Bruce Potts is impressed with Ruger's budget model
To the bench
The .300 AAC Blackout is similar to the vaunted .300 Whisper designed by J. D. Jones of SSK Industries and is based on the 221 Fireball round. AAC — Advanced Armament Corporation — developed a modified version in 2011 for use in the M4 carbine tactical system. As with the Whisper, it was designed for super and subsonic use.
It is a sporting round but I love its ability to be used for silent pest control subsonically, switching to supersonic for small deer species, where legal.
I fitted a Leupold scope because its smaller 1in tube matches the Ranch’s light weight. I also fitted the MAE Compact moderator as it reduces the report to a whisper — literally.
Factory-wise the choice is a bit limited and I only had some Hornady supersonic 110-gr V-Max loads. The .300 Blackout uses a fast rifling twist rate of 1-in-7in, primarily to stabilise the heavier subsonic loads. With light, fast bullets this leads to higher pressures as shown by my results. The Hornady quoted factory loads of 2,350fps from a 24in barrel and I achieved an average of 2,435fps and 1,449ft/lb with a 16in barrel — safe but interesting. Accuracy was stunning in all groups: three shots at 100 yards achieved less than 0.5in centre to centre, so it would make a great muntjac or Chinese water deer load.
I tried some Hornady V-Maxes with 20.0 grains of Hodgdon H110 powder that achieved a velocity of 2,381fps for 1,385ft/lb energy and 0.5in to 0.75in groups. Upping the bullet weight to 125-gr and Nosler Ballistic Tips gave 0.5in groups and 2,077fps and 1,198ft/lb energy with a load of 20.0 grains of Reloder RL10X powder.
I also loaded some subsonic loads. These are not deer legal because they do not meet the required energy levels. However, loaded correctly they make your rifle pull double duty as a silent fox tool.
My favourite loads are the lighter 90-gr XTP Hornady, which make great quiet fox loads that expand well with a load of 5.5 grains of Trail Boss powder for 1,061fps and 225ft/lb energy and sub-1in groups, and the 125-gr Nosler Ballistic Tips with 5.0 grains of Vit Tinstar powder, which achieve 1,084fps for 326ft/lb.
Most would choose the .223 as the sensible cartridge option but don’t discount the Blackout round – it has unique ballistic properties. The Ranch is well priced and shot very well and its simple yet effective design features make it excellent value for money. Stainless steel, fox and deer calibres with standard barrels are also available.
Accuracy: For a reasonably priced factory gun, the Ranch shot very well 18/20
Handling: Lightweight and compact, perfect for use all day 18/20
Trigger: I’m not a fan of trigger-in-trigger unit but had no issues here 17/20
Stock: Plastic feel but great bedding and built for a tough life 17/20
Value: Good value for money as it leaves cash in the pot for a scope, mounts and sound moderator 18/20
This Ranch is to appeal to shooters who like and need a carbine-sized rifle yet retains all the accuracy and power of the full-sized version.