Looking though my three-ring binder where I keep records of all my handloads, I took notice that my first Ruger No. 1 was purchased in February 1976. Hard to believe that was more than 40 years ago and I still have the rifle—a .22-250 Rem. in the Standard rifle configuration.
It has totaled up quite a few woodchucks for me and never failed in the field. Last year—as part of a strategy to bring out the Ruger No. 1 in a different chambering every year—Ruger reintroduced the Varminter version in .220 Swift as a distributor exclusive from Lipsey’s, and this is the model I tested. This year, the Varminter is offered in .243 Win.
Followers of the Ruger No. 1 will take what they can get. In years past, the No. 1 was available in six different versions and in a wide variety of chamberings. Now the selection is much more limited.
Modeled after the famous Farquharson falling-block rifle, the Ruger No. 1 was the brainchild of Bill Ruger, who fancied himself an aficionado of the single-shot rifle. Originally, the gun was to be named the Victorian, but with Bill being Bill and the gun being his No. 1 favorite, the Ruger No. 1 designation stuck.
Being a varmint model, the barrel is 26 inches in length and tapers to a pleasing 0.74 inch at the muzzle. At eight pounds, it’s a little bit heavier than my Standard models but could still be considered a walking varminter.
Since this gun has a heavy barrel, there is no quarter rib and instead sports a pair of target blocks on the barrel that mate perfectly to the Ruger rings included with the gun. I like to attach a pair of Ruger rear offset rings to all my Ruger No.1 rifles to provide more wiggle room for eye relief.
Years back, this gun was deemed a “premium” model, and with that went some figured wood to go with the price tag. Today, in order to keep prices in line (over the years, the Ruger No. 1 has almost tripled in price), the wood is rather straight grained for the most part, although when I looked through the racks of a well-heeled gun store, I did turn up some above-average wood specimens.
The finish is smooth and mimics oil done in a satin patina without any dust or any other finishing blemishes. Checkering is executed in a traditional point pattern with more than ample coverage on both the pistol grip area and the fore-end.
All the inletting is first class in areas such as the tang, receiver, pistol grip cap and around the trigger guard. Around the receiver, you will find the wood is finished “proud,” which simply means it is not exactly flush with the receiver flats.
It’s not a big thing to many, and you have to remember this is a production gun, not a custom rifle. The stock is finished off with a black rubber recoil pad with a black spacer and a black pistol grip cap. Bluing and polishing on all metal parts is flawless.
While the action takes its overall look from the Farquharson rifle, it is modified and scaled-down to modern tastes. Compared to a bolt action rifle, the heart of the action measures only 2.5 inches long and only about 1.5 inches wide at its widest point. The company’s design team kept the Ruger No. 1 trim by moving the mainspring forward, within the protection of the fore-end.
Upon cocking the rifle, the falling block drops down and inside the rifle. As the falling block drops down, it protrudes downward from the base of the receiver, as does the spur of the hammer, and you can feel this at the base of the operating lever just forward of the trigger guard, enabling you to tell if the gun is cocked.
The operating lever follows the contour of the Farquharson rifle and matches the curve of the inner trigger guard, then flares downward to follow the lines of the pistol grip. There is a safety located on the tang, which makes the gun a natural for both right- and left-handed shooters.
An adjustment on the ejector strut spring allows you to choose whether you want cases ejected or, for handloaders, captured just at the safety lever.
I didn’t find the rifle wanting in the accuracy department, and groups were acceptable—certainly a start in the right direction. The Swift is one of my top .22 centerfires for small game, and believe me when I tell you handloading will shrink these groups.
I have six Ruger No.1 rifles ranging from commercial to custom wildcats, and to this day, they are my No. 1 choice for varmint hunting. Maybe someday Ruger will bring this gun out in the .204 Ruger.