This Day in History: Sturm, Ruger & Company Gets their First FFL

Sturm, Ruger's first federal firearms license. Issued July 21, 1949
Sturm, Ruger's first federal firearms license. Issued July 21, 1949

Southport, CT -(Ammoland.com)- On July 21, 1949, Sturm, Ruger & Company was issued their first FFL or Federal Firearms License. With that single piece of government-issued paper, the then-brand-new company could begin legally dealing in firearms. Their FFL allowed them to “transport, ship, and receive firearms and ammunition in interstate and foreign commerce for a period of one year.”

Though it was just a small piece of paper, it was a really big deal. Just seven months earlier, in January 1949, Bill Ruger's success as we know it today was far from guaranteed. He was $40,000 in debt and just about ready to close up shop when he showed Alexander Sturm a prototype of something new that he was working on, harking back to his previous life with the military and arms development. Sturm liked what he saw and agreed to bankroll the project with $50,000.

The first Ruger “factory” was in a small, unassuming building affectionately dubbed the “Red Barn” across the street from a railroad depot in Southport, Connecticut. The company’s first offering was equally unassuming: a semi-automatic .22-caliber pistol designed for plinking.

Initially, a total of eight barreled pistol receivers were made as test guns for the new design. Ruger Standard Serial Number 3 was the first gun to leave the factory on September 15, 1949 – done so legally by way of their Federal Firearms License. That pistol was purchased by assembly department foreman John L. “Jack” Boudreau, despite the fact that the guns weren’t quite ready for primetime.

Some of the internal frame springs and pins were handmade one-offs. The serial numbers on the first eight guns were hand-stamped because the machine for that wasn’t up and running yet. A final magazine design hadn’t been completed yet, so Boudreau’s Serial No. 3 pistol utilized a modified High Standard HD pistol magazine. Grip medallions, which feature the now-iconic Ruger logo, hadn’t arrived, so a blank disc was inserted as a placeholder. By 1979, the one millionth Ruger Standard pistol was completed. That comes out to 2,777 Standard pistols a month – every month – for 30 straight years! That's no small feat, to be sure.

Ruger Standard pistol, serial number 3, shipped on September 15, 1949.

Since that first FFL was issued some 70 years ago today, the company has grown exponentially and has become one of the largest and most successful firearms companies in the United States. The humble startup consisting of just a few guys now has 1,800+ employees. Still based in Connecticut, Ruger has five factories across the US. The original “Red Barn” still stands and is today home to a real estate company. Alexander Sturm’s $50,000 investment sure paid off: Sturm, Ruger & Company is currently worth $940 million.


About Logan MeteshLogan Metesh

Logan Metesh is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry.

  • 6
    Leave a Reply

    Please Login to comment
    3 Comment threads
    3 Thread replies
    0 Followers
     
    Most reacted comment
    Hottest comment thread
    6 Comment authors
    JIAZEj harbetras52moe mensaleJohn H Recent comment authors
      Subscribe  
    Notify of
    JIAZ
    Member
    JIAZ

    My favorite, single action, magnum revolvers are by far my Rugers.

    ras52
    Member
    ras52

    Bill Sr. was not anti gun, but he thought the limit on magazine capacity would appease the gun grabbers. We all know that was wrong because the anti gun people are never satisfied, they always want more. He was a firearms genius, and I thank him and his company for some great guns.

    Ej harbet
    Member
    Ej harbet

    Many people didn’t understand the evil we faced.
    I blame the disarmers for my cinicism today.
    I remember when mini 14 mags were over $100 for 20rders if you could find them. That being said my first decent pistol was a mk1 standard and today I own several of rugers guns,they are excellent and keepers

    tetejaun
    Member
    tetejaun

    So? William Ruger went to Congress and demanded a 10 round magazine ban. Ruger said “Ordinary people do not need magazines over 10 rounds”. Bill Ruger then assisted drafting the “assault weapons ban”. BOTH actions violated the Second Amendment.
    Even today, their company says they build guns for “responsible” owners, or some such garbage. They JUST COULD NOT say “Firearms for Americans”. No, they had to qualify their statement.
    To this day, the Ruger company is still toeing the anti-gun line.
    I own NO Ruger arms. I don’t forget traitors to our Constitution.

    John H
    Member
    John H

    “tete” I don’t know what drugs you are on, but your information is pure bull shit !!!

    moe mensale
    Member
    moe mensale

    Bill Sr. proposed a ban on 15+ round magazines. The feds changed it to 10+ rounds. Can you provide a source link unequivocally showing Bill Sr’s part in drafting the ’94 AWB? No rush. I don’t know if they actually state that “responsible owners” line but would you prefer the company to publicly state they build firearms for idiots, imbeciles and other prohibited persons instead? You should visit their website and see all the anti-gun stuff on it. OK, I made that up. Bill Sr left the company in 2000 and died in 2002. Bill Jr left the company in… Read more »