For 13 years, Ruger produced an inexpensive yet elegantly simple falling-block single-shot rifle, the Ruger No. 3

Based on the company's more aristocratic No. 1 under-lever John Farquharson-style single-shot rifle, except in a simpler "American" design that evoked memories of the old Sharps series from the late 19th century, the No. 3 was introduced in 1973.

Ruger No 1 44mag
The Ruger No 1, introduced in the mid-1960s, is a beautiful rifle. The Ruger No. 3 was essentially a simplified version. 

Using an uncheckered stock with a barrel band on the forearm, the Ruger No. 3 had a 22-inch barrel and a lightweight – just 6 pounds – with an adjustable rear leaf sight and gold bead front. A sliding tang safety and smooth furniture crafted out of American walnut rounded out the rugged and reliable rifle. 

Ruger no 1 action compared to Ruger no 3
Compare the action, lever, and stock of the Ruger No. 1, left, with the Ruger No. 3, right. (Photos:

Across its production, the Ruger No. 3 was chambered in .22 Hornet, .30-40 Krag, .45-70 Govt., .223 Rem., .44 Mag., and .375 Winchester. Asking price, when introduced, was $165, which adjusts to just over $1K in today's inflated dollars. Compare this to the No. 1, which has been made in dozens of calibers and at least six models and had a $280 price tag when introduced in 1967.

Ruger No 3 rifle
This Ruger No. 3 in the Vault has a serial number in the circa 1976 range and is chambered in .45-70 Government. 
Ruger No 3 rifle
With a 22-inch barrel, it is still light and roughly the same length as a Ruger Mini-14, a benefit of the compact action. 


GI No. 3? 

One interesting side note on the No. 3 was that defense contractor General Dynamics in the early 1980s reportedly bought 1,400 stripped-down .308 caliber versions of the rifle to be used with their planned XM132/FGR-17 Viper anti-tank system. The disposable single-shot Viper was intended to replace older systems such as the famous M72 LAW as a man-portable armor buster at a time when the Soviets had something like 50,000 tanks. The No. 3 was to be used as a rifle insert for training, firing an inexpensive 7.62 caliber tracer round rather a rocket. 

The planned General Dynamics Viper, which incorporated the Ruger No.3 as a simulator. 

While the FGR-17 proved effective in some early tests, it was plagued by other issues and was never fielded. Robert L. Wilson, in his excellent Ruger book, details that the 3A Viper Simulator serial number was 132-39000 to -57000, which the company puts in the 1984-86 time frame. 

While the No. 3 faded away along with the Viper during the Reagan administration, the No. 1 remains in production today, leaving its less assuming younger brother to drift off into firearms history.


revolver barrel loading graphic