introduced the Red Label over/under
shotgun back in 1977. That is the year that I graduated high
school, and while I loved looking at that wonderfully-styled
shotgun, my funds would not allow me to even dream of owning
one. At that time, all my money went into keeping my ‘68 Ford
pickup barely filled with gasoline fumes, so that I could get
myself to work and back. However, I did have the opportunity to
handle, but never fire, one of those beautiful shotguns.
It would be another twenty years before I
finally owned a Red Label, and soon after, I bought another.
Several things drew me to the Red Label design, while most
“expert” shot gunners seemed to prefer imported shotguns. I
have never been hampered with being an expert at anything, so I
was free to choose the shotgun that I liked, instead of what the
tweed-jacketed, Volvo-driving “experts” told me that I
should like. There is nothing particularly wrong with Italian
and Japanese shotguns; in fact, they make some of the best in
the world, but I was drawn to the smooth, clean lines of the
Ruger. There are no exposed pins, hinges, nor screws on the Red
Label, as clutter the lines of many other double guns. No
exposed hardware of any kind. The wood is walnut, and the metal
is steel; either carbon alloy or stainless. The Red Label is,
and always has been, to my eyes, one of the most-beautiful
over/under shotguns ever built.
The Red Label was produced for over three
decades, then dropped from production a few years ago. Now,
Ruger has redesigned the internals of the Red Label, improved
its balance and handling, and significantly lowered its price.
Still built by American craftsmen here in the USA, the Red Label
now has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of only $1399
US, as of the date of this review. There is no other quality
American double gun that even comes close to the price of the
Ruger, and on this newest version of the Red Label, Ruger did
not sacrifice any of that quality to get the price down.
I was at the Ruger factory in New Hampshire
probably about eighteen months ago, and was pleasantly surprised
that the Red Label was being readied to start production again.
While at the factory working on another project at the time, a
few of us had the opportunity to go out and try to bust some
clay targets with a handful of pre-production samples, and the
shotguns performed very well, as expected.
The Red Label is now in full production, chambered for
two-and three-quarters and three inch shotgun shells. It comes
packed into a very good semi-rigid carry case. The Red Label
uses Briley screw-in choke tubes, and comes from the factory
with five tubes; two skeet, and one each of full, modified, and
improved cylinder restrictions. The choke tubes are rated to
handle any lead or steel shot. A Briley choke tube wrench is
also provided, to quickly and easily change tubes as desired.
The Red Label shotgun shown here weighs in at
seven pounds, ten ounces on my scale. It wears twenty-eight inch
barrels and is chambered for twelve gauge shells, but twenty-six
and thirty inch versions are available as well. The shotgun has
a 14.5 inch length of pull. The drop at comb and heel measure
1.5 and 2.5 inches, respectively. The beautiful checkered walnut
stock wears a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad, which has a hard
insert at the top, to prevent snagging on clothing.
The forearm latch is stainless steel, and allows the
disassembly of the Red Label for storage without the use of
The barrels of the Red Label are back-bored
and have two-inch forcing cones, for consistent patterns and to
soften felt recoil. The barrels no longer have fillers between
the tubes, as did the earlier guns.
The barrels are topped with a one-quarter inch
free-floating ventilated rib, which wears a brass bead at the
muzzle. The barrels are finished in a deeply polished
blue-black, which contrasts beautifully with the stainless steel
receiver and satin-finished walnut stock. The lines of the Red
Label are as good-looking as on any over/under shotgun ever
produced. The Red Label has a very clean, uncluttered look, with
no engraving nor adornments on the sides of the receiver. It is
a very classy-looking shotgun.
The Red Label design is also one of the
strongest of any double-barreled shotgun ever produced. The
lockup is solid, yet the Ruger still has its trademark easy-open
feature, that allows the barrels to fall open, cocking the
action and exposing the breech for loading. Most double guns
require that the user forcefully break open the action to load,
but the Ruger opens without effort, as smooth as Tennessee
whiskey, to quote the late George Jones.
Firing the Red Label was a real pleasure.
Even with heavy buckshot loads, recoil was comfortable. The gun
mounts quickly, and the fired shells ejected briskly to the rear
of the shooter. There were no failures of any kind with the Red
Label, no matter the type of shell chosen. The Ruger has
mechanical triggers, so that in the event that one shell does
not fire, the shell in the other barrel can be fired without
re-cocking the action. The automatic tang safety pushes forward
to fire, and to either side to select the barrel to be fired
The Ruger Red Label shotgun is an outstanding
value in today’s market, with great handling and balance, and
made of high quality materials with excellent craftsmanship. It
is the equal or better than other double guns costing two or
three times its price, and like all Ruger firearms, it is built
in the USA. With the MSRP of only $1399 US, I expect the Red
label to sell for well under that, closer to $1000 than to
For a quality American-made over/under
shotgun, the Ruger Red Label has no competition.
out the extensive line of Ruger firearms and accessories online
the location of a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER
LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.
order the Ruger Red Label shotgun online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.
order high quality shotgun ammunition online, go to www.midsouthshooterssupply.com
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