I don’t care what anyone says; the economy is rough, and none of us has any loose change to leave on the table. That’s why, on a whitetail hunt in western Missouri last November, when Ken Jorgenson of Ruger told me how much the company’s new American Rifle costs, my eyes opened wide.
“Suggested retail of $449, but I have seen them on the shelf in places for around 300 bucks,” he said. With a straight face! For a made-in-the-USA Ruger? What corners did you cut; what does this rifle leave on the table for that kind of money?
“Not a thing,” he said. “You’ll see.” And I did.
First, some perspective. While many of us believe — and rightly so -— that when a firearms manufacturer talks up their “affordable” rifles, what they often mean is “put together quickly and inexpensively and, thus, you can expect subpar performance.” After all, you get what you pay for, right?
In this case, however, Ruger did something else — they built a rifle that is easy to handle afield, shoots very, very well, and has some upgraded features that they can sell for very little money and still make a profit. The Ruger American Rifle is a departure from the company’s iconic Model 77, with the investment-cast, controlled-round-feed action with twin, opposing locking lugs and an average-at-best trigger. The American is a svelte 6½ pounds and has eye-pleasing lines. It functions and shoots as good as it looks.
What are the obvious changes? First, there is a new bedding system that replaces the recoil lug and is one of the American’s biggest innovations. Ruger calls it “Power Bedding,” and it’s one of two patented features on the rifle. Here two sets of slots have been machined into the underside of the receiver in front and behind the ejection port, and matching cast stainless-steel V-blocks have been set into the molded stock. In this system the V-blocks cannot move an eyelash — and they also enable the barrel to be free-floated. Also, two Allen-head screws secure the action to the V-blocks, which also grab the stock. This results in a solid steel-on-steel-on-steel system that simply cannot damage plastic or wood.
The Ruger 77 was known for its controlled-round feed, something I was never a huge fan of and which costs a lot of money to manufacture properly. The American Rifle instead employs a one-piece, push-feed bolt built from brushed steel — and it is smooth and easy to cycle. Also, three lugs have been put on the bolt head and the bolt throw is just 70 degrees. Dual cocking cams allow shooters to more easily cycle the bolt, even when the rifle is mounted to the shoulder. The smooth bolt handle is machine turned, then bent to its final shape, it and sports a matte-black finish that matches the receiver. The rifle also employs a standard plunger-style ejector and sliding-blade extractor.
Then there is the trigger. Few things about hunting rifles in general bug me more than one with a creepy, sloppy trigger. That is not the case with the trigger found on the Ruger American. This new Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger can be easily adjusted between 3 and 5 pounds by simply turning a set screw at the front of the trigger body. It offers a crisp release, and a passive trigger-mounted safety that positively locks the trigger for an additional measure of security over the tang safety is also included. In this the small safety blade that protrudes from the trigger’s face locks the trigger, not the sear, unlike those found on a Glock or Savage Accu-Trigger, which lock the sear. The tang safety can also be placed “on safe” while the bolt is cycled.
Magazines are often overlooked when shopping for a serious hunting rifle, but they shouldn’t be. A magazine must be reliable, easy to load, and quick and simple to insert and take out. The American’s magazine is molded from the same material as the stock and sits flush with the underside radius, and a small spring-loaded latch snaps into place and holds the magazine tight. The rotary design holds four rounds in standard calibers.
Instead of the old-school Ruger proprietary ring scope mounts, the American Rifle features four drilled-and-tapped holes that accept No. 46 Weaver bases that are currently supplied by Ruger. To these you can attach the same Weaver-style scope rings popularly used with Picatinny rails.
“We named the rifle the ‘American” because every part of the gun is made in the USA,” Jorgenson said. When building this gun, Ruger has admittedly cut a few corners — but very few. For example, in every single place they can, Ruger uses metal injection-molded or plastic parts. The company expects to make a boatload of these rifles, and so it was designed to not use space-age materials or special tooling, and it does not need any hand-fitted parts. The company buys parts and builds barrels by the warehouse, and this helps keep manufacturing costs way down. The genius is streamlining production while improving performance.
The American Rifle I shot on my November hunt was chambered in .30-06. Like others in this line (chamberings are also available in .22-250, .243, .270, 7mm-08, and .308), it featured a 22-inch hammer-forged barrel, Ruger’s Marksman Adjustable Trigger, lightweight composite stock with recoil pad, full diameter three-lug 70-degree bolt, tang safety, and detachable flush-fit rotary magazine. Overall length of the ’06 is 42½ inches, and weight is a feather-light 6¼ pounds. Also available is a compact version chambered in .243, .7mm-08, and .308 with 18-inch barrel and overall weight of 6 pounds.
To the range we went. The rifle was topped with a Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 3-9x50 scope — later at home I changed that out for a Nikon 2.5-10x42 BDC scope — and we fed it Winchester Ballistic Silvertip ammunition featuring a 150-grain bullet. The rifle showed its stuff right off the bat, producing a three-shot, 100-yard group measuring right at an inch. “These rifles just shoot well,” Jorgensen, who is a whale of a rifle shot himself, told me. And he is right. Later, when I returned home and had time to shoot it more extensively on the range, I fed it factory ammunition from Hornady, Remington, and Federal as well as Winchester. As usual, the rifle liked some better than others, but it shot all well — and in a couple of instances, exceedingly well. I could not have been more pleased.
The Ruger American Rifle is accurate, carries easily, shoulders quickly, and is a joy to shoot. I have not seen a better buy in a high-quality hunting rifle in a coon’s age. Check them out at your local dealer or, for more information, visit www.ruger.com or Facebook.com/Ruger.
Rifle: Ruger American Rifle
Standard caliber: .30-06 (also available in .22-250, .243, .270, 7mm-08, and .308)
Overall length: 42 1/2 inches
Barrel length: 22 inches
Weight: 6¼ pounds (unscoped)
Magazine capacity: 4+1 detachable rotary box
Trigger: Ruger Adjustable Marksman trigger user-adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds.
Stock: Lightweight black composite stock with textured grip and fore-end and recoil pad