Over Christmas, my dad decided to give me his old Ruger Single Six. I was completely taken aback when he did because I’ve always loved that gun. Even though I’ve probably only shot it a small handful of times. The reason I’ve always loved this gun is because it’s one of few things that I absolutely associate with my dad. Over the years I’ve never known my dad without that gun. He’s always had it in whatever vehicle he was driving; most often a pickup truck of some sort or another.
As you can tell it’s a bit rugged looking. After all, dad had this gun for fifty plus years. It was always in its holster under the seat or on his belt. This thing was used and used heavily at that. Over the years dad spent a lot of time on horseback doing the cowboy thing, riding the mountains looking after cattle. This gun was always with him. Whenever we went camping, driving out in the woods, hunting, whatever it was, this gun was always with him. If he shot a deer with his rifle, he’d use the Ruger Single six to finish the job if need be.
Dad has never been into shooting just to shoot because it’s fun. That’s more my style. I’ve always loved to shoot. Dad is more of a utilitarian when it comes to firearms. Guns are a tool, nothing more, nothing less. Even so, when it came to shooting this pistol, I saw dad do some pretty damned good shooting. The last time I watched him shoot it was about 20 years ago. I was visiting him and my step mother out on a ranch near the confluence of the Snake River and the Salmon River on the breaks of the Hells Canyon. I’m not sure how we got started, but my dad pulled out this pistol and was casually shooting walnuts out of a huge walnut tree in the front yard of the house. Not the low hanging fruit mind you, but walnuts high up in the massive tree. Don’t know about you, but in my way of thinking that’s some impressive shooting for someone who spent little time shooting just for the hell of it.
When dad handed the gun over to me we got to talking and he told me about the last time that he shot it. It was 10 years or so prior and he was out on Jackson Creek near Council, Idaho riding for strays with one of his cow dogs. Twiggy was the dog’s name. Dad got on his horse and headed up the hill and Twiggy ran ahead, bouncing through the bunch grass and around the trees, disappearing over the hill. As he followed along, he heard Twiggy yelping, obviously in some serious distress. Dad stood up in his stirrups to get a better look, and running hard towards him was Twiggy yelping and baying. Dad said she was running as fast as he’d ever seen a dog run. Right on her ass was a coyote, teeth bared, nipping at Twiggy’s tail and ready to kick some serious cow dog ass. The coyote was so bent on kicking Twiggy’s ass that it didn’t even notice the old man and his horse. Twiggy ran by, dad drew the Single Six with a cylinder full of .22 magnums, and shot the coyote while sitting in the saddle; pistol in one hand, reins in the other. Cowboy 1. Coyote dead. Twiggy forever grateful.
Wouldn’t you have loved to see that? I know I would have.
As you can see, the Ruger Single Six needs some work. Yeah, it shoots well, but it looks like what it is; a gun that’s spent fifty years living in a holster and used as it was intended to be. I don’t want to refurbish it, just give it a good, thorough deep cleaning. I like the idea that it has marks and blemishes put there by whatever way the old man was using it over the years. Dad says he bought it second hand back in the year that I was born, 1962. He says it was in new condition and he seems to think it was manufactured around ’61, but based on the serial number and a cursory look on Ruger’s website, it appears to have been manufactured in 1954. Ruger initially began to manufacture the Single Six in 1953. I plan to call Ruger and get a for sure on that. It works perfectly. The old man used the hell out of it, but kept it oiled. Lots of holster wear as you can imagine. It has two cylinders; one for standard .22 long, long rifle, short. The other cylinder is chambered for .22 magnum. Looking at the cylinders, the .22 magnum saw the most gun time. The .22 magnum is an awesome round.
This gun predates the safety mechanism that allows one to safely carry six, so you want to carry this gun with five in the pipes and the chamber under the hammer empty. Ruger offers to convert it over to the safe to carry six mode for free, but it requires sending it to them. I don’t intend to do that.
I’m looking forward to taking my son out and shooting it. He looks at it and says, “Cool cowboy gun, papa.”
Yep, sure is. I’m no cowboy, but when the day comes that I give this gun to my son, it will still be a “cowboy gun” because, well, a cowboy carried the thing for over fifty years.