Range Report: Ruger American — Ruger’s Go Anywhere Do Anything Rifle

Bob Campbell cycling the bolt of the Ruger American rifle

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 American rifle profile right
This is a compact but powerful rifle.

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.

Ruger American rifle with the bolt in the open position
The rifles short bolt throw makes for fast handling.

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.

controls and detachable magazine on the Ruger American rifle
The controls and detachable magazine are easily operated.

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.

Firing Tests

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.

Bob Campbell aiming the Ruger American rifle with TruGlo scope
The balance and point of the rifle are excellent.

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.

Absolute Accuracy

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.

Accuracy Results

100-yard, 3-shot group average

Load Group
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

Have you fired the Ruger American in 7.62×39? What was your impression? What is your go-anywhere, do-anything rifle and caliber? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (24)

  1. i bought one and set up with a UTG Bugbuster 3x12x32(perfect scope for this rifle) i have had for a couple years but never mounted and it shot tula ammo .75 at my 50 yard zero range at home. trigger had a little creep but not bad and fed with no problems. back up to a sks and ak and for deer hunting less than 100 yards so i believe the 123 grain sp winchesters will do a great job. overall a very nice setup for Home Defense and hunting but with one drawback, no open backup sights. duh!

  2. i did buy this light handy little rifle. it honestly shoots inch to inch and a half with all the cheep surplus ammo i can find. i have a nikon 3 power fixed m223 scope. if you adjust the trigger all the way down and do your part it shoots well under an inch with quality ammo. i must admit the stock feels cheep but the gun is very light short and handy. time will tell if it is a durable .l

  3. I chose not to buy this gun, because when I asked Ruger customer service why fixed sites were not an option, they basically told me “because”. If you drop this gun and bump your scope, you basically have no weapon. I think Ruger would have made a killing, if they offered this gun with iron sites and accepting AK magazines, instead of their own. If they did offer this gun with AK mags, they would have sold many more rifles than they sold their overpriced mags.

    1. When Ruger came out with the Mini 30 I did not like the gun. A buddy of mine bought one, the trigger group fell out within the first 20 rounds. He took it back to the store and they gave him a replacement. That one would not keep the magazine it it. Against my advice my oldest son bought one, and as usual it had problems, it would not feed the last 2 to 3 bullets. Ruger just is not up to par on their Semi Autos.

      Now their M77 is an awesome gun, but I have only shot it in long action, ’06, 270, and 300 WinMag, but no open sites, and ONLY Ruger style scope rings.

      I find buying used Remington, & Winchester Rifles you get open sights and often with scope mounts already added. I prefer the open sites but getting older having an over under scope mount works for me!

    2. I have owned a mini 30 for a long time and do not like the gun. It is unreliable and jams all the time.The casing rim around the chamber is flat (not sloped towards the chamber) and the rounds get stuck on it all the time.

    3. Back in the late 80’s I bought what was stamped Norinco, SKS. A gunsmith took it down and showed me it has Russian Proof Marks, Vietnam Proof Marks, and of course you can easily see the Norinco Stamp on top. I enjoyed not just the affordable price but the quality lasts and lasts. I bought two real Chinese SKSs and another Russian made one. They all perform superb! It is hard to copy the best!

  4. I agree with you about the SKS. After grinding and polishing the hammer and sear, adding a Murray’s firing pin, and attaching an AK47 pistol grip and fitting the gun for 20rd rounds, the SKS has gone from a fun curiosity to one of the most comfortable guns I have to fire.

    And you are exactly right about the 300 yds.
    It’s your typical…. Bang …..pause …..Tink!, over and over again on iron sights.

  5. Sounds like a good lil gun! I agree the 7.62 is equivalent in many ways with the 30-30, but I prefer the heavier grain bullet in the 30-30 for small black bear. My dad used to hunt black bear back in KY in 1917 t0 1919 with 30-30. But when they went to Alberta Canada to homestead his pa got a 303 Brit for Grizzly control.

    But never put the lil Russian Round down. It serves well in many areas. Deer yes, Bear questionable… and maybe not.

  6. PS. Yes there are many quality adjustable iron sights out there that are dirt cheap.
    This is a short range , fairly large animal, deer or hog, killer, but close up in the thick timber a scoped sighting, especially on fast moving game can be a pain in butt.
    Take our western tough as hell Blacktail. Deer that live in rainy thick second growth stands of timber, and not flat assed killing from n elevated covered blinds, and iron sights are great.

  7. For the price go to CZ.
    For quality go to CZ.
    For aesthetic value go to CZ.
    For a better HUNTING round go to any number of different calibers.
    As to comparability of extended magazine capacity, yup stick to Ruger.
    Sorry but Ruger is cheap compared to CZ, as to owner of one and experience with both the CZ, may be rifling or better headspacing, lockup, the CD seems to wring more out of any brand ammo.
    There are today many short action rounds, yes a good 30/30 is better hunting round especially with Hornadys Lever.
    While 7.62 x39 imports are less expensive rounds the cost of good short action rounds including cost of full reloading supplies makes price difference negligible.
    But then, I love my custom Chile 7mm Maurer Carbine that will out shoot and out kill any 7.62×39 round out there.
    Domestic efficient 7.62×39, good hard hitting and with kill zone accuracy with any reach out beyond 150 yards, good luck.
    And yes I can hit beyond 400 with damn near any round but lobbing rounds especially 7.62x 39 is as the round was designed for, pray and spray.

    1. Sir I have shot 300 yards many times with my SKS in 7.62×39. Yes it can hit 300 yards accurately. But saying the 7.62×39 is a spray and pray gun you could say the same about the AR-15 in 223/5.56. Many people shoot them that way, but it does not mean the AR-15 is a scatter gun. My AK 47 shoots just as good and accurate as my SKS, but I prefer the longer barrel of the SKS for range. And I usually limit my AR15 to 250 yards, not because of accuracy but because that is where I feel the penetration quality ends.

  8. I have a ranch rifle in 450 Bushmaster… $469.00, with muzzle brake… great rifle, ridiculously accurate, and capable of nearly 3000 ft lbs…

  9. I’m just getting into shooting and purchased this rifle. I will agree with the comments of accuracy, lightweight, inexpensive to just go plinking with. My only negative (and it is a minor one) is installing and releasing the magazine. Seems I have to operate the release to install afresh magazine. Will probably smooth out with more use.

    Finally, the rifle gets attention and positive comments from the staff at the outdoor and indoor ranges I have taken it to.

  10. I bought one as a companion to my Mini-30 because they share magazines. Never deer hunted before getting invited to a Texas camp a month before my 71st birthday. One shot, one deer. Nosler soft point hunting ammo at just under 100 yards. The rifle is perfect for a blind, fun to shoot, and didn’t break the bank. Hopeful for suppressor laws to change because it is loud. Get one for yourself.

  11. The mags on these are the problem, there is to much up and down play. Mine won’t load the last round unless you hold up on the mag. Thought it was the mag, Ruger sent me a new one, same problem with it.

    1. What is it with Ruger’s mag dept? The Mini-30 takes a dedicated mag …….. an EXPENSIVE dedicated mag. Why can’t that piece use a regular AK style mag?

      I know there are fit issues with the mags from the various soviet bloc manufactures making interchangability less than ideal, but this is nothing more than job security.

      And yes, this would be loud ….er. The rounds weren’t designed for bolt action rifles. Someone may, at some point, dial in the correct powder solution for this application for reloads, but until then, it’s like my PLR-16 with standard 5.56 rounds; large flash, lots noise and diminished performance because the standard expansion pulse was never designed for that piece’s 9″ barrel.

  12. Why do they take a beautiful rifle like this and put it into a synthetic stock? I prefer that it could be available in a wood stock also. I guess, just call me old fashioned because a wood stock greatly enhances the beauty of any rifle.

  13. Sounds like a decent rifle. One could purchase the higher quality CZ 527 carbine, a Mauser action rifle made of steel and wood for the same price.

  14. I like the idea of this rifle and with quality ammo it should be able to deliver the goods at appropriate ranges.
    Thankfully the ammo is cheap but the basic rifle isn’t “cheap” in the typical sense as listed at around $650.00 but maybe cheaper in some areas.
    Still, a decent rifle for the recoil sensitive or if your shooting distances are within the specs for the ammo. I’d consider it myself.

    1. Na these rifles go around $400 to 450 and they are excellent, I have the 223/556 and the 300BO models and I luv them. Sub M.O.A. with good factory ammo at 100yrds all day long, excellent adjustable trigger, Suppressor ready and factory pic rail. This in my eyes is the perfect guide type rifle. Ruger hit a home run with these!

    2. Is the 223 chambered Ruger American safe to shoot with 5.56 ammo? I hear different things. And how is the rotary mag?

    3. But no iron sights! I like to guns, but I hate it than no one puts irons on their guns anymore!

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