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Ruger American Ranch 7.62×39

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Apple Pie and Vodka are an Interesting and Tasty Combination

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

If you were to flick through back issues of RECOIL, you’d probably notice a dearth of articles concerning budget-priced hunting rifles. There’s a good reason for that, as achieving a ballistic boner over a category that’s about as interesting as canned vegetables is difficult to say the least.

This new offering from Ruger tempted us to slum it, however. Here’s an accurate, suppressor-ready bolt gun that can take 20-round mags and can be had for around four bills. Best of all, it’s chambered in a round that allows for lots and lots of cheap practice, while delivering terminal ballistics that’ll dump most North American game animals inside of 200 yards.

Whoever came up with the idea of taking Ruger’s existing, short-action American bolt rifle and making it accept both 7.62×39 ammo and the company’s proven Mini 30 magazines deserves a bonus, as they’re going to sell a metric ass-ton of them. Anyone with an AK or AR in this caliber will be immediately interested, as they already know the benefits that x39 brings to the table. Those looking for a lightweight, compact deer gun for the upcoming season have already pricked up their ears, and parents with kids who’ve expressed a readiness to step up to a centerfire rifle will no doubt be taking note. No, it’s not a laser-flat ultramag, but that’s entirely the point.

ruger american ranch rifle

The bottom metal ... well ... isn’t. But a steel catch seemed — at least during our T&E — to stave off any potential damage from repeated magazine changes — somewhat inevitable, as shooting this rifle is both cost-effective and downright pleasant.

The bottom metal … well … isn’t. But a steel catch seemed — at least during our T&E — to stave off any potential damage from repeated magazine changes — somewhat inevitable, as shooting this rifle is both cost-effective and downright pleasant.

In the five years since Ruger introduced the American rifle, it’s carved out a name for itself as a very competent budget blaster. Designed from the outset to make maximum use of modern manufacturing procedures such as metal injection molding, we’d be surprised if a pair of human hands touch it more than a couple of times from when raw materials arrive, to when it lands on the loading dock for shipping. If you’re looking for a finely crafted heirloom, carved from wood and steel by a long-tenured craftsman who’s worn out a spot in the floor in front of his vise, then this assuredly ain’t it. It would be a mistake though to equate this with low quality. After all, your iPhone isn’t a product of generations of silicon artisans, and it works just fine.

The heart of any rifle is its barrel, and this one is made in-house on a hammer-forging machine. Due to the process’ effect of work hardening the surface of the bore, we expect it to hold up to many, many cases of steel-jacketed Combloc ammo. At 16 inches in length, it’s a perfect match to x39 internal ballistics, as there’s almost no velocity increase worth having from saddling it with a longer pipe. Shorter barrels are inherently stiffer — a good thing if you’re planning on adding a suppressor, and as the American’s muzzle is already threaded 5/8-24, it would be a shame not to.

The barrel is mated to its action by means of a Savage-style barrel nut, while foregoing the latter’s ease of swappage (yes, we just made that up) in favor of aesthetics — we don’t expect too many folks will lament the omission, as it’s a very low profile, slick system.

That action, by the way, starts out life as a chunk of 4140 CrMo bar stock, about as traditional as it gets. What’s less traditional is a three-lug bolt, as found on its upmarket sibling, the Ruger Precision Rifle. And instead of a controlled round feed, modified Mauser action found on the company’s legacy M77 rifles, the use of a three-lug design offers some advantages from both the shooter’s and the engineer’s perspective.

First is the removal of a machining step necessary to broach raceways in the action that serve to guide the bolt. Instead, bolt lugs are the same diameter as the bolt body, rather than sticking out on either side of it, meaning the corresponding hole in the action can simply be bored through. One side effect is smoother bolt travel, as we now have two simple tubes sliding one inside the other. Another is reduced bolt throw (in this case, 70 degrees, rather than 90), giving more clearance between bolt knob and scope, as well as theoretically faster operation. A downside to a shorter bolt throw is that there’s more effort needed to cock the striker when the bolt is lifted — you still need to do the same amount of work, but in a shorter amount of time. So, to address this, Ruger doubled the number of cocking cams under the plastic, snap-on bolt shroud. It works well.

ruger american ranch

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