The Ruger Woodside, an elegant shotgun for a simpler time

  1. Editor
    Bill Ruger decided to bring back an over-and-under double-barreled shotgun to the U.S. in the 1970s and his design, the Red Label was popular leading to an even spiffier Gold Label spin off. As a brief split from this family tree of Ruger trap guns came the beautiful and short-lived Woodside.

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    Origins

    When Browning introduced their Superposed shotgun in 1928, the American public started to fall in love with the concept of a well-made, good shooting, and utterly reliable stacked barrel shotgun. Unlike side-by-side double barrel shotguns that had issues with aim points (neither barrel fired at the same target the same way) and recoil, a shotgun with two barrels stacked one on top and the other underneath just made brilliant sense. This led to the first popular commercial Over/Under (O/U) shotgun.

    Fast forward to the 1970s and the Belgian-made Browning Superposed cost as much as a good used car and there were no US-made O/U shotguns that didn't cost even more. This is when Bill Ruger introduced their Red Label double barrel shotgun, to this date the only shotgun made by Sturm, Ruger. It proved a hit with the public for its affordability, reliability, and handling. It remained a staple of the company's catalog for three decades. In 1995, the while most makers were going full polymer, Ruger beefed up the walnut.

    Enter the Woodside

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    Gracing the cover of their 1995 catalog, the Ruger Red Label Woodside over-and-under 12-gauge shotgun was beauty in firearms artisanship. This classic boxlock design uses select Circassian walnut for its forearm and buttstock, which extended into the action on two side panels.

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    Circassian walnut comes from the Caucus Mountains region of old Russia and is world renown as the benchmark for gunstocks with its beautiful colors and graining. It grows very slowly and often has more heartwood and a finer texture than other types of walnut.

    This could be in either the English straight stock or Monte Carlo style pistol grip stock.

    Compare the Woodside to the more basic Red Label below:

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    Offered in a 26, 28 or 30 inch (Sporting Clays model) backbored barrel option with Full, Modified, IC, or skeet stainless chokes, and all of the other standard Red Label options. MSRP was $1899 while a very well engraved series done by master engraver John J. Adams, Bryson Gwinnell, Carmine Lombardy, Alvin White, Andrew Bourdin, and Jon Ashford were offered for an extra $1000 for a limited time.

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    An engraved Bryson Gwinnell Red Label is a thing of joy. You can imagine the even more rare Woodside to be much the same. This gun was valued in 2013 at more than $3,500 Via James D. Julia auctions

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    Production

    The serial number range for these guns, as noted by Ruger, accounts for just 2845 Woodsides produced from 1995 to 2002. The Red Label itself, by 2010 it suffered from the same problem that killed the Superposed-- it had gotten just really too expensive for the average shooter to even consider and sales dropped. With that, the gun was put out to pasture.

    Getting your own

    While a redesigned RL was brought back last year, the Woodside is still on hiatus. With that, Pedersens lists these guns at $850-$1525 while Fjedestad lists them for $500-$1525. Online classifieds and auction sites have listed them in the past 12 months for as high as $2K. You can expect engraved models in NIB condition to go for twice that amount.

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