Bill Ruger Designed Firearms, continued.

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Driftwood Johnson

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Out of respect for the original poster on the Bill Ruger Designed Firearms thread, I am continuing the discussion on a new thread.

One cannot compare designers of firearms from different eras without also understanding the technology that was available to each of them in their own time.

A couple of points. No Sam Colt did not invent the revolver. And he also was not the first designer to step up from the pepperbox and come up with a revolver with a separate cylinder and a barrel mounted frame. Around 1814 Elisha Collier designed and patented a flintlock revolver having all the features that Colt would later incorporate in his first revolver. A rotating cylinder separate from the barrel, an indexing mechanism to rotate a fresh chamber to the firing position, and a method of locking the cylinder in battery. In fact, there is pretty good evidence that while still a cabin boy on the brig Corvo in 1832 Colt saw Collier’s revolver and that is what inspired him to create his own revolver, not the myth of him being inspired watching the ship’s wheel.

Elisha-collier-flintlock-revolver.jpg




What Sam Colt did was design the first practical revolver that could be mass produced. Prior to his Paterson model, most of the revolvers in circulation, including the Collier revolver, were handmade one at a time. Part of Colt’s genius was taking advantage of the rapidly advancing changes in manufacturing techniques brought about by the industrial revolution.

This brings me directly to Bill Ruger. Just like Colt, Ruger was able to take advantage of changes in technology and use them to drive cost out of his designs. Take apart a Colt Single Action Army, or any of the Italian clones some time and take apart a Three Screw Ruger and compare the parts. The heart of the SAA was the bolt. It was a complicated part. It needed to be both a locking device and a spring at the same time. In Colt’s time it was expensive to make a part that could do both of these things. But Colt had to use the only technology available at the time to machine the part from spring steel and then heat treat it and temper it to be able to function as a spring. Ruger’s approach was to simplify the part by having it only perform one function, locking the cylinder in place, and have a separate spring plunger mounted on the hammer replace the spring function of the bolt. That in turn allowed Ruger to make the part as a simple stamping, driving the cost out of what had previously been an expensive to manufacture part.

Here is a photo of a couple of broken parts from a SAA. The part at the bottom is the bolt. The broken piece is the tail that flexes every time the hammer cam shoves it to the side.

brokenspringandbolt.jpg




The part in the center of this photo is Bill Ruger's answer. Notice how similar it is in shape, it's function being the same as the analogous Colt part. But the Ruger part is a simple stamping, it does not have to flex, and it probably only cost pennies to make.

FlatTop44MagBolt.jpg




The photo of the broken Colt trigger/bolt spring leads to Ruger’s preference for using coil springs and plungers instead of the flat, leaf springs that were previously common in gun manufacture. Using coil springs and plungers increases the number of parts in the gun, but it also increases the reliability.

Ruger’s other great contribution to firearm design was his pioneering use of the Investment Casting process, again driving the cost out of parts previously made by forging and machining parts.

In many ways, Ruger was a latter day Colt. He was able to look at what came before, and envision a better way to do it using the technology he had at his disposal. And like Colt he was able to build a company that was able to do it in a cost effective way. Both men were brilliant entrepreneurs.

Regarding the sainted John M Browning, with all due respect he was being modest when he gave credit to others. Yes, for the first 20 years or so of his career, he cranked out designs and patented them. He only made prototypes, not production ready firearms. That was what he did. And by the way he was so prolific, and so good that Winchester bought every single one of his patents for close to 20 years, even though the great majority of them were never produced. Winchester simply wanted to keep them out of the hands of their competitors. When his relationship with Winchester ended he began his relationships with Colt and FN in Belgium. He still was mostly involved in the design concepts of his guns, leaving making them production ready to other men, but there is no doubt that J M Browning was the most visionary and prolific firearms designer this county ever saw.

Recommended reading:

Ruger & His Guns

John M Browning American Gunmaker. Out of print but available at Amazon.
 

DGW1949

Hunter
Joined
Apr 10, 2005
Messages
3,638
I've always found it rather interesting that Ruger went back to the Colt-type hammer cam and locking bolt when they designed the transfer bar "safety" conversion for their 3-screw SA revolvers. And not only that, but that it uses the tiniest hammer cam that I've ever seen on a SA revolver that actualy still worked.....which to me means that not only is such a small part is almost impossable to tune correctly, but is close to being wore-out right from the get-go. I've also noted that the entire "conversion" is so out of whack as to geometry, it's inter-relationship and timing, that it results in one of the hardest action-packages to "fix" that I've ever dealt with.

I've often wondered if Bill Ruger himself actualy designed this mess.

DGW
 

CraigC

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May 27, 2002
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Great post! People must keep in mind that very, very little is ever 100% original. Nor does it have to be. Everything is based on, or inspired by something. Colt didn't invent the revolver and neither did Elisha Collier. What both men did is take existing designs and make them better. With Colt being the most successful.....eventually. Which is exactly what Bill Ruger did.

For those who like to call Ruger a "copier" or would imply that his accomplishments are any less because they were not 100% original, how many successful multi-million dollar business have you started? After 60yrs of continuous profit, does your business run on cash and have no debt? Bill Ruger might not have been the most gifted firearms' designer in history but name another person who has so successfully combined his technical expertise at not only designing firearms but also manufacturing them with such a talent for business and marketing. One.
 

Luckyducker

Single-Sixer
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Nov 18, 2007
Messages
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Isaac Newton was guoted as saying "if I have seen anything, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants". That is the essence of the evolution of innovation. Using the ideas that have been spawned in the great genious that has walked a similar path before us in no way lessens the brilliance of their ideas.
 

don44

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Messages
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CraigC said:
Great post! People must keep in mind that very, very little is ever 100% original. Nor does it have to be. Everything is based on, or inspired by something. Colt didn't invent the revolver and neither did Elisha Collier. What both men did is take existing designs and make them better. With Colt being the most successful.....eventually. Which is exactly what Bill Ruger did.

For those who like to call Ruger a "copier" or would imply that his accomplishments are any less because they were not 100% original, how many successful multi-million dollar business have you started? After 60yrs of continuous profit, does your business run on cash and have no debt? Bill Ruger might not have been the most gifted firearms' designer in history but name another person who has so successfully combined his technical expertise at not only designing firearms but also manufacturing them with such a talent for business and marketing. One.
X10 good post !
 

Coop

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Jan 24, 2001
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Driftwood - "I love you man"

I hope someday I get the chance to meet you in person. Someday, down the trail......
 

Wyandot Jim

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Sep 1, 2003
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Coop said:
Driftwood - "I love you man"

I hope someday I get the chance to meet you in person. Someday, down the trail......

I want to be a part of the DJ fan club.
Way to go DJ
Coop don't you Guys live close by???? Not like ya have to drive across Texas to meet :lol:

Have to put on my Bucket list. Meet DJ and Coop at the same time.
 

street

Hunter
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,449
CraigC said:
Great post! People must keep in mind that very, very little is ever 100% original. Nor does it have to be. Everything is based on, or inspired by something. Colt didn't invent the revolver and neither did Elisha Collier. What both men did is take existing designs and make them better. With Colt being the most successful.....eventually. Which is exactly what Bill Ruger did.

For those who like to call Ruger a "copier" or would imply that his accomplishments are any less because they were not 100% original, how many successful multi-million dollar business have you started? After 60yrs of continuous profit, does your business run on cash and have no debt? Bill Ruger might not have been the most gifted firearms' designer in history but name another person who has so successfully combined his technical expertise at not only designing firearms but also manufacturing them with such a talent for business and marketing. One.

In the past I have not always agreed with you :lol: . But I have to say that you hit the nail on the head. Everything that you said and he way that you presented it is "Right On". His designs are like the old Holman & Moody fords. They are "COMPETITION PROVEN".
 

Viking Queen

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Apr 29, 2011
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I learn so much here every day. Thanks for the information - clearly stated so that even I can understand it.

Now, if only someone would invent a way for more of this to "stick" in my brain so I would remember more of it. . . sigh. :wink:

Thanks Viking Queen
 

M'BOGO

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Jan 18, 2009
Messages
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Viking Queen said:
I learn so much here every day. Thanks for the information - clearly stated so that even I can understand it.

Now, if only someone would invent a way for more of this to "stick" in my brain so I would remember more of it. . . sigh. :wink:

Thanks Viking Queen

The problem with it sticking, is the blank stares and glazed over eyes in day to day conversation with most people... :D
 
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