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GUNS Magazine March 2010 - Page 46
S ome hunters have been predicting the death of the single-shot centerfire rifle ever since the invention of the self-contained cartridge. Yet the “single-loader” (as the Brits call it) keeps trucking along, even these days when every other shooting magazine has a story about using autoloaders in the field. It turned out quite a few people bought the No. 1, and today it probably sells a lot better than it did in 1967. Not only that, but a bunch of other singleshot centerfires have appeared. The 2008 issue of Gun Digest lists 12 pages of single-shot centerfires, ranging from the inexpensive New England Firearms Handi-Rifle to semi-custom models costing several thousand dollars. At around $1,000 the Ruger No. 1 is merely “mid-priced.” So why the resurgence of an antique design? Partly it’s due to black-powdercartridge target shooting, but an awful lot of single shots are used by hunters. Their slow second shot really doesn’t amount to much in a lot of hunting. Probably 90 percent of the big-game animals taken in North America are white-tailed deer, the majority taken from some kind of stand, where a shot can be precisely placed on a stationary animal. Most pronghorn and caribou, too, can be easily hunted with a singleshot rifle, and the same can be said of John Barsness mule deer in open country and many African plains game species. unethical? Some big game hunters suggest the lack of a quick repeat shot could be considered unethical, but I’ve noticed the anti-single-shot argument is almost always made by hunters who use bolt actions. If a quick repeat shot is considered “more ethical,” then the logical extension of that argument would be all hunters should use pump or semiauto rifles. Even the fastest bolt-turners will only get off an aimed shot once every second or so, and a good shot with a pump or autoloader can cut that in half. Plus, just because a single-shot doesn’t have a magazine doesn’t mean it can’t be reloaded fairly quickly. Any single-shot with an ejector can be shot again pretty quickly. In fact, a practiced hand with a Ruger No. 1 can often get aimed shots off as quickly as the average guy with a bolt. In fact I’d be willing to bet a case of .30-06 ammo the average big game hunter with a single-shot takes fewer chances and thus wounds less game than a hunter with a repeater. This is partly because hunters carrying single-shots tend to hunt more carefully in order to get standing shots in sure range. Single- In fact, single-shots have made quite a comeback over the past 40 years or so. I started buying Gun Digest in the late 1960s, when the money took a yearly bite out of my paper route income. The catalog in the back lumped single-shots and muzzleloaders in the same category, and the 1966 edition listed a total of four single-shots and three muzzleloaders (if we count the “kit” version of one of the muzzleloaders as a separate firearm). The single-shots were break-actions by Harrington & Richardson and Savage, plus a Navy Arms model built on old Remington rolling-block actions. Only five chamberings were available: .22 Hornet, .30-30, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and the soon-to-die .22 Remington Jet. You could just about hear “Taps” being played softly in the distance. Things started to change in 1967 when Bill Ruger introduced his No. 1 fallingblock, though a lot of people thought he was nuts. Who in the heck would buy an expensive single-loader? Single-shots are highly practical hunting rifles. This .375 H&H Ruger No. 1 took six animals on a safari in Botswana. 46 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MARCH 2010