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Ruger American Standard September 2015
Dan Martinez  

Two 7mm-08s: left, Ruger American Standard –
right, Browning A-Bolt Micro Hunter

Yes, it was Gerhard that pushed me over the edge. I had been eyeing the Ruger American Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor for several weeks. As you guys know, I am a big fan of the 6.5mm caliber. The 6.5 Creedmoor is quite in-style right now, even though it is very, very close to the .260 Remington in physical size and in performance. It is very hard to find rifles on the new market right now in .260 Remington, but the Creedmoor is all over the place.

The stock color of Gerhard’s Ranch model is Flat Dark Earth. Ruger says that the Predator’s stock is Moss Green. So not only was the Predator model available in 6.5mm, but it also comes in a cool green color. I wanted one.

So after reading Gerhard’s story, I gave a call down to the gun department at Cabela’s to see if they had the Creedmoor Predator in stock. They had other caliber Predators in stock, but not the Creedmoor.

I must admit that I had some reservations about the Creedmoor cartridge. The body of the Creedmoor is ever so slightly shorter than the .260 Rem. I was a little worried that in my handloading, that I might have a hard time reaching my desired threshold velocity of 2800 fps with a 120 grain bullet. I get there, but not much more in the .260 Remington with a typical sporter length 22” barrel. All the published specs say that the Creedmoor gets there too, but I know what I know about the .260, and the Creedmoor is less.

My other reservation was that I would need to get a new set of dies. Not a deal breaker, but not something that I looked forward to. So when the friendly gun salesman told me that the Creedmoor Predator was not in stock, I went to Plan B.

There was one other factor that was pushing me over the edge: The Ruger American was on sale in the latest Cabela’s flyer. The sale price of the Predator was right around $400, but the sale price on the Standard model was just a hair over $300. Since the Creedmoor was not available, the Standard model in 7mm-08 became much more compelling. Since I have a Browning A-Bolt in that caliber, I already have dies for the 7mm-08. Plus, I can easily get to 2800 fps with 120 and 130 grain 7mm bullets in the 7mm-08, even in the A-Bolt, which is a Micro Hunter model with only a 20” barrel. The salesman told me that they had ONE in stock. “I’ll be right there …”

In recent years, there has been a big competition among the top rifle makers to out-do the others in making cheap, yet accurate bolt action hunting rifles.

We all have our fetishes. Gerhard’s latest is Tikkas. They are not the lowest priced, but they are very affordable and have a reputation for excellent accuracy. Don’t get Gerhard started – he’ll talk your ear off about that.

If you’ve been reading my stuff over the years, you know that my main bolt action hunting rifle fetish is for Brownings. I’ve had a number of them over the years. The only ones that I have ever gotten rid of I really didn’t. I gave them to my sons so that I could buy more. However, they are not budget rifles.

Browning recently introduced their version of a budget rifle, the A-Bolt III, or as they like to call it, the AB3. But the AB3 is not as cheap to buy as the leaders in this category by Savage, Remington, Tikka (yes the Tikka is a cut above the others), and now the Ruger American. I wasn’t in a position to sample an AB3, but I did have the scratch for the Ruger.

Most of my Brownings are A-Bolt IIs, which are now discontinued. However I do have one Browning X-Bolt, which is the new flagship Browning bolt action, and the successor to the A-Bolt II. What interested me in the Ruger was that it shares a lot of features with the X-Bolt. It very much comes across to me as a budget X. Here is a list of features that the Ruger shares with the X-Bolt:

  • The exposed upper part of the receiver is hexagonal.
  • Three lug bolt with short lift.
  • Plastic rotary magazine.
  • Tang safety.
  • Super cushy recoil pad ala the Browning’s Inflex recoil pad.
  • Bolt shroud looks very much like the X-Bolt’s.
  • Cocking indicator underneath the bolt shroud is just like X-Bolts and A-Bolts.
  • Bolt release button on the left side of the receiver is very similar to Browning’s bolt actions.

Because it seemed so very similar to what I am used to, and in the interest of broadening my horizons a little, I sacrificed some of my treasure to bring to my loyal readers my impressions of the Ruger American. I’m going to shamelessly steal Gerhard’s format to discuss my impressions of the major points he addressed.

It looks like a Browning. Enough said.

The stock is basic black plastic which fully free-floats the barrel. Gerhard mentions that his stock contacts the barrel on one side. Mine does not. The forend is fluted for gripability, and both the forend and the wrist feature lightly raised ridges molded in with stippling in the valleys. Rifle makers are no longer trying to copy the checkering of wood stocked rifles when there are more effective treatments for plastic. Plus marks from me.

The rubber of the recoil pad is super squishy. While that’s great for combating recoil, I worry that it could rip if it catches on something in the field. It’s that soft.

Bolt Handles: Browning A-Bolt on the left,
Ruger American on the right

It’s a fat-bolt – meaning that the bolt body diameter is the same or larger that the diameter of the locking lugs. This is another feature which allows Ruger to lower the costs of manufacture without sacrificing function or quality. Upon setting up the rifle for first shots, one of the things I did was to apply a light layer of Teflon gun grease to the bolt. It operates quite smoothly.

I am not a fan of the bolt handle. I am also not a fan of the bolt and safety operation. The bolt is not locked from rotation when the safety is in the engaged position. At first, I thought that the bolt handle sticks out too far. It looks like it is very prone to being snagged open. But as the nearby photo shows, it really doesn’t stick out much farther than the Browning. Because I carry my rifles slung over my left shoulder with the barrel up, chambered but on-safe, that puts the bolt handle into my left side. Unless the bolt is locked closed by the safety, walking will eventually cause an unlocked bolt to snag the lower portion of the shoulder strap of my hunting pack and eject the chambered round. This is a major negative factor for me. To use this rifle in the field, I will either have to get used to carrying it differently, or … I don’t know.

Ruger does this to provide a way to unload the rifle with the safety on. Browning does this on the X-Bolt and the new AB3 by providing a separate bolt unlock button. The regular safety locks the trigger and the bolt, but by engaging the bolt unlock button, the chamber can be emptied with the trigger on safe.

You would think that Ruger, of all rifle makers, would know a thing or two about how to make a good detachable rotary magazine. You cannot prove that by the American magazine. But I guess that Ruger made it to meet a certain price point, and that is reflected in its function. The X-Bolt magazine is almost identical in concept and execution to the Ruger, but it is far superior.

The main problem with the Ruger American magazine is that when a round is stripped forward out of the feed lips, the next round feeds up to the lips very “lazily”. The flipper spring is too weak, and perhaps the internal surfaces are not smooth enough to allow the next round to crisply pop up into position when the top round leaves the magazine.

In use, this flaw is hidden because recoil will jostle the magazine enough to pop the next round up. But testing the magazine in your hand will reveal the problem.

If you’re familiar with a 10/22 magazine, you may try to load the magazine by pushing the back of the cartridge down in the middle of the magazine, then pushing it under the feed lips backwards against the back wall of the magazine. This works OK for all but the first round. It is best to load the first round by pushing the cartridge straight down through the feed lips. It’s hard to get the rotary cartridge flipper to do what you want it to when trying to load the first round as you would a 10/22 magazine.

Yes, it has a Glock-type trigger within a trigger. Yes the trigger is adjustable, supposedly to under four pounds. At the minimum tension adjustment, it still feels over four pounds by my accurately calibrated finger feel.

My standards for trigger pull poundage are not as “discerning” as my good German friend’s standards. I can tolerate a heavier trigger. Unfortunately what downgrades the Ruger’s trigger for me is noticeable creep before letoff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible, but it is not the crisp glass rod break of a trigger on a better quality rifle.

I also find the trigger safety within a trigger to be a bit distracting. This was my first experience with one of these triggers on a rifle. I’m a bit surprised that it bugs me, because I like a good two-stage rifle trigger such as the one on the Swiss K-31. I thought that the Ruger’s trigger safety would please me similarly, but it does not.

Barrel & Weight
The Standard edition has a 22” long barrel of sporter weight contour. Speaking of weight, the rifle as a whole is pretty lightweight, even though that fat bolt is a hefty chunk of metal. Ignoring for a moment that unlockable bolt issue, the rifle should prove to be a friendly carrying companion in the mountains.

Load Testing
When the rifle came home, I already had a suitable scope waiting for it in the closet. I have an unfortunate habit of buying scopes before I need them. Maybe it’s a good habit after all. I had a new, unused, low cost, but decent quality Weaver 3-9x40mm scope with ballistic reticle just waiting for the right rifle to come along. (You may also know that these value-priced Weavers are another fetish of mine.) The Micro Hunter is equipped with a Leupold (broadening my horizons again) fixed 6 power scope. To make the comparison fair, I tested the Ruger against the Browning with the scope dialed to 6 power.

I tested eight different loads in the two rifles. There is a nice cinder pit up north where I have camped overnight several times this summer that allows me a private 117 yard shooting range. My test regime consists of three, 3-shot groups out of the two 7mm-08 rifles, swapping rifles after each three shot group for cooling. This means that I need only one box of 20 rounds for each load. That is convenient, because I also wanted to compare some factory loads, which come 20 rounds per box. As we all know, factory CF rifle ammo isn’t cheap these days. So here are the results:

The results are arranged in the order of best to worst, by group size. The velocities listed are the average for the 9 shots (3 groups of 3), and the group size listed is for the average of the three groups of each load fired in each rifle.

Yeah, I know that I have had a few harsh things to say about the Ruger American. Maybe it was a little unfair to compare it to a full quality rifle, but the feature similarities invited the comparison. Across all the loads tested, it has proven to be as good a shooter or better than one of my pet Brownings. Taken as a total package, including the excellent price, it really is a solid choice. My biggest problem for deer season will be getting past the unlockable bolt issue. I’m afraid that I may not be able to, which would be a shame for such a good shooter. This goes to show that a good field rifle needs more than just decent accuracy.

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