and the ones I saw went for around $2500, but now there’s a new run with higher serial numbers. I’m not sure how many they’re making this time around but they’re still going for substantially higher than MSRP. Used No.1s in .308 are pretty hard to find. Ruger frequently makes unannounced chamberings in the No.1.

        While the -06 does have a bit more velocity, the price is recoil. Whatever % you gain in ME by pushing the same bullet faster will result in twice the % increase in recoil energy. No deer will ever know whether it was hit with a .308 or a .30-06, but a grizzly might. Mostly because the -06 works much better with heavier bullets.

    2. avatar Grant says:

      The .308 is a great cartridge, but it only exist because it could duplicate the performance of (underpowered) military .30-06 in a more compact action. For bolt actions, semi-auto rifles and machine guns it makes a lot of sense. In a single shot rifle where the action is all of 2” long, there is really no reason to choose a .308 over .30-06.

      1. avatar mark s says:

        I understand that TTAG has never reviewed this , but I have , via purchase and tested myself , and if you cradle this snugly on your shoulder you can surpass the thrill of a 308 in a semi-auto , AR action , with an 06 .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j777MGkdY
        The two main reasons for dumping the larger case along with it’s superior versatility were weight and storage , not the longer action .

  6. avatar JDH says:

    I bought one in 30-06 in the late 70’s. Terrific rifle, I still have it.

  7. avatar million says:

    used No. 1s in the $800 range pop up on my state’s gun trader but don’t stay for long. lately i’ve seen 7mm-08, .300 Weatherby Magnum, a couple other calibers. real beauts with that wood stock.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      A No. 1 in 7mm08 might be just the perfect combination.

      1. avatar million says:

        What/where would be the ideal game? 7mm-08 really made for 500+ yards. Are we talking antelope on a plain? Never seen a white tail at distance in Virginia’s thick forests.

        IIRC $800 got you the 7mm-08 with two sets of rings plus 150 rounds of ammo. Rifle was well kept per the pictures. Appeared to have been bought and immediately relisted for $1000 with one set of rings plus only 50 rounds but can’t be sure because the new listing didn’t have pictures. It sat until it went back down to $800. Gone now. Hopefully to a good home.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          The ideal game for a 7mm08 is any pig, deer, sheep or black bear from the muzzle to 400 yards, maybe more. It is acceptable game for moose or elk in North America at half that distance. This was my go-to caliber for many years, and if I had to choose one caliber to shoot, the 7mm08 would be it.

  8. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I love this rifle. My first experience with one was in .458 win mag.
    It’s been off my “gotta have” radar till now.

  9. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    Thanks for the review. Now please go out and get your hands on an 1885 Winchester that the Miroku factory is chambering in 6.5 Creedmoor this year. And in the comments, how do you feel the popular new 6.5 compares with the 7mm08?

  10. avatar Accur81 says:

    Classy gun with a great trigger, and the. 30-06 is an excellent choice.

  11. avatar Mustrum says:

    My favorite hunting rifles are both Winchesters the 1886 in 45-70 that my grandfather bought when its “nitro steel” barrel was the new hotness in about 1905 and his 1885 Winchester single shot in 45-90 that has never been fed anything but paper patched 500 gr slugs… for deer in the woods the 1886 lever action shooting modern plastic tipped lighter slugs is the ticket but when I hunted out in the open for sheep and elk out west the single shot was supreme a pair of good shooting sticks and an intelligent stalk meant that few hunts were unsuccessful… giver paper patching a try if you cast your own slugs it is a lot of fun.

  12. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    One of my dream guns is still a Model 1 International in 3006.

  13. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Mine’s in .303 British. Late 19th century rifle in a late 19th century caliber. I’d like to add a .375 H&H and maybe one with the manlicher stock, maybe the .257 Roberts from a couple years ago. Look around on GunBroker and you’ll find plenty of new two year old rifles.

    The safety usually stops the ejected case with the rimmed cartridges.

  14. avatar Tile floor says:

    Yo

    JWT

    What’s the skinny on what you’re having done to your .375?

    Just curious

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Looks like the barrel will be finished this month, and the stock maker has started on his work. We picked out new sites, and new mounts.

  15. avatar Wally1 says:

    I don’t have a No#1 but always wanted one in stainless, 338 win mag with a ported barrel. Does Ruger take special orders?. I own several Ruger Bolt rifles and quality has been superb. I would take a 30-06 if I could find one. Also, I wonder if Ruger would start production of the #3 again if demand and sales warranted it’s production?.

  16. avatar gunr says:

    Had a number 1 about 20 years ago, in a really humongous, game stopping, drop dead in it’s tracks caliber of 22 Hornet. I was an experienced handloader, but just about every group I shot went over 12″ at 100 yards. This would make it a great 10 yard dog rifle.
    I even put another scope on it, but it never improved. I should have had it rebarreled to some more useful caliber, but sold it instead, to the same gun shop where I bought it.

    1. avatar gunr says:

      Oop’s It was 6″ groups not 12″

  17. avatar PeterC says:

    I stumbled upon a used Number One in .30-06 this summer. It had a nicely fitted Harry Lawson muzzle brake, and was in beautiful shape. Best of all, it was only $552, including tax. Couldn’t resist. What a lovely shooter!

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