Accurizing The Ruger #1
If ever there is a case to be made for a "modern classic", the Ruger #1 certainly fits the bill. This creation of William Ruger draws strongly from the famous Farquharson patent action of the late 1800s. Combined with today's manufacturing techniques and materials, the Ruger #1 is a wonder of grace, elegance and strength. The only strike against it is the rumor of having a reputation for relative inaccuracy as a result of "stringing" shots in groups. This rumor is greatly exaggerated, but the fact remains that there are rifles with this trait.
For those not familiar with this great rifle, a little background is in order:
The Ruger #1 was designed in the early 60s by Bill Ruger and is a single-shot, falling-black design. Operating the under-lever drops the breech block ejecting any fired round and exposing the chamber. Once a cartridge is inserted the lever is returned to the rear and the breech block locks firmly in place enclosing the round and leaving the internal hammer cocked. The safety is of the tang mounted "shotgun" style. The short receiver, typical of most single shots, creates a much shorter over-all length than a bolt action rifle with a comparable barrel length. For all practical purposes, a 26" barreled #1 measures about the same length as a 22" barreled bolt-action.
The accuracy issue can be traced to an innovative design feature that Bill Ruger incorporated into his original plan. The forearm and mainspring are attached to an extended hanger protruding from the front of the receiver. With the forearm, spring, and hanger in contact, upon firing, all parts try to vibrate at a different rate. Since this rate is uncontrolled it can not be duplicated from shot to shot. This of course means that each bullet leaves the bore at a slightly different angle and results in either vertical or horizontal stringing of groups, depending on the particular rifle. The cure is to dampen this vibration scenario and provide a bit of needed barrel support.
The good news is that this can be easily corrected in one of three ways:
The first method is to install a Hicks Accurizer (Brownell's) that attaches to the front of the hanger and adjusts the barrel/hanger tension by means of a tensioning screw. Installation is relatively easy, but a fair amount of inletting of the forearm and glass bedding is required.
The second method requires either the services of a gunsmith or machinist to drill and tap the hanger just in front of the mainspring retainer. An 8/32 set-screw is screwed into the resulting hole to contact a small steel pad placed against the barrel. By careful adjustment, the optimum tension setting for a particular rifle can be found. Again, glass bedding is essential.
The third method is a result of both my habit of trying things for myself and not having access to a gunsmith that I trust with my rifles. This method only requires a selection of small steel nuts or shims the approximating the width of the hanger and of varying thickness. By wedging a shim of the appropriate thickness to create the required tension between the hanger and the barrel, accuracy is enhanced immensely. This method is cheap, easy for the average gun-owner to perform, requires no permanent alterations to the rifle (other than bedding) and works perfectly.
It is this third method we will address:
The first step, as in all work with a firearm, is to make 100% sure that the rifle is unloaded!
Next, remove the forearm while being sure not to lose the forearm take-down nut. (See Figure 1)
Using a wide-bladed screwdriver (wrap the blade area with tape to protect the rifle's finish), gently spring the hanger away from the barrel. Insert a shim to create a tension wedge (Figure 1) exerting enough tension to hold it firmly when you allow the hanger to return to its former location. This additional tension will hold your shim without fear of movement.
How thick should the shim be? Only you can determine that for your particular rifle. I always start with a thickness that springs the hanger enough to create a gap about .052" (about the thickness of a dime) more than it originally was and use thicker shims if shooting shows that they are needed. This thickness also generally creates the proper clearance between the barrel and the forearm.
An easy way to tell is to shoot the rifle without the forearm and try various thickness while testing. All shooting should be from a bench and only the forearm hanger should contact the bags. If you elect this method, be sure to either remove the forearm take-down nut or securely tape it in place. It can be very easily lost.
Once you have determined the proper tension and installed the wedge, a few drops of one of the new "wonder" glues can help keep it in position even if the forearm is sprung slightly, as when using a sling.
Now your attention needs to return to the forearm itself. In order to prevent the forearm from rocking on the hanger, a little glassing is called for followed by floating of the barrel to ensure that no forearm contact exists..
Careful bedding in the area labeled "A" is required to created a perfectly inletted mortise allowing the hanger to be firmly seated and providing stability to the forearm itself. If done properly, the forearm is held securely without wobble or movement. Glassing in the areas marked "B" and "C" may be required to prevent forearm "rocking" on your particular rifle.
Once you have completed your glassing job, re-assemble the rifle and check fit. Do not over-tighten the forearm screw. Check for any barrel/forearm contact. Look at the contact area between the receiver and the forearm. In order to complete your project, this area must be relieved so that there is no contact of any kind between the receiver and the forearm. Remember that by placing your shim, the angle between the receiver and hanger has been subtly altered and can create unwanted contact. Work slowly and carefully (I usually use sandpaper and check the fit often) until a thin sheet of paper can just be slid between the two surfaces at all points. Be sure to apply a finish to seal your end product from moisture warpage. Without this step, the rest of your work has been for nothing.
The glassing you accomplished before this step will act as a "stop" to return your forearm to the same place on the hanger each time you assemble the weapon. There is no need to over-tighten the forearm screw. If, at this point, the forearm does have any wobble allowing it to contact the barrel on a hit-or-miss basis, it is time to consider the "B" and/or "C" bedding in Figure 2 to provide light forearm/barrel support.
Does it work?
Judge for yourself.
I have used this method on every #1 I have owned with excellent results. The groups below demonstrate the difference between a brand new rifle with nothing done to it other than a trigger job (Figure 3) and the same rifle once it was accurized in the above manner (Figure 4). Both groups were shot at 100 yards using the same loads and under similar conditions.
FIGURE 3 FIGURE 4
Hard to do? Not really; if you have even a tiny bit of "handyman" skills.
Worth the effort? You bet! You will end up not only with a true "classic", but a classic that will shoot right along-side the best bolt guns.