Monthly Archives: December 2014

Ruger’s Forgotten Gold Label: Everything Its Name Suggests

Gold Label and 4 Pheasants PROPER colour

One of the few guns I own essentially immune from sale to fund a hunt, yet also one in particular I have some of the least history with, is my Ruger Gold Label shotgun. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve flown all over the world packing a Gold Label, just not my current one. The Gold Label is a side by side, round action game gun chambered in 12 gauge 3”, made in perfect keeping with the style of English upland guns. Bill Ruger Sr was a patron of British arms of the field, and paid homage to his passion through the design and production of the Ruger No.1 Farquharsen-style falling block, and the Safari Magnum and Express made in the style of the great British sporting magazine rifles, and last but I believe most the Gold Label.

#2505′s First Bird, and First Shot, my Wife Captured it With a Photo.

Cooper, I, and Pheasant PROPER Colour

The Gold Label was produced for only two years from 2004 thru 2006, rumour has it that is was sold at a loss as a flagship product, and its almost immediate cut from production seems to confirm that. Producing a quality, well fit, balanced, and light double is far harder than one might suppose. Mr. Ruger also attempted to introduce an affordable double rifle, and this didn’t make it a fraction as far as the Gold Label. While a double is a simple design to the casual observer, it actually requires tighter tolerances and more than fitting than just about any other firearm mechanism, and when regulating is factored in more time than any other; at least to do it well. The Gold Label was done well.

Weighing barely six pounds thanks to ultra thin, hammer forged barrels and a roughly 20 gauge or even smaller round action frame size, the svelte Gold Label shipped with either a straight English style stock, or an American style pistol grip, both stocks feature a splinter fore end that is so un-Ruger it’s startling. There is nothing beefy about this gun, everything is svelte, extremely light, and elegant. Now this does not mean it isn’t strong, for strong it is more so than most by good measure. Where many competing double shotguns, especially of this weight class, are hewn with 2 ¾” chambers and designed for upland loads of lead shot, the Gold Label was purpose built from the get go to be a quality shotgun of no limitations.

A Penny On The Frame To Illustrate Just How Svelte It Is.

Gold Label with Penny

Steel shot, Magnum, 3”, buckshot, slugs… all fine with the Gold Label, while it may not feel like a Ruger it is stout like one. The ultra thin stainless chokes add an extra amount of versatility without swelling the muzzles into hideous bell bottoms, as well. They are the most low profile chokes I’ve enjoyed using, and they work very well. The guns come out of the box smooth, and this is my second to break in. There is no grit and no hang ups, the selector for the single selective trigger is crisp, and as is the fashion the safety is automatic. These controls are combined into the one switch on the tang as is also the usual fashion. Some like double triggers, and I own quite a few doubles, I’m blessed to have even just added a Holland & Holland Royal to the stable and it too wears a single selective trigger, they are just my preference. I can’t argue against double triggers either mind you and also appreciate their merits, however the Gold Label’s setup is perfection for me.

Gold Label Action Broken Open

Now I mentioned that this is not a gun I have a particularly impressive amount of history with, the hunt depicted here, well it was my first one with it. My first shot with it, brought down a Pheasant on a lovely, easy descending downslope shot that our beagle flushed from tall grass, see the second photo in this article, my wife kindly captured the moment. A fitting occasion for its first time outdoors, the interior British Columbia pheasant hunt let me put the Gold Label through its paces again after having been off the trigger of it for a couple years. I had another Gold Label, a first year gun number #830, which I sold to a doctor on the prairies quite involved in wingshooting. I had acquired a second year gun, number #2505, that year simply because I like the gun so much and couldn’t resist when one surfaced as they so rarely do. Well the realities of far too frequent returns to Africa and fuelling my true passion, hunting, attacked the duplicates in my collection first naturally. Deciding to part with the fired one rather than the unfired, as they command the same price, I let go number #830, with whom I had travelled quite extensively.

#830 with Francolin, One of My Favourite Game Birds
Francolin and Gold Label

#830 was good to me, and bagged dozens of Francolin, Sand Grouse, and my favourite, Guinea Fowl, in Africa. One of those “ready” guns you can pick up along with ammunition and just hit the field, and connect with, even if out of practice #830 was an old friend. Feeling an irrational pang of remorse on selling it I contacted the good Doctor and he happily agreed to exchange guns for my unfired #2505 when he returned from his winter home. Well time passed on and spring came and I simply neglected to get in touch with him, mellowing on my sentimentality the whole while and deciding that #2505 was as good as #830, heck even the wood’s figure now caught my eye perhaps a bit more than my old flame’s. It would be around a couple years before I hauled out a Gold Label again due to young sons, and the employ of loaner guns on hunts. Then this fall I decided it was time to christen #2505, and my son’s Winchester 9410 for that matter.

#830 Working in South-Central Africa

Gold Label and I With Guinea Fowl

The joy of any round action is in the carrying, and we walked aplenty on these Pheasants for they were quite content to sit put. The dog had to get within range of nearly taking the bird itself before they would flush, and a lack of breeze didn’t help Cooper either. All the more enjoyable the hunting, then. The longer, and more challenging the better, and a crisp, still fall day in the interior of British Columbia with my son is one of those days I’m happy to see stretch on. Every time a bird was flushed, well the excitement exploded as you had become quite content and pleased strolling the meadows, then “OH YES! This is why we’re here!” and in those moments a properly balanced game gun will reign supreme. When you are unaware and a cock pops from the stalks of straw coloured grass, bounding from that pool of wonderful damp earthy scent at your feet and you’re given that shot of adrenaline to kick you into action, you react and take down the bird without actively considering the gun. Put a 7 1/2lb, stiff, sodden gun in its place and you will immediately know the pleasure a svelte game gun without a sharp corner on its body offers.

Gold Label and Guinea Fowl

Don’t take me as a snob, I beg, for I just used an ancient 870 and even more well worn Browning automatic loaner on Doves and Ducks in Mexico, and frankly flat out loved every minute. Hunting is great, hunting with great tools, well that just adds to an already wonderful recipe. It’s a lot like relations with the fairer sex really, really, but I think we can all use our imaginations on the variations in partner’s attributes available there and keep this article in the green. Suffice to say sometimes with beauty comes pleasure. Well, the Gold Label is a true beauty in fit, finish, appearance, and application. She is a millionaire heiress of a beauty on a blacksmith’s budget, an arrangement that like all good things couldn’t last. I implore you that if you get the chance to own one, take it.

The Gold Label With Friends in the Dark ContinentGold Label on Chest in Tent

Now, as a bit of a sour finish and touch of reality, there are a few shortcomings that arrive with being the first of the breed, and offered at a price one can afford. One, the wood fit while better than even a $6,000+ Sauer I owned and reviewed recently, still is not perfect. Wood is proud of the metal slightly, as is normal today, though it is very tight for a production gun, especially for a double that retailed at $2,000 in 2004. The only dark trait and nasty habit she has in my opinion, and believe me every beauty has them from Italian cars to beautiful women, is that if the action is not opened completely will fail to re-cock one barrel from time to time. Well lets be honest quite often really, it caught me a few times on the second barrel on my first hunt with it. Then I realized that opening the action until you felt the stop remedied the situation completely, and I have not experienced it since. This irksome trait of hers aside, and surely it would have been fixed had there been a Gold Label Mark II, she’s perfect; or close enough you’ll believe she is when you hold her. Oh… and her bottom ribs are seldom found lying 100% flat, more like 90% on both of mine. That’s her beauty spot. Good hunting and thanks for reading folks, if you get a crack at a Gold Label, take it.