Ruger Brings Back the Red Label Over/Under American-Made Shotgun!

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

October 24th, 2013


Click pictures for a larger version.





Red Label comes with a semi-rigid padded case.





Red Label comes with five Briley choke tubes and a Briley choke tube wrench.



Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad.





Safety / barrel selector.



Forearm latch.










Ruger first 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 tools.

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 first.

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 $1400.

For a quality American-made over/under shotgun, the Ruger Red Label has no competition.

Check out the extensive line of Ruger firearms and accessories online at

For the location of a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at

To order the Ruger Red Label shotgun online, go to

To order high quality shotgun ammunition online, go to  and

Jeff Quinn

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Author and a few others shooting pre-production Red Label shotguns in New Hampshire several months ago. Top photo, left to right: Hamilton Bowen, Ken Jorgensen, Jason Cloessner, Larry Weishun, Randall Pence, and Mark Gurney.







Ruger Red Labels in production at the New Hampshire factory.