Bourjaily: Is the Ruger Gold Label a Failed Classic?

In the "North American Shotgun Battery" post I mentioned a Ruger Gold Label as my plains and pheasant gun, prompting Ralph the Rifleman to write in and ask me about it, as he was thinking of buying one. Unfortunately, even though the Ruger website showed the gun until recently, to my knowledge no new Gold Labels have been made for about four years. Now it is gone from the website and, as I understand it, officially dead. So, I have some explaining to do, since I gave the Gold Label Field & Stream's Best of the Best award back in 2005. In the September 05 issue I wrote:

"Ruger's Gold Label shotgun is a new American classic with distinctly English lines. Patterned after the round-action guns of John Dickson, the Gold Label is wonderfully slim and light; at 6 1 /2 pounds with 28-inch barrels, this 12 gauge is lighter and trimmer than many 20 gauges. . .

The Gold Label handles like a British best but sells for a price many ordinary uplanders can afford. Although the Gold Label was announced in 2002, production problems kept it from dealer's shelves until this year. It's here now, and upland hunters can rejoice. $2000."

I still think the Gold Label - one of Bill Ruger's final projects - was a great idea. At the time of that writing in '05, Ruger was finally producing Gold Labels and they were showing up in stores. However, what I didn't know was that the Gold Label was too good to be true: it cost so much to produce that Ruger couldn't make any money selling them for $2000.

I loved the lines and the feel my T&E* Gold Label enough to buy it despite flaws in its finish common to every Gold Label I've seen: look along the barrels on mine and you see ripples like an asphalt road on hot day. Wood to metal fit is only adequate. The trademark Ruger stainless receiver would look much better if it were blued or case colored. Nevertheless, it's a fine hunting gun and the Gold Label represented a noble but failed effort to make a light, graceful side by side gun in the United States for little more than the price of a base model Citori or Beretta 686. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

*Testing and Evaluation. By the way, contrary to what many people believe, most manufacturers don't cherry-pick or even look at the T&E guns they send us writers. We usually get the luck of the draw right out of the warehouse, just like everyone else.