Review: The Ruger American Rifle

Chances are, Bill Ruger would not have cared for the American Rifle, since he drew his inspiration from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and this bolt-action is as 21st-century as social networks or Snooki (who is enough to make any person of taste and refinement long for the 19th century). It's a rakish rifle that's completely new, and it's a good look at how rifles will be built in the future.

The bare bones are these: It's a 4-shot repeater that comes in .243, .308, .270, and .30/06, weighs 6.25 pounds or less, depending on caliber, has a 22-inch barrel (not a 24-inch, endless thanks to Ruger), and an MSRP of $449. And it's made in the United States.

In designing the American Rifle, Ruger did a couple of ingenious and very smart things. First, the detachable-box magazine is rotary, which makes it very shallow, and allowed Ruger to give it a rounded bottom. This in turn permits the use of a very slender stock with no bulk or wasted weight, and which feels great in the hand, much like a lever-action.

Molded into the stock at the front and rear of the receiver inlet are two aluminum bedding blocks which Ruger calls Power Bedding. (Why "power" bedding? I have no idea.) In any event, the blocks are shaped like flat-bottomed Vs and they fit into corresponding slots in the receiver. So, when you torque down the bedding screws the receiver is located very precisely, and pulled down tighter than the grip of Grim Death itself.

The receiver is extremely rigid, courtesy of a small loading and ejection port; the barrel--a good one--is free floating, and the three-lug bolt has a 70-degree lift. On my rifle, a .30/06, the trigger as I got it scaled 4 ½ pounds and had some creep. However, it's adjustable, and the adjustment actually works. I got it down to 3 ½ pounds, and not only did the pull lighten, but the creep went away, although this could have been due to the parts wearing in.

Testing with factory ammo, the results were almost uniformly disappointing. The rifle shot Remington 180-grain Core-Lokt spitzers into 1.5-inch groups that I would have been proud to take hunting. Federal Match ammo (168-grain Sierras) which always shoots well, went into .511. But what the rifle did, over and over, was print two shots that touched and throw the third way out of the group.

This is the nearly infallible sign of a rifle that is inherently accurate, but can't quite digest what you're feeding it. So I turned to handloading (See my post of March 8.) and the results were much different. Here's how it went:

- Sierra 175-grain Match King: .794

- Nosler 168-grain Competition: .822

And that's all I had time for, but it should be plain to even the dullest observer that this is a rifle that shoots extremely well if you feed it what it likes. I used match bullets because I have a lot of them on hand, and I've found that most hunting bullets are so accurate that there's very little difference, if any, between the way a hunting rifle shoots with them and target slugs.

There's more. The whole rifle is flat black, which is what it should be; the safety is on the tang and right under your thumb, and the recoil pad is nice and squishy. I can't think of a single thing Ruger should have done differently, or better. If they were looking for a rifle to take them into the 21st century, they certainly designed the right one.