“New and improved” are welcome words when it comes to hunters’ trusted firearms and gear so when Sturm, Ruger & Company said it was launching Generation II of the affordable, reliable Ruger American rifle, American Hunter paid attention. The original model that debuted in 2010 as a value-minded alternative to the more expensive Ruger Hawkeye had earned a solid reputation with hunters who recognized the company had followed through on its commitment to deliver “the best bang for the buck.” Generation II was said to be better yet.
Ahead of this week’s launch I joined friends from Ruger at FTW Ranch in Barksdale, Texas, to push the rifle’s limits at an FTW Sportsman's All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship (SAAM) training course. While such rigorous training over multiple days instills the confidence to go anywhere in any hunting conditions and pursue our game species of choice, it also exposes any issue with our rifles. If Gen II performed here, it would perform anywhere.
Our group of field-testers included eight shooters and hunters from beginner to advanced skill levels, including Ruger’s Mark Gurney, director of product management, and Sarah Colbert, VP of Administration, who were looking forward to unveiling Gen II’s features to the rest of us. My getting to witness the reactions to the rifle while on the firing line was important as I assessed its merits and saw newer shooters benefitting from its features as intended. The first two days were spent hitting targets on the range as far as 700 yards before getting into some hunting.
As today marks the rifle’s unveiling, it is no wonder Ruger’s public relations manager, Paul Pluff, is quoted as saying the company is proud to introduce it, describing the Ruger American Generation II rifle as “an update to the American-made rifle that has been the benchmark for accuracy, durability and performance in bolt-action rifles for over a decade.” This rifle, which we all tested in the 6.5 Creedmoor caliber option, is something to talk about as we head into 2024 and next month’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show—and Ruger’s 75th anniversary. Hunters in search of an ideal and affordable hunting rifle should check this one out, and I’ll explain why.
New features start with a ceramic-based Cerakote finish on the barrel, muzzle brake, receiver and bolt handle to enhance durability, strength and corrosion resistance. It also makes these parts easier to clean. The bolt handle is threaded, the bolt body is stainless and the rifle has a three-position “tang” safety instead of the two-position safety on the original Ruger American. For newer shooters, I’m referring to the sliding bar located on the metal strip, or tang—behind the receiver—that prevents firing. The three-position option includes a full-safe mode, a halfway point that allows you to work the bolt while the trigger remains on safe, and a fire mode. The three-position option is a plus for those of us who often trek through the brush on our hunts as it prevents the bolt from accidentally opening while keeping the safety engaged.
While I was drawn to the looks of the barrel’s spiraled, fluted design, it is ideal for two reasons: It reduces weight at the muzzle—without compromising barrel stiffness or accuracy—and it provides a larger surface area to help the barrel cool faster. This can reduce barrel wear and increase barrel life and is much appreciated when you’re putting in your time as we were, sighting in and then spending a few hours shooting targets at multiple distances. Worth noting is that while the fluting process typically increases production costs, Ruger absorbs the expense in its efforts to deliver hunters an affordable rifle that, like its predecessor, offers “the best bang for the buck.”
Ruger is good about listening to customers’ suggestions so the stock has been redesigned too. It is polymer like the original, but it features new “cross webbing” on the stock and fore-end so it is stiffer and even more durable. Its tri-color gray splatter finish looks good, but the extra texture is there to enhance your grip. Hunters of all physical statures also can take advantage of its low, factory-installed removable comb riser. Change the comb height easily by sliding the comb piece to the rear. I saw the difference the comb made to the newer shooters and hunters in my group as they became increasingly proficient at acquiring targets and aligning the sights of their magnified Leupold VX-5HD scopes. If you’re using a low-mounted sight, remove the comb. More comb options are available at ShopRuger.com to tweak the fit.
As with the original, the company’s patented, notable Power Bedding system positively locates the receiver, keeps it in place and free-floats the barrel. This enhances both stability and accuracy by preventing unwanted movement. The barrel moves freely each time a shot is fired, thanks to two stainless steel bedding blocks that are insert-molded into the stock. A Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger provides a crisp release with pull-weight options from 3 to 5 pounds, to tailor the amount of force it takes to fire. The smooth, one-piece CNC-machined stainless steel bolt has a familiar three-lug design with an oversized handle that makes it easy to work quickly. Its 70-degree throw provides for bolt handle clearance when taking aim through scopes with larger objectives.
Recoil management is addressed through the rifle’s hollowed-out rubber recoil pad. The pad’s heel has a large radius for quick and easy shouldering, featuring what Ruger calls “improved geometry that progressively collapses to reduce felt recoil.” This makes a difference. While shooting at FTW Ranch, I looked down the line of shooters in my group, several of whom were not regular shooters and were, in fact, brand new hunters. Recoil was never an issue so their focus remained on target acquisition, sight alignment, breath control and trigger squeeze. For those planning to mount a heavy muzzle device, Ruger’s stock-weight accessory kit, available on ShopRuger.com, adds up to 1.6 pounds to the butt of the rifle to aid balance and diminish felt recoil.
You can’t shoot a rifle well if it doesn’t fit so Gen II arrives from the factory with a length-of-pull spacer (LOP) to tailor LOP from 13.75-inches down to only 12-inches for that custom fit. Those who need a longer LOP can order extra spacers at ShopRuger.com.
For toting ease, the rifle weighs in at 6.5 pounds, has a 20-inch barrel with a 1:8-inch right-hand twist and a length of 41.25 inches. I certainly enjoyed shooting and hunting with the it in the flat-shooting 6.5 Creedmoor, but for more good news, it will be chambered in a total of six calibers in 2024: .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Winchester and .450 Bushmaster. The MSRP is $729, though your local shop may even offer it for less. Ruger is also launching a Ranch Model that weighs 6.2 pounds, has a 16.10-inch barrel, an AR-style magazine and an overall length of 37.35-inches in these four calibers: 5.56 NATO, 7.62X39mm, .300 Blackout, and 450 Bushmaster. The stock color is what Ruger calls a “Flat Dark Earth splatter finish,” which means tan—another great color if part of your goal is to blend in with your surroundings. This version should come in handy on those Texas farms and ranches my husband, Phil, and I market and sell for Hayden Outdoors Real Estate.
The Ruger American Generation II rifle has a factory-installed one-piece Picatinny scope base and a detachable AI-style box magazine that holds three rounds. It sports steel sling-swivel studs so pull it from the box, add a sling and scope and start shooting. It is affordable—a great key word in today’s economy—and fun to shoot, partly because it is accurate right out of the box, which is what we require when shooting at a live animal. As FTW Ranch’s Tim Fallon reminds us, “You only have one first shot”—another reason hunters will want to check out the Ruger American Generation II rifle as their tool for the job.
For testimonials, new hunters Sarah and Dorothy demonstrated that the Ruger American Generation II was reliable both on the range and in the field. Sarah dropped an axis buck at just under 300 yards, and Dorothy took a whitetail doe at 200 yards. One of the best parts of the FTW SAAM course experience was that the hunt included a session on wild game field dressing and butchering, all part of FTW Ranch’s new “Field to Fork” program for new hunters who not only want to learn to shoot and hunt but also to process their own game and take it from field to table.
While visiting ShopRuger.com for all the extras, check out Ruger.com to locate a local retailer, learn about area sales events and get a glimpse of the new products being launched by Ruger and Ruger-made Marlin. The holidays and Valentine’s Day are just around the corner for the men in our lives who might be wondering about a gift. Of course, women can visit the site for gift ideas for the guys if our significant others like to hunt as much as we do.