Thursday, June 20, 2024

Eleven Rugers that never made it

 Sturm, Ruger and Company has been pretty good and putting out products that the customer wants, but sometimes they miss the mark or fail at perfecting the product.

In no particular order:


XGI

We'll start with the Ruger XGI. The XGI was a scaled-up version of the Mini-14, which is a scaled-down version of the M-14. In reality these were M-14s built Ruger's way. Calibers were .308 Winchester and .243 Winchester. 

Although they were advertised in the Ruger Catalog from '84 to '86 none were ever shipped due to functioning issues.



10-17 HMR

The same can be said of the Ruger 10-17 HMR. Built on the 10-22 Magnum platform the 10-17 HMR was chambered in .17 Hornady Rimfire Magnum. Introduced at the 2004 SHOT show, the rifle supposedly never went into full production as the .17 HMR develops more energy than the 10/22's blow back design could handle. After a couple of years, Ruger dropped the 10-17 HMR from the catalog.
Picture below is a 10/22 Magnum.



P97

In 1999 Ruger introduced a new P-series pistol, the P97, it was basically a P95 (9mm) chambered in .45 ACP. The polymer framed gun was never updated as its 9mm cousin was and sales of the gun floundered. Ruger discontinued the pistol in 2004 when it was replaced by the P345. 
The pistol was not a complete failure, they did make little less than 54,000 pistols before it was dropped from the catalog.





22LR/22Magnum Bearcat Convertible

In 1993 Ruger introduced the 3rd revision of the diminutive Bearcat revolver, this time with a .22 Magnum "convertible" cylinder. In April of 1994 the guns were recalled due to concerns the Magnum cylinders were not timed properly. Many of the owners of these guns have stated their revolvers shoot just fine.
Some believe that the issue was not with the timing, but with the 22 Magnum chambering. They believe the pressure was too much for the frames and thus Ruger recalled them. There is no other evidence to support this except for the fact that Ruger never again offered the Bearcat with a 22 Magnum cylinder.


357 Maximum Blackhawk

The 357 Maximum cartridge was originally developed by wildcatter Elgin Gates as the .357 SuperMag, in 1983 a joint venture between Remington and Ruger brought the .357 Maximum to the market. Ruger chambered their New Model Blackhawk revolver in the cartridge. It didn't take long for Ruger to notice the frames were being "flame cut" from the excessive blast through gap between the cylinder and forcing cone. Ruger discontinued the revolver after 7,500 or so guns were built.


MP9

In the late 1980's Ruger hired UZI designer Uziel Gal to redesign his infamous pistol/carbine. The result was a closed bolt select fire version that had many improvements over the original UZI design. Ruger hoped the gun would be adopted by US Government agencies that had a need for such a CQB weapon. Unfortunately, the gun never found favor with the alphabet agencies. 

Being that the gun fired from a closed bolt, it could probably be built as a semi-auto only version for civilian sales, but alas this was the Bill Ruger Sr. era and that wasn't going to happen on his watch. Only 1,500 of the pistol/carbines were produced before it was discoed.




96/44

In 1996 Ruger introduced a lever action carbine. Although it was chambered in three calibers (.17, .22 & .44) the .44 Magnum was the most interesting. The styling was reminiscent of the Savage model 99, which was a favorite of Bill Ruger and one which was still in production at the time this rifle was introduced.

The 96/44 was dropped from the catalog in 2006 with around 23,000 units produced, the rimfire version was discoed in 2009 with close to 57,000 being produced.


Red Label

Many people might not even know that Ruger once produced shotguns. Introduced in 1978 the Red Label was an over-under shotgun that Ruger hoped to compete with the higher priced European brands.

The Red Label was built in the three most popular chamberings 12, 20 & 28 gauge. The gun was expensive to produce and weighed more than the typical over-under.

Ruger discontinued the shotgun in 2011, then reintroduced the gun in 2013 with a newly designed receiver and a $500 drop in price. This new version was better built, lighter and easier to shoot but alas the gun was dropped from the catalogs in 2014. Around 150,000 were produced, so it is not rare by any means, but not very well known outside of the Ruger fan base.



Gold Label

Another Ruger shotgun is the Gold Label, this one even less known. The Gold Label was a hammerless side by side shotgun introduced in 2002 in 12 gauge only. The gun was not very popular and in 2006 it too was dropped from the catalog. These are considered somewhat rare as only 3,361 of them were produced during its 3-year run.



Deerfield Carbine

The Ruger Deerfield Carbine was a 44 Magnum carbine, introduced in 2000. This was a modern replacement of the beloved Ruger 44 Carbine which was discontinued in 1985.

The rifle, also known as the 99/44, was built on the Mini-14 platform and used a 4-round rotary magazine. 17,441 of these were made before the gun was discontinued in 2006.





Hawkeye Pistol

The Ruger Hawkeye pistol was a single shot pistol based on the Blackhawk. Chambered in .256 Winchester Magnum (a .357 Mag necked down to .25 cal), the pistol was produced for about a year in 1963-64. Only 3,075 were built making them quite collectable.




Monday, June 10, 2024

Firearm Factory of the Month: ArmaLite

Before we start I will apologize in advance for leaving out some details, in doing my research I found more info than I could possibly fit into one article, so I shortened much of it.

The story of Armalite starts with its parent company: Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Company.



Fairchild began operations in 1924, when the aviation industry was still young. Fairchild became famous for a couple of innovations including the first fully enclosed cockpit and the first hydraulic operated retractable landing gear.

By the end of WWII nearly every part of an aircraft was made with high strength aluminum. This is important to the story as the guns made by their subsidiary, ArmaLite, used aluminum as a means of reducing weight. 

Anyone who served in WWII would tell you how heavy the average grunt's load out was. The guns and ammunition were very heavy, and a lot of people were looking for ways to correct that.


Eugene Stoner went to work for Vega Aircraft Company (the forerunner to the Lockheed Martin Co) in 1939. During the war he served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific theater. After the war he worked for a machine shop, eventually becoming a design engineer.



During the year 1947 Stoner along with Charles Dorchester began developing a lightweight sniper rifle for the US Military. Originally designed after a Remington 722, they switched to a Mauser style action. The unique thing about the rifle was the barrel was made of aluminum with a thin rifled steel liner. The stock was made of foam filled fiberglass, keeping the weight under 5lbs.

The rifle was submitted to the Springfield Armory for consideration. 



In 1954 Fairchild Aircraft purchased the design, formed a new subsidiary, named ArmaLite and lured Eugene Stoner away from Whittaker Aircraft to be ArmaLite's head designer.



Armalite leased or purchased or leased a small machine shop in Hollywood California on Santa Monica Blvd. They had 9 employees.

At this time, it was believed that any rifle adopted by the US Military would be produced by Springfield Armory as that had been the tradition (spare for the World Wars) since 1777. 

The AR-1 Parasniper rifle gave way to a new idea, a survival rifle that could be used by aircraft crew members in the event they are shot down behind enemy lines or in an area where they may need to fight off wild animals. In addition, the entire gun would float, in the "unlikely event of a water landing".

This bolt action rifle, chambered in .22 Hornet, would have a takedown feature in which the action and barrel could fit inside the reinforced, foam filled bakelight stock. Called the AR-5 it was adopted by the US Air Force as the MA-1 Survival Rifle. 




The AR-5's design gave way to an improved version, chambered in .22 LR and semi-automatic action, this rifle was called the AR-7 Explorer and was (and still is) popular with the civilian market. This was ArmaLite's first civilian production gun.




During all this time Stoner had been working on a semi-auto rifle design, he called the M8. While it looked nothing like the later versions, it did have the rotating bolt and direct gas impingement system that are still used today. Rather than go through the entire history of his most iconic design, we will give you the cliff notes.

The AR-10 was developed from the M8, chambered in 308 Winchester the gun was considered by the US Military.


In 1956 the US Ordnance Corps made ArmaLite an offer for the rights to the AR-10.

Long story short, in an effort to reduce ammo weight and possible gain an advantage over the enemy, the US Military decided to go with a smaller cartridge, the .222 Remington which became the .223 Remington and eventually the 5.56mm NATO round. The rifle was also evolved into the AR-15.


The many trials and efforts resulted in the adoption of the AR-15 as the US Rifle M16, which was a bit of a failure at first.


In 1959 ArmaLite moved to an actual production factory in Costa Mesa, California, around this same time ArmaLite licensed the rights to produce the AR10 & AR15 to Colt.

In 1962 Fairchild sold it's interests in ArmaLite.

By the 1970s all design work at ArmaLite had come to a stop and the company sold in 1983 to the Elisco Tool Company out of the Philippines. 

The M16 evolved into the M16A1, then came the M4 and other developments, but perhaps the most important milestone was in 1989 when the 1st semi-automatic only versions of the AR-15 became available to the public.

While adoption was slow due to its high cost, but advancements in CNC technology took off in the mid 90's. Then came the 1994  Assault Weapons Ban, for 10 years no new civilian AR-15s were sold.

Upon expiration of the law, massive demand and lower prices  helped skyrocket the sales of the AR-15. Today nearly all gun shops have an AR-15 on the shelf for sale.


Along with the popularity came more innovations. Free-floating handguards, new stocks, polymer magazines, grips, triggers and every accessory you can imagine.

In 1996 after passing through a series of owners, the company name was relaunched and in 2013 it was purchased by Strategic Armory Corp. A company already in the firearms business.


What Remains:

Eugene Stoner passed away on April 24, 1997 at the age of 74.

Both the ArmaLite and Stoner names are still being used to sell AR-15s and products related to the iconic rifle.

The AR-15 has become the number one selling sporting rifle in America with more than 23 million of the rifles in civilian hands.

The machine shop at 6567 Santa Monica Blvd is gone, it is now an animal hospital, it is the U-shaped building in the middle of the picture below.


The ArmaLite factory building at 118 East 16th Street in Costa Mesa, still stands. It is the L-shaped building below





Sources:

ArmaLite AR-1 ParaSniper - Firearm Wiki: The Internet Gun Encyclopedia

Armalite Rifle History - Wideners Shooting, Hunting & Gun Blog

The AR-10 Story | An Official Journal Of The NRA (americanrifleman.org)

Local origin of the AR-15 rifle | Helytimes (stevehely.com)

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Interesting Firearm Photos #78

 How about we start off with a picture of one of the first Ruger firearms shipped to a customer? The company was built off the success of this one pistol.






The Deadpool, the last of the Dirty Harry franchise












Someone please tell me this was staged.



I am going to build one of these soon, with a .45 Colt conversion cylinder.


still can't get enough of these SOF magazine covers.....





Thes Infinity pistols are mechanical works of art