When Bill Ruger developed the concept of the M77 bolt-action rifle he wanted it to be a rifle for the working man, a gun that Joe Lunchbox could buy with one week’s take-home pay.
Things have changed a bit; the buying power of today’s wages has weakened considerably since 1968, while manufacturing costs have risen. Today, the Ruger M77 Hawkeye starts at $859 (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and goes up as high as $1,199. According to the CATO Institute, the after-taxes take-home pay for the average manufacturing worker today is $431.42, or about half of what is needed for a new base level Ruger M77 rifle.
But, Joe Lunchbox can still buy a Ruger bolt-action hunting rifle for a week’s take-home pay. Well almost: If he pays full retail he will be $17.58 short, so he will have to work a little overtime that week. It’s called the Ruger American rifle.
The new “American” rifle is Ruger’s toe dip into the growing “affordable” hunting rifle market. It carries an MSRP of $449. Of course “street price” will be less and will allow the working man to buy it for a week’s take home, just like Bill Ruger intended.
The American is a no frills rifle, but that doesn’t mean it lacks performance. Ruger has kept the price down by stepping outside the gun making box and using efficient and innovative design and manufacturing techniques. The result is a lot of rifle in an inexpensive package.
The Ruger American is available in short action in .243 Win, .308 Win.; and in long action in .270 Win. and .30-06. No surprises with the cartridge selection, as they are the most popular cartridges in those action lengths. By keeping the selections limited it keeps the cost of producing the rifle low. Fewer set ups, less tooling and lower inventory all equal lower pricing.
The barrel and action are matte black while the stock is black. The barrel is hammer forged and is 22-inches long. It’s on the thin side, measuring .570 inch at the muzzle. Don’t let that fool you. Thin barrels can shoot amazingly well. This keeps the weight down, which is a good thing in a hunting rifle. At 6.25 pounds this is a light and lively rifle.
The barrel has a recessed crown and is attached to the receiver using a barrel nut so that headspacing is precisely controlled when assembling the rifle. If the headspacing is set precisely, accuracy is always enhanced.
Another aspect of accuracy is bedding. The bedding on this rifle is innovative. The action is bedded into the stock on a pair of V-blocks. As any machinist can tell you, a V-block holds any part with precision. Using a V-block for bedding is one of those forehead slapping things, when you realize the simplistic genius and wonder why you didn’t think of the concept first. The blocks are imbedded into the injection molded plastic stock. There is a pair of corresponding sets of dual cuts in the action to mate with the V-blocks, so that they act as the recoil lugs as well as bedding the action. The barrel is fully free-floated, another trick master gunsmiths use to improve accuracy.
The receiver accommodates a “full diameter” bolt that rides in it like a piston in a cylinder, which results in a very smooth action. The bolt has three locking lugs, rather than the more traditional two, which means a 70-degree rotation on the bolt handle.
The extractor is in a machined slot on the right-side bolt lug. It uses a spring-loaded ball that mates with a detent in the bottom of the extractor to allow it to slide to accept the case. The ejector is a spring-loaded plunger in the bolt face.
The stock has a molded-in trigger guard. There are also molded gripping ribs on the pistol grip and fore-end. The top section of the fore-end is thinner, which provides a shelf for fingers to grip. The stock has a cushy recoil pad, metal sling swivel studs and a red Ruger logo grip cap.
The magazine is a removable plastic box. This is a rotary style magazine that holds four cartridges, yet maintains a low profile. This keeps the stock thinner at the gripping point for carrying the rifle.
The Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger looks a lot like the Savage Accutrigger with its spring-loaded “trigger within a trigger” lever in the center. Actually, this rifle borrows several proven features from the Savage rifles including the barrel nut and extractor design. The Marksman trigger is consumer-adjustable. Ruger advertises that the range is 3 to 5 pounds. My gun came set at 3 pounds, 12 ounces from the factory. I found it is adjustable from 5 pounds, 10 ounces to 3 pounds, 3 ounces. While I could not get all the way down to 3 pounds, it is pretty close. The trigger breaks clean, proving what I have been saying for decades: American manufacturers can make a good trigger just as inexpensively and safely as the crappy triggers we were burdened with for years.
The tang safety is two-position and to my regret does not lock the bolt shut when in the "on" position. This is considered safer as the operator can unload the rifle with the safety in the "on" position. But it is my pet peeve, as I have left a trail of cartridges in hunting fields around the world thanks to bolts that snag on something and open when a rifle is slung on my shoulder.
The gun comes with scope bases installed. Those on my rifle were spaced at 51/8 inches apart, which is too far to mount the first three scopes I tried. I could reverse the front base, so the spacing was at 3½ inches, which put the front ring too close to the turrets. It’s a small thing and perhaps one that’s been corrected already, as Ruger shows a different base on the website.
The Ruger American is made 100 percent in America. It is a lot of rifle in an inexpensive package and it's a rifle worth considering for a beginning hunter or a grizzled old veteran.