April 04, 2012
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 www.shopruger.com.
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.