Ruger No. 1-S Medium Sporter in 9.3x74R
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The No. 1S is the medium weight version of Ruger's award winning single shot hunting rifle. Visually and on the Ruger spec sheet, it is nearly identical to the No. 1-A. (See our K1-A review on the Product Review Page.) The difference is that the 1-A is chambered for standard calibers .243 Win., .270 Win., 7x57 and .30-06, while the 1-S wears a larger diameter barrel required for medium and big bore calibers. The No. 1-S is chambered only in 9.3x74R and .45-70. Both the 1-A and 1-S are lighter and shorter than the No. 1-B Standard rifle, which has also been reviewed on Guns and Shooting Online. No. 1-S and 1-A rifles can be identified by their 22" barrels, iron sights and Alexander Henry-style forends.
All No. 1 rifles are based on Bill Ruger's excellent under-lever, falling block action. This is a completely modern action resembling the classic Farquharson in form and concept. It is a very strong, hammerless design suitable for high pressure cartridges. It incorporates mechanical extraction, a powerful ejector and a sliding top tang safety. In 2007, the various models of Ruger No. 1 rifles are chambered for cartridges running the gamut from the .204 Ruger to the .458 Lott. The newest calibers are .338 Federal and the caliber of the rifle reviewed here, 9.3x74R.
No. 1-S rifles feature two-piece, hand fitted, select American walnut stocks. The stock has a fluted comb and a moderate pistol grip complete with a sculptured steel cap into which a gold Ruger medallion is inlaid. The butt terminates in a thin, black rubber recoil pad. Detachable sling swivel bases are provided; the front sling swivel stud is mounted on a barrel band. The forend is mounted on a hanger below the barrel, but unlike previous No. 1's that we have owned (and practically everyone on the Guns and Shooting Online staff owns a No. 1), is not free-floated. The barreled action is carefully inletted into the wood except for a slight (maybe 2" long) gap between forend and barrel on the left side. The wood is slightly proud around the action, but not objectionably so.
The Alexander Henry forend is a traditional short, slim design with an exaggerated groove at the tip. (Sort of a "super Schnabel.") Why the groove? It was originally intended to prevent slippage of a carrying strap tied around the barrel/forend. This was in the days before rifles were commonly supplied with sling swivels.
Other nice features include a sculptured receiver and a quarter rib barrel with integral scope bases. The wide, grooved trigger is externally adjustable by means of a small Allan wrench for weight of pull and sear engagement. The ejector can be disabled for extraction only. These days No. 1 rifles are supplied with high (52mm tall) Ruger scope rings. Medium--42mm tall--rings would be more appropriate for the No. 1-S. The No. 1's borderless, four-panel, cut checkering patterns are well executed, but the forend coverage is Ruger's typical skimpy "arrowhead" pattern rather than the wrap-around forend checkering more appropriate for rifles of this price and overall quality.
Here are some basic specifications for our Ruger No. 1-S Medium Sporter rifle.
The No. 1 is Ruger's premium rifle and usually comes with better wood than other Ruger rifles. Our 1-S came with a colorful, fiddle back, black walnut stock that, while not symmetrical in pattern, is quite attractive. The stock finish is a satin synthetic. The barreled action is beautifully machined, nicely polished and evenly hot blued. The trigger guard and under lever are gracefully curved. The top of the receiver bears an attractive "Ruger No. 1" stamp. The top of the barrel, unfortunately, is disfigured by Ruger's usual, wordy, lawyer inspired warning to read the instruction manual before using the gun, blah, blah, blah. The action, right out of the box, was smooth and tight.
The trigger of our rifle released at a crisp 5 pounds out of the box. We adjusted the trigger and sear adjustment screws, but achieved little. At 4.75 pounds by our RCBS Premium Trigger Gauge, we gave up. The aforementioned instruction manual warns against attempting to adjust the trigger, but includes no information about how to properly adjust it should you choose to do so. This manual is so larded with safety warnings as to be basically worthless. This is a terrific rifle, but only a lawyer could love the instruction manual.
Our test rifle scaled 7 pounds 9.3 ounces out of the box on our digital scale, heavier than the 7 pounds 4 ounces advertised. The difference is probably the smaller hole in the 9.3x74R barrel (compared to a .45-70 barrel), since the No. 1-S is available in both calibers. With our test scope and rings, the empty weight increased to 8 pounds 14.7 ounces. When we added swivels, a nylon sling and a cartridge in the chamber, the way we would carry the rifle in the field, the total weight rose to 9 pounds 2.6 ounces. That is about the right weight for a medium bore rifle; we consider nine pounds ideal for a cartridge of this power. Because it is short in overall length and well balanced, the No. 1-S carries its weight well and remains a fast handling and easy to tote rifle. These same qualities, plus its flat receiver and the absence of a protruding bolt handle, would make it an excellent choice for a mounted hunter to carry in a saddle scabbard.
The German 9.3x74R for which our test rifle is chambered is a classic, rimmed, European and African medium bore cartridge comparable in performance to the British .375 H&H Flanged Magnum Nitro Express. As with other cartridges named in the Continental manner, 9.3mm is the caliber, 74mm is the case length and the "R" stands for rimmed. 9.3mm translates to .36 caliber (bullet diameter is .366").
The 9.3x74R was developed in Germany from the black powder 9.3x72R at the beginning of the 20th Century. It is a European favorite for hunting Scandinavian moose, bear, wild boar, red stag and Continental hunters have carried it on hunts around the world. It is also popular in Africa, especially in areas previously colonized by Continental European powers such as Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal. In Africa it serves as an all-around medium bore caliber for large and/or dangerous game such as kudu, eland, zebra, lion and buffalo. Even rhino and elephant are not beyond the cartridge's capability, although it is probably the minimum acceptable caliber for such ponderous game and these days larger calibers (usually starting at .375) are preferred. American and Canadian hunters are discovering that the 9.3x74R is capable of harvesting all large North American game including elk, moose, muskox, the great bears and bison.
It is a very long cartridge with a lot of body taper that is unsuitable for repeating rifles. However, it is ideal for single shot and double-barreled rifles, since it operates at a moderate maximum average pressure (per C.I.P.) of 49,347 piezo psi. Its basic ballistics are so useful that its ballistic twin, the shorter, rimless 9.3x62 was developed to provide 9.3x74R performance (albeit at a much higher MAP) in bolt action rifles. The two cartridges are physically very different, but identical in performance. The 9.3x74R is well covered on the Rifle Cartridge Page, where it is featured in a stand-alone article, and it is included in at least three cartridge comparisons with a variety of other powerful cartridges. It is also well represented on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page.
Despite its popularity in other parts of the world the 9.3x74R has, until recently, largely been unknown in North America. However, that is changing. Factory loaded 9.3x74R ammunition is now available from Stars & Stripes, A-Square, Norma, RWS, Sellier & Bellot, Nosler and Hornady. The latter two manufacturers added it to their loading lists in 2007. Reloaders can get 9.3mm bullets from A-Square, Speer, Nosler, Barnes, Swift, Woodleigh and perhaps others. Available bullet weights include 232 grains, 250 grains, 270 grains, 286 grains and 300 grains. A maximum reload can drive a 286 grain bullet at about 2400 fps from a 26" barrel.
The more or less "standard" 9.3x74mm load for which double rifles and drillings are usually regulated drives a 286 grain bullet (SD .307) at about 2360 fps. 286 grain bullets are available in both soft point and solid (FMJ) form. Solid bullets are often recommended for use on dangerous CXP4 game. The muzzle energy of these loads is 3538 ft. lbs. Most ballistic charts show that a 286 grain bullet zeroed to hit dead on at 200 yards will strike 3.1" high at 100 yards and about 12.5" low at 300 yards. The maximum point blank range (+/- 3") of such loads is about 225 yards.
Because our Ruger 1-S single shot rifle test rifle is compact in length, reasonable in weight and chambered for the powerful 9.3x74R cartridge, we see it as ideal for large North American game in forested or brushy terrain, especially Roosevelt elk and moose. We'd prefer a repeating rifle for hunting dangerous critters such as the great bears and the world's bovines, although if you are hunting elk or moose in grizzly bear country (or, for that matter, eland in lion country) you can consider yourself sufficiently well armed.
We equipped our test rifle with a new Weaver Classic Extreme 1.5-4.5x24mm riflescope, which has a 30mm main tube, in medium height Ruger rings (#S100RM30MM). These rings had to be ordered, as the rifle comes with standard 1" (25mm) scope rings. We had wanted to review one of Weaver's new Classic Extreme scopes (see the Product Review Page for that review) and the 1.5-4.5 magnification range is ideal for a powerful, medium range rifle such as our Ruger No. 1-S.
Mounting the scope on the rifle was easy, as the proprietary Ruger ring system eliminates the need for conventional scope bases. The rings clamp directly to the rifle's quarter rib, a simple and very secure installation.
As we had hoped, this turned out to be a fine combination. The matte black, fully multi-coated Classic Extreme features fingertip adjustments and fast Euro style eyepiece focus. It provides bright, sharp views of the target. Its Duplex-type reticle is equipped with an illuminated red dot at the center, for use in very low light conditions. This seems fitting for a 9.3x74R rifle, as in much of Europe it is legal to hunt at night.
With the scope mounted on the rifle and bore-sighted, we were ready to go to the range and pop some caps. Guns and Shooting Online staffers Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck, Nathan Rauzon, Bob Fleck and Chuck Hawks did the shooting for this review, which was accomplished at the Izaak Walton range south of Eugene, Oregon. After preliminary sighting at 25 yards, the remainder of our shooting was done at 100 yards at Champion Score Keeper targets. All groups for record consisted of three shots fired from a solid bench rest using a Caldwell Lead Sled DFT weighted with two 25 pound bags of shot. To get a feel for the rifle's recoil we also did some offhand shooting. The weather was typical for Western Oregon in November, which is to say damp and chilly, but at least the wind was not a factor.
We requested a reasonable selection of factory loads for this review, since none of us reload for 9.3x74R. This included the Sellier & Bellot factory load using a 285 grain Soft Point bullet (especially recommended for clawed game by S&B) at approximately 2270 fps, Stars and Stripes Safari factory loads using the excellent A-Square "Triad" of 286 grain RN bullets (Lion Load, Dead Tough and Monolithic Solid) at 2360 fps, Nosler Custom factory load using their fine 286 grain Partition spitzer bullet at a MV of 2300 fps and the new Hornady Custom factory load using their 286 grain SP-RP (Spire Point-Recoil Proof) bullet at a MV of 2360 fps. Many thanks to our friends at those fine companies for contributing to this review!
The Soft Point, Dead Tough, Partition and SP-RP are expanding bullets suitable for a wide variety of animals. We would normally choose these bullets for hunting large North American game. The Mono Solid is just what it sounds like, a homogenous non-expanding bullet intended for shooting dangerous CXP4 game when the overriding concern is extreme, straight line penetration. If there are pachyderms in your pea patch, this is a good bullet to use. The Lion Load is a special, brittle bullet designed for maximum tissue destruction on frontal or broadside shots. This bullet debrides itself as it penetrates the target and was designed specifically to stop charging big cats. (We suspect that the Lion load would also be a deadly deer bullet.) The Triad bullets have the unique advantage of the same weight, shape and ballistic coefficient and are designed to be used interchangeably without re-zeroing the rifle.
Here are the shooting results with our Ruger No. 1-S 9.3x74R rifle.
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS TESTED = 1.34"
These are excellent results, particularly from such a powerful rifle. This time out Chuck shot the smallest individual group and had the best average group size.
Of interest, but no particular significance, is that the A-Square Triad bullets cut neat round holes in our Score Keeper targets, much like a semi-wadcutter pistol bullet, while the spitzer bullets made typical ragged holes in the paper. Evidently, the Triad bullet's driving band also serves as a shoulder and is responsible for the neat holes. Of course, after any of these bullets expands in a large game animal the exit hole is going to be anything but neat.
When shooting from our DFT Lead Sled recoil was not a problem, but fired from the shoulder at a bench rest, a 9 pound, 9.3x74R rifle does kick and the muzzle blast from a 22" barrel is considerable. So is the cloud of smoke left by the burned powder. According to the "Expanded Rifle Recoil Table" on the Tables, Charts and Lists page, a 9 pound rifle shooting these loads generates 27-29 ft. lbs. of recoil energy.
Jim considered the recoil punishing and none of us found it pleasant, but we all agreed that shooting this rifle is not actually painful. (Unlike a lightweight 9.3x74R double rifle that we have also reviewed.) Shoot the No. 1-S from an offhand standing position and the recoil, while still considerable, is not particularly bothersome. We managed some impressive offhand groups with the test rifle. Credit the good design of the No. 1 stock for that. In any case, with factory loads costing $60 to $100 per box (at 2009 retail prices), high volume shooting is probably not going to be a consideration and we found the No. 1-S in 9.3x74R acceptable in small doses.
This handy, powerful rifle is just about perfect for hunting our large Western Oregon Roosevelt elk, as well as giant Alaskan moose. Woe betide any bear that gets in the way in the course of such hunts. Jim figures that he will borrow the No. 1-S for the big stuff when he goes to Africa. No doubt about it, the Ruger No. 1-S in 9.3x74R is a great rifle!
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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