Low Number Subscription Program
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Author:  milgunsguy [ Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Low Number Subscription Program

I know that it's long dead, but that's all I know and I wish I knew more.

Can we start a discussion about it?

Author:  chet15 [ Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

I believe it was officially begun by at least September 1957, maybe as early as May 1957, when Ruger decided to clear out his stock of one and two digit guns that had been piling up in WBR's "archive's".
The folks who got the earliest numbers were those writers, employees and other close friends of the factory who had received low numbered guns as early as 1953 when early one and two digit Single-Sixes were first produced. There were quite a few gun writers during the period who were tops on Ruger's list to get an example to...John Amber #7 and 8 engraved in spain as well as 9 and 10 unengraved (and several other early consecutive pairs, 26 and 27 and I don't have my list in front of me right now on the others he received, 45 and 46 maybe?), 15 to Elmer Keith, 21 I believe to Lucian Cary, 20 to Jack O'Connor, 23 to Pete Brown, 14 to Julian Hatcher and can't think of the writer at the moment who got #13.
There were also employees that got nice examples...#4 to comptroller Walt Berger, #11 to Michael Horelik (he may have got this one much later), #12 to employee Walt Sych (he may have also received this one later), 25 to Ed Nolan, 31 to Bob Dearden.
And Friend of the factory, generally WBR....#6 I believe went to WBR's patent attorney Hal Seagraves and #16 made special with 7-1/2" barrel for antique arms dealer Herb Glass.
The earliest collector to get a number I believe was probably Fred Davis, Jr. (editor/publisher of Gunfacts magazine). His number was 51 and with the other guns with that magic #51 that he had, I've always had a suspicion he was more than just a well known dealer of Ruger firearms...I believe he also had a contact at the factory who was pretty high up...Ed Nolan maybe? Because he had some Ruger firearms with that #51 that nobody else received for some reason. fast forward to September 1957. At that time Ruger cleared out their warehouse of those early numbered guns....WBR must have finally came to the realization that he couldn't keep them all...and he had plans to make a move into the new Southport plant by 1959, so a lot of the archive guns went
Ruger also kept milestone an example, Single-Sixes 5000, 6000.... 21000, 22000, 23000, 24000 etc. He kept them in the "archive" of all models until that 1958 time period by which time most had been dispersed. Even after that he still continued to keep the really "big" milestone guns and when Ruger went to the prefix serial number system he also kept the guns ending in zeros (i.e. 111-00000, 112-00000, 113-00000, etc.).
So at 9/57 Those that were in stock went to other people in the industry...distributors, other friends of the factory etc. Some went in quantity to the #'s 59, 65 and 101 that wound up in Florida. There were also four numbers that went through Sutcliff Company as leftovers, 49, 50, 53 and 54...Many of these numbers had the two flattops available in their number as well as the Single-Six and Single-Six Lightweight. Some also got lucky and received the two-digit Red Eagle in their subscription number.
The highest subscription numbers known are 1000, 1127 and 1130. Quite a few #1000's went to stock maker Bob Wallach (I think that's how you spell it), and #1130 went to a man by the name of Russell Sims, and then later Sims was also able to get into the #29's.
When the #1 came out Ruger made a series of presentation rifles called the "21 Club" rifles, and those were also given to "subscribers"...notably the earliest gun writers and a few others. The 20 Gauge Red Label also got "21 Club" treatment...going to writers of the era...not many made.
During at least the last decade of the program, Ruger was holding on to the first 500 serial numbers of any given newly produced model, unless they happened to release the guns by mistake.
About15 years ago, with the warehouse full of these two and three digit guns, the remainders were sold unceremoniously through normal distribution...first with Davidson's who took a huge pile, then a year or so later with William's.
Then disappointment. I believe the last "subscription" gun that anybody received was the SR1911 (somebody correct me if I'm wrong on that). Don't know all of the facts with certainty, but somebody close to the factory with one of the early subscription numbers came to be PO'd because they felt somebody took them to the cleaners when they sold the intact collection. Whether or not these guns brought fair market value I do not know...but shortly after that the powers that be at Ruger decided there would no longer be a "low serial number program". Ruger was supposed to have sent out a letter to all "subscribers" saying the program was to be discontinued, but that never happened either.
So today....instead of good low numbered collectible guns going out to those that wanted and cherished them, they go out through normal distribution to anybody who wants to shoot the living heck out of them...completely oblivious to the importance of such low numbered firearms.

Author:  milgunsguy [ Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

THAT'S what I call an answer!

So, these guys like Jack O'Connor continued to receive their own same number on each new model as it was released?

If they dropped out of the subscription program over the years did their number go to someone new?

Does anyone have access to a more complete list of the two-digit subscribers' names?

Author:  hittman [ Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

As I understand it .......

When you were assigned a number you were required to buy each and every gun every year with the serial number. Quite an investment which honestly, didn't pay off well for many.

When you gave up a number, others could apply for it.

When I first joined here I was seriously interested in the program. About the same time I saw several folks bailing out of their investment. Why? I don't know or care to guess. Life changes? Retirement on the horizon? Need the money? Whatever.

Anyway, I made a few calls and sent letters to Ruger. I was always told that program had been shelved.

Author:  milgunsguy [ Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

Being able to connect a name with a Ruger serial number would be akin to looking up your Springfield on the Springfield Research Service, hoping to find a connection to something recognizable, even significant.

Author:  hittman [ Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

There are or were active members here who subscribed, I think. At very least some of the "old guys" :lol: here may be able to match some numbers to names.

Author:  chet15 [ Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

I have a list of names for most of the early numbers and a lot of the later ones. The list was added to as the years went by and as discovery of certain numbers became available. Never did release much of that because there were quite a few collections that were still owned by those folks.
The big mystery a few years ago was where were the #25's at? For a long time I had a hunch it might have been Ed Nolan because there was an old article describing the Bearcat in 1958 that had a picture with caption that said "Ed Nolan's own #25 Bearcat". Finally that collection showed up about five years ago.
The interesting thing is, there was never a complete collection of numbers, although quite a few were mostly complete. Fred Davis, Jr. for example had the 51's and later added the #50. But when the Lightweight Single-Six came out he got #200051 and 200052. Other subscribers missed their guns because certain models went out for testing by the big gun writers, such as John Amber never receiving his #10 Hawkeye.

Author:  contender [ Fri Dec 09, 2016 8:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

Welcome to the Forum milgunsguy!
Yes, here on this Forum we have quite a few good folks who have a lot of knowledge of Rugers. Chet15 is a bit modest, so I'll add a bit of info here.
He publishes the RENE, or in it's long form, the Red Eagle News Exchange. It is a quarterly newsletter, about Ruger collecting. PLUS,, he has put together a Ruger Reference Guide. It's an invaluable source of info about Rugers. But it's only as good as the info provided by good folks who send him their info on guns. But it is even better than getting stuff from Ruger quite often, especially where it concerns the Old Models & out of production guns.
And if you have an interest in the Subscribers,,, you need to look in the archives for pics & info on any Ruger Collector shows. You will find collectors who have put together collections of guns, or have specific guns that used to belong to subscribers. Look for RCA shows & ROCS shows. The shows are or have been in Tulsa, Harrisburg, Washington, Idaho, Ohio, Tn. & a few other places. Currently a lot of the shows are set up by ROCS,,, or in long form, the Ruger Owners & Collectors Society. You can also go to their website & see some stuff.
Join us, go to a show, build a display, (even one gun is ok!) ask questions, & as we like to say; "Get the books!"
All in all, there is a lot to learn about Rugers, and many of the subscribers are known & many of their guns are desirable to other collectors. Example; Elmer Keith's collection was sold a few years back by the family. Many of his Rugers were gotten by members here.

Author:  bisleyfan41 [ Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

chet15 wrote:
can't think of the writer at the moment who got #13.

Jim Carmichael I think?

Author:  rugerguy [ Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

good info above and mainly in the old days, Mr Ruger "needed" and wanted to keep the various writers, ,friends and who ever of "importance" to his business,but think about it later one, logistically, HOW many of the newer and newer models and the "need" to maybe HAVE to buy them??, just to keep your number, as well as how many of the original owners ,(old folks) are GONE now...I know as we have a few ( very few) of the #31 guns once received by Bob Deardon, and as the older models are desireable, wanted, but there were ( became so many) I was told by his son, they family could NOT afford to keep,let alone continue this program...........
some like, my wife, like the feel the really "true" low numbers are just that, LOW number, single ,double or three digit...add on any and all prefixes , and that becomes a LOT of digits.......hhhhmmmm
Just MY .02 cents and cannot think of ANY other way to spread out some of these hard to get guns, short of any auction, and even then, again, only the big dawgs, high rollers, get the chance to buy whatever, when ever................. 8) :roll: :wink:

Author:  chet15 [ Fri Dec 09, 2016 5:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

bisleyfan41 wrote:
chet15 wrote:
can't think of the writer at the moment who got #13.

Jim Carmichael I think?

Jim Carmichael was the 2nd recipient of later #13's.
I believe Warren Page was the original #13 recipient.
It is interesting that Warren page was sent #7 of the Standard auto and Julian Hatcher got the #8 auto in about September 1949, neither of which have an external serial number.
Then when the Single-Six came out Page got #13. If I remember correctly, Page also got one of the letter prototype Single-Sixes, the only one that is believed to have gotten out.

Author:  Tip [ Mon Dec 12, 2016 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

milgunsguy wrote:
Being able to connect a name with a Ruger serial number would be akin to looking up your Springfield on the Springfield Research Service, hoping to find a connection to something recognizable, even significant.

Similar, but an M1903 would have seen a lot more history, as a martial weapon. And, boy have i had that pipe dream concerning my high number Springfield (877XXX, 5-18 bbl).

Author:  Dan in MI [ Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

Am I the only one to find it ironic the WBR didn't like collectors but kept the milestone (collector) guns?

Author:  chet15 [ Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

milgunsguy wrote:
Does anyone know who subscribed to buy Rugers serial numbered 64?

Thank you.

If you have a #64 you can give the factory a call for a minimal fee to see if it did indeed go to a writer and I believe they will also tell you who that was.

Author:  milgunsguy [ Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Low Number Subscription Program

That's great. I mistakenly thought that Ruger did not name the purchaser of any gun they were giving information on.

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