2012 SHOT Show Special Report: Ruger American Rifle

By CTD Mike published on in News, Reviews

The Ruger American Rifle has created a real stir since being introduced just before the 2012 SHOT Show. It made a lot of sense for Ruger to introduce a budget-priced hunting rifle to compete with the Savage 110s and Remington 770s currently being bought by first-time hunters. Ruger’s MSRP of $449 indicates a “street price” somewhere south of $400, and that’s a good bargain for any hunting rifle 100% made in the USA. What has surprised everyone about this new rifle is the innovation and quality Ruger put into it, and the accuracy results that early testers are getting out of it.

Ruger starts with a medium profile cold hammer forged barrel mated to a strong receiver via a barrel nut, similar to the Savage 110 setup. Ruger free floated the barrel in the stock all the way back to the receiver to maximize accuracy, as we have come to expect. What’s innovative and different about this is how the stock attaches to the action. There are two “V” shaped aluminum pillars molded into the polymer stock, and two precisely matching recesses milled into the bottom of the receiver. The receiver fits into these V pillars and they act both as a precise stock bedding interface and as the recoil lugs for the action. In between the recoil lugs is a detachable rotary magazine holding four rounds. Unlike a traditional hinge plate setup, you can chamber a round, then remove and fully load the magazine to “top it off,” giving you five rounds available. Capacity is the same in all flavors; .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield.

The bolt uses three locking lugs arranged similarly to a Thompson Center Icon or Sako. This means the bolt only has to travel 70 degrees to unlock the action. So what? Well, you can cycle this action more quickly because you don’t have to move the bolt as far, and the bolt won’t hit scopes with really big ocular lenses either. The traditional disadvantage to such a short bolt travel is that it makes the action stiff to cock. Ruger solved this by fitting the action with dual cocking cams instead of just one. With each cam soaking up half of the force needed to cock the action, lifting the bolt is silky smooth. To keep the action as smooth as possible, the bolt body riding in the action is the full diameter of the locking lugs, so the bolt is always smoothly in contact with the insides of the receiver. This prevents the bolt from wiggling around or even binding inside the action (those of you with Remington 710s or 770s know what I mean… sorry). There’s a two position safety mounted on the receiver tang right where your thumb goes. Push it forward for “fire” and rearward for “safe.” The bolt can still be cycled even with the rifle on “safe” to help ensure safety during loading and unloading. A visual and tactile cocking indicator protrudes from underneath the bolt when the rifle is cocked. Everyone who handles the Ruger American Rifle is impressed with the smoothness of its action.

Ruger took a similar approach to Savage with their Marksman Adjustable Trigger. This trigger has a built-in safety cam similar to a Savage Accutrigger or a Glock pistol trigger. Unless your finger is on the trigger, the trigger should not be able to move due to this cam. This made the lawyers happy, and with the lawyers satisfied Ruger moved on to give this trigger a very short length of pull and a user adjustable weight of between 3 and 5 pounds. The trigger comes out of the stock as a modular unit and a big hex head screw in the top adjusts the weight. There’s no scary disassembly required with little springs shooting across the room.

Bloggers lucky enough to get their mitts on a Ruger American Rifle have all reported stellar accuracy out of the rifle even using factory hunting ammo. This may be the first sub-$400 rifle that shooters can expect to shoot one-inch groups at 100 yards right out of the box. Of course, it’s up to you to buy a quality optic and rings and to feed the gun with quality ammo, but that kind of accuracy at this price is frankly unheard of. To start, Ruger took pieces of technology that they liked from other guns—a trigger from Savage, a bolt from Thompson Center, and so forth. Then they looked at mistakes made by other companies and made sure to avoid them. And finally, they added a couple of signature Ruger twists, such as the unique bedding system and the rotary magazine. The result is a unique and extremely well thought-out rifle, sold at a very reasonable price point. Hunters wanting polished wood and deep glossy blued barrels can still turn their nose up at the Ruger American Rifle and purchase Ruger’s M77 Hawkeye models for a couple hundred dollars more. But will those pricier, prettier guns actually function smoother and shoot straighter than the new model? I doubt it.

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