Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Ruger Safari Magnum (RSM): A Tribute to An Old Friend

The Ruger Safari Magnum: A Tribute to An Old Friend

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It is being packed less and less these days, as new rifles seep into my battery as time goes on and money becomes slightly more prevalent, and I must admit my appreciation for an old friend has been lacking. We have hunted together as recently as last fall for Elk, and the winter before for Sheep and Boar in the Pacific, but it is no longer the go to for the big hunts. A double has replaced it as of late, and having just brought it out for a shoot and cleaning, I must express my fondness and appreciation for the beast best known as the RSM, or Ruger Safari Magnum. Truly of the “old era” of Rugers, proper rifles of features with historical pedigree championed by Bill Ruger Sr. himself, their kind has sunset with the cessation of production along with other glorious Bill Ruger personal projects like the Gold Label side by side in favour of the walmart era. We see the introduction of the “Ruger American” budget rifle, and Ruger ARs, SR22s, and assorted plastic fantastics as the RSM and Gold Label are axed, even the No.1 lineup is severely diminished. Such is progress.

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No point bemoaning what the RSM was, it still is. You can find a used RSM for under $2,500, as it seems, people don’t know what they are looking at. What that is, is an integral quarter rib, NECG express sights with one standing and two folding blades worth a pretty penny on their own, controlled round feed, three position wing safety, true magnum action in lovely Circassian walnut with the best floorplate release in the business. The rifles, if custom, would retail at an easy $7,500. Just the integral quarter rib is an option at custom makers that costs more than the entire retail price of the RSM. It is, in a few words, an utterly stunning value and their prices will climb as appreciation grows and fewer and fewer hit the auction blocks, tucked away alongside other fine rifles and working the Dark Continent and other interesting corners.  The action as I mentioned is also a true magnum, unlike the Winchester Model 70 (also a favorourite), Remington 700, or any other contender on the production list under $3,000. See the pictures of my .375 H&H RSM beside my .375 H&H stainless Model 70, it will become immediately clear Bill Ruger intended this for the proper cartridges.

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I’ve also recently been long term loaned a lovely .505 Gibbs RSM conversion by a good fellow on the West coast of British Columbia, and it has rekindled my appreciation for the rifle. On first glance it would appear the .505 is maxing out the Magnum action, until one realizes the bolt face isn’t even yet 100% opened up, and the magazine with only floorplate alteration and stock follower and spring holds three rounds of .505. If you’ve handled a .505 Gibbs cartridge, you may appreciate this, it is the biggest standard case you’re likely to ever encounter. In fact, by measurement, this action will accept the .577 Nitro Express with a custom single stack magazine, and at that point the bolt face would be truly maxed although a reasonable amount of room would still remain in the extractor. This may be the fate of my .375 to keep it interesting in my cabinet, I like a challenge. Bill Ruger built this with no compromises, he wanted a return of a true magnum controlled round feed action, no doubt unimpressed by shoehorning large cartridges into .300 Winchester Magnum class actions. The RSM in short, is a true breed apart, a beast for hunting beasts.

 The RSM Stands Up Even Amongst Far More Expensive Company, In This Case a Merkel Double .375 and GMA .450 Rigby Mauser

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Its feel is also quite remarkable, there is a solidness to it in the throw of the bolt not matched by my silky Model 70. Handing it and the Model 70 to a hunting friend today who is not overly concerned with rifle selection so I consider him a clean opinion, I simply asked what he liked the feel of better and encouraged him to shoulder, cycle, point, and dry fire both. Immediately he stated, “This feels like a real gun.” with regards to the RSM. And it does feel so, its bolt throw exuding a solidness and sturdiness that inspire that ridiculous feeling of boldness in which you imagine facing a Cape Buffalo at fourteen yards with it in your hands.  Been there, with this very rifle. It worked admirably, a stout soldier of the dark continent, serving in the hands of numerous PHs and appreciated by every one I’ve handed it to. In fact, a couple have tried to talk me out of it including one I loaned it to, and if it wasn’t my first .375 and with which I’d built such a trusting relationship, I’d have considered obliging them. My .375 RSM has worked in my hands culling in Zimbabwe and in the hands of friends including a PH, and it has yet to let any of us down, without a single hang up or misfeed, ever. How can you criticize that? I have trouble finding shortcomings at its price.

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Sure, at a higher price point, it has detractions. It is offered in only one barrel profile, despite having been offered in .375 H&H, .416 Rigby, and .458 Lott. It is admittedly nose heavy in my .375 version, and tips the scales at a stout-for-375 10 1/4lbs. On the flip side it recoils like a drunken pony, at least considered in the realm of real rifles. The bolt offers ample slop, with exactly the same wobble at full open as a Mauser, this said this is an action that will function no matter how much Kalahari sand or Northern muskeg it ingests. So in contrast to its refinements, it is built at the level of a blue collar tool, and I actually appreciate that. Accuracy, with mine, is outstanding- likely the most accurate bolt action hunting rifle I own. The bolt cycle is a tad chunky, with a bump often found at the notch for the bolt’s tab that stops travel at 90 degrees and rides the receiver in cycling. Mine required a touch up with 1500 grit sand paper on the nose of the left bolt lug, and on the edge of the notch, and the bump has faded considerably to the point I no longer notice it. Safety operation is smooth and reasonably quiet, though it produces an audible click when switched off. This can be eliminated by pinching the safety wing and following it home if you have the time. I often carry it with the safety in the mid position, bolt free, firing pin locked, as it is a lightning quick brush to flick off that takes extremely little force.

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Its lines are classic, absolutely gorgeous even, flowing and sculpted from the delicately textured integral rib which runs uninterrupted right back clear across the receiver ring, to banded front sight, to the trademark inletted floorplate release. Considering the barrel is roughly a $3,000 option at my favourite custom maker, wood of this class cut and finished an easy $800-1,000, the sights installed and regulated several hundred plus, the three position safety an easy $300 upgrade if done on a Mauser, the true magnum action several thousand on its own though I’ll credit it as $1,500 due to the admittedly production tolerances, this gun is a stupid value. They were by rumour produced at nil profit, even a loss, as a flagship product and one of Bill Ruger’s personal projects. I shouldn’t own one, I should likely own three, and may have to acquire another shortly though two rest in my cabinet, one borrowed. Next time you see an RSM for offer, look not at its asking price, but at what it offers. Then consider the asking price after the total value is considered, you’ll likely see the RSM in a new light. It’s one of the few rifles that routinely survives culls in my cabinet to fund new hunts, and manages to get afield often. Next time you look at dropping $1,500 on just another production rifle, consider the RSM, and its small bore sibling the Ruger Express Rifle. I doubt you’d be disappointed.

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