The bolt face is deeply counterbored for the cartridge head and features a sliding-plate extractor, another MIM-produced part, in the face of the 8 o’clock lug and a plunger ejector at 2 o’clock. The bolt handle is blackened and is a separate piece that fits into a keyway in the 4140 steel bolt body, which is left in the white. It has a smooth knob and a bit more length than the standard Ruger bolt handle design, allowing it to stand off from the stock farther, making purchase and manipulation easier. When assembled, the striker assembly, bolt handle and bolt body interlock in such a way that while user disassembly is possible it is not recommended. The company has applied for a patent on its design as well.
The Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger is of the increasingly common lever-in-blade type pioneered in rifles by Savage and later seen on others, such as the Marlin XL-7. Unlike the former, however, the Ruger’s safety is a passive, pivoting central lever during the following several decades that blocks the main trigger itself rather than the sear. According to Gurney, the design, which dates to an 1883 breeching system patent, “ensures that the fire-control system remains in the ready-to-fire condition at all times.” The internal fire-control parts lie inside a modular housing that pins to two points on the receiver’s bottom rear. A tang at its rear abuts the receiver tail and mounts the sliding, two-position safety button. The bolt handle can be manipulated with the safety on for loading or unloading. A witness hole in the trigger housing allows visual inspection of trigger/sear engagement. Trigger pull weight is user-adjustable between 3 pounds and 5 pounds by turning an Allen-head cap screw on the housing’s front face, but only after removing the barreled action from the stock. Care must be taken when doing so to not depress the bolt release as that could allow its pivot pin and spring to fall free since the former is held in place by spring force and by the stock itself.
The American’s polymer magazine holds four rounds and is completely flush-fitting with the stock’s rounded bottom contour, aiding comfortable carry of the rifle in the field at its balance point. The magazine’s release is at the center of its front edge and lies in a recess in the stock. Activation by either index finger allows the magazine to fall into the hand. While Ruger describes the magazine as having a rotary design, there is no spool as made famous by the Mannlicher rifle that Bill Ruger admired and carried over in several of his guns such as the 10/22 rimfire, instead a pivoting paddle-style follower simply sweeps the cartridges through an arc-like path into position under the feed lips. Loading is easy and is somewhat like the process used with single-column magazines in that the cartridge head is pressed downward on the follower under the front of the feed lips and then slid back into position. For an all-up capacity of five rounds, a cartridge can be inserted into the chamber from below through the magazine opening—something that is practically impossible to accomplish through the ejection port—and then fully chambered before inserting the full magazine.
A cadre of gunwriters had the opportunity to wring out the American at FTW Ranch in Barksdale, Texas, in February. More than a dozen rifles fresh off the Newport, N.H., production line were provided for the shoot and were topped with Zeiss Conquest scopes of various configurations. All of the rifles were chambered in .30-’06 Sprg. and Hornady supplied its M1 Garand ammunition, which features the 168-grain A-Max bullet. FTW owner Tim Fallon and head instructor and former U.S. Navy SEAL Doug Prichard taught a refresher on marksmanship fundamentals and skills such as wind reading, which they expertly assisted with on the facility’s various ranges. The Texas Hill Country’s rugged terrain and varying weather conditions provided plenty of realistic hunting scenarios. While shooting off bipods in the prone position, the American’s commendable trigger came into its own, aiding the rifle in exhibiting admirable accuracy on paper and metallic targets ranging from 100 to 1,000 yards—in some cases under imposed time restrictions that depended on running the rifle rapidly. During later accuracy testing with one rifle, under more controlled conditions, the American showed itself to be capable of sub-minute-of-angle accuracy, often producing three-shot clusters measuring less than 1/2 m.o.a. Fliers might have been caused by contact between the barrel and its channel in the stock, which is closer-fitting than necessary.
Although the rifles at FTW—topped with scopes that, in some cases, lacked parallax adjustment and target knobs—were pushed beyond their intended use, they exhibited remarkably consistent and trouble-free functioning overall. Gurney attributed the success to the company’s thorough system of new firearm development that includes the juried exchange of guns between employees at its Newport, N.H., and Prescott, Ariz., facilities. The event was designed to show that the American was more than up to the tasks that will be asked of it by the average hunter, and the new rifle came through with flying colors. In all, each rifle ran through approximately 200 rounds, without cleaning, an amount of shooting that was made all the more pleasant because of the surprisingly effective soft rubber recoil pad that caps the Ruger’s butt. The American is, after all, a relatively lightweight rifle: In long-action chamberings, it weighs 6 pounds, 4 ounces and in short-action guise it comes in at only 6 pounds, 2 ounces. That should make it appealing to anyone looking for an easy-carrying rifle for high mountain hunting pursuits.
With the American, Ruger has returned to its roots by making a gun with the most advanced yet least costly processes to provide shooters of all budgets with a reliable, capable product. According to its 2012 catalog, the new rifle retails at $449, or roughly half the cost of the latest iteration of its now classic and traditionally patterned Hawkeye. Gurney even suggested that an actual selling price “in the low $300s” is foreseeable.
In the end, it may be that the only question left to ask about the Ruger American Rifle is: What’s not to like?
Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.; (603) 865-2442; www.ruger.com
Caliber: .243 Win., .308 Win., .270 Win., .30-’06 Sprg. (tested)
Action Type: bolt-action, repeating center-fire rifle
Receiver: machined 4140 steel; matte black finish
Barrel: 22″ hammer-forged 4140 steel; matte black finish
Rifling: six-groove,1:10″ RH twist
Magazine: polymer, four-round, rotary-feed detachable box
Sights: no iron sights provided; receiver drilled and tapped for included Weaver bases
Trigger: lever-in-blade style; user-adjustable from 3 to 5 lbs. (set at 4 lbs. during testing)
Safety: tang-mounted, two-position sliding button indicating engraved, red “F” and engraved “S”
Stock: black injection-molded polymer; length of pull, 133⁄4″; drop at heel, 13⁄16″; drop at comb, 15⁄16″
Overall Length: 42″ (short action); 42½” (long action as tested)
Weight: 6 lbs., 2 ozs. (short action); 6 lbs., 4 ozs. (long action as tested)
Accessories: Weaver bases; owner’s manual; lock
Suggested Retail Price: $449
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