Last Rifle (image courtesy JWT for
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Last year, I wrote about growing up with the single-shot rifle, hunting around the world, and the commissioning of The Last Rifle I’ll Ever Need. John Stewart at Kiote Rifles took on the project, and shipped it to me earlier this summer. Since then, I’ve gotten to pull it apart, wipe the drool from it, and shoot the heck out of it.

Folks, I’m sorry. They pay me to write, but I don’t have the words to express how incredible this gun is, or the surprise that it’s really real, and it’s really mine.

A whole lot of work went into this rifle to get the look, feel, and performance I ended up with.

Last Rifle muzzle (image courtesy JWT for

The original Ruger No. 1 barrel was a 24″ heavy tube. Mr. Stewart fit a 26″ custom 4140CM .375H&H PACNOR barrel onto the Ruger receiver. Considering the extremely short length of the receiver, the longer barrel gives me an overall length equal to most 22″ barreled bolt action rifles. That extra length adds a little velocity to the belted magnum, but more importantly, it adds more sight radius, as I prefer to use the irons whenever possible.

Last Rifle front sight (image courtesy JWT for

Both the front and rear sights needed to be reinstalled. I went round and round with what to do with the sights, but in the end decided to keep the rear sight and had Midwest Gun Works install a BAR style front sight with a polished brass bead. The end result is highly functional, and just gorgeous.

Last Rifle front trigger (image courtesy JWT for

The original trigger was OK, kinda, but not great. It was certainly one of the places for improvement. I was hoping to bring it down to 2.5lbs or so, but when Mr. Stewart asked me how low I wanted to go, I asked, “how low can you get?”

I ended up with a JARD trigger installed and tuned by Mr. Stewart and set to 1.5lbs. It is as fine as any trigger I have on any of my bolt guns, and that includes the very best of the Timneys or my Jewell triggers.

Last Rifle reciever (image courtesy Joe Esparza for

Midwest also re-blued and polished the barreled action. The photos of the rifle are high quality, but nothing does justice to the end result of the work done by Midwest Gun Works. The rifle is an obsidian mirror.

Rifles Refined, out of the frozen Canadian north, created a one-of-a-kind masterpiece with this walnut stock set. The quality of the wood is exceptional, with deep stripes and incredible depth. The finish has also been done perfectly, bringing a luster and shine that maximizes the colors and patterns in the wood.

Last Rifle front end (image courtesy Joe Esparza for

Take a closer look at the fore end. The rear of the wood there gives homage to the “Ackley” style original with the slight rounded cut at the base. This isn’t just pretty, but helps lock the gun in place when employing a rest.

Last Rifle fore end (image courtesy John Stewart for

The wide and rounded fore end shape includes a raised lip on each side, allowing my thumb and fingers to get additional purchase on the wood. Plus, the underside is beautifully adorned with a brass ferrule installed instead of just leaving a hole in the wood for the fore end screw. The functional and beautiful stippling is contrasted with a smoothed carved interlocking V pattern.

The butt stock is a work of art. Beyond the quality of the wood, beyond the stippling and lines carved, the swells and curves of the grip melt into my hand. It is not only beautiful, but controllable. My palm slides over and simply melts into the shape of the wood.

Last Rifle stock (image courtesy Joe Esparza for

Behind those swells, the stock is the ideal height for my face to achieve a cheek-stock weld with the iron sights of the gun. That ingenious built-in riser means that I can get just as good a weld when I decide to use a magnified optic.

The wood on the stock set fits into the metal tightly, but has been left “proud”. This is the style of Victorian era firearms, the rifles Bill Ruger patterned the original No. 1 after. I am more used to the modern flush-fit style, and I was hesitant on this decision at first. After seeing the end result, Mr. Stewart made the right call.

Last Rifle stock (image courtesy Joe Esparza for

I decided to leave the tall safety as it is. Several people suggesting recessing the safety, or having a smaller one made. I chose to leave it tall because this isn’t a safe queen, but a hunting rifle. I need to be able to get the safety off quickly, with a slick, cold, or gloved thumb. It stayed stock.

Last Rifle case (image courtesy John Stewart for

Finally, Peak Case Company out of Salt Lake City created a one-of-a kind custom ultralight case for the rifle. The case is well-built and functional, but also really classes up the presentation of the gun. I’ve come to expect exclamations of surprise when I open it, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Lots of other small detailed work went into making this rifle, most of it done by Kiote Rifles. The end result is every bit the rifle I had hoped for.

After days of drooling, it was time to hit the range to see what the gun was capable of. I’ve now put a couple hundred rounds through the rifle, in various positions, with lots of different loads.

Last Rifle on rest (image courtesy JWT for

I expected that a better fitting stock and a high quality barrel would improve accuracy. The reality is that I will almost certainly never take a shot over 300 yards with this rifle.

The stock No. 1 shot 1 3/4″ five-round groups at 100 yards using an Atibal Nomad scope and the supplied Ruger rings, from a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest. That means that at the maximum distance I expect to use the rifle, I should be able to get a round inside the vitals of any mammal I should choose to hunt.

Last Rifle on group (image courtesy JWT for

Oh, but it was capable of so much more. Using the exact same set-up, this rifle now shoots 3/5″ five-round groups, or .6 MOA. That’s not using some little pet round either. That’s with a 300gr Hornady DGX bullet over 77.5gr of Win760 powder. There may be better recipes than that, but a round that delivers over 4,000 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle and can fit inside a buffalo’s eye at 250 yards is just fine as it is.

You’ll know when you pulled the trigger. I was hoping the additional wood and barrel length would add a good deal of weight, thereby reducing recoil. Those additions added not even half a pound onto the rifle, still keeping the total weight just under 9 1/2 lbs, without sling, rings, or an optic. With all those on it, the rifle will hit the 10 lb mark.

Kneeling or standing, recoil is very controllable. But locked in behind the gun at the bench with a good cheek-stock weld and working up a dangerous game load was punishing. I put sixty 300gr very near max pressure rounds through the gun over a weekend, and by Sunday night, my shoulder was feeling it. Hell, my teeth were feeling it.

Standing in front of a Cape Buffalo or a grizzly at 50 yards? I probably won’t remember the rifle going off at all.

One of the great charms of the .375 H&H is its incredible versatility. As an example, I also loaded some 235gr Speer soft point bullets with 41gr of Accurate 5744. This produces a little over 2,000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy and will be plenty for my local Hill Country white tail deer or pigs. A child could shoot that round without difficulty and without fear of developing bad habits from too much recoil. That round isn’t quite as accurate as the Tyrannosaur toppler listed above, but still prints sub MOA groups.

Last Rifle left side (image courtesy Joe Esparza for

I still haven’t decided what glass to put on the rifle. I would prefer a fixed 2.5 or 3 power scope with generous eye relief and a large objective, like the ones that Leupold used to make for their Dangerous Game line. They’ve discontinued that line, but I’ll be looking around for something like it.

I have also not yet found the right sling. I may end up making that myself.

The cost for everything done on this rifle was much less than I had anticipated. Mr. Stewart’s final price for everything, including shooting the rifle in and testing, including the Peak case and shipping was $4250. With what I paid for the rifle new, that puts my total cost at under $5000. That’s right in line with what Mr. Stewart estimated, but I expected to spend at least couple grand more than that.

This will not be the Last Rifle I’ll ever buy. This is the Last Rifle I’ll ever need.

John Stewart at Kiote Rifles, as well as Rifles Refined, stepped outside of their usual bolt action rifle work to help make my dream gun come true. It’s better than I hoped for, and at a cost much less than I expected to pay. Thanks to all the people who worked on this to make it happen.

Last Rifle right side (image courtesy Joe Esparza for

I’ve already booked a series of hunts over the next year, both in the US and Africa, and this is the rifle I’ll use for all of them. I can’t wait, and I hope you get to read all about them.

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    • Yes sir. The credit for the selection, design, and carving of the stock goes to a young Canadian man, Owen Armstrong, of Rifles Refined.

      • I forgot to add that I like Pac-Nor barrels. They’re nicely finished on the inside. They tend to be “faster” (ie, deliver faster muzzle velocities) than other barrels. Dunno exactly why. My 9.3×62 is a PacNor barrel. They’re what I recommend on most hunting rifles.

        • “They tend to be “faster” (ie, deliver faster muzzle velocities) than other barrels. Dunno exactly why.”

          Ever-so-slightly oversize bore for *slightly* lower projectile friction on the lands?

          An ultra-mirror hand lap of the bore?

          Elves chained to a wall in the back room enchanting them after hours? 😉

        • Don’t slower twist rates net faster muz zle velocities? Also, I’ve heard that Marlin’s ‘micro-groove’ rifling nets faster MVs due to (I assume) less energy wasted deforming the bull ets.

        • Jon, I don’t get many requests for 9.3’s. I built one for myself on a VZ-24 action (a K98 clone, only with less abuse because the rifles were barely used), and I had one customer interested in 9.3, but he went with .35 Whelen instead. Even most old-timers have not heard of the 9.3×62 Mauser, and I have to spend far too much time educating people about it.

          They’re both excellent hunting rounds, but they’re not sexy like so many .30-cal and 7mm rounds. I like the 9.3 simply for the historical “correctness” of the round in a Mauser action. Similarly, I built a .35 Whelen on a 1903A3 action for my own use. The .35 Whelen and 9.3×62 are rounds that could hunt anything in North America. With modern powders, they’re most of the way there to a .338 WinMag in terms of energy. I never feel “under-gunned” with either one of them. They just drop faster than the new high-Bc bullets in .30’s and 7’s.

        • I’ll contact you about a project.
          The 9.3X62 is also extremely forgiving to the reloader. It just seems like any recipe I put into it shoots well.

      • That is one beautiful rifle. Glad it’s not a safe queen too because anything that pretty needs to be taken out to dance.

      • SIG’s bravo 4 really fits the description of the optical requirements you mention. Large objective lens and a broad field of view with 4x magnification. It’s also said that the Bravo 4 has very generous eye relief as well.

    • This will not be the Last Rifle I’ll ever buy. This is the Last Rifle I’ll ever need.

      That’s for sure!!!


  1. (low, guttural gurgling…)
    Good Lord, that is fine….
    (squints closely…) ermmm… I sure hope that’s an optical illusion – does that front sight look just a bit askew?

  2. What a work of art. That is beautiful! But you have more ba__s than me, I would be scared to death to shot it for fear of damaging it somehow. I am not into safe queens but that’s what would happen if it were mind. This is something to be proud of and I hope it brings much satisfaction and pleasant memories.

    • It’s even better with some wear on it. One day I’ll be able to hand it down to one of my kids and tell them all the stories about how it got this or that scratch on the barrel, that nick in the wood… Some of them might even be true!

    • Shooting and handling would not be my fear. Honest wear ‘enhances’ a rifle and its story.

      My fear would be taking a work of art like that into a corrupt place like Africa or California and losing it to a petty thief. Or corrupt .gov official. One and the same, really.

  3. the single shot is one of the best ways to hunt,this magician built jewel is allmost too good. the sharps single, the remington rolling block,the holland and holland side by side are the best of the best along with the ruger #1 all can take over-pressure loads that would explode most bolt actions or you can down-load to plinker specks….the old adage of beware of the single shot gunner ,still holds true.

    • Yup.

      I like falling blocks. The Ruger #1 is a riff off the Farquharson action from the 1870’s. If one does a web search on “Farquharson action,” you will also see some very pretty rifles from 100+ years ago to today. They’re the falling block action for men of discriminating taste.

      Some gunsmiths consider the Farquharson action to be the pinnacle of the falling block category of actions. They’re impressive and well designed. I don’t know whether I’d call it the ne plus ultra of falling blocks. There’s always some improvement someone has made to falling blocks and single shots. Ruger’s #1 can take ferocious pressures. I know guys who have loaded .45-70’s in #1’s to be the equal or better of .458 WinMags.

      Rolling blocks are interesting, simple to make for folks who are handy with tools, but nowhere as study at the Farquharson/#1.

  4. Wow, that rife is just stunning. But dang it, you just about guaranteed that $5000, adjusted for inflation, will be coming out of my pocket one of these days. Never really thought about getting a .375, but now I am.

  5. As others have noted, that is some drop-dead gorgeous wood on that ‘thang.

    Think they might have any scraps I could carve for an NAA mini-revolver?

    • No idea, but give Owen at Rifles Refined a call and ask him. Be advised, scrap is the right word. If it is cut to shape, not even necessarily the finished shape, it’s a gun part, and now ATF and ITAR get involved. Expect a minimum 4 month wait time just waiting for them to approve your piece of wood to get it back into the US. That’s the experience I had.

    • Mini-revolver grips? Antler sheds are the way to go for that! Just go wander around the wood awhile in March.

    • You should go out in the woods and find a nice burl. It would be extraordinarily difficult to find something large enough for a rifle, but for a knife or a revolver, nothing can compare. Burl wood is very difficult to work with, but the end results are breathtaking.

      • Actually, in walnut, you can find this type of grain more than in other trees.

        See, in walnut production, there are sometimes native American walnut trees that get English Walnut grafted onto the tree right above the ground. The result is that from the crown of the root to about 2′ off the ground, you have some pretty interesting grain.

        The more clear, less figured walnut will come from the tree higher off the ground.

        I like English walnut for stocks, mostly because it works so nicely. Black walnut is annoyingly soft. Turkish walnut costs more than what I think it is worth, but that’s a completely personal perspective. Other gun owners/builders might want to pay up for Turk walnut.

    • I also noticed the wood on that rifle — “drop dead gorgeous” is probably the appropriate description!

      Congratulations Mr. Taylor on acquiring a fine — no, make that exquisite — rifle.

    • Thank you sir, but I just paid for it.
      Kiote rifles, PACNOR, Rifles Refined, Midwest Gun Works, and Peak Case did all the work.

      • ‘I just paid for it.’

        As a small business owner I can attest that that is by far the most important detail in any project.

  6. Quite stunning really……I’d be scared taking it out. I would scratch that up in like 30 seconds. It’s not my kind of rifle, but I love seeing quality craftmanship like that. Congrats!

  7. i have 99 rds of .375 that i couldn’t separate from a lot. seems to be two choices for acquiring a platform for them. then i hesitate because of some disparaging remarks i seem to remember dyspeptic having made about belteds.
    quite sure i’d appear more pleased if i was holding that bangstick. but then, you are certified. i am as well but for another thing.

  8. This is a sane, sound and sensible article to mediate on. Several years back I drooled
    over a Winchester Model 1885 single shot rifle in .45-70 Springfield, (modern: produced by Miroku of Japan: they likewise manufacture the Browning Citori over and under shotgun). This was at a Sportsman’s Warehouse in Medford, Oregon. Price: $1,000. However, this single-shot rifle was engraved on receiver, had beautiful wood, nice finish, and 28″ octagon barrel. It’s a toss up between a Ruger No. 1 and the John M. Browning designed Winchester Model 1885 single-shot as to which is the best classic historical single-shot rifle. Either one chambered in the 1873 .45-70 Springfield is fully capable of providing venison (deer meat), elk, moose, caribou, and buffalo (bison) meat for the family freezer. Or even a Christian or Catholic Mission in the United States, Alaska, or Canada. And of course for bear. Remember no substitute exists for accuracy and proper shot placement. This is especially so on hunting big game.

  9. Very nice.
    FWIW, if you nerd out on stuff like this….the No.1 breach/break open action will fire form your brass. Perfectly fit brass to your chamber and all its micro inconsistencies.
    1” MOA at a few hundred yards may be your norm. Sounds like a blast!

  10. Good for you Mr. Taylor. That is obviously a very fine rifle.

    Now, please give us some pointers as to how we can earn enough money to buy all the firearms that you have managed to acquire over the years!

    At this point in time, I have to settle for a Savage Axis bolt-action rifle with synthetic stock (and inexpensive scope) chambered in .243 Winchester which I purchased new for about $190. (The normal price was $400 and on sale for $290 on Black Friday and then Savage gave a $100 manufacturer rebate!) The trigger is okay and the scope is functional. Nevertheless, I manage to shoot very tight groups with it: basically 3/8 inch groups at 50 yards using factory Winchester Super X cartridges.

    • “Now, please give us some pointers as to how we can earn enough money to buy all the firearms that you have managed to acquire over the years!”

      Since you asked:

      1. Work more. 60 hours a week is a standard work week. When I quit my last job, they realized I hadn’t taken a day of vacation in 13 years. Work 2 jobs. Work 3. Work whatever you can. Take any work that comes along. Opportunities multipy as they are seized. Work/life balance is a myth. If you are under 35 and you aren’t working or sleeping, you’re wrong. And anybody can live off 6 hours of sleep once you get used it. Sacrifice your emotional/mental/physical health, it’s not important. Work is important.
      2. Spend less. Buckle to backbone is the way to live. Did you own a TV, buy and play video games? You don’t have time or money for that. New car? Asinine. Air Conditioning and hot showers are a scourge. Are you fat? Stop wasting so much money on food.
      3. Save as much as is humanly possible.

      All that “believe in yourself” stuff is bullshit. Work. Work more. Keep working.

      Then, when you have a house (you have a house, not the bank has a house) and savings and your kids have healthcare and education, quit and do whatever the hell you want.

      • Sacrifice your emotional/mental/physical health, it’s not important.

        This has its limits. Push it so far that you’re getting into fist fights with your boss, descend into alcoholism, end up hospitalized, or in the looney bin, then all the work you’re doing is for nothing.

        • ^ This. It happened to my father at a fairly young age (late 20s I believe) and put him in the hospital for a few days.

          I have most of those bases covered except for working 60 hour weeks in the last few years. I put in a lot of 60 hour work weeks in my teens, 20s, and 30s — and I have had all of three weeks of vacation in four years. And now I am struggling with burn-out.

          At any rate it sounds like Mr. Taylor has worked VERY hard for what he has and deserves it. Bravo sir!

  11. That is gorgeous Jon.
    I went with Jard for the new trigger on my Ruger precision rifle. I got the 8 ounce version.

  12. Over the last 10 years or so I’ve gotten several of the “last” pistols/rifles/ shotguns “I’ll ever need”. You never know when the next “last one” will come along.

  13. Beautiful rifle and at a very reasonable cost. With the wood I’d have gone with 26-30 LPI checkering, but that’s a matter of personal taste. For the range you’re talking, go with the Leupold 1.5X5, I have one on my Blaser Ultimate’s .375 H & H bbl and it is very quick to come to target with eye catching reticle. The Blaser is a lot easier on my shoulder, I’ll bet… BTW- that thing will shoot unbelievably well out beyond 300 yds, I find the .375 about like shooting ’06 ballistics with a 270 grain bullet. You certainly put together a great package, congrats!

  14. That pretty wood is almost enough to make give up black rifles. A beautiful rifle that shoots as good as it looks – nothing is better than that.

  15. Congrats on your fine effort to improve on Old Bill’s design which has lots of flaws that never been addressed since intro.

    The .375 H&H is probably the most reliably accurate of the non-1s made.

    Did you stick with the factory rear irons?

    How does the rear stock work with both irons and a scope?

    • Yes, I stuck with the rear irons which also include the Ruger scope bases. There is a hidden riser in the rear of the stock which raises and lowers via a hex key set into the right side of the stock. You can see it in previous updates about this rifle.

  16. Very nice. Can’t wait to hear the hunting stories. I want a Ruger no. 1 in .44 mag. But the accuracy of stock no. 1’s is nothing like this.

    • to each their own, but this is not a pedestrian firearm. Look at the before pics posted in a link above and then look at the final product. The finished rifle keeps the spirit of the No 1 but classes it up, a lot. To me MSRs are trashy guns but some people are completely enamored by them and find them interesting. To me a “real” rifle is made of steel and wood with a bolt or lever. My preference doesn’t mean that an AR can’t be a fine tuned machine but its my personal preference that keeps me from owning one. Looking at that grain and polish on the wood I find it difficult to see someone dismiss it so easily.

  17. I also converted a Ruger single shot rifle to something better. The rifle I started with was a number 3 in .45-70. It only weighed a little over five pounds and kicked like hell. It wound up in the safe for a long time until I had a brainstorm. I gave it to a gunsmith who put a 27″ premium .375 barrel on it and sent it off to J.D. Jones to be chambered in .375 JDJ. It’s a proprietary chambering and at that time Mr. Jones was thee only one with chambering reamers. When it came back he had carved the caliber in a beautiful scroll on the barrel.

    Being a rimmed case it makes a lot of sense in a single shot rifle. The .375 JDJ is really something in a T/C pistol but it really shines in a rifle. As Mr. Taylor said, putting a longer barrel on a short single shot action results in a handy rifle to carry.

  18. Beautiful gun. I am partial to bolt actions but your build is one that any man would be proud to own. The old adage, “drive it like you stole it” applies I think. Have fun with it, build memories with it, and give it someday to someone who will appreciate it.

  19. try a scout scope on that thing…if you only need less than 6x, the super long relief of a scout scope would be perfect for the 250 yard shot, but still perfect for stalking through through brush with gun at waist level and hunting with ears and eyes, and need a quick acquisition/shot. Those scout scopes are like having iron sites that are 4x. If you could find a lighted one, that would be the ultimate.

    • Scout Scopes are slower, not faster to acquire a good sight picture than low power traditional short eye relief scopes. I’ve tested that myself, and several other hunter and writers have as well.
      I find them completely worthless on any rifle that will accept a short eye relief scope.

  20. It’s too shiny. The reflections from the receiver and the wood would scare the deer away.

    Also, for $5000, I wouldn’t want to take it out in the brush. The thorns and twigs would scratch the finish. In fact, for $5000, I think I would never even fire it. It’s one of those rifles that you hang up and show your buddies. It would horrify me to take it out hunting. It would horrify me just shooting it, thinking that the bullet would ever so slightly be wearing out the bore.

  21. Would a child really lug that heavy rifle around the hill country is search of hogs and deer? Overgunned, give that kid something easier to carry and something semiauto in case of a charging hog.

  22. Absolutely stunning, beautiful and functional. Your maker picks were top notch craftsmen for sure. Can’t hardly wait to hear about your first hunt with it. Please include all the details.


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