Ruger Red Label Engraved O/U Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Ruger Red Label engraving
Ruger Red Label standard engraving patterns. Illustration courtesy of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

The Ruger Red Label has been with us by now for over thirty years; a remarkable feat for an American-made over / under shotgun. This version is the engraved twelve gauge #KRL-1227-BRE, with very tasteful scroll engraving with gold-inlayed pheasants adorning both sides of the stainless-steel receiver. Currently, the RRL is offered in one basic model, although you have a choice of three gauges and the twenty and twenty-eight gauge models can be had in either pistol grip or straight-hand stock configuration.

It’s been a while since we’ve spent some quality time with the Red Label; too long as a matter of fact. What we quickly noticed about this model is both the engraving and the wood. Though some like the sleek, smooth look of the screwless base model’s receiver, we’ve always felt it looked a bit naked. Ruger really did a fine job dressing up their engraved models. Gorgeous is not too strong of a word; it really sets off the gun.

We have noticed of late that the Ruger wood looks better and better, putting many imports to shame. That is the case here; not only is the wood well-figured, the forearm and the buttstock perfectly matched in color and tone. The checkering is deeply cut and, unlike many offerings today, is functional as well as visually appealing.

Ruger Red Label
Standard 12 gauge Ruger Red Label. Illustration courtesy of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

The Ruger is a substantial gun, to be sure. Not as heavy as a standard Citori Lightning, but within a quarter of a pound or so at a tested weight of 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Due to its substantial mass, even though the Ruger rubber butt pad is not what we would call a generous recoil pad, the Red Label we tested proved to be softer-shooting than many O/U models. The addition of a Limbsaver would turn this shotgun into a puppy-dog.

The Ruger has a generously wide ventilated rib, more of a sporting clays style than a thin field treatment. It fit all of us well and was smooth to swing and easy to hit with. We also like the Ruger's mechanical single selective trigger, as opposed to a recoil-switched trigger.

What we have never liked is the auto safety of the Ruger. Some may, but it is obnoxious on the clays field. No pump or semi-auto has a safety that constantly puts itself back on, and no popular rifle that we can think of, either. The auto safety push-back can be disabled by a gunsmith (or by Ruger). We don’t think it serves any purpose and it needs to be retired. The Ruger barrel set is a bit heavy. That’s not all bad, as it encourages the shooter to get his gun down in the shoulder pocket where it belongs. For a field gun, though, we would like to see the Ruger in a lighter form and a more responsive barrel set would be a benefit. For clays or on the dove field, “as is” is just fine and preferable to many, contingent on personal taste.

We really wish Ruger would change the pivoting barrel selector tang safety to a more conventional slide-selection, without the twirly pivot deal. We already carped about the auto-reset on the safety, and long for a more spritely upland configuration of the 12 gauge as well. Taking a half-pound out of this shotgun would make it a lot more fun for the “walk a lot, shoot a little” type of hunting we so often do.

We found the overall build quality of this Ruger to be rock-solid outstanding. Ruger has never done it better. We like the design of the Ruger that requires no strain to break-open, the wood is of a level you might have to add an “E” or an “L” to find from imports, and if you are shopping for an O/U, make sure you check out the engraved versions of the RRL; it really makes this gun elegant. No, it isn’t a EELL Diamond Pigeon Sporting, but it doesn’t retail for $7675, either. You also won’t have to worry about a plated finish chipping off or flaking; nor will you ever see any receiver bluing wear. Stainless steel has its benefits.

Our Ruger performed flawlessly. More than a few people found it to have dashing good looks, particularly in this age of “real” fake wood and the “highly polished plastic made by old world craftsmen” type stackbarrel attempts. We also have continued to be impressed by Ruger’s customer service department, very important to us considering that many gun companies apparently have no customer service department at all, much less a good one. We really appreciated this engraved version of the Red Label. There is a lot of value in this presentation of Ruger’s All-American Classic.

Note: A full length review of a Ruger Red Label O/U shotgun can be found on the Product Review page.

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Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.