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High Quality, Low Price: Ruger American Rifle Review

by G&A Staff   |  April 4th, 2012 20

This all-new bolt gun is a real departure for Ruger. With a retail price of just $449, it turns in head-shaking accuracy.

What would you think about a brand-new bolt-action hunting rifle from Ruger that weighs only 6.25 pounds, has a user-adjustable trigger, shoots minute of angle with factory ammunition, and carries a recommended retail price of only $449? Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, it’s here right now. It’s called the Ruger American Rifle, and it’s about as different from any of Ruger’s previous bolt-action rifles as you can get.

Available both in long-action and short-action configurations, the Ruger American Rifle is initially being offered in .30-06, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .243 Winchester; more chamberings will soon follow. Unlike Ruger’s legendary 43-year-old Model 77 and newer Hawkeye series bolt-action guns, the Ruger American’s fully enclosed receiver is drilled and tapped for Winchester Model 70 scope mounts, and a set of Weaver No. 46 crosscut bases is included with  each gun. That’s right, no Ruger rings.The American Rifle also has the new Ruger Marksman Adjustable 3- to 5-pound user-adjustable trigger, a two-position tang safety, a fast-locktime fire-control mechanism, a detachable rotary magazine, and a lightweight synthetic stock with a patent-pending free-float bedding system. It isn’t your daddy’s Ruger bolt gun.

New and Different
The Ruger American Rifle is an entirely new Ruger platform and features an investment-cast receiver with flat-angled exterior surfaces to eliminate any rotation in its bedding. It has a solid, closed top and an angled side-opening ejection port. There is a gas vent hole in the forward bolt-locking area for the rare event of a cartridge case rupture.

The bolt is full diameter throughout its length and carries three locking lugs that allow for a 70-degree throw, which keeps the bolt handle fully clear of any scope when cycling. Dual cocking cams are employed for smooth cycling; it’s nearly impossible to make the bolt bind no matter how off-line you pull or shove it.

Bolt removal is easy. Simply pull it to the rear while simultaneously pressing on the rear of the boltstop located on the left rear side of the receiver. Complete instructions for bolt disassembly are included in the American Rifle’s manual, but it will be a very rare occurrence for any normal user to need to take it apart.

The naturally ambidextrous, two-position manual tang safety on the American is located immediately behind the boltsleeve (much like the original Ruger Model 77 safety from way back when), which is where I think all safeties should be located on all rifles, falling within the natural reach of the firing hand thumb whether shooting right-handed or left-handed. The safety selector can be moved from the “Fire” position to the “Safe” position only when the firing pin is cocked, and the bolt can be cycled while the safety is engaged. When the bolt handle is fully raised to cock the firing pin, the cocking piece will protrude from the rear of the bolt shroud, providing a visual/tactile cocking indicator. Plus, the manual tang safety is complemented by a passive, trigger-mounted safety that positively locks the trigger unless it is physically squeezed.

The Ruger American’s new Marksman Adjustable trigger is one of the gun’s most innovative aspects. Externally it resembles the famous Savage AccuTrigger in that it utilizes a slotted trigger body with a trigger release lever, but the internal design is quite different. The trigger pull weight can be adjusted from approximately 3 pounds to approximately 5 pounds. To access the pull weight setscrew, you need to remove the barreled action from the stock. The trigger setscrew is located on the forward outside edge of the fire-control housing. The screw is treated with a thread-locking compound at the factory and will probably be stiff to move the first time you adjust it. (Be sure to use a properly fitted screwdriver and apply some Loctite when you have it where you want it).

Threading the screw in (clockwise) increases trigger pull weight; threading the screw out (counterclockwise) reduces trigger pull weight. It takes approximately six full turns of the screw to cover the full range of trigger pull weight adjustability. If you turn the screw beyond this amount on either end, it will not further increase or decrease trigger pull weight. Turning the screw too far in may cause the trigger to bind and not function; turning the screw too far out may prevent the barreled action from reassembling to the stock. Ruger recommends turning the screw only in half-revolution increments and testing the pull weight at each interval as the best way to get the exact “feel” you want.

The design of the American Rifle’s synthetic stock is also new for Ruger. It features wedge-shaped, patent-pending, Power Bedding stainless-steel blocks insert-molded into the stock material to positively locate the receiver with no possibility of receiver rotation or shift. The Power Bedding also free-floats the barrel. The stock’s external configuration blends classic American buttstock lines with a more modern “finger relief” fore-end contour and also has a molded-serrations pistol grip with ambidextrous palmswells. A thick, soft rubber recoil pad is standard on all Ruger American Rifle chamberings (and is really appreciated when shooting the lightweight .30-06 gun). Plus, there are sling-swivel studs, of course.

Removing the barreled action from the stock is easy. And that’s a good thing because you’ll need to if you want to adjust the trigger. Just loosen and remove the two hex-head screws in the bottom of the stock and lift out the barreled action. Adjust the trigger if you want or just admire the Power Bedding and the stock’s internal design. Then replace the barreled action assembly, making sure the two angled bedding blocks fit into the corresponding grooves in the receiver. Loosely install the two screws and tighten them down. Do not tighten one screw all the way and then the other. Instead, alternately tighten each one, a partial turn at a time, keeping them going in evenly until both are snug at 60 to 80 inch-lbs. The stock is synthetic, remember?

The Ruger American’s 22-inch barrel is cold hammer forged to exacting tolerances, providing sub-MOA accuracy; long-term endurance; and an easy-to-keep-clean, mirror-smooth bore finish. Cold hammer forging is a superior way to put rifling in a barrel. It takes an oversized barrel blank and, using high-pressure rotary hammers, compacts the barrel blank over a reverse-rifled mandrel. This forms perfect rifling devoid of tool marks. It also compacts the molecular structure of the metal, making it denser and stronger.

The Ruger American’s polymer magazine is a flush-fit, four-round, rotary design. It does not require any type of angled insertion—just snaps straight in. To pop it out, just press rearward on the latch on the magazine’s forward end and pull it down. The cartridges top-load and press-in, without needing to slide under the magazine lips.

To charge the rifle, push the magazine up into the magazine well until it latches (you’ll feel and hear the click). If you want that “plus-one” round, just chamber the top cartridge, put the rifle on “Safe,” remove the magazine and add one, and replace. And if you feel the need, extra Ruger American magazines are available from

I just love detachable rotary magazines. I don’t exactly know why I always feel more comfortable with an extra one in my pocket. Five rounds ought to be enough.

Proof of the Pudding
I first handled the new Ruger American Rifle at Ruger’s Newport, New Hampshire, manufacturing facility during a visit last November, but did not have the opportunity to fire one until a review sample .30-06 model arrived at PASA Park in early January. By then colleague J. Guthrie had already taken a fine Texas trophy whitetail with the gun and was singing praises about its accuracy and handling qualities. I wasn’t exactly dubious, but I was definitely curious whether a rifle so moderately priced could really deliver the sub-MOA accuracy that Ruger President Mike Fifer was claiming and whether the gun’s recoil pad would really be enough to make such a lightweight .30-06 feel comfortable to shoot. The American satisfied on both counts.

I took five different loads of hunting-grade commercial .30-06 ammunition from my inventory, ranging in bullet weight from 125 to 180 grains, and ran the rifle through a benchrest accuracy protocol at 100 yards, using Weaver’s new KASPA riflescope in classic 3-9X deer hunter’s format for an optic. (For more on the scope, see the sidebar on page 42.) The trigger pull as the rifle came from the box was right at 4.0 pounds. That’s a little heavier than I usually prefer, but it was so dead-perfect crisp and clean and crawl-free that I didn’t even tinker with it before loading up. Crisp and clean has always been more important to me than weight.

The firing results are listed in the accuracy chart, and the overall combined average for all groups with all loads came in at 0.99 inch (0.95 MOA). And that was with a mere 9X magnification optic. Mr. Guthrie, who put a 30X target scope on his review rifle, reported one-hole groups. The Ruger American Rifle obviously shoots like American riflemen expect their tools to shoot these days.

I like this rifle. Admittedly a departure from Ruger’s traditional traditionalism, it is thoroughly “modern” in format, with every feature that today’s discerning hunters and riflemen demand, and it performs superbly at a price that still sets my head to shaking. I’m looking forward to having one—as soon as Ruger chambers it in 7mm-08.

  • Untacticool

    Typically Ruger; fine quality, reasonable (in this case better than reasonable) cost.

  • Roy L. Goodrich

    I hope that a left-hand version wil be coming soon. I will buy a right-hand rifle for my 2 sons but the oldman is asouthpaw. My favorite caliber would be 6.5 Creedmore with 24 inch barrell. It is an amazingly accurate and deadly long range number.

  • John

    Nice piece. Innovative. For twenty years I bought every new gun that came out. One day it occurred to me that none of them would shoot better than the old Remington 700 I had always carried. I think I am cured now. Sure it would be nice to fumble with and show…but I'd still grab the old Remington in the end. Think I will leave this one, and the next "must have" at the dealer. I don't think any animal will know which one dusted him…or care.

  • David

    I can't afford the high priced rifles that most magazines seem to wrtie about, but when I saw the American in "Shooting Times" and the price I had to check it out. Checked it out, bought it, and shot it in — 3 rounds inside a silver dollar at 200 yds with a Bushnel Legend 3-9x 50mm scope after getting it on paper (too excited to shoot it to bore site). Feels great, looks great, shoots great, and you can't beat the cost!! Looking forward to years of service from my American along with my other Made in America Rugers.

  • Starky

    Recently handled one. Not impressed. When cycling the bolt met with resistance. I then pushed the bolt ahead slowly and saw that the bolt tilted down as it neared the end of the cycle. Tried it several more times. Same resault. No way for the bolt face to be square with the barrel. Has to throw off the head space and with three locking lugs how much of the lug is in contact with the receiver. What does this say for Rugers quality control.

    • Brice Christian

      So how did the rifle shoot? Oh, you didn’t shoot it? You “handled” it. Hmmmm……

  • mike

    sounds like a great gun, but one pet peave the safety should lock the bolt on a hunting rifle and if you obey the main safety rules like always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction this is not a problem, and totaly agree tang safetys are where they all should be. love my old 77 rugers with tang safetys that lock the bolt.

  • Tony

    I own some expensive and much acclaimed firearms. I just bought the Ruger American; for accuracy, quality construction and smart features, I'll put it up against the Weatherbys, Remingtons, Brownings and/or whatever. This gun is a winner!

  • Bill

    Articles in Shooting Times, Guns & Ammo, & American Rifleman reported tests on the .30-06 caliber. I bought one in .270 Winchester since I have been shooting and reloading the .270 since 1974. I fitted mine with the new Weaver Kaspa 3 -9X. After site-in, I was able to place 3/4" to 1 1/8" 3 shot groups at 100 yards using a couple of factory loads. No machine rest. Just me and a Caldwell plastic 3 legged rest. I am just an average shooter. I was impressed. Comments in some blogs about heavy recoil appear to be unfounded. This rifle has less felt recoil than my Remingtion 700 ADL.

  • john

    Just another one of Rugers cast recievered pieces of "work" that I'll be passing on. Ruger is the Harley Davidson of guns. Simply a very well marketed P.O.S.

    • Scooter

      i have a n american rifle in .308 and a Harley Davidson motorcycle. BOTh perform as advertised.

      • Hark

        Right their with ya ! Scooter, Just bought a Ruger American .270 win. and I already own a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle.. can't wait to use the new Ruger …all the reviews I read so for so like I picked out the right gun..It was between the Savage Axis .270 win. & Ruger's American .270 win. Ended up getting the Ruger ! Good luck with your Hunting this year….

        • Nick

          Bought a Victory and with the savings over the HD I bought a Ruger American .243 for my daughter, a Savage Trophy Hunter .30-06 for my son, a new Kenmore vacuum cleaner and washer/drier for the wife! Ha!

  • CalBM1

    I have one in 308 and put on a banner night&day scope.Right on the money at 100 yards.I would buy another one in 5.56/223 if they would only make one.

  • E.B.

    I just ordered one in 270 calliber. Cant wait to shoot it. Im gonna put a Nikon 4x12x50 Buckmaster nikoplex scope on it. Read a lot of great reviews on the gun. I had my eyes all on a Savage Axis, but my friend had mentioned about this gun to me the other day and looked at ot on the web and i knew then that this was the gun for me. I hope that this gun will perform as well as my Remington 700 ADL in 30-06 calliber. I believe that Ruger has hit another HOMERUN with this gun. Ruger has ALWAYS made great products and will continue in years to come. Im ready to use this gun for this upcoming deer season in NC.Great Gun that is built in America!

  • robert

    hello, one problem in design is the magazine. when loaded and removed the shells are very hard to remove from the magazine. the "dip" at the back of the magazine is far too shallow to allow you to use your finger and push the shells out. i contacted ruger and advised them of the problem, it is the only one i could find. i hope ruger adjusts the rotary magazine concern as i need to use a piece of plastic and /or wooden dowel to remove the shells. regards, robert

  • steelshooter

    Just got back from the range with mine. In 270 it kicks like a mule (used to a 243) all funtions are as advertised. Word of advice' the barrel heats up enough that after 4 rounds the point of impact starts to walk around a lot. Groups were within 1 inch with a cool barrel and 130gr factory loads (cheap ammo).

  • Vince

    7mm-08 is listed as a new caliber in the 2013 catalog, both compact and standard models.

    Mag hard to unload? Leave it in the gun and cycle the bolt a few times…. then drop it out… ;)

  • steve_clark_1

    So he is happy with 4 + 1? Wow, why would they make a magazine design that won’t allow more rounds? I often shoot competition and a 10 round clip would be nice. Why not make a mag design that fits every ones needs? I should have bought the Rem 700 at least there are after market mag wells for it.

  • John

    I bought one in 243 and I going to love it once I get to shoot it I am sure. Would like to get it blue printed and re-barreled for F-Class although I would get it redone for Remington 260 or 6.5-06. I bought mine new from Walmart tonight for $267

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