Ruger’s Single-Action Beginnings

The 1950s

Regular readers know I have said more than once, the 1950s were simply the greatest decade ever; and in spite of repeating myself, I’m saying it again. It certainly was a busy life, and firearms manufacturers were doing some very special things. However, the sixgun having the most effect on me in the 1950s, and many years after, has been the Ruger Single Action.

During the 1950s, Ruger not only introduced their first single-action sixgun, but four other distinct models. Ruger grew from a small company making .22 semi-autos in what was basically a small barn, to a force to be reckoned with in the firearms industry. Along the way, they not only revolutionized the industry, they made it possible for quality firearms to be produced and sold at reasonable prices. It all began in 1953 with the Single-Six .22.

The Red Barn

Ruger began four years earlier with a new idea. From the little red barn, Bill Ruger and his partner Alexander Sturm, came together to produce .22 semi-autos using stamped parts welded together. That original .22 soon became the Mark I, was followed by the Mark II and is now in the Mark III phase. It’s undoubtedly the most popular .22 semi-auto ever produced. Once the original .22 Ruger was up and running and looking like it would be a great success, Bill turned to what was to be Ruger’s second offering, a single-shot pistol.

But the suggestion was made; it would be just as easy to make a revolver as a single-shot pistol. Bill argued their facility was too small to forage frames, but once someone was found to investment-cast the frames, the .22 Single-Six became a reality. At the time the Colt Single Action Army had been out of production for more than 10 years, with no thought of ever bringing it back.

Bill’s idea was to produce a reasonably priced single action anyone could afford. To keep it affordable it also needed to use relatively inexpensive ammunition — spelled .22 Long Rifle. Using the Colt Single Action as inspiration, Ruger downsized it to fit the .22, fitted it with coil springs to make it virtually unbreakable and then to keep the Colt feel, duplicated the original Single Action Army grip frame. Instead of using two pieces of steel to do this, Ruger came up with a 1-piece aluminum alloy grip frame.

Instead of the traditional hog-wallow rear sight, Bill’s first single action had a flattop frame, with a rear sight adjustable for windage set in a dovetail. The .22 Single-Six was born.

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2 thoughts on “Ruger’s Single-Action Beginnings

  1. David Drawbaugh

    I enjoyed the article but you failed to mention the Bearcat .22 revolver. I bought mine in 1957 or 1958 and still have to this day,along with the original box showing a price of $49.50. A few years ago I found that mine is what is known as an “Alphabet” Ruger because the serial number started with a letter. Apparently there is a collector interest in these guns and the values have risen a great deal over the years. My gun is KXXX. A great little gun that deserves to be recognised.

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