Sturm, Ruger & Co.
The Ruger firearms tradition is about to experience nothing short of a slam dunk. What else would you call a six and a half pound 22″ barrel Ruger deer rifle that has a modern design polymer stock, trigger safety, four round rotary magazine, aggressive recoil pad, shoots into about an inch at 100 yards consistently, and has an MRSP of $449? Ruger calls it the American Rifle, and I call that a slam dunk.
Over and over we are hearing from manufacturers in the American firearms industry that they are bringing to market a “completely new gun.” I think it is actually because of the internet. Because where it used to be that a product succeeded or failed, and the reason for the success or failure was largely a mystery. The ubiquitous voice of the internet now can and does let you know almost immediately what consumers like about your product and what they don’t like, and this gives you the power to change your product to better meet their needs.
In the case of the new Ruger American Rifle, the voice of the consumer seems to have designed a new product for Ruger from the ground up. It is 100% different than previous Ruger rifles, and whether you are a Ruger fanatic or you are just looking for a reliable deer rifle that does what you need it to, the Ruger American looks to be a winner.
Historically the Ruger Model 77 is the flagship rifle in their line, and it is known for durability and the kind of gun from which you expect a lifetime of service. For the price, it is in line with other high end deer rifles, at an MSRP of $859, up to advanced tactical and African models in excess of $1000. The Ruger Model 77 is one of those guns that most gunsafes have at least one of, if not five or six. Ruger has one of the most committed fan bases in the entire firearms industry, and much of it is due to the success and reputation of the Model 77.
The Ruger American is being billed as “a new American legend,” and I don’t doubt that it will become that. They seem to have integrated a lot of what people like about the Model 77 with many new features, new engineering, and they have even taken a lesson from a competitors playbook to make the Ruger American a whole new gun at a crazy low price from one of the most trusted names in American firearms.
The American is 100% made in the USA, and though you never know how a new design is going to stand the test of time, the engineering changes from the Model 77 seem to be sound, and purpose driven based on what customers have been telling Ruger they want. Something as simple as using standard Weaver bases instead of proprietary rings and bases is most likely something that some customers would prefer, and that is one way that the American differs from the Model 77. As we saw with the Ruger Scout rifle recently on the GunsAmerica Blog, the standard Model 77 uses a proprietary scope mount and rings. If you want to use some of the new red dot and tactical scopes, you need a standard tactical rail, and you can do that with the Ruger American.
The action on the American also has a top strap over the top of the bolt handle. It isn’t as pretty as the open design of the 77, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the gun at all. It comes with a 4 round flush fit rotary magazine, so I’m sure that is part of the design reasoning for it. Also, the action is held into the stock by two big screw lugs, and the lugs are molded into the polymer, similar to the way an XD or Glock metal parts are molded into the polymer frame. So though the stock is polymer, there is a metal to metal weld when you bolt the action down into it. This has got to help with accuracy and consistency on the gun, and in our tests it wasn’t ammo sensitive at all, something that the Model 77 is known for.
Outwardly the American isn’t a head turner but isn’t ugly either. The forend is molded to a modern looking design, the barrel is free floated from the action, so there is no harmonic distortion from the stock touching the barrel. Before SHOT Show we were able to get an early look at a few of the products that were to be introduced as new for 2012 and the Ruger American came in a couple days before we left. In the middle of last minute details to get ready for the show, our resident US Army Sniper Ben Becker and I snuck off to the range to test this rifle, and we only had time to zero it and shoot a couple targets.
Even though the scope was hurriedly mounted sideways and refused to behave, the gun shot into about an inch with both Hornady Superformance 150gr. SST and regular Hornady Custom 165gr. GMX factory ammo. These are two very different loads in the same caliber, 30-06 Springfield, and the results were pretty much the same. When we get back we will spend more time with the rifle and other types of ammo, but so far the accuracy results with the American are as good as any other deer rifle we have tested. This is a 6.5 pound gun don’t forget. The barrel is very thin and meant for carrying in the field, not tack driving. Yet the Ruger American proved to be very accurate.
Recoil is an issue with a light 6.5 pound gun, but the thick pad on the American is very soft, and what recoil that can be absorbed from a pad is absorbed by the pad on the American. In .30-06, it is still sharp, but not punishing. Ben and I aren’t the type to force ourselves to get beat up by guns rather than be seen with extra padding protection, so we never shoot fixed action rifles on bare shoulders regardless. When we go shoot for the day with a deer rifle, it is either going to be with a Past magnum pad, or a Caldwell rest. A deer rifle is generally something you zero at the range with three to five shots then take into the field, to shoot one to a few shots, and I think the almost squishy pad on the Ruger is going to do as much as you could expect to not say ouch when you fire the gun.
If you are a Ruger fan you might already be giggling with happiness if you saw the pictures of the trigger on the American. It is consumer adjustable, from 3 pounds to 5 pounds, and it has a safety that at least looks like the one that has become very popular on Savage Rifles, and Glock and XD pistols. Ruger calls it the Marksman Adjustable Trigger, and it actually works nothing like the other safety triggers out there from how it was explained to us at range day. Ruger’s version of a trigger safety (trigger safeties have been around since the late 1800s believe it or not) locks the trigger, not the sear, so it prevents the trigger from resetting as well as the gun from firing, and this is different from the Savage, the Glock, and the XD. Sorry if that doesn’t make sense. That is how it was explained to us, and it made sense when we heard it, though I may not be explaining it correctly now. It works great though! The trigger is crisp and light, and you have an extra safety to prevent an accidental discharge due to a dropped gun or twig getting caught in your trigger guard as you push through brush.
As you can see, we got to shoot the American again at SHOT Show 2012 Media Day at the Range, and we are hearing a lot of buzz about it at the show. Everyone we have spoken to thinks Ruger could have priced this rifle at least around $699 and nobody would have flinched. At $449 MSRP and a street price much less, it will be a while I bet before supply can keep up with demand, but if you get on your dealer’s back now maybe he or she will give you one of the few they will be able to get over the next couple months. The price is nothing short of ridiculous for a made in the USA Ruger rifle. So far they have listed the available calibers as .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and .308 Winchester.
So far there is no mention of a lefty model, but don’t be surprised if both lefty and a number of other calibers are announced over the course of the year. This is the birth of a new American legend, and a slam dunk for the future of Ruger firearms.