Bruce Potts braves horizontal rain and snow to try out the Ruger American Hunter
I have tested a few guns for Ruger recently and this one epitomises a trend for making more affordable rifles without skimping on accuracy or reliability. This is welcome news for shooters who use a rifle as a tool as part of their job, such as keepers. (Read our list of the best shooting smocks for stalking)
Ruger American Hunter on test
Ruger’s new American model, which is different from its Hawkeye range, is gaining popularity. The Ruger American Hunter model has a more practical finish with matt bluing to metal surfaces to help reduce reflection. Similarly, the synthetic stock is grey/black in colour. There is a carbine length 20in barrel and large muzzle break combined with the improved Magpul stock, a pleasing alternative to the usual basic American Sporter stock.
The action has had some thought put into it with regards delivering a smooth bolt operation. This is largely due to the three locking lugs in an upside down ‘A’ configuration. This allows a low bolt lift and this faster bolt manipulation is assisted by dual-cocking cams that make the start of the bolt lift a lot easier. A Sako-style claw extractor and spring plunger ejector take care of reliable cartridge transition.
Gone are the proprietary Ruger mounts, replaced with a more practical one piece Picatinny rail, which is far better and allows scope, NV or thermal use if required.
The barrel at 20in is ideal for a stalking rifle, and in 6.5 Creedmoor is still efficient. The semi-varmint profile does not weigh enough to affect the handling. Threaded with a 5⁄8 24 pitch attachment, it comes with a large muzzle brake fitted which, though it reduces recoil, was too noisy for hunting, so I removed it and fitted a sound moderator.
The bore of this 6.5 Creedmoor barrel has a 1 in 8in rifling twist rate, good for stabilising any bullets from 85gr (grain) to 160gr and is free-floated its entire length for consistent accuracy.
The firing mechanism and safety as well as the magazine have all had attention brought on them. The trigger is Ruger’s Marksman and so has the trigger safety system whereby the inner trigger blade needs to be depressed before the sear breaks.
I am not keen on them but this Ruger broke cleanly at 4.25lb but can be adjusted between 3 to 5.5lb. Safety wise, you have a very convenient tang mount slide action that can be put on and off silently, and without much movement, ideal for stalking.
Feeding the Ruger is via a five-round detachable box magazine. This is a good option and more universal with an easy to operate large lever that straddles the front of the trigger-guard to release it.
Best of all is the stock on this model. Normal American models tend to have a rather plasticky feeling and lacklustre synthetic Sporter type, but Ruger has turned to the stockmaker Magpul to use one of its Hunter stocks.
This is half Sporter/tactical with a stiffer and more solid feel to its grey synthetic finish and comes with adjustable features such as the cheekpiece, which can be replaced to alter the comb height. This is handy but also annoying as it has to be removed to take the bolt from the gun for cleaning.
You can also increase the length of pull from 13 to 15in with the included ½in spacers between stock and recoil pad as you wish, and although it is very ambidextrous it feels slim and quite hard in the hold.
The pistol grip is very small and angular, as is the flat fore-end, which is more suited for a bench gun but extra grip comes in the form of ribs and moulded in checkering to the key areas.
Better is the built in aluminium bedding block that securely joins the action to the stock to form a rock solid union and thus eliminating inaccuracies caused by movement under recoil or adverse conditions. It does make a difference to consistent accuracy.
I fitted a new GPO fixed power 7x50mm scope and Evolve sound moderator as well as a NightMasters NM1 XL Lamp as deer season had finished and we were on fox duties.
Being a 6.5mm Creedmoor, we could use bullet weights from 85gr (reloads) right up to 160gr if necessary, but the lighter 100 to 120gr seem to perform best, especially when having to use lead-free ammunition.
However, I started with the customary factory loads, of which my favourite fox cartridge is the Federal 95gr V-Max, which is both accurate and flat shooting, with the fast expanding V-Max bullet being a perfect fit for fox and safer to use than a heavier bullet when lamping.
They shot just shy of 3,000fps at an average of 2,992fps for 1,889 ft/lb energy and inch groups while equivalent reload was 44.25gr of Alliant RL15 for 3,103fps and 2,032ft/lb with 0.85in groups at 100 yards.
I did not have any 120gr factory left – it’s expensive stuff – so I reloaded some 120gr Nosler Ballistic Tips with 41.0gr of wild boar powder with good 0.85in groups at 2,827fps/2,130ft/lb. A lead-free option at this bullet weight would be using a Hornady GMX 120gr for 2,814fps/2,111ft/lb using my favourite Creedmoor powder, Norma 204.
Factory 129gr Hornady SST loads are fast and shot 2,789fps and 2,229ft/lb with 0.75in groups too; you could up this with 45.0 gr of RL17 powder to 2855 fps if you like.
A lead free option and good accuracy would be the 127gr Barnes LRX with 46.5gr of Swiss RS62 powder for 2,819fps and 2,293ft/lb and after playing with the bullet seating depth managed 0.70in groups. Sadly, the weather had turned to horizontal rain and snow in Scotland, so no foxes to show for our hard work but the American Hunter acquitted itself well in the field. It is reasonably priced at just over £1,000 for the accuracy we achieved, though I thought the handling a bit quirky.
It is, however, a rugged rifle and one that you need not mollycoddle. I would definitely remove the muzzle brake for a moderator and then you will have yourself a dependable fox or deer rifle or target gun in the very popular Creedmoor round.
Tech specs Ruger American Hunter
- Manufacturer Ruger
- Model American Hunter
- Type Three lug bolt action
- Calibre 6.5mm Creedmoor
- Capacity 5-round detachable box magazine
- Barrel 20in 1:8 twist, 5/8 x 24 UNEF threads
- Overall Length 41.25in
- Weight 9.2 lb.
- Stock Magpul American Hunter
- Length of Pull 13.75in, adjustable
- Finish Matte black blued
- Trigger Ruger Marksman, adjustable
- Sights Picatinny rail
- Safety Two position tang
- Price £1,030
- Supplier Viking Arms 01423 780810
This gun is a tough, no-nonsense kind of bolt action rifle