History Lesson: Factory Engraved Ruger Revolvers
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
The timeline for factory engraved Ruger single action revolvers is short - just 4 years.
When Bill Ruger initiated the plan for engraved revolvers, he sent the first batch of guns to Spain to be engraved. A total of 20 revolvers were sent in December 1954; the majority of them returned to the states by September 1955.
Ultimately, the decision to have the engraving done right here in the “Good-Ole-U-S-of-A” won out over the imported work. Between 1954 and 1958, a total of 238 Ruger Single Sixes and eight Ruger Blackhawks left the factory as engraved guns. Most of them were engraved by Charles Jerred, who worked closely with Bill Ruger to develop and perfect the patterns used on the guns.
Jerred learned from Albert Kraus, who was one of the finest engravers in the United States during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Some of his engraving clients included musical composer and conductor John Philip Sousa, singer/songwriter/performer Gene Autry, automakers Horace and John Dodge, and famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
On March 17, 1954, Jerred quoted a cost of $50 per engraved revolver. He based this on the design requiring 12 hours to complete per gun, with his standard workday being 8-10 hours.
Ruger told Jerred that his quote was "not unreasonable," but that he felt they would be "on much surer ground" if he could do the work for $25.
He clarified to Jerred: "I do not want to suggest that you put price ahead of quality" and recommended that they agree on a simpler design to meet that price point.
Here are some of Jerred's drawings of different pattern options:
Ruger’s goal was a retail price of $95 to $100. In order to meet the retail price point, he had to consider his cost for the gun, the engraving, and mark-ups from the retailers. The gun itself cost $40.15; $11.85 was calculated for the case, grips, and shipping/insurance. With a budget of $25 for engraving, the final dealer cost would be $77, leaving the dealer with a profit margin of $18-$23.
By late-January 1955, Ruger sent the first batch of 10 guns to be engraved and sold as consecutively-numbered pairs.
By 1958, the MSRP for an engraved Single Six had risen to $150.50, which was quite a bit more than the standard model's MSRP of just $63.25. As such, consumer demand for the engraved guns had waned, and the factory agreement for engraving between Jerred and Ruger ended on May 19, 1958.
Today, the original engraved Rugers are highly prized by collectors for both their beauty and their scarcity. Expect to spend around $10,000 on one of the Jerred-engraved examples; one of the 20 done in Spain will set you back an untold amount, as they come up for sale so infrequently.
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