The company known today as Sturm, Ruger was founded in 1949 by the unlikely pair of Bill Ruger and Alex Sturm. Today the company is publicly traded and is one of the largest firearms makers in the world with more than $140 million in annual sales and over 1100 employees. Which may lead you to wonder, just who were these two founders, and what does the Ruger logo have to do with them?
This 1950 photo shows a 34-year old Bill Ruger, left, and a bearded Alex Sturm on the right. The two were the founders of a new company named after themselves the year before. Ruger built the guns in his home workshop. Sturm provided the finacing and the contacts, while his wife, a granddaughter of Teddy Roosevelt stuffed envelopes and acted as the company's secretary.
Born 1916 in Brooklyn New York, William Batterman Ruger was always something of a tinkerer. At age 12, his father gave him his first firearm and the young Ruger spent afternoons visiting machine shops and studying all things mechanical. In the 30s, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but dropped out and moved to Massachusetts to take a job at Springfield Armory. A self-taught firearms engineer, Ruger spent his spare time working on a machinegun design before leaving Springfield and taking a job at Auto-Ordnance to pay the bills. His gun, the US Army's Light Machine Gun T10 and finally the T23E1, was liked but not well enough to replace the thousands of Browning 1919s already in service during WWII.
This is believed to be Ruger's first gun, the experimental T10/T23E1 light machine gun developed for the US Army. Its thought that only four of these were made and it was never adopted.
After the war, Ruger was given a Japanese Baby Nambu pistol and the inventor promptly reverse-engineered in his home workshop. Fiddling with the design, he made a simple .22LR pistol with the sleek elegant lines of the German Luger and started showing it to people to see what they thought.
One of those shown this early prototype pistol in 1949 was a fellow named Alex Sturm.
The quietest of the pair of founders, Alexander "Alex" McCormick Sturm was a renaissance man. If you read his biography you tend to believe that while he did not always drink beer, when he did, he preferred Dos Equis. Born in 1923 he had the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His father was the Yale educated and well-known sculptor Justin Sturm who specialized in busts. Some of his work today is in the Smithsonian. Alex was named after his mother's late brother, US Navy Lt Alexander Agnew McCormick, Jr, a military aviator killed in 1918 during World War Two. The Navy thought so highly of Alex's uncle that it named a destroyer (USS McCormick DD-223) after him.
(Alex Sturm was a children's book writer and illustrator among other things. You can see the same simple lines in his Fox that graces the cover of his 1941 book in the flowing lines of the Ruger Hawk today)
Following in his father's footsteps Alex attended also Yale, was a Bonesman, and soon showed his artistic side. He wrote and illustrated several children's books including The Problem Fox before his Yale graduation. An accomplished polo player and well connected, he joined the OSS in 1942 once World War 2 erupted. The OSS, (Office of Strategic Services), was the forerunner of the CIA and specialized in dirty deeds done dirt cheap behind enemy lines (think Inglourious Basterds). While Strum's very membership in the OSS was not even confirmed by the government until 2008, it's still not known exactly what he did for the organization.
Some 13,000 Americans worked for the OSS during WWII and traveled to lots of interesting places,making friends and influencing people. Alex Sturm was one of these shadowy figures.
It was during the war that he met and married the granddaughter of Teddy Roosevelt, former President, soldier, and all-around sportsman. After the war, Alex teamed up with Bill and contributed $50,000 seed money to the inventor to produce his new Standard pistol, not to mention his powerful connections, to the founding of the Sturm, Ruger Company. Always the artist, he designed the Red Hawk emblem that is familiar to all Ruger owners today.
Wedding day photo of Paulina Longworth, granddaughter of President
Theodore Roosevelt, and Alexander McCormick Sturm, future co-founder of
American firearms maker, Sturm, Ruger & Co., August 26, 1944.
Sadly at age 28, after battling viral hepatitis, this educated warrior-artist succumbed to his illness and passed away November 16, 1951.
After Alex's death, Bill Ruger switched the Red Hawk logo to black in memorial to his lost friend and partner. The pistol, the company's first product, was sold as the Standard, then the MkI, and finally today as the MkII.
Bill outlived his business partner by more than 50 years. He passed away at the ripe old age of 86 on July 6, 2002. He followed in the footsteps of but lived significantly longer than both John Moses Browning who had died at age 71 and Samuel Colt who had passed along at the relatively young age of 47.
In 2006, Bill and Alex were no doubt reunited in that great gun range in the sky, but their company endures.