Very Interesting conversation…

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This past Friday, I drove up to Newport, NH to pick up a firearm that I had purchased and spent a couple of hours speaking with two retired 40 year plus employees of Ruger, they both worked there from the mid-70's thru the early 2000's, and both have very fond memories of working for WBR Sr and WBR Jr. One of these gentlemen worked/managed the wood production shop and then was involved in manufacturing process engineering, the other was in R&D and built all of the prototypes during his tenure. He had his own machine shop dedicated to building whatever management or his creative mind desired for prototypes. We got on the subject of rare or very low production firearms and that is when the conversation became very interesting to me.

One of them showed me pictures of special one-off stocks that were built as samples including a spectacular figured walnut stock for a 44 carbine with the pre-64 Winchester checkering patterns that was reminiscent of the pre-64 Model 88 stock and another in birds-eye Maple. The prototypes that the other built included #3 rifles with half and full octagon barrels, 22 Hornet Single Sixes, a couple dozen or so 18" Super Blackhawks for the British (so that they could be imported as rifles due to the barrel length), special No. 1 rifles in custom calibers for FOB (friends of Bill) (example would be the No.1's chambered in 416 Taylor) etc etc. I could go on and on but the point is that there are many unique, FACTORY BUILT, Ruger firearms that may or most likely, may not have unique model numbers and which may or may not be factory verifiable due to the lack of knowledge of the new regimes. How about Gold labels with TITANIUM firing pins and titanium internal hammers to make them more reliable and faster.

One story was when the ceiling in the employee break room collapsed due to the quantity of "employee grade" stocks that were hidden in the ceiling in the building where the wood shop was expanded into! Another was that employees had numerous one offs created with special serial numbers including birth dates, SS numbers, anniversaries, etc.

There are many one-offs that I have personally seen over the last 20+ years so i know they are out there….proving they are factory built will be nigh impossible once these long time employees begin to sell off their firearms. Some of them have internal documentation proving they were factory built as prototypes, many more don't. The factory during those years was run as a family business, with a casual atmosphere and not as a strict publicly traded company. WBR Sr and Jr had pet projects, and loved building special firearms for friends, family, long time employees and others.

This just proves the adage, "Never say never with Ruger…."
 
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Good for you, not very often any of us ever got to speak with any of the "folks" from back then, I too got some time spent with them but I never took notes, or took pictures and put it all down to "Ruger lore" or in our case "memories"...ask them if one of their stock(woodworkers) was a woman and she did some or a lot of their checkering, and if I remember correctly Rich Wilmots son worked in the wood working shop, with her and was involved in the many of their projects, he told me about the tool they made to "stake " the medallions in the grips, some sort of arbor press setup....I also met one of the "hired" gunsmiths that took apart ( destroyed?? recycled" all of the left over discontinued models and brass grip fames, etc after they moved out of Southport and over the New Hampshire, again wish I had maintained "contact" of gotten MORE info etc...oh well...yes "NEVER" say never with Ruger , the old man was way too persnickity??? and had many , many friends as "ornery " as he may have been, I feel they used him ?? took advantage?? of his friendship..:cool::oops:;)
 
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Dan
The hand checkering was done by a few ladies, and to my understanding, exclusively by them as they had steadier hands. The checkering that I reference above was done by one of them in the mid 70's, i have seen the stock and the checkering mimics the Winchester fine line pattern perfectly…

I am already planning on trying to make this happen more often as three hours passed by and felt like it was 30 minutes! They appreciate anyone who has a passion for what they spend their working lives building!
 

noahmercy

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Very cool! Lenard Brownell designed several stocks for Ruger rifles, and he was a local guy. Lots of folks here in Sheridan have stocks he made from the original patterns he created for SR, but using high grade/exotic woods, making them a curious hybrid of factory/custom. They add value, but how much is pretty much up for debate, much like those "one-off" factory guns.
 

chet15

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There is a pic of a maple stocked .44 Carbine in the book Ruger & His Guns. I'm thinking it had a low serial number also. I don't remember if the sn was given there or not.
The person who had Wolfe publishing (last name Peterson) had several number 1's that were chambered in different unique calibers.
Ruger actually sold a .22 Hornet single action on one of their web auctions a long time ago... thought it was on a New Model Super Blackhawk frame though.
The long barreled Super Redhawks really aren't prototypes, but they are very rare production models that did actually get their own model numbers and catalog numbers. They actually had 21" barrels on them and were in .44 Mag. and .357 Mag... yes a .357 Mag Super Redhawk. I think went through distribution in England that had connections to some shooting range. That is also where the "straight pull" Mini-14's and Mini-30's went that were made (single shots).
Very true on the catalog numbers of one off stuff. I believe it has more to do with the thought that if something doesn't get off the drawing board, then there really isn't any reason to assign the gun a model number or catalog number. The first two stainless New Bearcats that were displayed at Ruger's booth at two successive SHOT shows also letter as SBC4, not KSBC4.
Chet15
 

chet15

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Wasn't there a guy on here years ago who did their engraving?

Paul Lantuch did a lot of WBR's personal engraving. Then in about 2004 he was made the head of Ruger's "Studio of Art and Decoration". Besides Lantuch there were other top of the line engravers doing work there as well. The problem was, WBR, Jr. set the program up as a higher end engraving shop, and high end it was (although still factory engraving no doubt!). But most people don't care about high end or whether engraving is high end or not, just needs to be well done/tasteful. As such, the Studio closed shop after 2-3 years.
Chet15
 
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The Good Old Days were so much more fun than the Corporate Sterility these days. I don't know anyplace that will let you work on personal or home projects at lunch or slack moments. I remember when companies encouraged such things so you got free skills and sometimes came up with their next big product. I always seemed to have a half dozen things under my bench for such moments for me, coworkers and the owners of the company. That was always funny because the Shop Foreman never knew who's personal project I was working on. One company we built news vans and Mobile Production Vehicles in the Front Shop and Military Prototypes and Mission Specific Equipment Packages in the back. They encouraged us to be as creative as possible and had occasional contests. I'm really angry that the Military etc didn't go with a few of my creations. I developed a 8lb per sq ft armor that could withstand anything short of depleted uranium 20mm using Lexan and 600ksi stainless. Once I get my 40' Connex welding lab off the wheels in my yard I can wire it up and have my home man cave with full metal forming and welding capabilities. It's sad what America has become. Lawyers and Liability are so pervasive it's destroyed our Souls. For 30 years I had to figure out and manufacture the specialty tools used on some of the largest projects ever then for the last 10 years no job manufactured tools allowed. There were several occasions where I had to make things that had to go to a testing lab before we could use them because of the nonsense because we were doing crap that had never been done.
 

Johnnu2

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I often wonder (when lamenting how things have changed for the worse) what are today's young'uns going to be decrying 70 yrs from now. What are they going to describe as "the good old days". I wonder........

J.
 
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I was also told during the same conversation that 'there are a "handful" of 410 gauge complete Red Labels floating around.' They were built as prototypes and are not larger gauges with full length 410 tubes, but actual 410 built shotguns. RENE references the barrels being manufactured in the mid 90's but these guys confirmed that complete shotguns were assembled and built and sold/given to employees.
 
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that sounds neat , I had a few dozen of the Red Labels and Woodsides over the years even displayed them but got rid of all BUT 2 of them both low number 2 digit guns that belonged to Rob Dearden, plant manager.....even a couple of the engraved ( JOhn Adams guns) one in 28 ga., but they too went bye bye..once they came out with the newer "screw-in" choke guns I stopped getting them.....oh well I do NOT look back, just MORE "Ruger lore " and in my case , memories !!:cool::rolleyes:;)
 

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AzGeno

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NH Rugerman

Enjoyed your trip report.

As I remember Len Brownell designed the stock on the M77. And Len also designed the checkering on these stocks. WBR picked the final stock and checkering designs.
In 1968 Len Brownell taught this checkering technique to Ruger employees at the plant in Newport NH.

Ruger may have outsourced some Checkering to 2 local NH companies.
I believe the names of two NH companies were Morrow's Checkering Service and Yankee Checkering. Both these companies did Checkering for Remington, Winchester and Savage.
Ruger went to machine Checkering in the 1990's and

Rugerguy ..... was the lady's name you remember from the checkering group named "Marylou" ? She was at Ruger for 6 years in the 1990's
 
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Sorry I cannot say for certain, as I noted it had come up in the various conversations I had with the folks back then....did not take notes ( that was always Chads job!!) and no cameras back then, we had work to do..........:sneaky:
 

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