The origins of a new rifle/cartridge combination are as diverse as their manufacturers. Most ideas start within the company and then work through an approval process before the new product ever sees the light of day. These companies are fed a steady diet of new product ideas from their research and development personnel, sales reps in the field and, of course, loyal customers.
Some of the best ideas come from sources outside the company, such as dealers and distributors. These are the people that look the enduser in the eye and talk with them, so they have a pretty good idea of what will sell and what won’t.
Ruger told G&A that the idea for the Ruger American in .450 Bushmaster started in Michigan a few years ago. The state government decided to change the deer hunting laws in the southern half of the state to include limited rifle cartridges. That amendment opened the door for rifles chambered in .35-caliber cartridges or greater with a case length between 1.16 and 1.80 inches. Those cartridge dimensions ensure that the bullets fired won’t travel too far.
The .450 Bushmaster was a perfect fit, and gun dealers in Michigan began selling custom rifles chambered in the cartridge. The problem was that those rifles were expensive. Of course, any AR could accept an upper receiver chambered in .450 Bushmaster, but the upper is still pricey and that option assumes the hunter already has an AR and likes to hunt with it.
Dealers and distributors in Michigan made their desires for an inexpensive and light rifle that met legal requirements for deer hunting known to Ruger, and it didn’t take long for Ruger to respond. Chambering the Ruger American in .450 Bushmaster was a good answer.
Ruger chose to chamber the powerful cartridge in the Ranch Rifle model of the American line. These rifles have short 16.12-inch barrels, with every other model being chambered in .223 Remington or .300 Blackout (BLK). The .450 Bushmaster is a new direction for Ruger’s Ranch Rifle family but an extremely sensible one. It brings big-bore performance to the diminutive rifle.
The Ruger American in .450 Bushmaster gives the shooter the ability to carry a very light rifle (5½ pounds) chambered in a powerful cartridge with ballistics almost identical to the .45-70. The .45-caliber, 250-grain bullet leaves Ruger’s muzzle at just over 2,200 feet per second (fps) and would be lethal on most game animals inside 200 yards. In G&A’s assessment, this could be the best general-use rifle to hit the market in a very long time.
The .450 Bushmaster American is built around a very accurate hammer-forged barrel that will last longer than button- or cut-rifled barrels. The muzzle is threaded at 11⁄16×24, and all current production rifles come from the factory with an effective muzzlebrake. Early production rifles did not come with muzzlebrakes, and G&A’s test rifle was one of those early production runs. We’ve been told that Ruger added the muzzlebrake after production started to boost scope survivability as early rifles exhibited a propensity to destroy scopes because of the prodigious but unpunishing recoil. Given the lower price point of the American, and assuming scopes of comparable cost found a home atop them, the issue belonged to the scopes — not the rifle.
However, testing the rifle without the muzzlebrake was less punishing than we expected. Looking at the numbers, the Ruger rifle seems like it would be unpleasant to shoot. A 5½-pound rifle pushing a 250-grain bullet at 2,200 fps usually spells p-a-i-n for the shooter, but that was not the case. The rifle certainly had plenty of movement when fired, but the stock absorbs much of the blow and the recoil pad cushions it more. It is far from uncomfortable.
The action is the three-lug design in service across the American line. This action has a 70-degree bolt throw that leaves plenty of room between the bolt handle and the scope’s ocular housing. The short throw makes quickly cycling the bolt an obstacle-free affair. There is almost no chance that even a gloved hand will contact the scope when running the bolt.
When the action is open, the extractor sits dead center of the ejection port, with the ejector slightly below the action’s centerline. This means that fired cases will be pushed up and out of the ejection port with a very low probability of hitting the scope’s windage turret, no matter how low the optic is mounted.
There is a section of Picatinny rail mounted on top of the action that makes mounting a scope easy. The rail scope base runs almost the length of the entire receiver, so there is plenty of room to move the scope closer to or farther from the shooter’s face to optimize eye relief and obtain a full field of view. Given the stock’s fixed length of pull, the ability to adjust scope placement is an appreciated feature. This rifle has some recoil, so Ruger made sure the shooter could get the scope far enough away from their face to avoid getting “scoped.”
The rifle owes much of its light weight to the injection-molded polymer stock, which is slender and sits comfortably in the hands. The triggerguard is molded right into the stock, and a detachable three-round box magazine sits just forward of the triggerguard.
The stock on G&A’s test rifle was slightly warped and made contact with the barrel along one side. Normally a cause for concern, this produced no impact on the rifle’s accuracy, which was surprisingly exceptional by any standard.
The best group of the day measured a scant .44 inch from center-to-center for three rounds fired at 100 yards. There are only three factory loads for the .450 Bushmaster, with two seeing enough production that they are readily accessible. Those two loads come from Hornady, and both use the 250-grain flex-tip (FTX) bullet. It is a polymer-tipped bullet designed specifically for the .450 Bushmaster and its velocity. The polymer tip means expansion starts on contact, and it’s safe to load in tubular magazines used with lever guns.
This Ruger American is a rifle that could just as easily handle whitetail hunting in the Southeast as it could camp duty in bear country. Its low cost, tremendous accuracy, light weight, short length and ballistic horsepower make it a solid choice for a wide range of tasks. Though rifles will have muzzlebrakes, we’d remove the brake for hunting (after confirming the zero, of course). The brake isn’t necessary and will make the rifle much louder to you and those nearby.