AHH, the Ruger #1! Not a finer production gun can be had for under $600. Period! Look at the wood Ruger uses. How about that hand cut checkering. Look at the blueing. This is Bill Ruger’s baby! You can’t bring one to the range without people going crazy over it! Put it in their hands. Very high fondle factor! But is it “all show and no go”?
I see on the various news groups people asking for hints and tips to get their Ruger #1 single shot rifles to perform better. I’m no expert, but I’m an avid collector of Ruger #1s and I love to tinker with fine firearms. Currently I own almost all the #1 Varmint (#1V) versions. I have a 223, 220 Swift, 22PPC, 6mm, 6PPC, 22-250. The only ones left to add are the 25-06 (still available in the catalog) and the 243, 7mm Mag, and the 300 Win Mag. These last three were made in very limited production. If anyone knows where one of these are for sale, please let me know. I’ll pay a handsome finders fee! Over the years I’ve owned a few sporters. 223, 270, 6mm, and 243. With a little work, all the Ruger #1s I’ve owned have been real shooters. I will tell you right out, that the “V” versions are much easier to make shoot accurately. More on why later.
First, you must hand load. I know a bunch of you Ruger fans are going to write that your particular #1 shoots such and such factory load into 1/2″ all day. Great! You got a good one! But I would wager that handloads would get you down to 3/8″. These rifles are extremely sensitive to barrel harmonics. Partly do to the fact that they use a two piece stock, partly do to the fact that the scope is on the barrel and not on the receiver, and partly do to the fact that the forend is on a hanger. We will look at each of these area one at a time and also spend some time discussing the trigger.
Lets talk about the stock first. All of my rifles have maintained the most consistancy with a free floated barrel. Maintained is the operative word. I’ve had a few guns shoot better with a little forend pressure, but they would’nt hold zero from one range session to the next. As the humidity and temperature moves that relatively light forend, the point of impact shifts. With free floating, the POI stays right where you had it. You can very easily free float the barrel by removing the forend and inserting a thin aluminum shim between the hanger and the forend. But a more permanent and better way follows.
Remove the forend. Where the tip of the forend contacts the barrel, wrap 4 layers of electrical tape on the barrel. This tape will hold the barrel away from the forend as the epoxy we are going to use to float the forend dries. You don’t need to sand the barrel channel out if you don’t want to. Usually there is enough space from the factory. Use a release agent (I use PAM cooking spray) on the hanger, the hanger screw, and put some on the receiver where the back end of the forend contacts it. Mix up some bedding compound (I like Marine Tex, available at any boat supply or off the internet from Bruno’s Shooting Supply) Apply the bedding compound to the slot in the forend that contacts the hanger and put some on the back end of the forend where it will mate up to the receiver. This receiver bedding is very important. It will really cut down on the vibrations of the forend during the shot being fired. Mount the forend to the gun. Use the screw to hold everything LIGHTLY together. Don’t torque the forend screw down tight. And God help you if you forgot the release agent on this screw! Once the bedding compound dries, remove the forend and clean up any excess. Remount the forend, tighten down the forend screw tight but not overly tight and check to see if you can slip a couple of dollar bills between the barrel and forend. If the dollars bind anywhere, you may need to do some light sanding in the barrel channel. If you sand the forend, make sure to reseal the sanded area with some tung oil or other stock finish. Many articles have been written about drilling and taping the hanger for a set screw that bears upon the barrel. In effect causing the harmonics of the barrel to be adjustable and shift to some more favorable area. I’ve tried this on four of my Rugers and I have never witnessed an improvement over simply floating the barrel. I’m sure I’ll hear about all the successes that have been realized with this method, but I havn’t seen it. And it’s alot of work!
The second area that causes all kinds of problems is the scope mounting area. The Tropical Model, the 1A and the 1B all use a quarter rib. The 1V model uses individual scope blocks. The quarter rib heats up at a greatly different rate than the barrel and expands to put pressure on the receiver and at the same time it is trying to twist itself off the barrel. I took a quarter rib off one of my guns and put it in a vice on my milling machine. With a dial indicator on one end, I proceeded to heat up the rib with a heat gun. At a temperature that I could still touch for two or three seconds, the rib deflected .007″! And this is no lightweight piece of steel. It can deffinately put undo stress on your barrel. Let’s not forget, that a movement at the gun of .001″ will translate into 1″ at 100 yds! I would guess Ruger knows about this quarter rib thing because they don’t use it on the more accurate V series. Is there a fix? Kind of…Take the rib off. This is a feat in itself. The screws are usually in real tight. Once you have the rib off, file about .005″ off the back end where it touches the receiver. You want to remove all possibility of this rib hitting the receiver. Next, elongate the front hole so as the rib expands and contracts it can actually move a bit. Leave the rear screw holes alone. Put a piece of teflon tape on the rib under the front screws (available from Bruno’s). If you run out of “up” in your scope because you just raised the front of the rib, you will need to put a shim under the rear of the rib the same thickness as the tape. I don’t recommend this. Rather I would mill the front area of the rib down the thickness of the teflon tape. The less stuff you have under your scope mounts to move around on you the better. Now, with a milling machine or a piece of sandpaper, remove a thousanth or so of the metal between the front and rear rib screw holes. (This is done on the rib, not on the barrel!) In effect you want the rib to only be touching the barrel at the screw mounting points. Finally, put release agent on the barrel at the rear screw area and on the screws. Do not put it on the rib. Put a VERY thin coat of bedding on the rear rib mounting area only and put everything back together. When it dries, take it apart and clean up all the release agent. I use alcohol. You don’t want the rear of the rib slipping around on you. Once clean, put it all back together. The rear screws are set at “gorilla” torque and the front are set at “chimpanze”. You know what I mean! Set the rear as tight as you can without bugging up the screw heads and the front need to be tight but not real tight. Remember, we want the front of the rib to move a little when it expands. You will need to use LockTite on these front screws. Obviously you don’t need to do any of this with a 1V. One final thing. Use a relatively light scope on the quarter rib models. The Burris 4-12 Compact or the Leupols 2-7 or 3-9 compacts go together with a #1A or B like cold hands and mittens. It just looks right!
Third we come to triggers. If you can’t replace the headlights in your car, forget about any trigger work! Taking the Ruger #1 apart and messing with the trigger is not for the faint of heart! But if your comfortable with this stuff, you should replace the trigger. The older #1s had a great fully adjustable trigger made out of “manly” steel. The newer guns have triggers made from sintered steel. They just can’t be honed to maintain a crisp let off. The older triggers had three adjusting screws for pull, creep, and backlash. Those screws that Ruger puts in the bottom of the newer trigger are there just to tease you. As far as I can tell, they do nothing! I’m not sure how to tell whether you have a new or old trigger, but if your trigger has three adjusting screws, it is an old one. If it is a two screw model, I would guess it is a newer version. All my guns came from the factory with 5-8 pound triggers! With honing and smoothing, I could get them down to a safe 2-3 pounds. But in my book, that is way too much for a bench gun. And all my current #1Vs are bench varmint guns. And after a couple dozen pulls, the triggers would start to creep like crazy. Replacement is the only answer. You have two choices, Moyers Gun Repair (208-587-6408) offers a copy of the origional “manly” steel trigger with three screws. It is an exact copy of the old #1 trigger. It’s only $43 but it is a bit of work to install. It should be a drop in, but every gun I’ve used it on required a bit of filing. No big deal if you’re comfortable with gunsmithing. The second choice is an offering from Brownells (515-623-5401). It is made by Kepplinger and it is a single set design. It sells for $180! I can’t say that I have any experience with this trigger. But for $180 it better be great!
This brings us to hammer spring kits. Brownells sells a Wolff hammer spring kit that is supposed to reduce the lock time of the #1. It sells for $7.49. I put them in my guns, but I can’t really say if they are improving anything. But for $7, what the heck!
And lastly, and I’m not going to get into a huge discussion on this, but most of the #1s I’ve owned have shown fantastic improvement by firelapping the bore. I use a very mild abrasive (1200 grit) with jacketed bullets. About 20-25 rounds. But the barrels just look and feel great when cleaning after the fire lapping. Lots of shooters don’t like to firelap the bore because it extends the throat. Most of the #1s I’ve delt with have extended throats right from the factory. And The improvement of a #1200 grit outweighs the little throat damage.
How do my guns shoot after all of this? The two PPC guns are amazing. The 6PPC will stand up to any of my bolt varmint guns. I’ve shot many groups in the 2s with this gun. And I’ve heard the same thing from other owners of the 6PPC version. The 22PPC is right behind it. All the other #1Vs will shoot 1/2″ all day with my reloads.
With a little work you can have a rifle that not only looks and feels (very high “fondle” factor) better than anything else you can buy for under $600 but can shoot with the best of them.
THIS JUST IN!
I had a fellow by the name of Jeff Hicks write to me about a new
barrel tuning device he manufactures and sells through Brownells. Seems like it is an improved modification on the drill and tape forend method of controlling barrel harmonics. Jeff has sent me one of hese devices and I will be installing and testing it in the weeks to come. I’ll report back when testing is complete. In the meantime, check out the description and the photos that follow.
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