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Rifle review: Ruger American Rifle — rugged, dependable and thrifty

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By David Hart, Gun Digest

Every major firearms manufacturer offers a bolt-action rifle for cost-conscious shooters. Ruger, however, didn’t get that memo until last year when the company realized they were missing a large segment of the hunting community more concerned with function over form.

To catch up to the trend, Ruger assigned three engineers experienced in the firearms industry the task of designing a totally new rifle with a few simple ingredients: accuracy, reliability, a good trigger, a smooth bolt, a stylish appearance and an affordable price.

In just 10 months, the three men and their design teams took the Ruger American Rifle from concept to production line. But just as a low price tag doesn’t necessarily mean a loss in quality, a fast design-to-production track doesn’t translate to a poor product.

Each component of the rifle was carefully analyzed and tested before it was incorporated into the rifle as a whole. The engineers then put the rifle through the ringer before it was given a final stamp of approval.

The American isn’t just another production gun that fills a price niche. This rifle is a solid, comfortable shooter. Combining a trigger adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds of pull with Ruger’s own free-floating barrel design, the American is dead-on accurate with MOA groups.

The patented bedding system includes two cast stainless steel V-blocks molded into the stock and steel screws that secure the action to the stock. The trigger also incorporates a safety blade that prevents the gun from firing unless the blade is depressed. Ruger’s engineers also put the gun through various safety tests, including a drop test.

Ruger didn’t cut corners on the synthetic stock, either. The company combined style and function with a sculpted and serrated forend and a deeply-notched grip for a comfortable, secure fit at the range or in the woods. A soft, squishy recoil pad takes the punch out of the heaviest loads.

At first, the gun was only available in four of the most popular calibers, including .243, .270, .308 and .30-06, but demand from consumers coaxed the company into adding .22-250 and 7mm-08 versions. Additional calibers may be in the works.

Even with limited caliber choices, the venerable gun maker is giving the competition a run for their money, thanks in part to a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just $449. So far, the formula put forth by the Ruger engineer and marketing teams is working. Demand for the new rifle has outpaced supply, thanks largely to the glowing reports from the gun media. Add this one to the list.

Ruger’s latest long gun addition combines quality, accuracy and affordability.

Ruger’s latest long gun addition combines quality, accuracy and affordability.

After putting the Ruger American Rifle to the test, it’s clear the engineers who designed this gun succeeded in producing a high-quality product at a reasonable price.

The rifle performed flawlessly with each of several hundred rounds I put through it in four days of rough-and-tumble testing, including rapid-fire drills and toting the rifle across the rugged Texas Hill Country strapped to the front of a Yamaha ATV. The American functioned perfectly even after it had been covered in a layer of thick limestone dust.

The bolt, which has a short 70-degree throw and three lugs, was fluid. It required little effort to cycle a new shell, an important feature for quick follow-up shots, thanks in part to dual cocking cams. The flush, detachable, four-round rotary box magazine snapped in and out quickly and quietly and the trigger was smooth, crisp and consistent.

I shot minute-of-angle groups at 100 yards and dinged 9-inch steel plates at distances out to 600 yards with ease. If I missed, it certainly wasn’t the gun’s fault.

Unlike many of its competitors’ low-cost models, the Ruger American Rifle isn’t a watered-down version of the company’s current line-up. Instead, the American is its own rifle, completely different than the 77. It includes a sliding, two-position tang safety that allows the action to open with the safety in the “on” position. Ruger also included Weaver single-slot mounting bases and a new, simplified bolt release.

True to its name, the American Rifle is all-American, from parts to assembly. Everything is made in the United States. It’s not just a good starter rifle, it’s a good one to add to any gun safe and an even better one to take to the woods.

You won’t have to worry about scratching the stock or getting a little dirt on it when you chase deer or elk through rough terrain. And you won’t have to worry if the bullet will find its mark. Isn’t that everything you need from a rifle?

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