Ruger’s new Precision Rifle created quite the buzz when it was announced. As a tech guy by day, I shudder every time I hear phrases like “paradigm shift”, but to look at Ruger’s newest rifle, you’d be hard pressed to find a different phrase to describe what they’ve done. On paper, you have a very modular platform chambered in three very competent, long range, short action cases that makes great use of an already thriving aftermarket for the AR-15. The RPR, no matter the flavor, is adjustable, modular, and functional. And let’s not dance around the subject…it’s affordable, too. So when I got the nod to have one shipped to me, I knew I was either going to be very happy or very disappointed . . .
My expectations were, frankly, very high. Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot some fine rifles at targets that were very far away. Relative to the guys on this list, I’m still learning to crawl, but I know enough to know what’s good. And on that note, it might be worthwhile to spend a bit of time discussing the topic of what makes a good precision rifle.
A precision rifle in my experience is what any of your non-gun friends might call a sniper rifle. The line at the this year’s Bushnell Brawl was dominated almost exclusively by bolt action guns built on the Remington 700 action blueprint. Some of them used chassis-style stocks while others used more traditional free-floated stocks with flat forends and bipods at the front and high cheek combs at the back. These stocks allow the barrel to remain untouched and also provide for stable shooting off barriers and bags. Traditionally, these rifles are chambered in some variety of a 6mm or 6.5mm caliber. The most popular ones I noticed at the Brawl were .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 x 47 Lapua for the 6.5s and .243 WIN and 6XC for the 6s.
The most obvious characteristic that these rifles all share are the ability to put a bullet in nearly the same place, hot, cold, clean, or dirty. This level of accuracy usually comes through the usage of hand-lapped premium barrels with fairly thick contours mated to sturdy, squared receivers.
These guns are tack drivers that err on the side of heavy chambered in cartridges that efficiently deliver bullets at distances out to 1000 yards or so. What makes them so good is that they’re incredibly “shootable” rifles. Pretty much any rifle can be made to shoot well off a set of front and rear bags. But try getting that same rifle to shoot well offhand, or placed on a precarious barrier, shot from the weak side, and the story changes quite a bit. The last thing these guns share? They cost several thousand dollars.
If you read those last two paragraphs while switching back and forth to the Ruger Precision Rifle features page, you’ll notice that the RPR has a lot of these attributes. You’ll also notice that the RPR has a MSRP price of…$1399. At the time of this writing, market prices were holding fairly close to that number — not surprising given the buzz this rifle has generated. My expectation is that the market will correct as Ruger churns these out en masse. My hope is that one day we’ll see these at or below the $1K mark, but I fear that may be a bit optimistic.
So what do you get for your $1399?
The Back Third
I’ve chosen to break up the overview into three separate pieces driven mostly by Ruger’s super-cool website and partially because there’s a lot that needs to be said about each third. And yes, the butt stock is going to get its very own section. The ass end of a rifle is arguably one of the most important parts. Most of the contact with the gun is done through the stock, and poor shooter and rifle fitment can render a mechanically accurate rifle worthless.
There are three points of contact the shooter makes with the buttstock. The first is the butt pad, the second is the cheek rest, and the third is the toe which is usually where the support hand or a sandbag are placed during prone shooting. Ruger has done a fantastic job with all three surfaces on the RPR.
The butt pad is a soft and squishy chunk of rubber that has a good deal of grip against clothing. I find that when I shoot from standing with a sling, especially on a gun with a bit of weight towards the front, I prefer a bit more grip to counteract the force of gravity pulling the rifle downward.
The cheek riser itself is made of plastic, but seems fairly stiff. It’s symmetrical which makes for an identical cheek weld whether shooting strong side or weak side. Conversely, a chassis like the KRG X-Ray that I used at the Bushnell Brawl is slanted one way more than the other making weak side shooting a pain.
I found the RPR’s riser shape to be fairly pleasant with only a bit of stippling to help get a good grip without being so aggressive that it yanked at my beard hairs. If I had to pick any nits, the twin tower structure that connects the riser to the stock is prone to a bit of lateral flex if you get aggressive. It’s a minor issue, but one that is not present in other stocks with adjustable cheek pieces.
Lastly, a note on the toe of the stock. There’s a great deal of personal preference when it comes to stock shape. Some guys prefer a flat-bottomed F-Class style stock where some, myself included, prefer a slightly angular rise to the receiver (think A2 style). What Ruger did here was make the toe Picatinny compatible so users can pop in a rail-based monopod like the one from Accu-Shot. I’ve used these on a few occasions, and while I’m more comfortable with a small sand bag, I see the value and applaud Ruger for striking a fair compromise.
Where the butt stock falls short is in the adjustment department, or rather the confidence that things are really locked.
There are two adjustments that need attention in a butt stock. The first is length of pull (LOP) and the second is comb height. The RPR allows for a tremendous amount of adjustment in both categories, and even allows the cheek riser to be moved fore and aft, an adjustment that many high end aftermarket stocks lack. On paper, this is great for allowing for maximum adjustment for minimum dollars. I never found myself wishing for more comb height or more LOP. But getting things set was a minor pain in the butt(stock).
Ruger went with a lever-actuated quick release system similar to what you’d see on your bicycle seat post clamp. In an attempt to avoid a friction fit for those parts, the locking mechanism has teeth that mesh with identical cuts on the riser. More often than not, though, I would fail to get it locked up, and no amount of jiggling would get things settled. Once adjusted, and locked in place, things are A-OK though I didn’t feel as confident in the locking system as I do with a Magpul PRS.
Which brings up a great point. The butt stock is built off a carbine-length buffer tube compatible with any AR-15. I’m a big fan of the Magpul PRS stock, and if Ruger threw me the keys to this rifle tomorrow, the next call I’d make would be to my brand new Texas neighbors to beg and plead for a PRS to stick on my RPR.
For a part of this test, I slapped on an A2 stock that worked just fine, save for the lack of recoil pad which made half-day shooting sessions a tad painful for my delicate shoulders. I’m curious why Ruger didn’t opt for the PRS out of the gate since they clearly don’t have a problem using third party gear on this rifle. Perhaps it was a cost issue.
The Middle Third
If you thought I got wordy about a buttstock, just wait. The middle third being everything forward of the folding stock and aft of the barrel nut, there’s a lot that needs coverage. Probably a full 80% of the “cool” features of this rifle are contained within the few inches between those two parts. Starting with the folding butt stock, it becomes apparent that Ruger found a bunch of guys who know their stuff when it comes to shooting rifles, put them in a room, and wouldn’t let them out until they made something new and cool.
The folding mechanism is rock solid and 100% reliable. Once locked in place, there’s zero wiggle or slop. The fit is so tight that pressing the release won’t actually unlock the stock. You have to give it a bit of a love tap in the direction of travel to get it freed up. Once free, it swings to the left 180 degrees and can be locked in this position using a camming button. This is a slick little system and allows for a much more compact package for travel. Is it necessary? The answer, like most things, is it depends.
In my opinion, the typical rifle shooter doesn’t need to have a folding stock. It adds complexity and weight to the rifle. Folding stocks seem to be the purview of tacticool operators who need a minimally long rifle for transport.
The issue of course is that typical bolt guns have the back half open to the world. When you want to pull the bolt to clean it, it’s easy as pie. Since Ruger went with an AR-15 style buffer tube attached stock, though, the options were 1) make a two-part upper and lower like the AR, or 2) do this folding stock thingy. I imagine that in the long run, this folding stock option was lower in cost and complexity.
With the stock opened up, the bolt can be removed from the action giving you unfettered acess to run a cleaning rod down the bore. You can also use this opportunity to pull the plastic cap off the back of the bolt to expose the Allen wrench needed to adjust the trigger. I was most confused by this design decision as the plastic cap seemed to be prone to popping off and rolling around on the floor of my shop. This never happened while the gun was in operation, but it seemed to be a slightly weird decision by those aforementioned smart guys.
The bolt is a three lug affair identical to the one I pulled out of the American Rifle series. Like that bolt, RPR’s has a fairly short lift and no more travel than necessary to clear a short action case from the action. I found it a little gritty until I put some grease on the relevant moving parts. With a bit of dead dino love, the bolt lift and travel was greatly enhanced. Ruger even went so far as to pre-thread the bolt handle so an end user could put an even larger knob in place of the already oversized stock model.
Above the bolt, the receiver features a 20 MOA rail that is held in place by four hex screws. The 20 MOA rail is a hallmark of most high end rifle builds as it allows the user to maximize the elevation adjustment of their scope for those truly long shots way past the 1000 yard mark. I never got the opportunity to stretch the legs of the RPR that far, but I did have plenty of elevation in case I wanted to. For this test, I used Warne’s beefy one piece mount, and had no problems mating it with the receiver.
Below the bolt handle, there’s an AR-15 compatible grip that fits the hand nicely. Forward of that is Ruger’s Marksman adjustable trigger which is easily one of the finest factory triggers on the market. Ruger says it’s adjustable from two to five pounds, but I found mine set to two and a quarter pounds from the factory and never felt the need to mess with it. Our man Jeremy is currently testing a Dvorak TriggerScan and was nice enough to put together some pretty graphs that show the travel and weight of the RPR’s trigger.
He was even nice enough to lay the RPR graph against one of the worst triggers he’s ever put on the machine, the Century Arms C308 he tested in July of 2015.
In case graphs aren’t your thing, take my word for it. This RPR trigger is flat out fantastic. There’s almost no takeup or grit. Jeremy’s fancy machine says .74 mm which is about 7 sheets of printer paper. It feels like less to my calibrated hand tools. The break is crispy clean and there’s minimal overtravel. I wish I had more to say, but it’s just absolutely perfect right out of the gate.
Forward of that excellent trigger is the coolest magazine well that ever existed. Hyperbole aside, making a rifle compatible with two of the most popular short-action magazines, the SR-25 style and the AICS style, is a minor engineering feat. Making them both feed reliably had to require the sacrifice of several large animals. I was most skeptical of this feature and did my best to make it fail, but damned if it didn’t work flawlessly every single time.
Pop a mag in, push until it clicks and start feeding rounds. Go fast or go slow, it doesn’t matter. When it comes time to drop the mag, hook your thumb along the latch at the back, push forward, and pull the mag out. Ruger sends two Magpul 10-rounders with the gun, but all the magazines I tried worked fine. This is a truly magical system and makes loading, unloading, and reloading a breeze.
The Front Third
Forward of the action is a thick barrel, covered by a free-floated Samson KeyMod rail. The rail attaches using a standard AR-15 barrel nut, but the barrel is head-spaced and attached using a proprietary nut of Ruger’s own design. After pulling the hand guard, it appears that any AR-15 style barrel nut will thread into Ruger’s barrel nut.
The possibilities are endless, though I’d be hard pressed to find a better rail than the Samson that ships with the RPR. As a KeyMod compatible rail, there’s an endless number of things to stick to the hand guard. The top side is Picatinny equipped which should allow you to attach all manner of lights, lasers, and steak knives and line trimmers. Ruger even ships two KeyMod pieces, a QD swivel, and a length of Picatinny with a sling swivel attachment. Those are the two most popular items people choose to stick to their guns, so Ruger seems to have decided to include those with the purchase.
The one area where I can fault the Samson rail is that it doesn’t have a flat bottom. This is really only a problem when shooting off a flat surface like a 2×4 barrier or a flat-bottomed adjustable front rest. Because of this, the rifle has a tendency to rock side-to-side, especially with a heavy scope mounted.
There are a couple rails in the market that feature a squared off bottom, but the Noveske NSR and the Seekins SP3R V3 are top of mind. The issue, as you might guess, is that the aforementioned Noveske and Seekins rails are $275 and $235 respectively. The Samson Evolution has a MSRP of $199. With the number of rifles that Ruger is planning on cranking out, that cost difference adds up. Again, this is a minor nit to pick, and will probably only bother a small percentage of the target market, but it’s worth mentioning.
Underneath that hand guard is a hammer-forged 1:8 twist, twenty-four inch barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s appropriately thick leading to a great deal of strength and resistance to heat-related warping. The end is threaded for 5/8″-24 and Ruger provides a thread protector which you will promptly lose after putting a muzzle brake on the end.
I found the barrel to be a real shooter, hot and cold, as long as it was fouled. A clean barrel would always throw a wild flier, but once given a solid five shots to foul, it would shoot the exact same point of impact, hot or cold. And believe me, I railed on this gun. The accuracy it churned out was frankly astounding given the price point.
The RPR in 6.5 Creedmoor tips the scales at nearly eleven pounds. No two ways around it, this is a heavy rifle, but then again, it needs to be. This isn’t a hunting rifle meant to be carried up and down mountains all day. It’s a precision piece of machinery meant to reach out and touch things at 1000 yards. As such, it needs a stout receiver, and a heavy barrel with a bit of length to get those slippery bullets up to speed.
Tack on another two and a half pounds of scope and mount, and you’re rocking about thirteen pounds of gun and gear. Add a loaded ten-round magazine, and you’re tipping the scales at almost fourteen and a half pounds. It can be shot offhand, but you’ll get tired of that quickly.
All that said, with a properly large scope and a sling attached, this is still a very handy rifle. The barrel is a touch long, but really no longer than any other precision rifle in 6.5 anything that I’ve had the pleasure of putting my hands on.
The balance point with a loaded magazine and a big scope is just a bit forward of the magazine well, but behind the hand guard. A bipod at the front moves that balance point further forward, but in either situation, the RPR is fairly well balanced. In fact, you can totally C-clamp the RPR like Chris Costa and start ripping off fast strings of fire while running the bolt like a mad man. Ask me how I know.
6.5 Creedmoor is a funky little cartridge. My sometimes pen pal Zak Smith of Thunderbeast Arms wrote an excellent article for Shotgun News in March of 2008 that gives an in depth look at the cartridge with some comparisons to other 6.5 cartridges available in the wild, notably .260 Remington and 6.5 x 47 Laupa. All three push very slippery bullets out past the 1000 yard line with very little wind drift and a great deal of retained energy.
The difference between 6.5 Creedmoor and the other two cartridges is the excellent factory support that Hornady has put behind the cartridge with factory loaded ammunition. Whether .260 REM or 6.5 x 47 are better cartridges than 6.5 Creedmoor is a debate best left to people much smarter than me, but the fact remains that the other two are “reloader’s” cartridges while 6.5 Creedmoor is very much a commercially available cartridge.
For this test, I purchased three of Hornady’s factory loads from MidwayUSA. The 120 gr. A-MAX was $1.14/round, the 129 gr. SST was $1.30/round, and the 140 gr. A-MAX was $1.19/round. To give you a relative sense of the market, at the time of this writing MidwayUSA was selling a box of 20 rounds of Federal Gold Medal Match 168 gr. .308 WIN for $1.30/round. There may certainly be lower cost match grade options for the .308, but Hornady’s offering is right in the ballpark for factory loaded match ammo.
At the 100 yard line off a very solid front and rear bag, the RPR in 6.5 Creedmoor regularly turned in ~1 MOA five shot groups with the A-MAX loadings. The groups you see above were all shot hot and dirty as I don’t personally believe in “cooking the books” when it comes to accuracy testing. Clean, cold bore shots might be a very good way to show off to your buddies what a tackdriver you’ve got, but in the world of practical accuracy, I think it’s more important to know what the gun can do when it’s hot and dirty as that is usually a situation where there’s a degradation in accuracy.
The 129 gr. SST is the fan favorite though, turning in an almost too good to be true .551 MOA group. 6.5 Creedmoor has an undeserved reputation as a competition only cartridge. The accuracy displayed by the SST here proves that this rifle could absolutely serve double duty as a long range hunting rig for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
As this rifle is firmly geared at the long range market, I felt duty bound to pack my gear, paint my targets, and drive my truck back to my favorite shaded spot at 465 yards. Under the shade of that big oak tree, I laid out my mat, set up my bags, and started plugging data into my iPhone-based ballistics calculators.
Normally, I would have a muzzle velocity to plug into the calculator, but I had managed to shoot my chronograph that morning, so I looked up the values from my Ruger American test for the same cartridge and plugged those in instead. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any data for the 129 gr SST so I took a slightly educated wild ass guess (SEWAG) based off the muzzle velocity printed on the back of the box and went to work.
The reason you only see two targets is because my SEWAG for the 129 gr. muzzle velocity was off a bit which resulted in my shots landing high on a 10 inch plate. Two of them skimmed the top while three impacted on the top edge. I still feel that the 129 gr. SST is the load this gun likes best, but I was out of ammo and under a deadline so the actual results for that ammo are a mystery.
The 120 gr. and 140 gr. A-MAX did register hits and I was able to plug them into OnTarget. The results are quite favorable as you can see. The 120 gr. A-Max, the more accurate of the two at 100 yards, maintained its edge out past a quarter mile giving a .952 MOA group. The 140 gr. A-MAX still did quite well showing a 1.094 MOA group. As you can see, my wind reading was spot on for the 120 gr. and just a touch aggressive for the 140 gr.
As I said at the start of this review, working in technology has made me absolutely loathe business buzzwords. As much as I shudder to write this, the Ruger’s Precision Rifle represents a paradigm shift in the market for precision rifles. Assuming you were convinced that a 6.5 caliber rifle in a short action cartridge set up for competitive long range “action” shooting was what you needed, your factory options were somewhat limited.
Very few of those offerings have detachable magazines, and the ones that do are proprietary in nature. To my knowledge, not a single one includes a 20 MOA rail from the factory. Some of them don’t have threaded barrels. None of them have threaded bolt handles. So if you wanted a rifle that has all those things, you could either buy one of those factory rifles and start hacking it up or you could troll the secondary market and pick up a Remington 700 action that you could send off for a new barrel, trigger, bottom metal, 20 MOA rail, oversize bolt knob, and bedded stock or chassis. All of that will cost you several thousand dollars. I generally figure that a sorted, accurate precision rifle will start in the $2500 neighborhood and go up from there.
The RPR’s MSRP is $1399. Mount a nice scope, throw a bipod and a sling on it, and start shooting. If you end up hating it, swap out the stock with any of the widely available commercial offerings for the AR-15 and go to town. Same thing for the hand guard. Even with both of those upgrades, you’re still under two grand. About the time you burn up the factory barrel, somebody will be making high quality replacements that you’ll likely be able to install at home with the bare essentials in tools.
Ruger has absolutely knocked it out of the park with this rifle giving you fantastic out-of-the-box performance. It’s a great gun to shoot accurately from a bench, but does equally well off improvised barriers, rests, and bipods. This rifle represents one of the best values in the market today and I look forward to seeing where things go over the next year.
Specifications: Ruger Precision Rifle
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Capacity: 10 rounds (20 and 25 round PMags are available in the market)
- Stock: Folding, Adjustable Length of Pull and Comb Height
- Barrel: Cold Hammer- Forged, 5R Rifling
- Twist: 1:8”
- Barrel Length: 24.00”
- Overall Length: 42.25” – 45.75”
- Folded Length: 34.60”
- Height: 7.30”
- Width: 3.30”
- Advertised Weight: 10.60 lbs.
- Measured Weight: 10.824 lbs
- Length of Pull: 12.00”- 15.50”
- Suggested Retail: $1,399 (about a hundred bucks less via Brownells)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * *
The Ruger American Rifle I tested a few months prior was rough in every way shape and form. The RPR seems to have been built of similar parts with a much higher degree of final finish. There’s none of the rough machining evident in the American series, and the fit and finish is really top notch. The only exception is the butt stock and I’d rate that 90% of the way to being perfect.
Customization * * * * *
If I didn’t think it would break Nick’s review engine, I’d award the RPR six stars for customization. Every single part of this gun is modular from the stock all the way to the barrel. There’s not a single thing except for the receiver and bolt that a person with a minimum of tools couldn’t swap out. This level of customization is only going to get better as this rifle gains market traction.
Accuracy * * * * *
No matter how hard I tried to skew the results toward the worst end of the spectrum, the RPR kept cranking out ~1 MOA five shot groups at 100 yards. I got the barrel so hot it melted my glove before I shot the 100 yard and 465 yard groups you see above. That’s rough on a rifle and the RPR shined through. I have no doubt that getting a gunsmith to fit a high quality aftermarket barrel to this gun would make it better across the board, but for the price point, it’s first rate.
Overall * * * *
I had a really hard time giving this rifle only four stars, but I ultimately felt that the butt stock held it back just enough to warrant a less than perfect score. I also think that’s indicative of just how good this rifle is. When the one thing that you have to bitch about is the stock and how it’s just a little flimsy, you know that, a) you’re reaching a bit, and b) the rifle is nearly perfect. And for the price, you will not be disappointed.