The Ruger American Rimfire Compact rifle in 22LR is going to have a lot of appeal to shooters. Don Caswell reports on putting one of these through its paces and having a lot of fun in the process. This review was originally published in the SSAA Hunter magazine, edition 61 in June 2017.
I have a pretty standard approach to testing rifles and I started my review of the Ruger American Rimfire Compact rifle in 22LR the way I usually do. The only variation was that instead of doing the sighting-in at my local SSAA range I was using the private 50 metre range on my hunting buddy’s farm. It did not take many shots to have the Ruger shooting to point of aim at 50 metres, good enough to test some grouping of different ammo types. However, before I could settle down and start shooting groups, a shower of rain came over and reduced my batch of targets to soggy paper mâché.
The range has a few metal plates hanging from a target frame for plinking. I figured it would be a good idea to run a few rounds through the test rifle at least, rather than pack up and go home. I quickly discovered how fast the action of the Ruger American is. The short stroke and 60o lift bolt, with its larger than normal handle, make this one of the fastest bolt action rifles I have ever used. Combine that with a particularly ergonomic stock, a stubby 18 inch barrel and a ten round magazine and the Ruger is truly lightning fast to handle and shoot. In designing the American Compact Rimfire rifle Ruger has followed on with the theme of the compact rifle that has proven very popular in their centrefire rifles while borrowing from the highly successful 10/22 rifle.
Soon, despite the light rain, I was out of the shelter of the vehicle, standing unsupported, and playing a tune on the ballistic xylophone fifty metres away. Before long my hunting buddy showed up to see what was going on. The fast, repetitive rate of fire was not what he had been expecting to hear and he was intrigued. I passed the unloaded, opened rifle over to him. He inspected it and did a few trial sightings and swung the rifle to aim at the metal plates. “Nice balance,” he commented and added, “You better load me up a magazine.” Then he started to ding away at the metal plates.
Naturally, as these things go, it rapidly evolved into a contest to see who could get off ten rounds as fast as possible without missing a plate. We quickly went through several hundred rounds and the thick stubby barrel on the Ruger was starting to get hot! My host had to reluctantly leave to attend to some farm chores. “Gee, that was serious fun,” he said as he left. I had to agree with him. I had not had a plinking session like that in decades and I had forgotten what fun it is, not to mention excellent practice for hunting. The Ruger American Compact Rimfire rifle has certainly achieved what it was designed for. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
Ruger Compact American 22LR Bolt, Trigger & Safety
On pulling the rifle from the box, and slipping in the bolt, I held it at arm’s length and assessed my first impressions. Those were of lightness, good balance, compact, modern design styling, good feel and ergonomics. The only slightly jarring note was the bolt. It looked to be a bit oversized, poking well out from the side of the rifle and topped by a largish, conical shaped knob. But, I learned to love that bolt. It’s size and shape makes this little rifle a particularly fast rifle to cycle. Other than that, it is a relatively standard rimfire bolt, albeit a compact one with a tapered rear end.
The trigger is Ruger’s Marksman AdjustableTM model which is adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds weight of pull. The trigger is crisp with negligibly minor creep. My trigger scales indicated that the trigger broke consistently at each setting I adjusted it to. The trigger weight of pull adjusting screw is positioned on the front of the trigger assembly, which requires the stock to be removed in order to access it. Out of the box, I measured the trigger pull at a consistent 3.25 pounds. I varied the weight up and down and was pleased to see that when I wound the adjusting screw back to former settings I got the same weight of pull as I had previously. After playing with the trigger I left it at the lowest setting I could achieve, 2.75 pounds. That is a perfectly good choice for a hunting and plinking rifle.
The tang safety is a two position model that locks and blocks the sear rather than just blocking the trigger bar, as is sometimes done. Pushing the tang safety switch forward exposes a large, bright red letter “F” leaving the user in no doubt about the rifle’s condition. The safety was positive in its movement and I could find no faults with it.
Ruger Compact American 22LR Barrel, Receiver and Magazine
As received, the rifle has a Picatinny rail fitted. It features the Ruger symbol in white. Underneath this Ruger standard Picatinny rail, the receiver has a machined 3/8 inch dovetail alternative for scope mounting. I removed the Picatinny rail and fitted the Warne 7.3/22 Series, medium height steel rings that had been supplied with the rifle. On the left side of the receiver is a bolt release button, as more commonly seen in centrefire rifles, which wisely avoids simply pulling the trigger to release the bolt, as was a commonplace feature of rimfire rifles.
The barrel is alloy steel, cold hammer-forged for more precise rifling that enhances accuracy and ease of cleaning. The rifling has six lands in a right-handed spiral with a 1 in 16 twist. The barrel is a medium weight straight taper with a length of 18 inches. The muzzle is crowned and has been threaded. A machined barrel cap screws onto the thread for a neat finish. The finish is satin blueing.
This bolt action rifle uses the same nifty rotary magazine as used on Ruger’s famous 10/22 semi-automatic 22LR. The magazine fits flush with the stock and clicks easily into place and pops free at the press of the release lever. The magazine is simple to fill, the ten 22LR cartridges sliding smoothly into place. The magazine is the 10/22® BX-1 10-round rotary magazine and the rifle will accept all 10/22® magazines, including the BX-25®, BX-25®x2 and BX-15®.
Ruger Compact American 22LR Stock
The synthetic stock is a one-piece, moulded polymer unit in OD green. The pistol grip has comfortable palm swell with an effective raised grip pattern. The forend has a distinct finger recess, also with a raised grip pattern, that provides for a very comfortable hold of the rifle. There was no slipperiness, or loss of grip when I used the rifle in the rain either.
The cheekpiece is a separate, charcoal coloured, moulding that is held in place by the rear QD stud. There is no recoil pad. A textured pad is a moulded integrally with the cheekpiece and has the Ruger logo boldly displayed. I did not find that it impacted on shooter comfort; there is no recoil in a 22LR anyway. One minor thing though was that you need to be careful when leaning the rifle against a wall. The hard plastic recoil pad can be a bit slippery. On removing the butt QD stud a light tap will free the cheekpiece. On other Ruger rimfire models, with open sights, it is possible to fit a lower comb cheekpiece that better positions the shooter’s eye for the open sights on those models.
The stock also features Ruger’s patent-pending Power Bedding® integral bedding block system that positively locates the receiver and free-floats the barrel for better accuracy. There is a recess and prominent release lever for the ten shot rotary magazine. The trigger guard is integral with the moulded stock. I measured the length of pull at 14.0 inches to the front of the trigger’s safety blade, which equates with the specified 13.75 inch LOP on the trigger proper. The front QD stud is securely anchored into a reinforced section of the stock’s forend.
Leupold VX-I 4-12×40 Matte LR Duplex scope
The rifle was provided with a Leupold VX-I 4-12×40 Matte LR Duplex scope. It was a good match to the rifle, with sharp optics and the Duplex reticle that I prefer on hunting rifles. The LR variation features two mil dots on the vertical crosshair, below the centre point. The intention of that is for centrefire rifles that are sighted to 200 yards. The dots provide 300 and 400 yard sightings. On a 22LR they are also handy when indulging in some long range plinking. The scope was not bothered by being exposed to the weather and was impervious to the rain it was subjected to.
Accuracy Testing on the Rifle Range
Every rifle has its peculiarities, no more so that the humble rimfire, and it is wise to test a range of ammunition to find what any particular rifle prefers. The Ruger American is a no bones, lightweight hunting and plinking rifle; not what you would normally consider for bench target shooting. Nevertheless, I always test a few packets of good quality target ammunition just to see what the rifle is capable of. Not surprisingly, the top three are quality target cartridges.
However, the standout result for me was the CCI Velocitor coming in close behind the target ammo in terms of accuracy. The additional bonus here is that the Velocitor is a hollow point projectile with an extraordinarily high muzzle velocity of 1,435 fps. There is the trifecta for everything you would want for hunting – accuracy, velocity and terminal ballistics.
The range testing went well and the only comment worth making was that, for whatever reason, I experienced a series of ejection problems with the Federal Champion Value Pack ammo and a few with the Federal Standard rounds. There were no such problems with any of the other types of ammunition. The spent shells were not stuck – I could easily flick them out with my fingernail – it was just that the extractor was sometimes just not pulling those particular shells out of the chamber.
Ruger American Compact 22LR Rifle Overall Impressions
The field test went famously. We were driving into our hunting area when two bunnies appeared unexpectedly in the broad afternoon sunshine. I bailed out of the car, popped in the magazine, filled with CCI Velocitors, and quickly rolled them both. My hunting buddy commented, “You did not muck about there! All that plinking hasn’t done you any harm, obviously.” Quite right, the little Ruger shines at what it was designed for, plinking and hunting.
The Ruger American Compact Rimfire rifle in 22LR is 37.0 inches (944mm) in length. With scope, mounts and 10 rounds in the magazine I weighed in at 3.135kg (6.91 lb). That adds up to a light and handy little rifle. The moulded plastic stock is robust and a good ergonomic fit, being comfortable to use in any weather with well-designed grips. Fast handling and readily manoeuvrable, it is the ideal rifle for a walk around varminting session on the bunnies or some full-on plinking. With retail pricing from around $630, it represents great value for money. The rifle, mounts, Leupold VX-1 scope and a generous variety of ammunition were provided by Nioa.
Actually, this rifle is not exactly the Compact rifle shown on the Ruger website. The rifle I tested is a slight variation for the Australian market, known as a distributor exclusive. Nioa list it as their OD Green model. It is actually a blend of the best features of the US Compact and Standard models. That is, it has the short 18 inch barrel of the Compact combined with the high comb and longer length of pull butt of the Standard model.
I have had a few readers ask about 22 pistols. That is not something I dabble in, but there is an excellent article about chosing the best 22 Rimfire Pistols on the Gun and Ammo website.
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