Editor’s Note: Sportsman’s Guide is very excited to now be selling Sturm, Ruger & Co. firearms! Regular Guide Outdoors contributor Mark Melotik looks into what makes this American gun company so successful.
By Mark Melotik
One of the best new value-priced hunting rifles on the market, available in a wide range of popular, useful calibers. Hot-selling compact handguns ideal for conceal-carry fans. Some of the most-respected rimfire rifles and handguns in the world, ready to inspire the next generation of shooters and make regular shooting practice—even for veteran outdoorsmen—more enjoyable and affordable. What do all the previous statements have in common? All describe current Sturm, Ruger & Co. guns—and many more new models are on the drawing board right now! What it all boils down to is simple: These are exciting times at Southport, Conn.-based Sturm, Ruger & Co.—and equally exciting times for Ruger customers!
If the previous paragraph doesn’t have you planning for a new Ruger firearm this year, hold tight—we’re just getting started. Recently, I sat down with Ken Jorgensen, Ruger’s director of media relations and shooting sports, to discuss the hows and whys behind one of the hottest gun companies in America. The company was founded in 1949 by Alexander McCormick Sturm and William B. Ruger.
In the end, what emerged from our talk was fairly simple: Six great reasons why you, me, and every other gun aficionado on the planet needs to consider another Ruger firearm purchase in the coming days, weeks and months.
Reason One: Building Guns That People Want
“There have been a lot of new products coming out of Ruger over the last few years, and it goes back to Michael Fifer, our CEO—he’s a big believer that new products drive sales, and we’ve seen that at Ruger,” Jorgensen said. “One of his comments is, you need to give the people a reason to buy that next firearm, and if you’re a firearms aficionado, what better reason do you need than a great new model?
“One of the things we’ve done over the years, is we have a program that we ask what people are looking for,” Jorgensen continued. “Our ‘Voice of the Customer’ program has been giving us that information, and theoretically, when we bring a new product, we know that people are looking for it.
“A few examples of this, and maybe the biggest standouts, are the LCP and the LC9 handguns. The LCP in 380 auto is a great little gun that people were asking for, but then we had people who shot it say, they wish we had something a little more powerful, in 9mm—which is why we developed the LC9. And then when people shot the 9mm, they said, ‘I wish it didn’t have quite as much recoil,’ so we listened to that response as well, and then we came out with the LC380. So you kind of have one platform that leads to another, if you listen to the people; the new introductions kind of feed on each other, and a lot of times it allows us to take things to the next level.”
Reason Two: Engineers Who Know Guns, The Market
“On the other end of the spectrum is the Ruger Precision Rifle; there has been a lot of interest in both the hunting community and competitive community in long-range precision shooting, and a lot of those are really, really pricey guns,” Jorgensen continued. “[Our answer to that was] the Ruger Precision Rifle that has a $1,399 suggested retail, and probably a real-world price of about $1,000—for guns that are sub-MOA guns.
The extended story behind the Ruger Precision Rifle is notable, Jorgensen said, because it also speaks volumes about the current state of Ruger R&D. He said the company routinely sends its talented engineers off to shooting school—so they not only get hands-on training, but are constantly rubbing elbows with some of the sport’s top enthusiasts and trainers, hearing and learning their wants and needs. That type of insight pays off, Jorgensen said.
“We make sure our engineers get out there and use our guns, and we’ve even sent them to [some advanced marksmanship training]. This is a place that not only handles military training, but for the hunting community, their goal is to teach you to shoot twice as far as you think you’ll ever have to shoot on a hunt, so you have the confidence you need to make that shot.”
It was at one of these training centers in Texas where Ruger recently chose to roll out the new Ruger Precision Rifle to the outdoor media, in what ended up as a very impressive debut.
“I think everybody shot the gun out to 1,000 yards, and some were shooting out to 1,400 yards,” Jorgensen said. “It’s an interesting place to shoot, the winds are constantly changing, and of course the real secret to accurate, long-range shooting is figuring out the wind.
“In the end there was a tremendous response to the rifle, because people saw that it delivered a lot for the money, that they’re very accurate rifles, and they have some very cool features. And that was all a result of time spent getting valuable input from passionate shooters. So our engineers aren’t just sitting behind desks and computer screens, they’re out there participating, gaining knowledge.”
Currently the Ruger Precision Rifle is available in three calibers: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. Which is currently the hottest seller? Jorgensen said he was not privy to the latest sales figures, but offered his best guess: “I know a lot of people have been looking for the 6.5 Creedmoor, just because it has such a great reputation for accuracy.”
Reason Three: A Leader Who Listens
At Ruger, the culture of getting into the customers’ wants and needs starts from the top down. Ruger CEO Michael Fifer is constantly on the road hunting and testing, and tapping enthusiasts for input.
Fifer even solicits feedback from customers on the Sturm website, asking them to fill out a comment form, “Tell the CEO. ” It says, “Use the form below to communicate directly with me and let me know what ideas you have for new products and improvements at Ruger.”
“He is a participant,” Jorgensen said of Fifer. “I don’t think he had done much of any hunting when he came on board with Ruger in 2007, but he has been hunting regularly ever since; he actually just returned [Sept. 2015] from an Alaskan moose and bear hunt. He goes out there and sees what works and what doesn’t, and is always looking for feedback.
“A good example is the Ruger Guide Gun—that’s something that came out of some feedback; some of the Alaskan guides were looking for a gun that was weather resistant, that had stainless steel, and a 20-inch barrel—a shorter design made for the woods, one that wouldn’t be constantly catching on trees and brush when slung over your shoulder, something that was more maneuverable. Then we added three spacers in the stock so you can really make it deliver a custom-fit. If you’re hunting in warm weather, in light clothing, you might want to add a spacer; if you were in Alaska later in the year, bundled in several layers of heavy insulation, you might want to take a spacer or two out. The thing is, if you’re shooting a big bore gun, you want that gun to fit. It’s really something we started with our Scout rifle, and that spacer technology carried over into the Guide Gun, and also our African.
“The African and the Guide Gun also have a very unique interchangeable muzzle brake system,” Jorgensen continued. “The system gives you the option to use the muzzle brake just when you’re sighting in—it also comes with a dynamically weight-matched cap that you can screw in when you’re hunting—so your point of impact is not going to change. When you start shooting the big bores, they can beat you up pretty good, and when you don’t want that noise, when you’re hunting, you have the option to remove the muzzle brake and not worry about a change in accuracy.”
Reason Four: Smart Options For Handgun Hunters
“Some of the most-recent new cartridges are the Ruger compact magnums—and the .480 Ruger cartridge, that one has a lot of appeal to handgun hunters,” Jorgensen said. “It doesn’t beat you up like some magnum handgun loads, but still offers great performance. It’s been around for a number of years, but now we’ve chambered it in our single-action revolvers, the Ruger Super Blackhawk, and that creates a whole new opportunity for that cartridge.”
When asked if Ruger is seeing a marked increase in hunting handgun sales, Jorgensen said Ruger has been seeing a steady progression, especially for those looking for an exciting new challenge.
“It’s one of those things, if you’re looking for a new challenge, handgun hunting certainly offers that opportunity,” Jorgensen said. “And if you have access to better guns, better ammunition, it is a very doable thing. Personally, I do a lot of handgun hunting, and I not only like the challenge that it offers, but I also like the fact I don’t have to carry around a six- or seven-pound rifle.”
Reason 5: The American is New Value Champ
Right now across North America big game rifle seasons are kicking in regularly, with many late-fall deer openers still on the horizon. And of course, nothing spurs enthusiasm for the next hunt like showing up in camp with a brand new rifle. Don’t think you can afford one this year? Ruger will have you thinking twice.
“I think that the new Ruger American line is a hot commodity, they’re inexpensive rifles, not to be confused with cheap, and they deliver tremendous value,” Jorgensen said. “For a gun that has a suggested retail in the mid-$400s—it’s just unbelievable what these rifles deliver.”
The great-looking American bolt-action rifles are available in such a wide variety of calibers and options they’re almost too numerous to list here, but Jorgensen said the reception to the rifle has been so strong that the American family will certainly continue to grow into the future.
“And one of the cool things about the American Ranch version, and the American Predator, is that they both come with a threaded barrel. So if you want to put a suppressor on it, you can—without the added expense of threading your barrel. That’s a very neat option.”
Reason 6: Wide Selection of Youth-Inspiring Rimfires
Is there a youngster in your life you’d like to introduce to the shooting sports? For years, Ruger has been one of the companies leading that charge, especially with its legendary 10/22 semi-auto .22 rifle. And now there are several bolt-action models that would look equally nice packaged under your family’s Christmas tree!
“Another spinoff of the American bolt-action line is the rimfire version, and they are just such perfect introductory guns for young shooters,” Jorgensen echoed. “We have them in standard and compact versions, and each of them comes with two stock modules. If you’re going to shoot iron sights, it’s a great way to teach a young person to shoot. But if you want to use optics, you can exchange butt stocks and you can have a better cheek weld. The second stock module allows you to do that. And another really cool feature is, the rimfire version will take Ruger 10/22 magazines; I just love these little bolt-action rifles.”
And speaking of the legendary 10/22 semi-auto, Ruger continues to make several versions to fit most any want or need in standard carbine or target versions.
And don’t forget—rimfire rifles are also great (and nicely affordable) practice for even the most accomplished hunt veterans; in fact, taking time to run a brick of .22 long ammo through a rimfire rifle might be the ideal tune-up for your next rifle hunting adventure!
“It’s an absolute great way to prepare for hunting with your primary weapon,” Jorgensen agreed. “The more time you can spend pulling triggers and working on good shooting form, the more it’s going to help you when it’s time to make that shot on a game animal.”
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