Ruger 96 in 44 Special

Most work that gunsmiths perform is for customers. This time, it’s personal. Here’s how I tuned my Ruger 96 for 44 Special.

by Brian R Smith

The Ruger 96 is a light, handy lever action carbine that was met with lukewarm reception during its approximate 14-year time in Ruger’s catalog. Perhaps the reason was due to it being pricey compared to its contemporary Marlin and Rossi competitors. Perhaps it was the somewhat “clubby” stock. Maybe some shooters were disappointed that it was never chambered in 357 Magnum or 45 Colt. One thing is for certain: The Ruger 96 is also one of those firearms that overnight became unobtanium once production was canceled.

Ruger introduced the Model 96 levergun in 1996, offering it as the 96/17 in 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, the 96/22 in 22 Long Rifle, the 96/22M in 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, and the 96/44, in 44 Remington Magnum. I’ve personally owned every model except the 96/17 at one time or another, and sold a 96/44 because of disillusionment with the 44 Magnum, but that’s a story for a different article.

I consider the Ruger 96 as the hybrid offspring of a Ruger 10/22 and Savage 99, with some genetic material from a Winchester 88 spliced in for good measure. The stock is pure Ruger 10/22, right down to the curved plastic buttplate and that ugly carbine band at the front of the forend. The lever and its long, curving bolt actuation arm, as well as the tilting bolt itself, are unquestionably Savage 99, as is the rotary magazine, although it’s detachable. Savage offered a detachable magazine in its Model 99 in later years, but it did not incorporate the rotary spool-type cartridge feed of Savage 99s with internal magazines.

The clubby, too-wide-at-the-forend stock with ugly carbine band aside, what makes the 96 attractive is its…

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