Rugerís Number 1 Tropical Rifle in .405 Winchester
 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

December 29th, 2003

 

 

 

Since its introduction in 1966, the Ruger Number 1 single shot rifle has appealed to a certain type of shooter. Introducing a single shot at a time when bolt actions and autoloaders were all the rage was baffling to many in the gun industry, but Bill Ruger once again proved that bucking the trend was an ingenious idea. Today, there are several single shot rifles on the market, but the Number 1 is still one of the best choices available, and is one of the strongest single shot sporting rifles ever built. 

Seldom does a new shooter choose a single shot rifle, unless he is looking for a very inexpensive center fire deer rifle, such as one of the break-open singles on the market. While the break-open guns are a good, inexpensive alternative to repeating rifles, the Ruger Number 1 is a different type of rifle, for a different type of hunter. Most who buy a Number 1 already have a good bolt action or two in the gun rack. In fact, there are many good bolt action rifles available for less money than a Number 1. The hunter who chooses a Number 1 usually does so for other than economic reasons.  The hunter who carries a Number 1 afield is akin to the archer who uses a longbow or the muzzleloading hunter who uses a flintlock. He is confident in his rifle, his ammo, and his ability. While the Number 1 is a modern, strong, reliable single shot rifle, it hearkens back to the days of the great British and Continental single shots used in Africa, and to the American single shots used in the western territories of the United States over one hundred years ago.

Hunting with a single shot is a different feeling than that of hunting with a magazine rifle. While they can be reloaded quicker than most would imagine, it is usually a very confident hunter who will place his success, and sometimes his personal safety, upon one well-placed shot. Over the years, I have owned and hunted with a few Number ones, and have found each to be a very capable rifle.

The classic lines of the Ruger Number 1 show the influence of earlier designs, but it is arguably the best single shot design to date. The falling block action contains a hidden hammer with a perfectly placed top tang safety. The under lever is separate from the trigger guard, and the trigger is of a simple design that is conducive to accurate shooting, and can be easily adjusted for weight of pull. The ejector can be converted to extraction-only if one so chooses, but handily throws the empties clear of the rifle as shipped from the factory. On the blued steel guns, Ruger uses attractive checkered walnut for the two-piece stock. The last time that I counted, the Number 1 was offered in over twenty-five different chamberings, from the petite .22 Hornet up to the mighty .458 Lott. The Number 1 is offered in several different configurations of stock design and barrel length, in blued steel or stainless. In all, there are over fifty different combinations of caliber and variation of the Number 1 rifle currently offered.

A couple of months ago, I learned that Ruger was to offer the Number 1 chambered for the old and formerly obsolete .405 Winchester cartridge. I immediately called and proceeded to beg for one. It wasnít long before the rifle arrived, and is the subject of this evaluation.

The .405 Winchester was first introduced in June of 1904 as the most powerful American cartridge then available. It was chambered in the Winchester model 1895 lever-action rifle, and is the cartridge most associated with that rifle, even though it was built in relatively small numbers. The majority of 1895 rifles were built for Russia and chambered for the 7.62x54R cartridge, but the .405 grew to legendary status helped immensely by the writings of Theodore Roosevelt. TR took a couple of the .405 rifles to Africa on an extended safari, and harvested many species of dangerous game with the powerful lever guns. He referred to the .405 as his "Big Medicine" rifle. While the .405 has been chambered in a very few other rifles, the cartridge was allowed to die with the 1895 rifle in the 1930s. Winchester has recently imported a few 1895 rifles manufactured by Miroku in Japan chambered for the .405, but the Ruger Number 1 is the first major American made .405 in almost seventy years.

Ruger chambers the .405 in their Number 1H Tropical variation, which uses a heavy twenty-four inch barrel, and thanks to the compact action, has an overall length of only forty-one and one-half inches. The Tropical rifle in .405 weighs in at just over eight pounds, depending upon the density of the wood. The Tropical also has the handsome Alex Henry forearm design along with a barrel-band sling swivel mount. It has another barrel band at the muzzle to which the front sight is mounted, along with a rear sight mounted to the quarter rib. Scope rings are provided which also mount to the quarter rib. The overall appearance is one of classic elegance. The Number 1H is, in my opinion, one of the best looking production rifles made.

For accuracy and reliability testing, I turned to Hornady for newly manufactured ammunition, dies, and cartridges cases. Original Winchester ammo and brass has been out of production for many years, and has become both scarce and collectable. The factory ammo and components now manufactured by Hornady are readily available and manufactured to their usual high standards. Hornady has suddenly made the .405 a viable cartridge once again. I loaded a variety of bullets from Hornady, Barnes, Mt. Baldy, and Remington. The Hornady was the same 300 grain soft point jacketed bullet as used in their factory ammunition. The Barnes bullet used was the only one currently offered by them, but it is a dandy bullet for the .405. It is their 300 grain all-copper X-bullet. The hard cast gas-checked 300 grain flat point from Mt. Baldy proved to be an accurate alternative to jacketed bullets, and should be a very good choice for big game hunting. For a suitable hunting load for whitetail deer, I loaded the Remington .41 caliber 210 grain jacketed soft point pistol bullet, but I have yet to test it on game. Loaded to a velocity in excess of twenty-five hundred feet per second, it may prove too fragile for whitetail, but would certainly do well on smaller game. The accuracy with this bullet was as good as the rifle bullets. The Ruger proved capable of good hunting accuracy, placing the bullets with each load tested into three-shot groups of under one and one-half inches at one hundred yards. Recoil with the loads listed can best be described as stout. Firing the factory loads, and even the heavier handloads, proved comfortable from an offhand position, but while shooting in excess of eighty rounds in one bench session, it soon became painful. The Ruger has a rubber butt pad, but it is of a relatively hard composition. The favored powder in this gun turned out to be  Alliant Reloder 7. It gave good accuracy and velocity with each bullet tested. In deference to the old lever actions in the hands of some shooters, specific load data will not be listed. The loads tested were perfectly safe in the strong Number 1, but would most likely be excessive in a one hundred year old rifle. All velocities were measured at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle, at a temperature of sixty-two degrees. The results of my favorite loads were as follows:

Bullet  Powder Velocity FPS Accuracy in Inches
Hornady 300 Factory load 2105 1.75
Hornady 300 Reloder 7  2442 1.15
Barnes 300 X Reloder 7 2454 1.45
Mt. Baldy 300 FP Reloder 7 2376 1.20
Remington 210 JSP Reloder 7 2558 1.375

All loads used new Hornady cases, Winchester WLR primers, and none were crimped. All loads were chronographed over a PACT chronograph. Other powders which proved very useful were Hodgdon 322 and Accurate 2015. For heavier bullets, Barnes once produced 325, 350 and 400 grain X-bullets in .411" diameter, and they are still available if you do some searching, but none were tested for this article, as they are out of production at this time. The 300 grain bullets tested should prove useful for general big game hunting, and the 300 grain Barnes X should be able to penetrate adequately on any soft-skinned big game animal, including the large bears. I have not, however, fired these bullets at any large bear, but am basing this finding on the stellar reputation for penetration of the Barnes X, and on my experience of using the X-bullet in other cartridges.

With the introduction of the Ruger Number 1 in .405 Winchester, along with the availability of ammo and components, shooters and hunters now have available a very handy rifle in a grand old American cartridge. The .405 is about much more than just nostalgia. It is a powerful big game cartridge that was just too good to die.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

Hornady dies, ammo, and components can be found at: www.hornady.com.

The Barnes X-bullet and Mt. Baldyís excellent cast bullets can be found on their respective websites at: www.barnesbullets.com and www.mtbaldybullets.com.

Jeff Quinn



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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

A long-time fan of Ruger's Number 1 rifles, the author was happy to see it chambered for one of his favorite cartridges, the .405 Winchester.

 

 

The strong and precise action of the Ruger Number 1 accepts long, fat cartridges such as the .405 Winchester with ease.


 

Ruger's Number 1H Tropical rifle features (top to bottom) a tastefully-checkered stock and Henry forearm, a rubber butt pad, a barrel band sling swivel stud, and a barrel band front sight. The quarter rib incorporates a folding rear sight and Ruger's excellent scope mounting system.

 

 

Hornady has given new life to the .405 Winchester cartridge with their excellent ammunition, dies, and reloading components.

 

 

Jeff's favorite handloads for the .405 Winchester use (left to right): Mt. Baldy's 300-grain hard-cast gas check bullets, Remington's 210-grain JSP pistol bullets, and Barnes' 300-grain X bullets.

 

 

San Pedro Saddlery makes a great cartridge belt that is both beautiful and practical for those big ol' cartridges.