The Ruger Crimson Label: A Traditional American Shotgun


Within the early Seventies, Invoice Ruger, co-founder of Sturm, Ruger, and Company, acknowledged a gap within the over/under shotgun market. On the time, most wonderful double-barrel shotguns had been being imported to the U.S. from Europe (as that they had for many years). They had been costly and sometimes unobtainable for working-class hunters. Eager on filling that void, Ruger went to work designing and engineering a practical, inexpensive American-made over/underneath—the Ruger Red Label. By 1977, the primary Crimson Labels hit gun retailer cabinets. The Crimson Label loved a manufacturing run of greater than 30 years, however manufacturing prices doomed the double gun. Nonetheless, the Ruger Crimson Label continues to be a favourite of significant upland hunters throughout the nation in addition to a collector’s merchandise for shotgun aficionados. 

In 2000, Ruger introduced a single-barrel trap gun.
A single-barrel Crimson Label entice gun was launched by Ruger in 2000. Ruger

The Introduction of the Ruger Crimson Label 

The primary manufacturing Ruger Red Labels had been 20 gauges, not 12s (although each gauges had been introduced on the identical time). Two years later, Ruger launched the 12-guage adopted by a 28 in 1994. From its conception, the Crimson Label was billed as a well-built, dependable break-action. Crimson Labels initially offered for $480, which wasn’t overly expensive for an over/underneath of that stature. Adjusted for inflation, the Crimson Label would price $2,271 at present. 

Aesthetically, the Crimson Label caught with Ruger’s mantra of practicality. Early Crimson Labels featured a easy oil-finished walnut inventory with checkering on the pistol grip or straight English-style inventory and fore-end. The gun had a blued receiver, solid barrels, vent rib, and Ruger’s signature pink recoil pad. Over time, Crimson Labels had been provided in quite a lot of kinds and choices, together with a stainless-steel receiver mannequin in 1985 that continues to be one of the recognizable variants. There was additionally a singular single-barrel entice gun launched in 2000. Till the late Eighties, all Crimson Label barrels had fastened chokes. Beginning in 1988, screw-in chokes had been optionally available and have become normal on all fashions by 1991.

Ruger's trigger does not use recoil to operate properly.
The Reb Label set off doesn’t want recoil to operate correctly. Colton Heward

Ruger Constructed a Extremely Useful Over/Underneath

What the Crimson Label lacked in curb enchantment, it made up for with ultra-reliable mechanics. Crimson Labels use a handy sliding security, situated close to the rear of the tang, that doubles as a barrel selector. One other characteristic distinctive to the Crimson Label is in its set off design. Not like some over/underneath shotguns, the Crimson Label’s set off doesn’t want the recoil from the primary shot to reset the set off for a follow-up. In case you permit the set off to journey totally ahead after the primary pull, it resets, and fires the second shell.

“We make the best pair of shotgun barrels that might ever be constructed,” mentioned Invoice Ruger in an excerpt from R.L. Wilson’s e-book Ruger and His Weapons. “We put the cash into the machine as an alternative of in hand labor. All the nice, old-time gunsmiths—the boys who made the attractive issues—are at present constructing the attractive tools to construct the attractive issues. Maybe you may say that, apart from engraving, gold inlaying and chic end, [by] utilizing machines, you may simply surpass the work of the best individual when it comes to actually mechanical motion, the precision of the equipment. You must bear in mind—wonderful watches usually are not made with information.”

The Crimson Label did have some shortcomings. Shooters primarily griped in regards to the hefty weight (12 gauges weighed between 7½ to eight kilos) and awkward steadiness level because of the extra ahead weight within the barrels. Having a pair of 20-gauge Crimson Labels myself, I feel it comes down to private choice. My 20s are on the heavy aspect (7 kilos, 3 ounces) for a sub-gauge over/underneath, however that very same weight additionally helps my swing and comply with by and dampens felt recoil. 

Production costs resulted in the demise of the Red Label.
The demise of the Crimson Label centered round manufacturing prices. Phil Bourjaily / Discipline and Stream

The Crimson Label Is Discontinued 

The demise of the Crimson Label got here all the way down to the ethos Ruger constructed the gun round — value. As prices for manufacturing and uncooked supplies continued to climb, so did the worth of the Crimson Label. When the road was dropped in 2011, the associated fee for a brand new Crimson Label was practically $2,000. That hefty price ticket pitted the Crimson Label in opposition to a number of different well-made, reasonably priced over/underneath shotguns, together with the Browning Citori, and gross sales dropped dramatically. 

Two years later, Ruger rebirthed the Crimson Label in a 12-gauge mannequin after going by a deep redesign to chop prices and preserve performance. The brand new Crimson Label hit cabinets with an MSRP of $1,300. The second-generation Crimson Label appeared just like its predecessors however featured a number of welcomed modifications. Ruger was in a position to lighten the gun’s weight to 7 kilos, 5 ounces, primarily by trimming down the barrel weight. Additionally they barely adjusted the size of pull to 14½ inches and the drop at comb (1½ inches) and heel (2½ inches).

Mechanically, Ruger made minor modifications to the unique design, however the objective was to not reinvent the gun, fairly to streamline the manufacturing course of. A significant change was a newly designed one-piece body and tang versus the 2 elements being welded collectively as in earlier fashions. Sadly, its revamp was quick lived because of the continued rise of producing prices. 

“Our main objective was to take out a number of the complexity of producing to scale back the price of manufacturing,” mentioned Michael Sylvester, a veteran engineer from Ruger and die-hard Crimson Label fanatic. 

The author has two Ruger Red Labels.
One of many creator’s two Ruger Crimson Labels. Colton Heward

My Set of Ruger Crimson Label 20 Gauges

I used to be gifted of a pair of 20-gauge Ruger Crimson Label shotguns by an older gentleman who I hunted deer, elk, and antelope with. He spent years searching bobwhite quail in southern Georgia with each weapons. The bluing is worn on the backside of one of many gun’s actions, the results of many seasons in pursuit of covey rises.

In response to the serial numbers, each Crimson Labels had been manufactured in 1983. One in all them sports activities a set skeet/skeet set of barrels and the opposite a modified/improved cylinder pairing. The skeet/skeet Crimson Label was my good friend’s go-to gun for searching quail in tight quarters whereas the improved cylinder/modified scattergun was primarily used for sporting clays.

I’ve spent many days afield with each weapons and grown fairly keen on them. Most significantly, I shoot them effectively. The burden has by no means bothered me. My solely criticism is the wood-to-metal match. It’s not flush, however that definitely doesn’t have an effect on the efficiency of the Ruger.

Patterning the Crimson Labels

Previous to writing this text, I had by no means patterned my Crimson Labels. For testing, I shot Winchester’s 3-inch Sport Masses—1 1/8-ounce payload of No. 7.5 shot—at 30 yards (the everyday distance you’d shoot a flushing pheasant or chukar) inside a 30-inch circle. The skeet/skeet Crimson Label averaged 48 % patterns at 30 yards with a mean of 189 pellets impacting contained in the 30-inch circle. The improved cylinder barrel produced a better sample density of 64 % whereas the modified barrel produced a 71 % sample (279 pellets). Additionally it is price noting that the middle of the sample was persistently close to my level of purpose.

Learn Subsequent: The Best Over/Under Shotguns for Less than $1,000

Ultimate Ideas

You may nonetheless discover a Crimson Label on the used market. Most don’t price greater than $1,500. It’s nonetheless a dependable and sought-after American-made shotgun, and an excellent purchase in case you discover one at that value in good situation. It’s unlucky the Crimson Label isn’t nonetheless in manufacturing. Since you may argue that it was the most effective reasonably priced American-made over/unders—together with the Remington 32 and Marlin 90—ever produced. At present, no gun producer makes a comparably priced over/underneath within the U.S. There are high-end doubles constructed by Kolar and Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Firm, however at present’s working-class hunter is out of luck in the event that they wish to purchase American.





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