Cabela’s, self-proclaimed as the “World’s Foremost Outfitter,” celebrated their 50th anniversary in business in 2011. The enterprise began when Richard Cabela and his wife got it going in a garage in Nebraska in 1961. Over the years, Cabela’s has grown into a huge outdoor sports marketing business with over 40 retail stores and a large direct marketing program. It is one of the great business successes of the late twentieth century. To mark the 50-year milestone the company commissioned a number of specially-finished rifles, including 500 copies of the Ruger No. 1 Single Shot Rifle chambered for the .300 H&H Magnum.
Sturm-Ruger introduced the No. 1 rifle in 1966. They wanted to produce a classic, single-shot rifle, one that could be admired for its design and workmanship, and they succeeded. It is characterized by good looks, quality construction, and fine finish. Several variations of the No. 1 with various barrel lengths and weights have been in continuous production up to the present day. The No. 1 action will safely handle any modern cartridge, and it has been chambered at one time or another for most all of them, from .22 Hornet up to .458 Winchester Magnum.
The Ruger No. 1 and Me
I have always bought into the mysterious appeal of single-shot rifles. Perhaps there is something in them that evokes the glory of the past, the conquering of the American continent with simple tools and perseverance, with marksmanship valued more than firepower. Or maybe I just like its purposeful looks.Whatever it is, the Ruger No. 1 satisfies. I have owned two of them previously, a No. 1B (The standard rifle) in .22 Hornet and a No. 1V (The varmint model) in .22-250 Remington. I have also owned three examples of the Ruger No. 3, the lower-priced carbine version with the same action as the No. 1. One of these was a .22 Hornet, one a .223 Remington, and one a .30-40 Krag. All of these rifles proved to be very accurate after some tuning of the guns and handloads. The Krag is an especially fine shooter and has been invaluable in my work with that old cartridge.
While surfing the gun ads on the web last fall I noticed that a number of the Cabela’s stores were still listing their commemorative models and that most of them had the Ruger No. 1. Moreover, the price had been reduced to the point of not much more than the MSRP for a standard No. 1. That is when I really started to pay attention. I didn’t see how I could go any longer as a purveyor of lore about “old thirties” without doing something with a good .300 H&H Magnum. This No. 1 looked like the perfect way to get into it. Another vintage thirty in a classic rifle. Nothing better for me.
I scanned my holdings for trading stock and found a good piece that I had few prospects for using (not a thirty). I carried it into the Cabela’s store in Kansas City on a Saturday two weeks before Christmas. Mercy, that visit in itself would be worth a post. The KC store is huge, had the usual complement of mounted trophies, seemed to be stocked with everything in their catalog, and half the city’s population was shopping there. Sure enough, they had a couple of the No. 1 commemoratives in boxes in the back. I liked the wood and the finish. One of their knowledgeable gun men put together a fair and satisfactory deal and I signed on. The deal making was pleasant and professional. This didn’t take very long, but there were so many guns being sold that day that the afternoon was shot, so to speak, by the time the formalities were taken care of. It was “take a number” at the cash register, but then I walked out with the box under my arm and a smile on my face.
The Cabela’s Commemorative Ruger No. 1S
The Ruger No. 1 has a falling block action. Lowering the action lever causes the breech block to fall, that is, to descend to the extent of exposing the cartridge chamber for loading and extraction. As a
falling block action, the Ruger follows a number of older actions, of which the Sharps is probably the most famous American example. Falling block actions are inherently strong, and the Ruger, being an excellent design and made of the best materials, is no exception.
Ruger applies the “S” designation to its medium-weight sporter. Cabela’s commemorative No.1S has a premium walnut stock, a deeply polished and blued barrel and receiver, and a gold Cabela’s logo on the bottom of the receiver. The fit and finish does seem to be a click or two above that of the usual, finely-turned-out No. 1. The wood is light in color with contrasty grain and some fiddleback in the butt. It looks more like English walnut than black walnut. The well-executed, at least 20-line checkering has a plain border with clean lines and sharp points. The
rear sight is carried on the steel sight rib that is screwed to the barrel and is machined to accept clamp-on scope rings, a pair of which is supplied with the rifle. That is not a trivial inclusion.
The pictures give a good idea of the design and finish. The open action shows the extractor for the belted cartridge to the lower
left of the chamber opening, with the breechblock in the white and lowered to expose the chamber. That’s where you put the candle.
The triggers of a No. 1 can be adjusted, something not recommended by the Ruger manual, of course. I do not recommend it either, but will confess that I have fiddled a bit with No. 1 triggers with no untoward consequences. I won’t be fiddling with this one, at least not for a while.
The .300 H & H Magnum
The British firm of Holland and Holland based their thirty-caliber cartridge on their existing .375 H&H magnum and brought it out in 1920, when it was dubbed the Holland “Super Thirty”. Originally obtainable in America only in custom rifles, the .300 H&H, as it came to be called, was eventually available in the Winchester Model 70 and then in other rifles, and factory loads were introduced by the Western Cartridge Company, again, followed by others. It was great for hunting on most any continent, but especially in the American west and on the African plains.
The appearance of the .300 H&H will seem a bit odd to those who are used to looking at modern Magnum cartridges. Its shape is reminiscent of a Saturn V rocket, or perhaps of a .22 Hornet that took a lot of growth hormones. Very long for the caliber with a long, sloping shoulder and a long neck. It is a belted magnum, the belt at the base of the cartridge being used for positive headspacing. When the .300 Winchester Magnum was introduced in the 1960s it became very popular and it relegated the .300 H&H nearly to oblivion. Though it is also belted, being based on the older round, the .300 Win was shorter and could therefore be used in a .30-06-length action. Still, it had larger powder capacity for slightly better ballistics. A plethora of short and shorter .30 magnums has followed. The magnum waters are muddied as a result, but performance differences between old and new are not that great, especially with handloaded cartridges, where the .300 H&H still really shines. And, in spite of its shape, it gives nothing away in accuracy to newer cartridge designs.
But the big question is: How does it shoot in a Ruger #1?
At the Range with the .300 H&H: Not for Sissies
Good ‘ol Mother Nature allowed me only one day at the range with the Cabela’s No.1 before lowering the boom of snow and ice on my shooting activities. It was an interesting day. It was a good day, in spite of only putting about 15 rounds downrange. I turned the rear sight blade upside down to use the larger notch and put up some
circular targets to center the front bead at 50 yards. I used Federal Premium Trophy 180-grainers to begin. They have some kind of pure copper concoction for the bullet. The first three-shot group measured about .40”. Holy cow, I was elated, but as often happens, the following groups enlarged, to .59” and 1.08”. Still, an average of about 2/3 of an inch sent me home feeling good. I think possibly the all-copper pills fouled the new bore rather quickly. I then tried a few handloads using IMR 4350 behind a Hornady Spire Point. These rounds gave groups of slightly over an inch.
I did not chronograph any of the shots. In the winter you don’t do all the things that you do in the summer. The Federal factory rounds profess a muzzle velocity of 2880 fps, and I can tell you that my shoulder felt that they were giving all of that. The .300 H&H Mag is not for folks who are even the least bit intimidated by recoil, and there are plenty of good thirties to choose from that will thump you a lot less. It seems to me however, that the kick is not as sharp as with some other magnums, and I am looking forward to more punishment as I check out the gun and ammunition at greater length. I do not think recoil will be a problem if I limit shooting to a reasonable number of groups per range visit.
Otherwise, the rifle functioned perfectly. The trigger was crisp and not too heavy. The gun reposed comfortably in the bench rest, but need I say my sight picture was not very sharp.
The Bottom Line
This is a fine rifle, everything it is cracked up to be. It makes me dream about going after Greater Kudu in Africa. That is probably not in the cards, but the stage is set for an accuracy quest with a lot more range shooting. No accuracy tweaking of the rifle will be attempted, however, until I am sure of what the piece is doing in stock form. There may never be any need for accuracy tweaking, for that matter.
You might have guessed that .300 H&H factory ammo is a very pricey item. That’s right, it is in the range of $45 -$65 for twenty rounds, so there will be no testing of large amounts of factory ammo reported by this retiree. However, I have plenty of appropriate powder and, of course, a large selection of .308 bullets for handloading. I have fifty new Norma cases in addition to the factory empties and I have procured a Lee two-die set with a collet neck sizer. It should work well with cases fired only in this rifle. Since it headspaces on the belt, I expect it will work out about the same as loading for rimmed cases like the .30-30 and .30-40. Boy o boy o boy I can’t wait to fire it with a scope and have installed a Burris Hunter Benchrest 6X unit. This scope is very crisp and has fine crosshairs, just the ticket for group shooting at 50 yards. Only trouble is, it is winter at the range. One thing I can say, though, before leaves fall next year you will know more about just how well this rifle can shoot.