I Have This Old Gun: Ruger's Red Label

posted on July 20, 2022

Bill Ruger had a good sense of what the American market was looking for in a shotgun, which his company delivered with a design he called the "Red Label." An American-made, over-under shotgun line, the Red Label's origins started with the success of a competing firm's design. Browning demonstrated the market's interest in "stacked barreled" shotguns with the success of its own over-under shoguns, which were released near the end of the Great Depression.

A Ruger Red Label over-under shotgun add from 1982.
A Ruger Red Label over-under shotgun add from 1982.

In 1977, Ruger followed suit by developing its own over-under shotgun design during the height of the company's investment casting focus. The Red Label line delivered finely machined metal components and good craftsmanship in a sporting shotgun that was priced cheaper than higher-end European competitors on the market at the time. Reviewed by American Rifleman staff in 1978, it was noted that the Red Label was likely safer than other over-under shotguns on the market, due to the lack of rebounding hammers that made the risk of a double fire virtually impossible.

A view of some of the internal components of the Red Label's action.
A view of some of the internal components of the Red Label's action.

The Red Label shotguns also had some refined features. This included the location of the safety and barrel-selector knob on the top tang, which was simplistic and easy to operate. The design lines were also noteworthy, as it closely resembled the classic lines found on British-made over-under shotguns. The first versions of the Red Label were chambered in 20 ga., with the more popular 12-ga. version being introduced later on. At first, Red Label shotguns came with a blued receiver and barrels. Later on, the company made variations of the design, with one of the most noteworthy being the Ruger Woodside, which had the wood of the stock inletted with the receiver.

Shooting a Ruger Red Label on the range.
Shooting a Ruger Red Label on the range.

While Ruger proved its point that a quality over-under shotgun could be mass produced with modern technology and less reliance on hand-fitting, the cost of producing the Red Labels, and their resulting market costs, drove the price of the shotguns out of reach for the average American looking for a double-barrel shotgun. Thus, Ruger ceased production of the Red Label for a time, but it was re-introduced in 2013, with a 12-ga. model. However, after a few years, the newer version was also discontinued and is no longer offered by Ruger.

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST.    


Langdon Tactical Partners with Heckler & Koch
Langdon Tactical Partners with Heckler & Koch

Langdon Tactical Partners With Heckler & Koch

The lineup will include the P30, P30L and P30SK all in DA/SA and LEM options, along with the California-compliant P2000 model in DA/SA. In addition, Langdon will also be offering custom work on existing P30s and P2000s.

Preview: The Original Hammer Target

Steel targets and their respective stands are often cumbersome and heavy, making it a real chore to trek through rough terrain when placing targets, but Hammer Targets provides a simple solution with its target-and-stand system.

Handloads: A .338 Win. Mag. For Elk

Arguments never end about which cartridges are adequate for the hunting of elk. Nobody has ever said, however, that a bullet fired from a .338 Win. Mag. lacks enough power for that task.

New For 2022: Smith & Wesson Model 350 Revolver

Smith & Wesson unveiled a new large-frame revolver, the Model 350, which is chambered for the powerful .350 Legend cartridge.

Smith & Wesson CEO Issues Strong Statement In The Face Of 2nd Amendment Attacks

Amid an unprecedented and unjustified attack on the firearm industry, Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. President & CEO Mark Smith responded Monday with the following statement.

Preview: Talley Mfg. Anti-Cant Indicator

An easy upgrade for Talley’s factory scope rings is the company’s anti-cant indicator, a simple accessory that helps shooters get on target—especially distant ones.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.