Ruger No.1, The Untold Story
By Carl Ross
It was a beautiful October day in the Big Hole area of Montana. The Elk season was underway so Don Hartmann and a hunting buddy Bob Perkins decided to hunt in the area southwest of Wisdom. Don had picked a location in the Cow creek area. He was scouting along a ridge overlooking Cow creek and he spotted a Bull Elk across the draw on the next ridge. The rifle Don was using was a Ruger No 1 with a twenty-two inch barrel, Alex Henry forearm and no sights in 7mm Rem Mag. It was equipped with a quarter rib and scoped with a 2×7 Leupold. Don had the scope set on 4 power and as he sighted the Elk in the crosshair he could not quite make out the full rack because of the trees. Don estimated the range at 400 to 500 yards so he held the crosshair at the top of the Elks back. He took the shot and saw the Elk disappear in the brush. Don hiked down the ridge and across the draw and up the other side to where he thought the Elk was. As he approached the spot the Elk got up and staggered about 50 feet and collapsed. Upon examination Don saw that he had shot the Elk right through the rib cage. The bullet had passed through both sides making a clean kill. It was a huge 6 point bull and was one of the largest Elk Don had ever taken. Don was very pleased with the rifle he was using and decided he would like to purchase it or one like it.
Well, you probably think this is just another hunting article, what is the big deal? As Paul Harvey says here ís the rest of the story. During my thirty some years of collecting Ruger No1 rifles you hear all kinds of stories but very few that are verifiable, this one is.
While conversing with a friend, Kelly Lorge of Bowman ND a few months ago this story came to life. Kelly had been to a gun show in Glendive MT where he met Don and first heard the story. Kelly found out that Don also collected Ruger No.1’s and had a couple of early non-prefix rifles. Kelly gave me Don’s phone number so I could get the story first hand from him.
I called Don and he related the story to me and told me he had documentation to prove it and would send it to me. The letter arrived about a week later and was I astonished.
If you are knowledgeable about the early Ruger No.1’s we know that it was announced in late 1966 but the earliest production rifles were not shipped until April 1967.
Don’s hunt took place in October 1966, so what was he using?
Larry Koller from Monroe NY who was the Supervising Editor of Guns and Hunting magazine and a very good friend of Bill Ruger in 1966. Larry was a very popular gun writer during this period so he was loaned one of the prototype Ruger No1 rifles to test and comment upon. Larry took the rifle with him to Montana that year for range testing and hunting. Larry had to return home early for some unexpected reason and did not get to hunt with the rifle. Larry left the rifle with his good friend R.D.Shipley to use on an Elk hunt that fall. Ship, his nickname had several other rifles and decided not to use the rifle, so asked his friend Don if he would like to use it. Don was elated to try out the new rifle.
Now for Don’s proof of the story…
Letter to Mr Don Hartmann, Miles City, MT dated December 2 1966 from Larry Koller, Letterhead GUNS and HUNTING from Seven Springs Rd Monroe, New York
Just had a note from Ship telling me that you killed a good bull elk with the Ruger S.S. which is just great. Hope you got some pix for me. If so, I would appreciate your sending me the negs so we can make the right blow-ups. Ship says also that you want to buy the Ruger. I’m sorry; it just isn’t possible for that particular one. In fact, I can’t even get it myself. It’s a first pilot model with the light barrel and in 7mm Magnum so they really want it back for further test purposes. I’ll get you one just as soon as they are available if you will write me just what you want: barrel length and weight, caliber and forend style. The price will be right, don’t worry. I will appreciate it if you will ship the Ruger back directly to: Ed Nolan, Sturm-Ruger, Inc., Southport, Conn. And ship it express collect, insured for $2000. Nolan originally asked me to have you insure it for one grand but I just now talked to him on the phone and he said to make it two. I do want to thank you once again for your kindness in giving us the hunting courtesy on your ranch and, most of all the pleasure and fun of your company.
Original Invoice from STURM, RUGER & CO., Inc. Southport, Connecticut 06490
Sold To Don Hartmann 12/20/66 Powderville Stage Miles City, Montana 59301
Date Received: December 16,1966 Our Invoice No 28979
RUGER #1 RIFLE CAL 7 MM SERIAL NO _______ 1 ON LOAN CREDIT
(RETURNED FROM ON LOAN) ITEM COMPLETE
Now there is not always a happy ending to every story. The sad part is that Mr Larry Koller passed away unexpectedly at a young age in Aug. 1967. And to this writers knowledge did not write the article about the hunt.
What is the distinction about the Ruger No.1 rifle that Don Hartmann hunted with? It was PROTOTYPE RIFLE NO. X-1, the first Tool Room model.
This should not be confused with the production SN 1 which is a 30-06 caliber, 22 inch barrel Alex Henry forearm and factory sight’s or currently as model 1A. Don later purchased a 4 digit Ruger No.1 in 7mm Mag, 22 inch barrel, Alex Henry forearm, quarter rib rings just like the Prototype he used in 1966 and still hunts with it.
The configuration of the Prototype No X1 was made only in the non-prefix rifles and was not standardized. There are currently 23 rifles known in this configuration starting at SN 70 to SN 5529. The projected total made for this model is 107 of a total production of approximately 8000 non-prefix rifles. If any reader can furnish any further information about Ruger No 1’s please contact this writer or Classic Sporting Arms.
Carl L. Ross
Addendum to this Story
When I originally wrote this article I did not know that there was more information for the story. When I conversed with Don Hartmann during the months that followed he told me he had photographs of the Ruger No.1 X1 Prototype rifle and the October 1966 hunt.
I inquired if he could send me some duplicate photographs that I could use for a revised article in the future. Don said he didn’t have access to any photographic facilities at the time but said he would be glad to send me his original album of black and white photographs so I could get the duplicates made.
I was able to get two complete sets of duplicate photos made from his originals and had some of them colorized to bring them up to date.
I sent Don a complete set of new photographs along with his original photos and he was very appreciative for them and the color photos.
When I received the photographs I was surprised to actually see the very first Prototype Ruger No.1 rifle. The original Ruger X-1 prototype rifle had a 22 inch light barrel with no Quarter Rib. The Scope was mounted in a set of Rings unlike any I had Ever seen. There were two separate scope blocks on the barrel.
The barrel band was also a lot wider than the standard barrel band on the Production rifles. The Checkering pattern on the buttstock was also different from the first Production models. The Checkering pattern on the X-1 prototype had a two pointed pattern on the pistol grip. A similar pattern like this was used on the Ruger No.1 model celebrating one hundred years of the 30-06 cartridge.
The forearm checkering looked very similar to the first production models. During the years after I found the information on this rifle I have inquired Several times to the factory records and other sources to determine the whereabouts of the rifle but to no avail.
Don later acquired a new production Ruger No.1 SN 4192 of his own. The Rifle was an AH configuration in 7 Mag with 22 inch barrel and Quarter Rib with Horizontal Rings. Don hunted with his rifle many years then sold it to a friend who is a Ruger No.1 collector.
Final Chapter of this Story:
Carl Ross has informed me that Don Hartmann passed away on October 18, 2009, at the age of 79. Don Hartmann was a collector of Ruger No.1 rifles. He is the only person known to have hunted with X-1 Prototype No.1 rifle.