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All American: Ruger American Rifle Review

by J. Guthrie   |  May 1st, 2012 54

In the not-so-distant past, before I was old enough to drive and worry about truck payments, I toiled in the hot Georgia sun doing anything that would earn me a buck—for one reason. At summer’s end, my shooting buddy and I would pile into a pickup, head to the area’s best gun store and lay down every penny we had made on a new rifle or shotgun. I suspect quite a few other kids in rural America did—and still do—the same thing.

Not for a second did I regret seeing my earnings forked over the counter, because they were always spent on a quality firearm. If anything, I was following American tradition. Many a frontiersman watched a whole season of furs go to pay for a fine flintlock, and quite a few sharecroppers saved for years for a good bobwhite gun. I still have and use all the rifles, shotguns and handguns bought during those years. After all, we all expect our guns to last.

So the most recent trend in rifles, a product of tough economic times, is to produce something cheap. Needless to say, I am not a big fan of that. Euphemisms such as “affordable” and “inexpensive” appear in the marketing literature when the adjectives “clunky” and “ugly” are more apt in many cases. Lousy triggers and minute-of-pie-plate accuracy seem to be the rule. Manufacturers sigh when someone mentions these shortcomings and ask, “Well, it’s an inexpensive rifle. What did you expect?”

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Ruger, to its credit, chose another route. The designers did not set out to build a cheap rifle, instead they set out to build a very nice rifle that happens to be inexpensive. The new Ruger American is also a departure from the stalwart Model 77. Gone is the investment-cast, controlled-round-feed action with twin, opposing locking lugs and a trigger group that could be politely described as average. The American is a svelte 61/2 pounds and has eye-pleasing lines. It functions and shoots as good as it looks.

Last February the rifle was an idea with a price in mind. The bosses locked one manufacturing and three design engineers, all very talented and experienced rifle guys, in a conference room, shoving pizzas and beer under the door, until the first prototype was finished. In only 10 months after getting started, the American was rolling off production lines. But the designers did not set out to build a cheap rifle. Instead they designed it for affordability. There is a difference.

The receiver starts as a length of 4140 chrome-moly bar stock. After a few minutes in the mill, it rolls out with slick, angular lines. Ruger is pairing the new receiver with its tried-and-true cold-hammer-forged barrel. Cold-hammer forging is a way to turn out a great barrel quickly. Both are finished with a matte-black oxide finish, and there is no recoil lug sandwiched between.
Some Ruger diehards might be shocked to find a barrel nut attaching the two, but instead of some huge, knurled lug nut, the small part is barely noticeable. During assembly, a collet grabs the barrel nut and applies the proper torque without marring the part. The nut is a great way to set minimum headspace quickly and efficiently, increasing accuracy. It is a feature common to inexpensive rifles, though Ruger’s nut is by far the best looking.

A new bedding system replaces the recoil lug and is one of the American’s big innovations. Two sets of slots are machined into the underside of the receiver fore and aft of the ejection port are matching, cast stainless steel V-blocks set into the molded stock. Since they are molded into the stock, the V-blocks cannot move a micron. Two Allen-head screws secure the action to the blocks, capturing the stock in the process. The result is a steel-on-steel-on-steel system immune to crushing plastic or wood. The company refers to it as “Power Bedding,” and it’s one of two patented features on the rifle. One side of the V-block has a slight radius to account for manufacturing tolerances and guarantee that the action seats consistently each time the screws are torqued down.

A Sensible Push-Feed
Unless you hunt Cape buffalo or elephants on a regular basis, controlled-round feed is overkill in my book, complicating something that should be simple. It is also expensive to manufacture, cast receiver or not. So the American dumps this overwrought affectation for a full-bodied, one-piece, push-feed bolt of brushed steel. This eliminates the need to machine or broach raceways in the receiver and is very smooth when cycled. Listening closely to customer preferences, Ruger put three lugs on the bolt head and reduced bolt throw to 70 degrees. A fairly standard plunger-style ejector and sliding-blade extractor get cartridges in—and out of—the chamber.

One of the big disadvantages of a shorter bolt throw is the increased difficulty in cocking the rifle or “running” the bolt. Engineers were quick to notice this and borrowed a previously thought-of solution—dual cocking cams. This allows shooters to more easily cycle the bolt, even when the rifle is mounted. The smooth bolt handle, by the way, is machine turned, then bent to its final shape. It wears the same matte-black finish as the receiver, a nice contrast to the brushed bolt body.

Triggers have always been the Achilles heel of inexpensive rifles—and expensive rifles, for that matter. The new Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger is, frankly, better than most, if not all, stock Model 77 Hawkeye triggers I have tried in the last 20 or so years. Crisp with little travel, the American’s trigger is also end-user adjustable with an adjustment range of three to five pounds. Turning a set screw at the front of the trigger body changes the pull weight. Most shooters will be familiar with the small safety blade that protrudes from the trigger’s face—just like a Glock or Marlin X7 or Savage AccuTrigger—though Ruger’s design locks the trigger, not the sear.

In a tip of the hat to the original Model 77 Mk 1 and customer preference, there is a two-position, top-tang safety just behind the bolt shroud. It is not part of the receiver tang, rather an extension of the trigger housing. The safety does not lock the action, so you can cycle the bolt to empty the chamber while the gun is on “safe.” Another nice touch is the left-side bolt release, which lies flush with the receiver until the bolt is pulled all the way rearward.

Aesthetics, Aesthetics
The absolute No. 1 way to tell a cheap rifle from a nice rifle at a distance is the stock. The Marlin X7 was the first budget rifle to have a stock that would not embarrass you on the range in front of your friends. The American stock is a beauty queen, too, as beautiful as glass-filled polypropylene can be. Straight-combed with a palm-filling, but elegant pistol grip and integral triggerguard, the stock wears enough stippled finish to stick but not look ugly. A finger shelf runs almost the entire length of the fore-end. Add a recoil pad with just enough give and a red-inlay Ruger phoenix on the pistol-grip cap and you have yourself a damn nice piece of plastic.

While blind magazines are more aesthetically pleasing, detachable box magazines sell rifles. The American’s magazine is molded from the same material as the stock, flush with the underside radius, and, thank God, does not rattle. A small but easy-to-grab spring-loaded latch snaps into place and holds the magazine close. The rotary design borrows a page from the 10/22 magazine and holds four rounds in standard calibers.

Gone, too, are the proprietary rings, and in their place are four drilled-and-tapped holes that accept No. 46 Weaver bases. Ruger is currently supplying the bases with each rifle.

Every spring, pin, nut and bolt is manufactured in the U.S., hence the rifle’s name.

So where are corners cut on this really nice, loaded-with-features rifle? In every single place possible, metal injection molded or plastic parts are utilized, but that is about it. Because the rifle was designed from day one to not use exotic materials or special tooling, no parts are hand fit, and because Ruger plans on making a lot of these rifles and buys parts and hammers out barrels by the truckload, it is less expensive to manufacture. The genius is streamlining production while improving performance. I see the Power Bedding, Marksman trigger and new receiver as improvements over a Model 77 and at half the price.

The finish on some of the parts you cannot see is less than perfect, and where the tang safety, receiver and stock all meet could use some tweaking. Past that, the American is a fine-looking rifle.

And yes, the rifles shoot like a dream. Company officials said every Ruger American is first proofed and then accuracy tested before leaving the factory, though that might change at some point. I have tested two (in .30-06), and both shot sub-MOA with a couple of different factory loads, and the overall accuracy average was every bit as good as other, more expensive rifles.

Field Trials
I have also hunted whitetail in Texas with the American and love the way the rifle handles. I prefer still hunting to stand hunting, and the American is made for a fellow who likes to hold a rifle in his hands. At a shade over seven pounds with scope, the American is light enough to carry all day but properly balanced. Careful blending of the magazine contours with the stock contours makes it comfortable to carry at the balance point, and there is not a sharp edge or large appendage to catch on clothing or brush. The rifle does not rattle, something other riflemakers cannot seem to get right. It cycles so smoothly you have to double-check that a round went into the chamber (it always did).
When I shouldered the American and lined up the scope on a mature 5×5 at Picosa Ranch, the American was perfect for the job at hand. As rifles go, the Ruger American is inexpensive, but it delivers where it matters. Then or now, I would not give a second thought to buying one with my hard-earned pay.

See photos and specifications of the guns mentioned in this article and order from an inventory of thousands—all online through Gun Locator. Visit GalleryofGuns.com.

The author was impressed with the Ruger American’s performance on Texas whitetail.

 

  • https://www.facebook.com/KFlan69 Kelly Christopher

    It's called the Ruger American Rifle but it's in front of a backwards French flag? Does anyone find that funny?

    • Michael

      I thought the same thing when I saw it but the colors are shown in the red, white and blue order so I guess I'll allow it… this time.

      • M77 Fan

        Regardless. It should be in front of an AMERICAN flag.

        Inexpensive, fuctional, UGLY. Bill Ruger is turning in his grave right now! Somebody better call the graphics department and figure out how to make it look American!

    • Logan

      Granted. And yes…it would be better in front of an American flag…but I think the subtle idea they were trying to convey is…."Red, White, & Blue".

    • Mitch

      Actually they did it right, the American Flag is not to be used for decoration or for advertisements. Its one of the many etiquettes that most companies overlook. The fact that they were aware of this and followed the proper code makes me even more of a Ruger fan.

      • Victor

        Mitch, Kudos to you for knowing that! Veterans like me take such matters VERY seriously. People who use the flag in an inappropriate manner or desecrate the flag in any way immediately incur my wrath. I eat, sleep, and breathe AMERICAN. I just bought a .308 version of this great rifle.

  • old vet

    This rifle is so much different than any previous Ruger bolt guns, it is bound to rub many old fans the wrong way. It also to me looks way too identical too several other new low budget rifles out there. The plus side is I have seen several at our range, and they do function very smoothly and are very fine shooters. While no one can say what the majority of the shooting public will make of this rifle, It seems to me as good or better than your TCs or Savages. If I didn't already have several really good deer guns I'd sure consider one.

  • Zirk

    What about the action lock that comes with the rifle….. Made in, China! Really? Why?

  • Chiefbuck

    It took eight rounds to lock in my 243 American on a 1" bulls eye at 100 yards. All preliminary two shot groups were within an inch of each other. The rifle is lightweight, functional, inexpensive and American made. Father Time is catching up with me and I wanted another rifle that was light and had low recoil. I couldn't manage even one complaint and I'd highly recommend this rifle to anyone. I hesitated choosing the 243 because previously I had used primarily a 30 caliber round. Hopefully this deer season will eliminate any concerns that I had. Just in case I do plan to keep my other rifles on standby.

  • https://www.facebook.com/WSI.Gary.Smith Gary A Smith

    I researched and went to the sporting goods store ready to buy a Ruger American – it seemed to be the best of the budget hunting rifles. But the store sample rifle had a stock that was warped causing one side of the forehand area to be pressed hard against the barrel with a large gap on the other side. The salesman opened a new box and that rifle was better, the barrel was more or less centered in the stock forehand area. But just the weight of the rifle in my hand while I held it to check its fit made the forehand area flex. I really wanted to like this rifle and did for everything but the stock warping and flex problem. I ended up with a Savage Axis picked in a side by side comparison.

    • AJK

      I hope you have better luck than Idid with the Savage. They have a major problem with the bolt not resetting the firering pin and the bolt will not close. this happened to me with a large buck at 80 yards.

  • Guest

    I own one of these rifles. I sighted it in with about 60 rounds of ammo. Shot decent. First buck went down with one shot. Nothing went right since then. Missed a buck as the gun went click and while cycling the bolt the bolt came out in my hands. Sent it back to Ruger. They replaced the bolt lock mechanism and sent it back to me. Today everything went wrong with this rifle that could have. The gun did not go off. The bolt fell open and then fell out during cycling. The bullet jammed three times. I don't know what Ruger was thinking. It is poorly fitted and I will never buy another Ruger Rifle.

  • dillon

    im looking into buying the america in a 243 cal, is this a good gun for coyots

    • Victor

      Dillon, a friend of mine bought the exact same one after groping my .308 and falling in love. He wanted .243 for lower recoil and primarily coyote hunting. He has used that caliber for a while now for dropping doggies, but was using his dad's rifle and wanted his own. Your caliber choice is excellent, and will also take deer as well with proper placement and bullet selection. I would use a varmint class bullet for the dogs, and a larger game type bullet for deer. You will have a large selection to choose from!

  • James willwerth

    Just bought .308 shot the hornady custom sst 150gr was touching half inch groups at 100yds. Like the way action cycles very smooth, in fact my 8yr worked action and his comment " works like magic"" enough said. I partnered it w/nikon bdc 3/9 and it fits well to the cheek with a comfortable forearm and shoulder mount. Will use this for whitetails can't wait to see it in action. Being a marine and patriot i also loved the rifles name! Semper fi!

  • Brian

    I picked one of these up today looking at it as a gift for our outgoing First Sergeant. I was told that he liked this rifle better than a T3. I think we need to send him to mental health. The writer described the bolt action as "very smooth when cycled". What a bunch of horse poop! How much did Ruger pay him to write this review is what I am wondering. The action is anything but smooth and the rifle to me felt like a toy. I was about as impressed with this rifle as I would be with a hi-point pistol, in other words not very much. I think he just told his wife he liked this one more than the T3 because of the economic factor as he thinks he is paying for it out of his own pocket.

  • Jay

    I have purchased the Ruger American 30/06 this last fall for deer hunting. When I was out at the range and with a cold barrel I was able to hit the bull’s-eye dead on. However with round 2 was about 2 inches up and to the left and the 3rd round was about 4 inches up and to the left from round 2. After about a box of ammo I recruited a different guy from the range along with a range office and they both had the same problem. I could come up with two things; problem one would be the ammo and problem 2 would be the gun. I am shooting Remington 150 grain. Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas?

  • Jay

    I have purchased the Ruger American 30/06 this last fall for deer hunting. When I was out at the range and with a cold barrel I was able to hit the bull’s-eye dead on. However with round 2 was about 2 inches up and to the left and the 3rd round was about 4 inches up and to the left from round 2. After about a box of ammo I recruited a different guy from the range along with a range office and they both had the same problem. I could come up with two things; problem one would be the ammo and problem 2 would be the gun. Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas?

  • FreeRanger

    I absolutely admire Ruger handguns, and own several big .44's, single and double action revolvers. Recently, I ordered what I hear is a fine Ruger SR 1911 pistol. I was also very excited to read reviews of the new Ruger American Rifle. However, after checking them out in person, I just cannot bring myself to buy any (for young friends).

    Oh, there's a lot to like about the Ruger American Rifle. But the super flimsy stock foreend simply rattles my confidence. Reviews posted here revealing even more serious problems with the bolt cement my decision not to spend money on the Ruger American Rifle, at least not until Ruger redesigns the stock and bolt. Sorry Ruger. But thanks for all your OTHER great design and manufacturing work.

    And while I'm at it, I'd like to commend you on your Bisley revolver grips. Ruger Bisley grips fit my large hand well. They have helped me shoot a 5" pattern at 100 yards from a rest, and have helped me put down a running whitetail at 75 yards with a heartshot, and another standing at 60 yards. Plus, the Bisley grip just looks superb!
    .

  • GARY

    SURE HOPE RUGER WILL BUILD THE AMERICAN IN 223 WITH A 1 IN1O INCH TWIST

  • Flyingchipmunk

    I’m glad to see nice innovation on a rifle that isn’t just another AR-15 clone. It’s also to see something well made, affordably in America. My one question is why is the backdrop for the cover photo an upside down French flag for the “American Rifle”? I know its red white and blue, but still haha

  • Porschmn

    I whole heartly disagree with this article. I bought one of these cheap pieces of crap in the 22-250 cal and the first shell I tried to slip into the barrel and close the bolt locked the bolt in the up position before I could rotate it down into the locked position. It will not move back to eject the shell or forward to fire. Worse I take it back the next day after the purchase and Cabela’s tells me they don’t have anyone/gunsmith on staff to do anything with it and tell me I have to go to a gunsmith and have the cartridge removed and maybe they will reimburse me for that but they will send it back to the factory for repair at no cost to me. The moral of this story is don’t buy this gun, but if you have to buy it somewhere that has an onsite smith and make sure you can get your money back if the thing turns out to be a piece of crap like mine (at cabela’s it’s black jack no backs). Needless to say this piece of junk is going to get sold as soon as I get it back!

    Porschmn

    • dicker

      they dont make this gun in 22-250,,,,do you drink,,,,you dont even know what gun
      you have

      • Limedust
      • september2or3

        funny!

      • Gunner Birkemeier

        Wow, how much do YOU drink? I know this is an old post but most of you guys are a$$holes. He had a legitimate issue with his rifle and posted about it. And he’s not the only one to have this issue, just google it (if you’re not too drunk). This is what a lot of people need when buying a firearm they are unfamiliar with. They look for reviews. Every gun ever made in the history of firearms will have good and bad reviews. Obviously he hurts most of your feelings, god forbid you ever get a bad rifle from the factory. I’ve had my share, especially these days when QC is virtually non existent. Just because a company SAYS they do something doesn’t mean they actually do. Stop being a$$holes guys, especially you dickhead, oh sorry, dicker. Maybe you should learn a little about guns before you spout off with your stupidity.

        • bakersh

          virtually all brands of bolt rifles throw an occaisonal stinker. Ruger is a top notch outfit. Send your stinker with an expaination to Ruger and they will rectify the situation, with a new rifle if need be

      • RobertKaydoo

        Yes they do. I have personally compared the 22-250 vs. .223.

    • diana34

      Always clean a new rifle before using it. I’m sure you rushed home and rammed a cartridge (probably a crappy reload to boot) in it and it was your own fault. Can’t blame the manufacturer for user stupidity.

    • Steven Taylor

      This is why people should know something about guns before they buy one, and apparently he lied when he filled out the paper work asking him if he had any mental issues, what a moron

    • Michael Saari

      I’ll take it off your hands… I had to laugh at all the comments posted after yours. (Gave me a belly chuckle)

    • Ron

      Its against federal law to accept a weapon for return .They cant do it .No one can do it ever period !! They can see that it is returned for repair for you but you can not return a firearm for a refund in America .

      • RobertKaydoo

        Sad but true.

      • BDW

        No refunds – that’s true but a friend of mine had a 686 S&W .357 blow with factory ammo in it on the range. One cylinder wall was blown out! He didn’t know what to do so I suggested calling S&W and asking them if he could send it back for repair and, perhaps, look at the cylinder for a possible factory defect. So he did. About 2 months later, he got a letter from S&W suggesting that his gun was beyond reasonable repair costs (given the damage to the cylinder and frame). But, they had found a defect in the cylinder wall and were willing to give him a brand new replacement; all he had to do was to send them a signed FFL and have it transferred to him. So no, it wasn’t a refund but he got the equivalent. MOST reputable gun makers have excellent customer service if you just ask – assuming the damage wasn’t due to abuse or beyond spec reloads…

    • softballdad

      yea I agree…….. so will you take $75 for it???

  • Norman Shuzen

    The Ruger American RIFLE is a great firearm. I have the 308 caliber model and really enjoy shooting this rifle. This is one truly innovative bolt action rifle design that’s is a joy to shoot and maintain. Thanks RUGER for giving the average working man a rifle of such solid engineering and accuracy.

  • jOHN BOYD

    Lookin to shoot a rental ruger american in either .30-06, or .308. I believe the .30-06 is my gun, but of course, local price points will rule; anything close to the listed MSRP of
    $449.00 will suffice.
    ME WANTS TO GO BOOM-BOOM, THIS DEER SEASON!
    JOHN

    • diana34

      Remind me when you’re in the woods so that I can make sure I’m nowhere near you. Rental…LOL

    • GaCPL

      Local Walmart has it in .30-06 for $347.00
      I might pick one up.

      • callducks

        Of course they make the American in 22-250, I have one, although mine works fine. Any gun can have a problem.

      • Bill

        my local walmart just had them on special black friday for something like $285 and I bought one

    • Scott Campbell

      Walmart $368.00

  • Benjamin Franklin Chivers

    I have heard lots of good things from customers that buy this gun from us. Only Reason I have not bought one yet is cause I am waiting for them to make a .223 version. They just came out with the .22lr so I don’t think It will be too much longer.

    • JamesG3

      I’d like one in 223 as well. I’ve got a 270 and coupled with a Burris Fullfield II it has been a potent deer rifle so far this season. I could not be more pleased. A 223 for practice and smaller game, as well as training my daughter would be very handy.

  • Josh

    I like the fact that they’re sticking with the bolt action route. Let the ARs be the ARs and keep making the best Bolts on the planet. I think they’re trying to make a competition rifle with the Remington 700 though, which in my opinion is still beat by some of the savages these days, non the less it’s still regarded as one of the best made rifles.

    As for the rifle itself, it looks sleek, but that doesn’t mean much these days, especially if refer to the Marlin. I would love to see some torture tests to see how it holds up! If it can cycle 20-30 round with few to no mis-chamberings then I’d be happy to give it a look. Heck, if they can make a reliable rifle that’s WAY cheaper than the 700 then were in business. That being said, a .223 version would be fantastic!

    • Darrell

      the 700s are hard to beat. I’m looking at buying my son his first rifle and really want the 700 in a 243 caliber. I had a friend that bought a 270 Ruger American as a bonus for one of his employees but later chose not to give it to him. . The pricing is better than the 7oo but I don’t know that much about the gun. Ruger pisto
      ls are awesome. Don’t know enough about their rifles though.

  • jdubya

    I find it hard o believe porshmn had trouble cycling a round in that 22-250. Ruger is a good company. The gun was most likely test fired at the factory.

  • luke

    i couldnt be more happier with my ruger american rifle 270. this thing is the most accurate gun i have ever purchased, i would definatly recomend buying one

    • Junior

      What kind of ammo do I shoot in it. I just bought one and really don’t won’t to have to buy three or four different kinds to find the one that it likes

  • buster

    the only problem I have with my rifle is tr safetyswitch from fire ti safe is very hard to shift. an anoe tell me how to correct the problem. thanks

  • softballdad

    does anyone have this Ruger 22-250 in the youth model just bought one and can’t wait to shoot it, just dressed it with the Nikon BDC Multi rectacle 4.5x 14

  • rBen2

    My son and I really liked the Ruger American Compact .243 see vid at http://youtu.be/XOv0Kp6KscA

  • Larry Berry

    I love my 22 it is the best 22 I have ever owned. I would buy another one if I needed another 22 rifle. I want a 308 or 270 next.

  • Cowboy T

    The rifle’s barrel is a sporter profile to save weight in the field, so it’ll tend to heat up faster than, say, a Rem 700 ADL Varmint. That’ll change the point of impact (POI). Just let the barrel cool down for a few minutes, and it’ll be right back where it’s supposed to be.

    First thing I did after the inaugural cleaning was to pop a Redfield Revolution 2-7×33 on it. Just seemed like the right combination (good, inexpensive rifle w/ good, inexpensive scope). Nice to see that Ruger’s now doing that with the 3-9×40 Revolution from the factory. The rifle has nice, flowing lines on it. Shoots well, too, if you do your part. The trigger is pretty good, too. Not Timney-good, but still pretty good.

    For the money, I’d say Ruger did a nice job here.

    As for that French flag, I haven’t seen that in _Ruger’s_ advertisements for the rifle. I didn’t see that anywhere on the rifle itself or its packaging, either.

    - T

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