I guess you could say that the firearm company I am talking about would fall into the third-place spot among the shooting fraternity. It has consistently held that third place over many years. I am talking today about the Ruger line of guns.

As popularity goes, I suspect the Ruger line has come close to the Remington bolt action sporting rifle and the Model 70 Winchester in workmanship and popularity. I couldn’t have written this 25 years ago but with the quality down in the Remington 700, the Ruger is consistent and dependable and on the move up. It is hard to talk about the consistency of the Ruger line without talking about the man himself.

Bill Ruger came from a fairly affluent family and wasted much of his time playing with and studying firearms. His interest soon led him to the first of his gun works. It was to be a Savage 99 Lever action converted to a .250 semiautomatic. This attracted attention to his ideas, one of which started his interest in designing a handgun which first was advertised in the NRA publication The American Rifleman.

As any entrepreneur soon finds out, the birth of a new company requires money and Ruger found it in his friend Alexander Sturm. They were taking a chance with the business in the Ruger semiautomatic .22. To be successful, one needs a couple of things to fall in place. The Ruger had the design, the performance finalized and the price. The gun listed at $39. Bill Ruger was smart and socialized with many of the outdoor personalities of the time. Early in the formation of the company, the logo was red but later when Sturm passed away, it was changed to black. It didn’t take long then for the red logo to become collectible.

It soon became a fact that Bill Ruger liked those older gun designs. This became apparent with the single six. After the war, Colt dropped the Action Army from its line of popular cowboy type guns, opening a spot for another company to produce a gun like that carried by the westerners on TV. The single six is a good example of Bill Ruger’s foresight and interest in some of the older but well-made guns. From there, it didn’t take long for Ruger to produce a full line of single action handguns.

Next, he had the nerve to come out with a single shot rifle, the number one Ruger. Everyone was buying repeaters at the time. He went ahead and made the single shot against all the popular trends. It’s an elegant gun as it has a beautiful wood two-piece stock. The wood has good figure in it and because it was created in two pieces, it made it easier to do. This gun will be a great collectible someday soon.

Rifles such as the 77-bolt action was chambered for most popular rounds then. The other guns ranged from the small Bearcat to the large framed Redhawk in .44 magnum. Ruger became a trusted name in firearms. The companies first rifle didn’t do well in semi-auto here as they aren’t legal in our state.

While Ruger seemed to have perfect timing and success, he did have one failure. The single shot handgun Hawkeye never caught on. Today, it is a rare collector’s gun selling for around $3,000 if you can find one. So even though it never sold at the time, it is now valuable.

Well, that’s all I have for now on Mr. Ruger and his famous guns.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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