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Surveillance report: inside intelligence from Ruger.

Surveillance Report: Inside Intelligence From Ruger

In early July I had the opportunity to visit Ruger's Newport, N.H., factory and spend the best part of a day with Bill Ruger Sr. It had been 10 years since I last toured this rural plant where all Ruger long guns are made. With the recent closing of Southport, Conn., facility, single-action handgun and 10/22 rifle production lines are now housed in Newport as well, with the Mark II pistol having gone to Ruger's other manufacturing facility in Prescott, Ariz. Only the corporate offices are still maintained in Southport.

While on the surface most things looked pretty much the same today as they did 10 years ago, the plant is a lot more crowded with machinery and people turning out more guns. The most obvious additions are the many computer-controlled machining centers that were not in evidence a decade ago, and the new hammer-forging unit on which Ruger now makes their own barrels.

The foundry division, Pine Tree Castings, where so many components of Ruger firearms are made, remains at the cutting edge of the casting science. It was Ruger who pioneered the application of investment casting for firearm components and the company's success with the process has always been one of the primary reasons Ruger has been able to consistently produce such competitively-priced guns.

Incorporating CRF

One of the things I was particularly interested in seeing was whether or not the implementation of Mauser-type controlled round feeding (CRF) for the entire Model 77 Mark II line had begun. It had not, though I know for a fact that the decision to do so has been made.

That evening over dinner I asked Bill for his thoughts on CRF and why it hadn't been incorporated into the Mark II from the beginning. After all, already having the Mauser extractor from the original 77, then scrapping the plunger ejector for a fixed one on the new Mark II, the action was now 80-percent Mauser. What made it more puzzling was that CRF had been incorporated into the Mark II Magnum introduced in 1990.

"We just didn't feel the CRF feature was that important on a general purpose rifle," Bill said. He then cited the M-1 Garand, among others, that had plunger-type ejectors -- just like the original Ruger Model 77 -- and were legendary for their reliability.

"But we also like to think we're more responsive to our customers than our competitors," Bill said, "and while I don't believe it's an important issue with the average consumer, we have gotten a good number of inquiries about it. Since it's an easy enough modification to make on the Mark II, we decided to go ahead and incorporate it."

I then told Bill that I have always believed that by going to CRF he'd not lose a single potential Mark II customer, and with it he'd gain a significant percentage of those to whom it does matter.

Mini 14's Big Brother

Another subject that came up was the XGI, the big brother .308 Win. version of the highly successful Mini-14. As many of you will recall, the gun was officially introduced back in 1986, but no specimens were ever shipped.

After nearly a year of dealer frustration, a press release was issued announcing that the XGI had been shelved. The reason given was that, while the preproduction guns functioned flawlessly, the accuracy was not up to the standards Bill and his design team had set. That was certainly a valid reason for withholding introduction and Ruger's coming out and saying so was refreshingly forthright.

At the time rumors persisted that there were other more sinister, more dire, reasons for the demise of the XGI. Well, the truth of the matter is ... there are no other reasons. The gun simply did not group well enough to satisfy Ruger with the wide assortment of commercial and military surplus ammo that would surely be used in such a rifle. Period.

With so many new products coming on-stream at that particular point in time, there was only so much effort and resources the company could devote to the project.

According to Bill, the XGI has only been shelved, not scrapped. Though he didn't come out and say so, I wouldn't be surprised to see the gun in production sometime soon. Indeed, about the only thing that might prevent it from hitting the production line would be the same thing which shelved it in the first place: that the company is so busy, so successful, that the XGI simply lacks priority. From what I saw on my visit, that's a clear and present danger!
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Title Annotation:Special Intelligence; Sturm, Ruger and Company Inc.
Author:Sundra, Jon R.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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