The American Target laminate is the latest .22 rimfire from Ruger and there's no denying it looks the part. Bruce Potts puts it through its paces.
To many people, a .22 rimfire is a necessity to control the rabbits or vermin around their farms or for a bit of informal target shooting.
A good, honest, well-built rimfire does not have to be expensive but at the same time it does not have to be cheap and cheerful, either. US firm Ruger has always seemed to get the right blend of functionality, ergonomics and form — and at a realistic price, too.
Ruger’s .22 LR American range offers both rimfire and centrefire rifles. I have tested many over the years, and its little rimfire version is a pretty nice .22 LR for the money.
This model is made even better with the reduction of the barrel to 18in, a more varmint profile and a Sporter-type laminate stock. This means the .22 American Target model is perfect for range or field use.
Ruger American Target .22 LR laminate – action and barrel
The whole action has been thought out with precision and accuracy in mind. Ruger uses its own blend of machined alloy steel, which is both durable and strong. When machined, it is left with few tool marks and takes a very nice blued finish.
- It’s not long at 6in — most rimfires aren’t — and, though the action top is dovetailed for scope mounts, the Target version comes with a single, full-length Weaver rail for universal scope fitment and removal: scope, red dot, night or thermal use.
- The bolt runs very smoothly in the raceways of the action, with a short, 60° bolt lift to avoid scope contact.
- There is a really tactile large teardrop bolt knob for easy manipulation.
- The single claw-type extractor has a sprung clip to locate the round in the head. It then gives a positive ejection via a spur on the static action, which protrudes through the bolt face when the rearward motion of the bolt runs over it. It’s simple and works well.
- Ruger thinks about every aspect of design and the action needs a good bed to the stock for consistent accuracy, so there is a patented Power Bedding block that the action nestles into. This gives an almost integral fit to the stock to reduce vibrations and allows the barrel to free float and avoid pressure vibrations, therefore achieving best accuracy.
- On this Target model there is a barrel with a semi-vermin profile and a muzzle diameter of 0.868in, with a ½in UNEF thread for a sound moderator. The catalogue stated ½in UNF but this was definitely the finer UNEF thread, so take note.
- A target-type crown both protects the delicate rifling and establishes a good bullet exit from the bore for a more concentric flight.
- The Ruger’s hammer-forged barrels are 18in long with a six-groove, 1-in-16 twist rifling.
- No open sights are fitted but, as mentioned, this model is supplied with a one-piece Weaver universal rail-mount.
- The rail is 4.25in long and has seven notches for perfect scope alignment and eye relief, and is secured to the action with four Allen screws.
- All in all, it is a nice, compact and reliable action.
Trigger and magazine
The Marksman trigger is a good all-round unit that offers a balance between a clean let-off yet safe operation. There is a 3lb to 5lb weight adjustment, with an extra inner safety blade that has to be depressed as you pull the trigger before the sear is operated. It’s a field-ready or Sporter-type trigger with a crisp, predictable let-off, and that’s all you need.
Ruger, as expected, uses its BX-1 rotary magazine system — a 10-shot unit that sits flush to the stock and offers a good payload for troublesome rabbits while lamping.
The magazine is easily removed via the enlarged release-lever that protrudes an inch in front of the trigger-guard which, when pushed forward, drops the mag. The safety is placed on the tang behind the bolt and can be easily accessed with the thumb and slid back and forth quietly, always handy when bunnies are wary.
This is where the American Target overtakes its rivals. It is a superbly strong, weather-resistant laminate stock built to withstand hard use in all weathers and provide a stable and consistent platform for accuracy.
It’s a Sporter in style but with a higher comb and straighter for good, fast scope acquisition and no cheekpiece. The pistol grip has palm swells on both sides.
There is no chequering at all so it may be a little more slippery than usual, but I like the Ruger No.1 type fore-end tip and the Alexander Henry profile adds a touch of class. Two sling swivel-studs and a soft ventilated recoil pad finish off a good stock, with a length of pull of 13.75in.
I fitted an MAE .22 rimfire sound moderator and older style Leupold EFR scope that matches the American Target’s credentials perfectly.
Reliability and accuracy are key on a rimfire, and the Ruger fed and ejected all the ammunition tested without a flaw. I mainly used subsonic ammunition for the test, as this is the intended ammo for vermin control, but the American did shoot some high velocity (HV) well, though it was much noisier.
- I really like the Winchester 42-gr Max loads because the extra weight and redesigned lead hollowpoint head offers better terminal ballistics and greater accuracy. From the 18in barrel I had 1,074fps at 108ft/lb — at 30 yards it created one big hole and at 50 yards I had 0.45in five-shot groups.
- Eley’s newer 38-gr bullet is always accurate and the Ruger shot 1,051fps at 93ft/lb with superb 0.50in, 50- yard groupings.
- The new Norma 40-gr subsonic ammunition is much slower and very quiet with the MAE moderator. It achieved superb accuracy with 0.40in and 0.65in groupings at 30 and 50 yards, with 1,027fps at 94ft/lbs.
- CCI segmenting 40-gr rimfire ammunition, too, offers a different type of separating head for vermin control. These had a higher overall velocity of 1,092fps at 106ft/lbs, with a few going supersonic. Accuracy was 0.75in at 50 yards and 0.55in at 30 yards.
- With HVs, the RWS HV with its 31-gr hollowpoint lead bullet achieves 1,251fps at 108ft/lb, so quite mild when compared with the heavier subsonic CCI ammo mentioned, with nearly the same energy. But it was amazingly consistent with 0.5in 50-yard and 0.85in 100-yard groups.
- The Federal HV 31-gr loads always give good accuracy, producing 1,381fps and 131ft/lb — delivering a nice extra punch, with 50-yard groups of 0.65in and five shots under an inch at 100 yards when the wind was not too brisk.
The field test is where you make or break a rifle for actual usability. I liked the trim nature of the American Target, with that short but heavy profiled barrel sitting very sturdily in the aim for good accuracy. Slung over the shoulder it did not snag foliage but, though that laminate stock is very hardy and weather resistant, it was a little slippery to hold at times.
I have had this rifle since the spring and so tested it a lot on rabbits munching growing crops. I sat up in the hedgerow opposite well-chewed areas of crops and the rabbits were soon falling to a smooth and quiet report of the American with Winchester 42-gr Max ammo.
The trigger is good, the whole bolt operation is excellent and reliable, and the rotary magazine means more shots before refill. Rimfire ammo is cheap, so it’s not too costly to carry a few spares.
- Accuracy: Not fussy over ammo brand, all shot very well 18/20
- Handling: Even with scope and moderator fitted, it handled well 16/20
- Trigger: Good or a hunting rimfire 17/20
- Stock: Nice laminate but needs more grip 16/20
- Value: Good alternative to the usual European fodder 18/20
Not your normal cheap American rimfire — this Ruger has had thought put into its design, and the accuracy and handling add up to a well-made little rifle. The stock is sturdy and well balanced, albeit a tad slippery at times, but it’s well priced and can be relied on to thin out the vermin population, as well as punch a few targets for practice with reliable accuracy.
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Need to know
- Manufacturer: Sturm Ruger
- Type: Bolt action rimfire
- Barrel length: 18in, threaded UNEF
- Overall length: 37in, 43in with MAE sound moderator
- Calibre: .22LR (.17 HMR and .22 WMR are available)
- Stock: Black and grey laminate
- Weight: 6.7lb
- Trigger: Marksman-adjustable trigger
- Safety: Tang mounted
- Scope mount: One -piece Weaver
- Magazine: 10-shot rotary
- Price :£715
- Contact: Viking Arms tel: 01423 780810