A search for something new and different to review in these pages led me down an entirely different road in the firearms world: a single-shot rifle that is an old design but represents a new concept for many hunters. To some the idea of carrying a rifle that holds only one cartridge is foreign. “Why would I want to handicap myself?” is the often asked question. The answer is usually a surprise: A single-shot rifle is, in fact, an advantage.
More on that bold statement in a moment. First, a closer look at the unique mechanics of the single-shot in question.
The Ruger No. 1 is a modern rendition of a classic, the British Farquharson. That is, it is a hammerless, falling-block action — a design utilizing a breechblock that moves up and down within the receiver. When the system is made with contemporary heat-treated steels, it is as strong as any bolt-action — and far more elegant. The deeply blued steel and fine walnut epitomize a classic rifle.
Loading and unloading the rifle is as simple as pressing the lever catch between thumb and forefinger and pushing the action lever down and forward, thus lowering the breechblock and exposing the chamber. Once you drop a shell into the barrel, another simple sweep of the lever closes and locks the action. Ejecting a fired round requires the same movement. An adjustment on the extractor provides two options here: 1) a spring-loaded automatic ejector that snaps the shell clear of the action; or 2) a plain extraction system that lifts the shell clear of the chamber so it can be removed by hand. The safety, located on the top tang, works like those typically found on doubles and over/under shotguns.
[pagebreak] On-Range Performance
It is important to remember that whenever we test a firearm we have done just that: evaluated the performance of a specific gun, not the entire line. In addition to relating the actual performance of this rifle, I’ll incorporate information from my experience with many Ruger single-shots to realistically depict “normal” performance.
In this test I shot a standard No. 1B in .270 Winchester with a 26-inch medium-weight barrel, no iron sights and a full-sized forend. Like other 1Bs, this one was equipped with a beautiful quarter-rib that accepts Ruger scope rings. The accuracy fell about in the middle of what these rifles normally produce: groups hovering around 11/2 inches. As far as I’m concerned, this is minute-of-buck-ribs accuracy within the reasonable distance a hunter should unleash a bullet. I have handled No. 1 rifles that grouped under an inch and others that had some mild disease in the forend bedding that shot groups twice that large — a problem that can usually be brought to heel very easily by a knowledgeable gunsmith. Overall, these fine singles shoot groups on par with most production bolt-action rifles.
The Single-Shot Advantage
But what about my brash claim of an advantage? Some aspects of that assertion are mechanical. The falling-block action, for example, is extremely short — almost four inches shorter than that of most bolt-actions. So, with a falling-block action you can have the advantage of a full-length 26-inch barrel that delivers maximum power with any cartridge in a rifle with an overall length more along the lines of a bolt-action with a stubby 22-inch barrel.
Second, the weight distribution of this system makes the rifle easy to handle; a single feels and behaves much like a fine shotgun.
Finally, the falling-block can be loaded and reloaded in almost total silence, unlike bolt-, lever- or pump-actions, which can’t be operated without causing panic among the bush folk.
The single-shot rifle’s greatest advantage, though, has nothing to do with metal or machinery and everything to do with the shooter’s mental state. It is very easy for a hunter, his magazine packed with plenty of rounds, to cheat himseelf mentally, to secretly believe that if he misses the first shot at his quarry he can make up for it later. The single does not permit that deception. Armed with a single-shot, a hunter knows that he must be cool and precise, that he must stalk carefully, pick the opportunity and press the trigger perfectly.
Of course, a hunter with a gun full of shells should do the same, but he does not have that nagging voice whispering “single-shot” in the back of his head to reinforce the necessary level of discipline. No gun will permit you to miss fast enough to succeed in the field, but a single-shot is apt to make you skilled enough not to miss at all.