Every year, various magazines devoted to hunting and the outdoor lifestyle test rifles in different price ranges. The Ruger American consistently does well in the budget rifle category, a designation for rifles available for under $600. In 2012, Outdoor Life gave the newly introduced rifle its Great Buy Award. But does it live up to all the hype? I believe it does.
Originally offered only with a synthetic stock, the American is now available with a wooden stock and in a variety of slightly different models. Besides full sized and compact versions of the original American, Left handed, Predator (complete with threaded barrel), Ranch (5.56/223 or 300 Blackout), All Weather and Rimfire versions are available, all on a budget the average hunter can afford with money left over for tags. My American is a full sized 30-06, purchased new in early 2013. I chose it in the 30-06 caliber for the versatility the cartridge affords me. In my home state of Indiana, we are prohibited from using most center fire rifle calibers for deer hunting. This is the land of 357 Magnum and 44 Rem Mag lever actions or slug shotguns. But I could easily take my American to Kentucky for deer or elk hunting, depending on what round I select, or any one of several other states to hunt almost any North American game species.
How exactly does the American stack up against other rifles in the budget rifle category? The two other rifles it is most often compared to are the Savage Axis and the Remington 783. At 6.25 pounds, the American is the lightest of the three. It’s also the shortest of the three at 42.5” with a 22” barrel, allowing for easy handling. The triggers on the American and the 783 are both two stage and adjustable with a 3-5 pound range on the American and 2.5-5 pound range on the Remington. MSRP for the trio ranges from the low end of $362 for the Savage up to $459 on the American. Ruger American’s however are often seen on sale for under $400 in my area. Add the glass and rings of your choice and you have a great rifle at a great entry level price.
The folks at Ruger set out to build a great rifle that happens to have a budget price tag. They managed to include a lot of higher end features on the American:
- The fully enclosed receiver comes drilled and tapped, ready to accept the included scope bases.
- The bolt is a smooth and solid 70 degree throw with three locking lugs that gives plenty of clearance for a scope.
- Dual cocking cams allow for an easier time cycling the bolt.
- The bolt release is on the left side of the rifle and is very easy to use. There is absolutely no difficulty removing or replacing the bolt like on some other bolt guns. Simply pull the bolt to the rear while pressing on the rear of the bolt release at the same time. The bolt slides right out and will slide back in just as smoothly.
- Ruger uses a patented Power Bedding system that uses stainless-steel bedding blocks molded into the stock that results in a free floating cold hammer forged barrel that can reach MOA or even sub-MOA accuracy with factory ammunition.
- The American comes with a tang mounted safety that is easy to access and manipulate by both right handed and left handed shooters. The safety, when engaged, does not lock the action so it’s still possible to run the bolt to empty the chamber while the gun is on safe.
- The stock is designed to keep the gun lightweight and easy to handle. Both the forend and pistol grip are textured and grooved to help the shooter with grip. This is one area of potential improvement. If the stock had more texture to it, it would be easier to maintain grip even when the stock might get wet.
- The soft rubber recoil pad is generous and absorbs recoil quite well. During a recent range trip, I put a shooter new to center fire rifles behind the trigger. She handled the recoil with no problem while shooting 150gr soft point factory loads.
- The plastic 4 round rotary magazine is similar to the magazine used in the Ruger 10/22. Like the 10/22 rotary magazine, the American magazine feeds well and sits flush with the bottom of the rifle stock without adding any width to the forend.
- The earlier mentioned adjustable Ruger Marksman trigger is adjusted by turning a set screw at the front of the trigger body. Clockwise increases the poundage, counterclockwise decreases the poundage. Turning the screw too far in either direction is not recommended and will either result in the trigger failing to function (screw turned in) or the gun may not be able to be reassembled (screw turned out).
When I purchased my American, it came with an insert detailing a free stock pouch offer that may or may not still be running on the newer Americans. In addition to the pouch, my American is paired up with a variable power scope and an extendable bipod that attaches to the front sling swivel while still allowing me to use a sling. A budget level hunting rifle should be as versatile as possible.
The Ruger American has received glowing reviews since before it was publically available. Ruger set out to design a new version of a budget rifle, one that doesn’t look or perform to match its price tag. They succeeded. The Ruger American performs far above its price range, right out of the box without a lot of pricey modifications and is 100% American made, down to every spring, pin, nut and bolt.