Ruger's Big Game Gun: The No.1 Tropical

  1. chriseger
    Most Ruger rifles are in standard calibers meant for small and medium game, defense purposes, and target practice. There is one variant, however, that is set aside for something altogether different entirely. Designed for hot climes, dangerous animals, and challenges the ordinary hunter couldn't imagine is the Ruger No 1 Tropical.



    In 1967, Bill Ruger was steadily expanding his growing company into a number of different ventures. One of these, he decided, would be a single-shot rifle based on a classic design that harkened to the old 'great white hunters' of yesteryear. Rugged sportsmen like Frank Selous and WDM Bell, men who had pursued and taken the largest, most dangerous game in Africa, did so with a Gibbs-Farquharson Rifle.


    This huge bore rifle used a falling block action operated by a short lever to open and close a very strong breech behind a fixed barrel. These guns were designed in the 1870s and popular throughout Africa and wherever deadly big game such as lions, tigers, and bears were found. Typically chambered for rounds like .505 Gibbs and .416 Rigby, they were literal elephant guns. Made by custom gunmakers like Holland and Holland, these guns were very expensive.

    Bill Ruger took the old Farquharson design, improved upon it, and put it into production in the United States as the No. 1. The basic model was chambered in medium calibers like .223, .270, and the like, while the No. 1-H, commonly called 'The Tropical Rifle' went much larger.



    Chambered initially in .45-70 Government, the classic bison and bear round of the 19th century, the Tropical had a 24-inch heavy barrel with a blued finish attached to a very well balanced walnut stock. Equipped with open sights the gun weighed in right at 8-pounds and delivered impressive accuracy. With such a short and simple action, the gun had very few parts to break, giving it a hedge in reliability, which is something you want while walking around the tall grass in Africa or some unnamed mountain in Alaska. Overall length is just 40-inches, which is about as long as a M1 Carbine, yet it is capable of felling any animal on the planet.

    (Note the open action and the size of the .458 Win cartridges on the Tropical. Big game rounds like these usually run $10-$50 apiece)

    While today new models are just made in .375, the Trop has been produced in a number of safari grade calibers such as 404 Jeffrey, .405 Win (Teddy Roosevelt's favorite 'big medicine round' for lions), .416 Rem (just made 1983-93), 416 Rigby (a round that dates back to the 1900s and was a favorite for elephant and rhino), .45-70 Govt, 458 Win, .458 Lott, and .475 Turnbull.


    The Ruger No 1 can get modern quick, here is a one outfitted an Aurora Tactical DNV Model 8010 2.5-10x56 night vision scope with adapter for daytime application and a monocular lens adapter. These Day/Night scopes run about 5K but hey, you can see and shoot in the dark!

    The bad parts

    Whereas most modern semi-automatic rifles and even some bolt actions absorb a good bit of the recoil when fired, the No. 1 (as well as all Farquharson style rifles) has nothing but the block and stock to send it to. This can lead to very stout felt recoil, especially with huge medicine pill cartridges that can run some four-inches in length. To tame this recoil many outfit their Tropicals with recoil pads that look as if Serta made them, wear padded shooting jackets, and play with various custom loads.


    Then there is the price. While a vintage but shootable Farquharson rifle made by Gibbs or H&H can run over 10K, and a new made European Blaser or Tikka large game rifle can cost half that much, the No. 1 Tropical fetches about $1300. Older guns made in the 1970s and 80s that have seen some abuse can go for half as much, provided they aren't in the super attractive .45-70 or .404 Jeffery calibers that are sought after by collectors.


    Still, if you have some scratch around and a hankering to fire a round the size of a cigar down the range, you would be hard pressed to get a better deal than a No.1 Tropical.

    And you can tell Farquharson we said that.

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