Beautifully engraved certificate from the Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. issued
in 1998. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of a man and a boy with a rifle, with an under print of a handgun. This item has the printed signatures of the Company’s Chairman and Secretary.
When Sturm, Ruger & Company opened for business 50 years ago on a meager $50,000 investment, the start was in the face of serious doubts from industry insiders. The "It can't be done" remarks of the experts reflected the widespread view that the manufacture of guns had likely peaked, and was in a state of decline. There seemed to be few new ideas, and the apparent trend was that the large, established gunmakers would continue to dominate the market.
But this fledgling company was guided by several well-thought-out concepts, not the least of which was Ruger's intent to build products "to a standard so I would want it even if it was made by our competitors." This fundamental concept, this deceptively simple touchstone of the underlying principles of innovation, quality and value, has proved so compelling that some 50 years later there is no question which company is pre-eminent in the American firearms industry. Sturm, Ruger's rise to its present well-earned position has made it a respected company on the New York Stock Exchange since 1990. In 1997 alone, Ruger produced more than 600,000 firearms for hunting, target-shooting, collecting, self-defense, law enforcement and the armed forces. And in the course of the past half century, the company has had the opportunity to purchase each one of its "big four" rivals.
From the very first months in that little red barn near the Southport, Connecticut train station, innovative products were designed and sound decisions were made. The company maintained a basic philosophy of top-thin staff of management, designers and engineers (the majority themselves gun enthusiasts), using advanced business techniques and creating original firearms concepts, built using cutting-edge manufacturing technology. Each product was not only sound, reliable, accurate, and safe, but was produced with technological excellence. And every model was fairly and reasonably priced for the consumer-i.e. built to that standard, "so I would want it even if it was made by a competitor."
No other gunmaker in modern times has demonstrated such consistent, unrelenting, on-the-mark product innovation and development. Owning a Ruger has become a new goal for a loyal, worldwide and ever-increasing multitude of consumers.
By the 50th anniversary, the total of firearms built stands in excess of 16,000,000. At the same time, the company which achieved this resounding success has captured the imagination, interest and dedication of the hunting, shooting and technologically keen public at a level that begs comparisons in any field.
One can also take heart in recognizing the fact that Sturm, Ruger's achievements are firmly within the time-honored traditions of the American Industrial Revolution, and the "Yankee ingenuity" that Revolution represents. Sturm, Ruger & Co. has extended the historic achievements of pioneers like Eli Whitney, Simeon North, Robbins & Lawrence and Colonel Samuel Colt by spearheading a modern "industrial revolution" of its own creation. Among the most striking contributions of Sturm, Ruger in this technological transformation have been in pioneering precision investment casting technology, not only in ferrous and aluminum metals, but in the high-tech world of titanium.
It is as satisfying to view the four modern factory sites, in New Hampshire and Arizona (with corporate offices in Connecticut), as it is to admire the over 50 models of guns in the company's line, in variations totaling over 300. In excess of 2,000 employees make and market the line of firearms and specialized castings, the latter for industrial clients as diverse as aerospace, automotive, medicine and golf.
Yet another exemplary facet of the Sturm, Ruger epic is that all of this was achieved through sound business practices, and (virtually unheard-of in modern times) through reinvested earnings. In each year of its existence, Sturm, Ruger has posted a profit-never once borrowing a penny.
The company's history is all the more remarkable because it spans a period during which America's industrial base has been shrinking; when pundits have relegated the country to a service economy; and when media and activist pressures against firearms and hunting have reached peak levels. Yet even as the market shares of other major U.S. firearms firms have decreased, Ruger's continue to increase. Furthermore, only Ruger, of all the world's gunmakers, designs, engineers and manufactures a complete line of rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols. There is a Ruger gun for virtually every sporting, personal defense, military and police purpose. This unprecedented, unequaled and unsurpassed line is produced entirely in Ruger factories in America.
Under the leadership of Sturm, Ruger & Co., gunmaking has been revitalized and, in some ways, reassumed a dominant place in contemporary technology. This is particularly true in the arena of precision investment casting. Sturm, Ruger & Co. occupies a singular position at the forefront of that time-honored discipline.
Sturm, Ruger & Co. has also been a pivotal institution with far-reaching impact on the shooting sports. As a designer, gunmaker, manufacturer, marketer and technical innovator, Ruger has led the firearms field toward the 21st century. And in its catalogues, manuals, public service messages and advertising, the company has stressed safety and responsibility more strongly than other makers.
Recognition of the stature of Sturm, Ruger & Co. beyond the firearms field has been widespread, ranging from a case study by the Harvard Business School, to articles in Forbes magazine (in which the founder was termed "crusty and unflappable"), to such television programs as CNN's "Pinnacle" and "60 Minutes," and in countless other media.
Despite all the recognition, the fanfare and, the hoopla, William B. Ruger himself remains dedicated to the same principles and ideals that guided the company from the very beginning. He remains devoted to the company, and to its future. Typically, he has stated: "It's the company's 50th anniversary-not mine."
The fact remains that the story is one of which America can be proud. The world of firearms has long ago recognized and welcomed the once-tiny New England company, about which some had mistakenly said, "It can't be done."
That little red barn, where it all began five decades ago, still stands, a symbol of the extraordinary continuity of Sturm, Ruger & Co.-the same leadership, the same vision of quality-through five decades of continuous innovation and growth.
One need not state that Sturm, Ruger & Co. is ready for the 21st century-the more accurate observation is that, after 50 years of unprecedented achievement, the company is already there. And after that half century, although the goal of a complete firearms line has been reached, this company and its founder continue to set the example for an entire industry. In the process, Sturm, Ruger & Co. reminds the United States of America that it is still leader of the free world, that precision American manufacturing is alive and well-and that "it can be done."
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