Many of us are looking for a rifle that will be a jack of all trades. In the past, the Winchester .30-30 rifle came close with its wide use in hunting and law enforcement. A rifle for taking thin-skinned game, protecting the homestead from predators, and for recreational shooting is a desirable commodity. The Ruger American is a light, handy, powerful rifle that clearly fills the bill for most needs. The Ruger American has been a successful firearm, offering reliability and affordability, combined with excellent performance for American shooters.
Ruger’s recently released 7.62x39mm American is a smart choice. The 7.62x39mm cartridge is the most popular and well distributed, mid-range caliber in the world. Ammunition is plentiful and inexpensive. Modern loadings, such as the Hornady SST, offer good game taking ability. Handloads put the 7.62x39mm right at .30-30 WCF power. In short, the new Ruger American should prove to be a capable, go anywhere, do anything rifle.
The rifle has many advantages. It is inexpensive, compared to other quality bolt-action rifles. As a rifle to carry behind the truck seat or in the rack of an ATV, the Ruger American is ideal. It is a good game getter for deer and boar to 125 yards, and perhaps a little beyond with a good handload and the right person pulling the trigger. It is much more accurate than the AK-47 or Ruger Mini 30 that also chamber the 7.62x39mm cartridge.
While designed as a sporting rifle, the Ruger American is a carbine-length rifle that handles quickly and would not be a bad choice for area defense. The rifle is designed to accept Ruger Mini 30 box magazines. This gives the rifle the ability to accept 5-, 10-, and 20-round magazines. The rifle tips the scales, but lightly, at 5.9 pounds unloaded.
The Ruger American features a flat, dark earth, synthetic stock. There are grooves cut into the stock at the forend, and it has a semipistol grip to give the shooter good adhesion when firing. The rifle is supplied with screw-in sling swivels, rather than the common sling swivel that is molded into the stock. After some testing, I fitted a Blackhawk sling to give the rifle more utility.
A modest, but effective, recoil pad is supplied. The bolt throw is short and very fast. The bolt head is more like a self-loading bolt, than the traditional bolt-action rifle. The bolt lift is short and feeding was positive. The safety is conveniently located behind the bolt, and proved handy and positive in operation.
This is an excellent rifle to be married to the 7.62x39mm cartridge. While taking deer and boar are chores, the rifle is suited to it, and would serve for coyote at any range you can hit them. Ammunition is inexpensive. This makes for a purely fun rifle that will digest large quantities of steel cased ammunition without complaint.
The rifle has common features with other Ruger American rifles. These include an adjustable trigger. Mine came from the factory with a pleasant 4.0-pound trigger. I left it at the factory setting during the firing tests. The Ruger also features an integral bedding system that makes for excellent repeatable accuracy. The hammer-forged barrel is threaded for a suppressor, if you decide to go that route. The 5/8-24 pattern is compatible with most .30-caliber muzzle devices. Short, stiff barrels often provide excellent accuracy. This 16-inch barrel gives the rifle a scant 36 inches of overall length. Combined with the Ruger American’s light weight, this makes for a very attractive package.
The rifle features a picatinny rail base for mounting optics. I mounted an affordable, but useful optic, the TruGlo 4×32 scope. Four-power magnification gives all the magnification I need for most chores. With the optic set at the lowest power, fast shooting may be done at closer range. The reticle features highly visible crosshairs. The meeting point of the crosshairs is covered by a circle, to lead the eye directly to the center of the aiming point. This scope rode several different rifles and gave excellent results with each. It wasn’t difficult to mount the scope and sight it in, as it is supplied with rings and mounts. In dry fire practice, I found the rifle comes to the eye quickly and offers very fast handling. The bolt lift was smooth and the action was fast. Before proceeding to the range, I practiced handling the rifle and engaged in a decent amount of dry fire. This paid off in good results.
I began with Century International Arms famous Red Army loads. This is an affordable steel-cased load that is reliable and has proven accurate enough in several AK-47 rifles. I confirmed the scope’s zero at 25 and then 50 yards. After the initial sighting-in phase, I fired for accuracy. The recoil was mild and the rifle as fast handling as I had imagined during dry fire.
Firing for speed at 25 yards, it was no mean feat to place two rounds in the X ring, and then put two in the cranial ocular region for insurance. Moving to 50 yards, firing off hand, results continued to be good. With the 20-round Mini 30 magazine locked in place, it was great fun to fire repeat shots at clay birds on the 100-yard berm. As I expected, this is a great bolt action plinker with plenty of accuracy. My grandson and I fired 100 Red Army cartridges before taking a break and conducting bench rest testing at 100 yards.
I added two loads to the mix for the 100-yard testing. The Fiocchi 123-grain FMJ load has given excellent results in self-loading rifles, and I was curious to see results in the Ruger American. Hornady offers the 123-grain SST expanding bullet hunting load. The SST is well respected for accuracy and its effect on game. I settled down with the five-round magazine in place, and then took every advantage for accuracy, firing three, 3-shot groups with each of the loads tested. As listed in the accompanying table, results were good. The Ruger American is more accurate than the average Winchester .30-30 or AK-47 rifle. Ammunition is inexpensive and the rifle isn’t likely to need much maintenance. I think we have a winner in the new Ruger American chambering.
100-yard, 3-shot group average
|Red Army 124-grain FMJ||3.1 inch|
|Fiocchi 123-grain FMJ||1.5 inch|
|Hornady 123-grain SST||1.8 inch|
|Handload/Varget Powder, Hornady 155-grain SST||1.3 inch|