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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Barrel Material: Alloy steel
Barrel Twist: 1:10″ RH 6-groove
Capacity: 1 round
Weight: 7 lbs.
Overall Length: 38.5 inches
Length of Pull: 13.5 inches
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.