The year was 1953,
and America was in love with the Old West. The movies were
filled with cowboys, sheriffs, Indians, and gamblers. Kids and
adults alike were lining up at the picture show to see anything
involving shootouts between the marauders, bandits, comancheros,
and thugs that were terrorizing the good decent folks of the Old
West, and the heroic lawmen who would bring them to justice. The
new entertainment miracle of the times, the television, was
bringing these same scenes to the living rooms of those who
could afford to buy one. While the lines between good and
evil were never so clear in the daily life of those on the real
Western frontier, Americans could not get enough of the
Hollywood version of the Old West.
displaying his great ability for knowing what the shooting
public wanted, realized that there was a market for a new,
western style single-action six-shooter. While other gun
makers had pounded the last nail into the coffin of the
single-action revolver, Ruger introduced to the shooting public
what was to become one of the best-selling revolvers of all
time: the Single-Six. Ruger took the proven single-action
design, improved it with better springs and modern metallurgy
and manufacturing techniques, chambered it for the popular .22
Long Rifle cartridge, and sold it for $57.50. That was fifty
years ago, and the Ruger Single-Six is still the most popular
.22 revolver on the planet.
My intention here
is not to go into great detail on the history of the Single-Six.
That has been covered by our resident Ruger guru, Bill Hamm.
For a very interesting review of the Old Model Single-Six, I
refer you to his
excellent article in the Gunblast Archives.
To celebrate the
fiftieth anniversary of the Single-Six, Ruger is producing for
2003 a commemorative model. This variation has, of course, the
Ruger New Model lockwork that allows the gun to be safely
carried with a live round in each of its six chambers. Using
Rugerís transfer bar firing system, the gun cannot
accidentally fire if dropped upon its hammer. The Anniversary
Single-Six closely resembles the original with its rounded front
sight and fixed notch rear. The original Single-Sixes wore a
drift-adjustable rear sight, but the Anniversary model has the
Vaquero-style of fixed sight that has proven to be very popular
purposes, I photographed the Anniversary model with my 1965
vintage Single-Six. I bought my Old Model used a few years ago,
and while the finish is scratched and worn, it still shoots as
good as ever.
Aside from the
transfer bar lockwork of the Anniversary gun, the newer gun as a
wider trigger that proved more comfortable for extended shooting
sessions than the thin bladed trigger on the old gun. The
cocobolo grip panels on the new Ruger have a medallion of the
silver Ruger eagle set into a red background. The four and
five-eighths inch barrel is inscribed across the top with
"Fifty Years of Single Six" over "1953 to
2003", in a gold-colored lettering. Like all New Model .22
caliber Single-Sixes, the test gun came supplied with an extra
cylinder chambered for the .22 Magnum.
The short barreled
Single Six has a wonderful balance, and is a natural pointer.
The test gun had a trigger pull weight of three and one-half
pounds, and released cleanly, without any gritty feel. The
fixed sights were well regulated to high velocity .22 Long Rifle
ammo, and plinking small targets of opportunity was easy. After
plinking at small rocks for awhile, I tested the Anniversary
Single-Six with a variety of different ammunition. The little
sixgun grouped surprisingly well, keeping most ammo under the
two-inch mark for six shots at twenty-five yards. Federal
hollowpoints sent six shots into one and one-half inches, which
is pretty good for me shooting this style of open sights. As
expected, there were no malfunctions of any kind. The ejector
rod on the Single-Six has plenty of stroke to easily eject empty
cases. The standard and magnum cylinders can be easily switched
back and forth without tools. The Anniversary Single-Six
weighs right at two pounds, and carries well in a belt holster.
In the last fifty
years many new guns have come and gone. The Single-Six led the
way for the great resurgence in the popularity of the
single-action revolver, and is still one of the best-selling
.22s around. The Single-Six gave birth to the Blackhawk, Super
Blackhawk, Vaquero, Ruger Bisley, and countless other sixguns
that have been produced by other manufacturers within the past
For a good .22 for
hunting and plinking that will shoot .22 Shorts, Longs, Long
Rifle, and Magnums, or to carry loaded with shot shells in snake
country, the Single-Six is hard to beat. The little sixgun,
given reasonable care, will outlast a few generations of
shooters. They are handy, accurate, reliable, and durable to the
extreme. The price has risen a bit over the last fifty years,
but the Single-Six is still one of the best bargains in
todayís gun market. The 50th Anniversary Single-Six comes with
the standard and Magnum cylinders, a cable lock, and instruction
manual, all packed into a red plastic Anniversary edition box.
As an added bonus, it comes with all of the nostalgia of the Old
West that you can stand.
Check out the full line of Ruger products
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