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Ruger American Rifle .223 Standard & Compact – New Gun Review – SHOT Show 2014 Preview

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By Paul Helinski

Ruger American Rifle

The Compact version of the American has an 18” barrel and a slightly shorter stock, for a 12.5 “ length of pull, from the trigger to the back of the stock, for smaller shooters.

The Compact version of the American has an 18” barrel and a slightly shorter stock, for a 12.5 “ length of pull, from the trigger to the back of the stock, for smaller shooters.

Bolt action rifles may not be a subject that keeps you up all night chatting on Facebook, but for gun fanatics, the bolt action rifle is a core product of our sport and our passion. If someone had asked, “Who makes the best entry level bolt action rifle?” five years ago, I don’t know anyone who would have answered Ruger. That all changed in 2012, when Ruger introduced the Ruger American Rifle. Made 100% in the USA as its name suggests, the American was a rock star from our very first test on the gun now two years ago. Since then, you can’t walk into a stocking gun shop without seeing one on the shelf, in several calibers. The line has expanded to include a new Redfield scope package, as well as some new guns with stainless steel All Weather models. We were able to test the newly available .223 caliber guns in both the full sized and compact, and WOW. If you are looking for world-class accuracy, great handling and an affordable price on a bolt-action .223, look no further than the new Ruger American. MSRP is $449 on the American, and I challenge you to find a .223 bolt gun that outshoots it, at any price.

We got a pre-SHOT Show 2014 look at the new Ruger American rifle in .223. This is both the regular and Compact models.

We got a pre-SHOT Show 2014 look at the new Ruger American rifle in .223. This is both the regular and Compact models.

The key to the Ruger American is the Power Bedding(TM) system designed by Ruger a few years back. Like all of the polymer pistols out there, it combines a plastic stock with molded-in metal components that secure the parts of the gun that shoot to the parts of the gun that you hold. The barrels are hammer-forged at Ruger’s rifle division in New Hampshire, and the three-lug bolt is as smooth as rifles costing twice as much, and smoother than even some of those. The barrel on the full-size American is 22”, and the rifle weighs just under 6.5 lbs. The Compact models have 18” barrels with 12.5” length-of-pull for smaller shooters, and weigh 6 lbs. This was our first outing with not only the new .223 Americans, but also a new brand of ammo called “Gorilla Ammo” that had sent us some samples as a new advertiser here at GunsAmerica.

This was also our first outing with Gorilla Ammo, a new advertiser here. The ammo comes in a wallet, and these .223 rounds are loaded with 55-grain plastic-tipped Sierra bullets.

This was also our first outing with Gorilla Ammo, a new advertiser here. The ammo comes in a wallet, and these .223 rounds are loaded with 55-grain plastic-tipped Sierra bullets.

This American has a four-round rotary magazine. It is a little tricky to load at first, but we had no failures at all.

This American has a four-round rotary magazine. It is a little tricky to load at first, but we had no failures at all.

Our test ammo uses a 55-grain Sierra plastic-tip bullet called the Blitzking PT. Having no prior experience with this ammo or bullet, it was a shock to find that the full-size rifle shot into under ½ inch at 100 yards, using an inexpensive 12x Burris scope. That is not a misprint. Take a look at the pictures. Fiochhi range rounds averaged just over an inch for five-round groups, and the Compact model did only slightly worse. Just imagine how that will feel to take a gun out of the box, mount a compatible scope (it comes with installed bases), and expect to shoot well under MOA, or even ½ MOA, in your first trip to the range with factory ammo. If you want to duplicate these results, we tested the guns with a Caldwell Lead-Sled. Off hand or even bipod shooting will most likely not be as easy to get these groups. We didn’t cherry-pick these groups. If you shoot fairly well and use a Lead-Sled, there is a pretty good chance everyone at the range is going to make you show it to them again.

Even the compact shot until well under an inch at 100 yards using the Gorilla ammo. The actions are the same on the two guns, so the stock and shorter barrel are the only differences.

Even the compact shot until well under an inch at 100 yards using the Gorilla ammo. The actions are the same on the two guns, so the stock and shorter barrel are the only differences.

If you click to enlarge this picture, you will see that the Gorilla Ammo shot into under ½ inch at 100 yards with the full sized 22” American over three shots. We also shot a couple hundred rounds of Fiocchi range rounds, and those came in at just over an inch for five-shot groups on average.

If you click to enlarge this picture, you will see that the Gorilla Ammo shot into under ½ inch at 100 yards with the full sized 22” American over three shots. We also shot a couple hundred rounds of Fiocchi range rounds, and those came in at just over an inch for five-shot groups on average.

Ruger has been great about getting guns out to the dealers as they are released into the media, so these guns should be available now or soon. We don’t gush about a lot of guns here, but since the very beginning these American Rifles have been well worth the layered-on praise. As an all-around plinking, hunting or even patrol rifle, the American .223 is yet another Made In USA Ruger rifle that exceeds expectations and certainly its price point, and that you just can’t go wrong buying.


{ 44 comments… add one }
  • Doug McDonald January 26, 2016, 6:00 am

    No guns and booze, there is always time for that later! Comments should have been restricted-what are they thinking!

  • Rm December 31, 2014, 1:53 pm

    I have the Ruger American Standard in both 243 and 223. Both shoot EXTREMELY well – like many competent, honest shooters with integrity have posted, these rifles truthfully shoot sub-MOA groups with off-the-shelf, less-than-premium ammo. I have a Nikon on the 243 and a Leupold on the 223. 243 shoots Federal blue box 80 gr PSP, 223 is shooting Hornady 55 gr PSP. Not uncommon for three holes on a 100 yd. target to touch!
    Will they win the “most beautiful rifle in hunting camp” award? No.
    Is the Ruger American one of the very best centerfire bolt action HUNTING rifles on the market today?
    In my humble opinion – ABSOLUTELY!
    And the fact they are 100% AMERICAN MADE makes them all the more special.

  • LeRoy Winnie December 29, 2014, 12:49 pm

    I believe Ruger made more great guns than bad ones. As for .223 remington caliber, my CZ 527 carbine model supposedly capable of handling the 5.56 cal. No problem, a rep from cz stated. If you are a reloader,take your time and build up to your sweet spot load and just about any gun out of the box like the Ruger American great price will make a believer ,and once again Great job Ruger!

    • Howard T January 30, 2016, 10:09 pm

      223 and 5.56 are not the same, the pressure problem is because the chambers nd led on the rifling is different. Just to clear the air I work as the gunsmith for a firearms dealer. My personal calls to Ruger resulted in the following “Ruger does not manufacture a bolt action rifle chambered in 5.56, firing that ammunition (5.56) will void the warrantee for the firearm and is considered dangerous.

      Asking them why confirmed what I already knew, the chambers, lead in the throat of the rifle and the design of the military bullets can result in the bullet engaging the rifling and the camming action of the bolt may cause the case mouth to crimp on the bullet preventing the free movement of the bullet from the case on firing which gives the bullet some momentum to start the initial engagement of the rifling, When this does not happen the pressures build to a sometimes dangerous level as the bullet is trapped and not until the pressures reach extremely high levels will the bullet force itself into the rifling and procede down the bore. Sometimes it does not cause a problem but is a dangerous condition and culd result in damage to the firearm and possible personal injury.

      So all that being said do as yu want but I have a trashed CZ ,223 damaged by this and a Savage damaged from this fortunatley there was no serious damage, I also have a .223 early AR 15 that is totally destroyed to the point that the Bolt Carrier Group was shattered and effectivley became a grenade.

      MMCM(SS), USN, Ret
      US ARmy, SFC, Just tired
      my spell check isn’t working

      • Sam Mecham January 31, 2016, 9:46 pm

        Master Chief Howard, this is the best explanation of the hazards of using 5.56 in a gun chambered for .223 I have seen. I have a TC Contender 223 with 14 inch barrel. Some say you can fire the 5.56 in it with no problem. I would not even though the TC Contender is a rather rugged pistol. The 14 inch barrel TC 223 is a very accurate gun. I just started shooting the .223 and get 3 inch groups with factory loads at 100 yds, 4 inch groups at 200 yds. I know this sounds like really poor shooting but a new to me gun, factory loads, and new scope I know it is OK. I know the accuracy will improve when I relax (muzzle blast is quite dramatic, esp to the shooters at the benches next to me), get my grip down to what’s needed only and start doing my own reloads. My two other contenders I shoot are a 45 Win Mag and a 7 by 30 Waters. Both excellent calibers and a real blast to shoot but the 223 is by far the most fun of the 3.
        Sam, FTCS (SS) USN Ret.
        (2 types of ships in the world, submarines and targets)

      • Drew September 28, 2016, 8:53 pm

        Thats not true. I have a Ruger American Compact CLEARLY stamped 556 NATO

    • Eric B. February 19, 2016, 5:46 pm

      I bought a GSR 556 5.56x45mm Bolt-Action Gunsite Scout Rifle from Ruger last year 2015. It shoots great for a Ruger that is chambered in a 5.56 cal.. I am mounting a scope on it later this year to reach out to hit coyote’s at 250-300 yards. I was going to buy this gun, but all the reviews for this gun did not look good for me. We all have our own taste.
      But I have read enough to see the spec’s. on the different calibers to know that you only put the bullet that the gun is built for in it. The gun I bought shoots 5.56 and the hand book says I can shoot 223 if i want to and it won’t hurt anything. So I buy what ever is cheaper on the shelf at my local gun store. But Howard T is right on the different calibers 223 and 556. You can google what is the different between the caliber and get the information for your self to judge.

  • Jon June 6, 2014, 8:52 pm

    Just bought the Ruger American in .223 I have major feeding problems every single time with this rifle. Ruger made an inferior mag that does not work. I am not the only one who has this problem with the .223 mag…wish I had known before I bought it…….

    • Lynn S September 13, 2014, 6:03 pm

      I bought the compact .223 yesterday. Love the weight and length. Only tried factory Win 64 grain so far (1 1/2″). No problem cuz I can reload better with Sierra or Nosler.
      My only gripe is that the last round won’t feed. The shoulder hits the ramp and the case head dives. the bolt slips over the head and impinges on the case. I guess mine is a 4-shooter like the other calibers.

    • Rm December 31, 2014, 1:56 pm

      Just bought the RA Standard in 223 for Christmas. Have fired 20+ rounds through it. It operates flawlessly thus far.

      South Texas

  • Mark K8VF April 2, 2014, 5:57 pm

    Can the American shoot Nato spec 5.56 ammo ?

    • Coinneach April 8, 2014, 11:51 pm

      It’s marked as .223 Rem, so I would assume not.

      • Administrator April 9, 2014, 9:30 am

        A 223 will generally take a 5.56.

        • Jim April 16, 2014, 12:44 pm

          223/5.56 is NOT 223 Remington. The American is marked 223 Rem.
          Looks the same but check the Pressures. Everyone advises against shooting 5.56 in a 223 Rem.
          That being said I wish the Ruger American .223 Rem was made to 5.56 standards. Ruger says it’s not.

    • Jan December 29, 2014, 12:09 pm

      Yes, it should! I really don’t know where or how people get the idea that the two aren’t interchangeable? In my 30 plus years of gun-making/ gunsmithing and hunting with this caliber, I’ve watched people argumenting about it, trying to push the fact that one is loaded to sufficiently higher pressures or the dimension are way-off is just ‘BS’! I’ve always found that two would interchange, as the difference is negligible and both will chamber and fire in any properly standard head-spaced bolt-actioned rifle, as long as good quality brass/ammo is used, the gun is in sound condition and it’s chamber hasn’t been cut too much below min. specs dimensions! Just my two cents worth of trade-experiences!

  • Johnsmith March 20, 2014, 11:01 am

    Reading some of these reviews makes me think some shouldn’t own firearms. Ranting about Savage rifles. This article is about the performance of a rifle that costs sub 350 with good performance. I’m going to pick one up because I wont care about getting it dirty or will love how lightweight it is. I just sold my 700 VLS due to the weight if it. It was a real pain to walk in the woods with.

  • robert l March 8, 2014, 12:21 am

    I bought the American in the 7mm-08 and love it… Paid $320 out the door brand new.. saving up to get the 223 next.. I think they have the “weather” version coming out for just a little more… Keep up the good work ruger!

  • Jason March 5, 2014, 4:56 pm

    I’ll withhold my opinions on all the previous posts. The selling points for me are as follows; Low cost- will be first centerfire bolt gun for my 9yoa son, light weight- 9yoa son…., stainless synthetic-9yoa son hog hunting in Florida, 1-8 TWIST!!! If you want to use a .223 for anything bigger then coyotes, you should be using heavy for caliber bullets. The 75gr Scirocco II needs at least 1-8 to stabilize that long of a bullet. If you handload, and I do, this combination of features is NOT available as factory by anyone else. Just FYI, the 75gr Scirocco is AWESOME on deer and hogs alike! D.R.T- dead right there performance. Swift has load data for it if you call. 🙂

  • Scott February 9, 2014, 1:34 pm

    Ruger’s made a bunch of winners with the “American” series. As soon as I found one in 7mm-08 at a local store last February I bought it. Color me impressed! This rifle using the lowest cost ammo I could find (Prvi Partisan 139gr PSPT) produced sub-MOA groups right out of the box. It’s a bit lighter and shorter than my old M77 in 30/06 and just as effective out to 300 yards on whitetails and a little easier to shoot. My current coyote rifle is a T/C Venture in .223 Rem and shoots well, but the Ruger holds one round more in the magazine, not a deal breaker but an advantage nonetheless.

    If you desire a sturdy, well built, accurate rifle with a good trigger Ruger American series rifles deserve your attention. I’ll agree with other comments that the Savage 12 LPRV is a superior rifle to the American, but where can a hunter find an outfit for less than $600, which includes a Redfield Revolution 3-9X40 scope (USA made!) and quality sling? Ruger has delivered a line of great quality, affordable bolt-action rifles from 22 LR up to 30 caliber, standard length or shorter compact length. They may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for many of us they fill the bill!

  • Grasshopper February 1, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Haven’t tried the new Ruger American yet but intend to. Will say this in reply to Muhjesbude’s post above, the Savage probably won’t be as reliable and dependable from my experience with the beautiful Model 25 that I used to own. Lots of disappointing and unexpected problems and not very complimentary comments from my gunsmith about the Savage quality when I took the Mod. 25 in to see what could be done. Traded it off the same day. Ruger has never let me down on reliability with other products of theirs that I’ve owned. CZ is another level of quality from Savage, near as I can tell, CZ is excellent but as someone else noted, probably a lot more money than the Ruger American. So if choosing between the Ruger and a Savage, I’ll take the Ruger from now on.

  • Dennie February 1, 2014, 7:31 am

    Is this rifle made in a left hand version?

  • King Ghidora January 31, 2014, 8:00 pm

    You can’t be serious about there not being “any” bolt action .223 that can do better than the American. Maybe you might want to look at some of the rifles produced by Savage. Start with the 12 LRPV for one. Get one that’s a single shot (advantage Savage), has a full bull barrel (advantage Savage), has the same 3 lug design that Ruger copied, a H-S Precision stock (advantage Savage) and has the Savage Target AccuTrigger (advantage Savage). It’s also bedded from the factory. Mine has shot groups under an inch at 500 yards. And it’s bone stock. Average group size at 500 yards is more like 4″ but still I doubt you’ll see the Ruger match that.

    No doubt this is a great rifle Ruger has produced and the price is certainly right. It isn’t a varmint rifle like the 12 LRPV so you can actually carry it around while hunting. But the idea that it can’t be beat by any bolt action .223 is just over the top. The local gun club has long range competitions at 600 yards. Those are dominated by the Savage 12 LRPV. Keep in mind that Ruger pretty much copied Savage’s features in building their rifle which is all well and good. But it proves that Savage not only can build a better rifle but they have been doing so for quite a while. Unless Ruger has a 6 oz. trigger from the factory like the LRPV I don’t think you can get the same results. That’s just one place Ruger didn’t keep pace with Savage. Of course their rifle is much cheaper. The action alone on the LRPV costs more than the whole Ruger rifle. But Savage has been king of the bang for the buck category a long time and they sell less expensive rifles and some almost certainly exceed the American.

    You bit off a big chunk when you said no other bolt .223 could beat the American. A very big chunk. I think it may be more than you can chew.

    • Benzy2 February 4, 2014, 9:48 pm

      Come on, its an obvious exaggeration. Do you really think he meant no rifle has ever shot better than 1/2 MOA? That Savage may shoot better, but its apples to oranges. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a 3 lug savage action, standard or target version. The reality is to get a better shooting rifle that is built to a similar weight you are looking at spending for a custom rifle. Look beyond the simple marketing/newsprint emphasis and its clear this is a great shooting rifle at an absolute bottom dollar price.

      And really, you’re going to make a factory Savage rifle the definition of peak performance? They are good rifles but their barrels aren’t top tier and do foul out quicker than a custom barrel. You don’t see many factory Savages on the 100-300 yard bench rest lines in the top competitive levels. As you stretch out to the longer range F-Class shooting, the difference in the last fraction of MOA is less important than wind reading and a factory rifle or two may pop up but its still more of an anomaly than the norm to see a factory stock rifle doing very well in any competition at the national level. Certainly examples are out there, but its not the norm and far from the safe bet on how to have equipment that will place at any event in the country.

      • King Ghidora May 30, 2016, 5:46 am

        Do you really think I believe a stock rifle is going to compete with custom built rifles? Talk about taking someone completely out of context. I know what I was told by the range master at that gun club. He told me that the 12 LRPV dominated their 600 yard competition. I’ll give you the name of the range and you can call the guy and ask him yourself. When I told him what I would be shooting it’s like he knew there would be more competition at the top. Like it or not, believe it or not, I don’t care – I KNOW that the LRPV is an excellent shooter and if you look around the net you can find that out for yourself in about 2 minutes. As for being an “obvious exaggeration” I think you give people too much credit. I’ve seen people post that their Ruger 10/22 could shoot better than any .22 made. And they were serious. The world is full of people who don’t know the truth and IMO you’re one of them.

    • Ah? March 16, 2014, 11:22 am

      Did you even read the article? Anyways, does anyone know if you can get an expanded mag for this? 3 rounds us pretty small

      • King Ghidora May 30, 2016, 5:51 am

        Yes I sure did. And comments like, “I challenge you to find a .223 bolt gun that outshoots it, at any price,” are pretty over the top. They crowed about it shooting a .5″ group. And they think that’s the best out there??? Give me a break.

  • RHiggs January 31, 2014, 11:34 am

    Hum, you would think LEOs would know better to drink and shoot. But, apparently they are trained professionals that are better than the common citizen they represent. The same goes for them drinking and driving, texting while Driving, etc.

    great review. I am like cjdj, it sure would be nice to use the mini 14 mags with it!

  • cjdj January 17, 2014, 11:54 pm

    Did they allow for the use of mini14 or AR mags with this? I realize its a bolt gun, but having the ability to use existing mags seems like a great selling point. Thanks for the review!

  • Jesse L January 8, 2014, 10:09 pm

    I have heard several Pistol Competition shooters make comments about drinking (1) beer about an hour before the match, claiming that it took the edge off enough to improve their scores. Several of the shooters were Federal and DOC Officers. One beer is probably not enough to cause impairment, but I would think that it would work against you if you were involved in an accidental shooting on the range. Your right George, gun powder and alcohol “DON’T MIX.”

  • MG January 8, 2014, 7:46 pm

    .223 only? The Mossy MVP had been garnering my attention (a coworker has the 27710 and has been crowing about how accurate it is. The American would be preferred for me, as I really like the lightness of this series of rifles. But it HAS to be able to handle 5.56 or it’s a deal breaker for me.

  • George R January 8, 2014, 11:01 am

    Aside from the comments on the rifle (not a Ruger fan but impressed) I am appalled at Muhjesbude admission that he violates one of the safety rules that falls on any gun safety rules list that I know of (40 years NRA instructor). Shooting and alcohol don’t mix. We shooters don’t need this booze and guns image. Violation of this rule should carry the same penalties as drinking and driving or drinking and operating a boat (coxswain USCG AUX). I am not a non drinker but I save it for after I shoot.

  • Dave January 7, 2014, 9:20 pm

    money wise the ruger is an excellent value, the AR, CZ, and savage all cost a good bit more. my american was 320 out the door, I’m not sure you can even get a stevens for that kind of cash.

  • Ernie January 7, 2014, 1:24 pm

    So I’d like to see a comparison to the Mossberg MVP rifle. A bolt action .223 which in my mine, takes the cake, by being able to use the same magazines as my AR-15.

  • mike garus January 7, 2014, 10:01 am

    “Bottom trajectory is that there’s nothing this thing does according to your test groups here, that a sub moa shooting AR can’t do better.”

    Please let me know where you can buy an AR for $350?

  • Rob H January 7, 2014, 8:30 am

    Finally a “Budget” .223 bolt action. I think this rifle will do extremely well. With an MSRP of $449, the real world market price could be as low as $350-$380. I like it!

    • Broderick Burke December 29, 2014, 9:43 pm

      I have a Ruger American .223 and with a BSA SWEET 223 SCOPE. It is a great shooter with PMC 223 Or Federal 223 BT. @
      200yrds is nothing for it to make a group.

  • Bill January 7, 2014, 7:38 am

    Your challenge? Savage and Cz would easily be comparable, if not superior.

    • Administrator January 7, 2014, 7:53 am

      While both are excellent, we have never tested an inexpensive centerfire that performed like this.

      • Muhjesbude January 7, 2014, 9:23 am

        Yeah, I agree with Bill. My neighbor is anally obsessed with someday obtaining the holy grail of precision bolt action shooting by finding a bolt action that is more accurate but costs less than the 900. cost of my match grade barrel and slightly sniper tweaked AR-15. He had a Howa that was close but still didn’t defeat the AR in over all considerations, different ammo, etc. While I am merely an experienced police/military tactical shooter, he is a precision target shooter so skill levels are maxed out and it’s really a matter of the guns. His Savage is also constantly sub moa with almost any decent ammo.

        While the weight of this is light enough to measure up to an AR, No bolt action beats an AR in a ‘choose only one or the other’ for the job. I’m sure my neighbor will read this and go out and get one and invite me over for a ‘beer and bullets’ afternoon. (he tries to get me a little ‘off bubble’ by the time we’re out to the 400 meter targets, but some of us shoot better after a few beers, lol!)

        Bottom trajectory is that there’s nothing this thing does according to your test groups here, that a sub moa shooting AR can’t do better. But since we will stick to just the bolt action comparisons, Depending on price comparison’s, the Savage or CZ might be the best bang for the buck.

        • Jack January 31, 2014, 5:02 pm

          This post should be deleted. It makes us all look bad. Booze and bullets don’t go together. 🙁

          • Grey Beard December 30, 2014, 2:53 pm


          • Wes August 26, 2015, 6:13 pm

            Yes it should. You would think “experienced”shooters would know better than to mix guns and alcohol.

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