Ruger: The Bit In Its Teeth

New Guns, New Ideas!







I’d visited before. It hadn’t changed much: This place is bucolic. Hilly and heavily treed, with a brook running through, there’s hardly a hint of industrial muscle. But herringbone ranks of automobiles and motorcycles crowd narrow pads of asphalt. The buildings are featureless — low, long and flat-faced, all brick and glass. You can’t feel, outside, the heat from caldrons of liquid steel, or hear the staccato pounding of the hammer-forge. Hidden too: row upon row of CNC machines in aisles longer than most shooting ranges.

This is Ruger in New Hampshire. The complex comprises two factories, the Pine Tree Castings plant fronting the highway snaking as Main Street through Newport. Behind, across a small bridge, the offices and second manufacturing center employ so many workers, “we leave a clock slot between shift changes. Our parking lot fills with one shift.”

Ken Jorgensen has organized a short seminar to acquaint a few gun scribes with Ruger’s digs and its new products. “We have several handguns ready for late-2014 release. And we’ll have more by SHOT, 2015. No sense leaving all the news for January!”

The tour kept us moving briskly, past computer-driven milling and pantograph machines and the barrel-eating maw of the massive device that hammers thick barrel blanks into longer, slimmer tubes with perfect rifling. “Nearly all our barrels are now hammer-forged,” Ken tells me. The machine’s guttural hum belies the tremendous pressures visited on the hapless blanks. I recall other hammering machines, in other factories, that vibrated the concrete under your feet, the din of their pounding like the roar of distant artillery. Ruger’s could have put a baby to sleep.

Most fascinating in any turn about the Newport plant is the casting operation. The “lost wax” or investment casting process Bill Ruger pioneered in firearms manufacture is hardly a company exclusive now. But nowhere has it been used more successfully. Wax begins as lentil-size pellets. They’re melted, then formed into models of, say, single-action revolver frames. Coated with several layers of what looks like mud, these wax images become the inside of the molds. By the last application, the outline of the part has been all but obliterated. After curing, the wax is melted out of the now-hard mold, and molten metal takes its place. The furnace room gets warm in summer! Cooled molds are then removed by shaking and cutting, and the finished steel revolver frame is ready for final machining.

The old notion of cast parts as porous and brittle doesn’t fit investment-cast steel, which is very strong. “It’s a more economical way to produce parts than machining from cold forgings,” explains Mark Gurney, one of Ruger’s savviest metallurgy gurus. “Like alloys, processes are suited to the application.” We don’t make barrels of aluminum, or revolver grips of steel. Performance dictates choice of materials, and how they’re formed and fitted.”

Uncannily adept at targeting market demand even before the market knows what it demands, this company has trotted out several handguns that exceeded even its own expectations. The LCP has sold at a dizzying pace. The slightly larger LC380 and LC9 have followed suit, with grips easier to control in big hands like mine — which get even more control, and horsepower, in Ruger’s SR-series.

Late summer is vacation-time for many people. But Ruger’s design teams are up to their elbows in prototypes. We gather round a table in a conference room away from the din of the factory floor. On-screen, then in hand, we get a close look. Spec sheets come out. A trip to the range follows, because as revolver product manager Kurt Kindle says, “you can’t assess handguns without bullets.”

Here’s a review of revolvers and pistols I couldn’t wait to shoot — and that should be at your gun-shop by the time you read this.


LC9s (Model 3235) – a striker-fired LC9 with a short, light trigger pull that,
especially in a small pistol, helps you shoot more accurately.

Chambering: 9mm Luger
Frame: glass-filled nylon
Slide: blued, through-hardened alloy steel
Barrel: 3.1″ blued alloy steel
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:10 right-hand pitch
Sights: adjustable 3-dot
Grip: black synthetic
Dimensions: .9″ wide, 4.5″ tall
Weight: 17.2 oz.
Capacity: 7+1
Retail price: $449

Though an inch taller and long than the LCP, the LC9 is still hard for me to shoot accurately. I found this new LC9s easier to manage, thanks to an excellent trigger pull. It truly lives up to claims – a full pound lighter and delightfully short. The included magazine “finger grip extension” is a worthwhile feature.


LCR 9mm (Model 5456) — a double-action, lightweight, compact revolver in 9mm Luger,
with full-moon, five-shot clips, shrouded hammer.

Chambering: 9mm Luger
Frame: blackened stainless steel, peg-grip
Cylinder: fluted stainless steel, Ionbond Diamondblack finish
Barrel: 1.9″ blackened stainless steel
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:16 right-hand pitch
Sights: strap-groove rear, pinned ramp front
Grip: Hogue Tamer Monogrip
Dimensions: 1.3″ wide, 4.5″ tall
Weight: 17.2 oz.
Capacity: 5
Retail price: $599

I’ll have to admit an appalling incompetence with this revolver. My big hand won’t steady and cycle it at the same time. It works fine; clips are easy to charge and, loaded, fast and easy to insert.


LCRx 3″ (Model 5431) — an exposed-hammer LCR with long grip, 3″ barrel
and adjustable sight for better control in big hands.

Chambering: .38 Spl. +P
Frame: 7000-series aluminum
Cylinder: fluted stainless steel, Ionbond Diamondblack finish
Barrel: 3.0″ blackened stainless steel
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:16 right-hand pitch
Sights: adjustable rear, pinned ramp front
Grip: Hogue Tamer Monogrip
Dimensions: 1.3″ wide, 4.9″ tall
Weight: 17.5 oz.
Capacity: 5
Retail price: $569

I wanted to fire this revolver, as it feels very good in the hand — much more controllable than the LCR “stubbies.” Alas, the trolls in charge of ammunition for the range event threw in .38 Super, not .38 Spl. cartridges. Ever done that? They’re forgiven.


Single Seven (Model 8160) — a small-frame revolver series (three barrel lengths)
in .327 Magnum, with adjustable sights; a “grown up Single Six.”

Chambering: .327 Federal Magnum
Frame: satin stainless steel
Cylinder: satin stainless steel
Barrel: 5.5″ satin stainless steel (also 4.75″ and 7.5″)
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:16 right-hand pitch
Sights: adjustable rear, black blade front
Grips: hardwood “gunfighter”
Weight: 36.0 oz.
Capacity: 7
Retail price: NA

With all three barrel lengths, I found the Single Seven a gem. The .327 has a sharp bark, but mild recoil; and muzzle jump is modest, even with the short barrel. The cylinder and trigger move smoothly. Ejection is easy, though I found the cylinder quick to spin past the frame groove. I need one of these SAs!


GP100 .22 LR (Model 1757) — a 10-shot, double-action rimfire revolver on the mid-size
GP frame, with adjustable sights; a follow-up to the small-frame, 8-shot SP101.

Chambering: .22 Long Rifle
Frame: satin stainless steel
Cylinder: satin stainless steel
Barrel: 5.0″ satin stainless steel
Rifling: 5-groove, 1:18.75 right-hand pitch
Sights: adjustable rear, fluorescent bead on black ramp front
Grip: Hogue Monogrip
Weight: 42 oz.
Capacity: 10
Retail price: $759

This is an exceedingly handsome revolver holding enough ammunition to make loading those slippery little .22 rounds worthwhile. A silky DA pull, and crisp SA let-off endear it to me. It’s heavier than just about every other .22 sporting revolver. In other words, it feels like a real handgun! Costly but lovely!


Adjustable Sight Bearcat (Model 0917) — adjustable sights on a perennial
small-frame favorite, in both stainless and chrome-moly steel.

Chambering: .22 Long Rifle
Frame: satin stainless steel (or blued chrome-moly steel)
Cylinder: satin stainless steel (or blued chrome-moly steel)
Barrel: 4.2″ satin stainless steel (or blued chrome-moly steel)
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:16 right-hand pitch
Sights: adjustable rear, blade front
Grips: smooth hardwood
Weight: 24 oz.
Capacity: 6
Retail price: $649

Decades in the line, this scaled-down six-shooter is no longer handicapped by fixed sights! It’s “cute” by any standard, significantly lighter in weight than Single-Six SAs and steel DAs, a delight in small hands.


Redhawk, 2.75″ (Model 5028) — a stubby double-action revolver with .44 Magnum
punch and a concealable grip (if the cylinder bulge doesn’t give it away);
adjustable sights too.

Chambering: .44 Magnum
Frame: satin stainless steel
Cylinder: satin stainless steel
Barrel: 2.75″ satin stainless steel
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:20 right-hand pitch
Sights: adjustable rear, ramp front with red insert
Grips: smooth hardwood, compact profile
Weight: 44 oz.
Capacity: 6
Retail price: NA

Just two ounces heavier than the new GP100 .22 LR, the new Redhawk is much friskier in-hand. The grip, of modest proportions, is thoughtfully designed and comfortable enough. I’d like a little more to grasp. Well-centered mass makes aim easy, though the short sight radius won’t give you target-pistol groups. A Redhawk fan, I like this revolver — as I remain partial to earlier versions with more barrel.


Ruger also announced an SR1911 with alloy frame, but specifications aren’t final at
this writing. A lightweight Commander, it incorporates a titanium ramp insert to
promote easy feeding with all types of commercial .45 ACP ammunition. I fired a
prototype and was impressed. While I’ve used few 1911’s that didn’t feel good in-hand,
this Ruger shot well for me at 25 yards and functioned without a hitch — just like my
stainless SR1911.

.22’s, Big And Small

In 2011, years after Ruger’s original SP101 .22 had ghosted off, Mark Gurney showed me a new DA .22 — an improved stainless SP101. The 8-shot cylinder spun silkily. The sights were unusual: a fat, colored front bead and a V-notch rear sight that was truly adjustable. I quickly grew to like them. My first three 5-shot groups averaged just over 2″ at 25 yards — as tight as I can hold with irons.

“The barrel is new,” said Mark. “And it’s sized for the long rifle bullet.” He explained that bores for jacketed .22 WMR bullets must be more generous than those for the .22 Long Rifle. Convertible rimfire revolvers thus endure a handicap with Long Rifle ammunition. “SP101 specs call for a bore of .2160″ to .2180″, with groove diameter of .2210″ to .2225″. Those are smaller dimensions than you’ll find in barrels for the WMR. Tolerances are also tight.” Now, at the GP100 .22’s debut, Kurt Kindle assures me this revolver will also feature the snug bore that enhances accuracy with Long Rifle loads. Hooray!
By Wayne van Zwoll

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