The Ruger Red Label is back. Introduced in 1977, the Red Label Over/Under officially disappeared from the Ruger catalog in 2011, although it had been missing unofficially for a couple of years. The Red Label is the most complicated and labor-intensive gun Ruger makes, and I figured it was gone for good since the shotgun market is soft while the handgun/home defense/tactical market is booming. I was wrong. It was on hiatus, undergoing a redesign.
The 12 gauge models are available now, with 20s to follow in 2014. Except for some cosmetic differences, the Red Label looks very much as it always has. The side ribs between the barrels, which used to be owner-removable, are now gone. The big news is, the barrels are lighter by a few ounces for better handling, and the price has dropped $400. Ruger engineers went through the gun simplifying and in some cases eliminating parts to make the gun less expensive to produce. I have had a chance to shoot targets and hunt pheasants with the Red Label and will report on it in the magazine early next year.
The short version is this: The Red Label—except for the wand-like 28 gauge—was always a heavy gun. It was a mix of nice walnut and graceful lines and iffy fit and finish. It was beloved by many hunters who liked the idea of carrying an American-made O/U in the field. All of that is still true. Although it’s livelier now, it’s still a Red Label, and it’s still made in New Hampshire.
The newest, most exciting change though, is that the Red Label will list for $1399.