The rifle for this review was provided by the Kentucky Gun Company.
The time between receiving the presser for the Ruger Precision Rifle and pressing the send button on my email to my friends at Ruger begging, pleading, asking nicely for one could be measured in nanoseconds. The next email was to the rest of the crew at TTAG to say, “Back off! She’s all mine.” And as if my prayers had been extra-double answered, one day later an email hit my inbox from our perpetual patrons at Kentucky Gun Company to let me know that they had a RPR in .308 WIN that we could thrash around on as well. So within a day of each other, my FFL handed over two identical boxes with two nearly identical guns. An RPR in 6.5 Creedmoor (review here) and one in .308 WIN . . .
Those who have read my review of the 6.5 will know full how I feel about that gun. I gave it four stars only because I couldn’t give it 4.8. The buttstock was really the only thing that held the gun back from being what it theoretically could have been. That applies to the .308, too, but there are a couple of minor differences related to barrel and handguard length and weight that justify a second review. Oh, and there’s accuracy, but more on that later.
The .308 version ships with a very handy 20-inch barrel tipped off with the Ruger Hybrid Muzzle Brake. It’s a full four inches shorter than the 6mm Creedmoor version and six shorter than its .243 counterparts. As in almost all things gun-related, barrel length is a topic of fierce debate, but I count myself in the camp that believes you should go with the shortest rifle barrel that will do the job at hand. All you’re sacrificing by going to a shorter barrel is a loss of velocity. Josh Wayner even did a lot of the heavy lifting for me to demonstrate that if nothing else, shorter barrels on a .308 aren’t inherently less accurate. So if you can get it done with a shorter barrel, you should, as the payoff in handling is well worth the velocity penalty.
Four inches may not sound like a lot, but it can mean the world when working off a barrier or out of a truck where that length can mean being able to quickly bring the gun to bear, or having to take a step back to give yourself more room to work. This problem is of course only amplified when you screw a silencer to the end of the barrel. Running the 6.5 and the .308 back-to-back, you can immediately feel the difference in barrel length. The .308 comes up quicker and allows you to move and work off barriers and obstacles much more easily.
To keep things proportional, Ruger elected to go with a shorter rail from Samson. Viewed together, the .308 looks like the 6.5’s littler brother. That shorter handguard never seemed to affect my shooting from bags, the bench, or off a bipod. Ruger used a 15-inch handguard on the 6.5 and a 12.37 inch on the .308, so the difference is only 2.63 inches. The scaling seems to work quite well, and if you’re so inclined, you can even stick a KeyMod grip stop to the end of the gun, C-clamp it like Costa, and work that oversized bolt handle like a madman. I’m not saying that I did, but I did.
Blindfolded, I could still pick out the difference between the 6.5 and the .308 based purely off heft. On the same scale on the same day, the 6.5 weighed in at 10.824 lbs. while the .308 measured 9.886 lbs. Since they’re the same gun (functionally) from the chamber backwards, this weight savings came from everything forward of the magwell.
Curious about bore diameter relating to weight and such, I pounded a French-press worth of coffee, and dusted off some underused math skills, and found that the change in bore diameter didn’t matter one bit. What did matter was hacking off a four-inch section of 4140 and cutting the aluminum handguard back a few inches. As these weight savings came from the muzzle end of things, the .308 version is much faster to shoulder and doesn’t fatigue the support arm with offhand shooting.
Where this lack of weight manifests itself quite clearly is in the recoil department. This was magnified by the very rigid and not very soft A2 buttstock I slapped on for a lot of the testing that I did. The Ruger buttstock, despite its flaws, does include a very generous rubber buttpad that soaks up some recoil. Without that weight and padding, the A2-equipped RPR was a less pleasant to shoot. Not as bad as shooting 3 1/2″ goose loads out of a lightweight 12 gauge, but still noticeable. Screwing an aggressive brake to the front tamed a lot of this, and going back to the factory stock (that is attached to the AR-style buffer tube, allowing the rifle to accept any aftermarket AR-style stock) did as well. With the same brake, and a bit more weight, shooting a lighter recoiling cartridge, the 6.5 is still the pussycat of the two.
The rest of the gun is identical down to the trigger, and the slight rattle from the safety selector. All of the minor gripes I had about the buttstock on the 6.5 rear their ugly head on the .308. That shouldn’t be a surprise at all since they’re functionally the exact same rifle from the chamber backwards. However, it was at least vindicating to see that both guns had cheek rests with some flex. I’m confident in saying that this is a problem across the whole line. But, just like the 6.5, this can easily be addressed thanks to the compatibility with AR-15 parts. On to the biggest difference.
Where the .308 seemed to struggle against the 6.5 was consistent accuracy. The 6.5 shot the 120 gr. and 140 gr. A-MAX anywhere from .9 to 1.3 MOA hot, cold, dirty, and clean. No matter what I did, it just always seemed to shoot roughly .9 to 1.3 MOA at the 100 yard line. The 129 gr. SST was the real stand out though, showing very consistent sub-MOA groups. The best five-shot group was a touch under .6 MOA. I ran the 6.5 really hard during my testing. I didn’t perform a barrel break in of any type, I never cleaned it, and I got it glove-melting hot. I treated the .308 the same way, but I fed it a lot more variety in ammo, and it just never consistently performed for me.
The best group I got out of the RPR in .308 was a .845 MOA group from some 178 gr. Hornady Match ammo. But in that same string of testing, I shot a 1.698 MOA group. I’d love to point to some error in my methodology, but I shot both guns on back to back days, off the same rest system, with the same optic, at the same target, at the same time of day. The results of my testing at the 100-yard line are below.
- Hornady 168 gr. Match
- 1.911 MOA
- 1.531 MOA
- Hornday 178 gr. Match
- .845 MOA
- 1.698 MOA
- Hornady 155 gr. OTM Match
- .993 MOA
- Hornday 155 gr. A-Max
- 1.079 MOA
- Norma 168 gr. SMK HPBT
- 1.545 MOA
- Tula 150 gr FMJ
- 2.475 MOA
Where these accuracy gremlins really start to manifest themselves was out at the quarter-mile line and beyond. As I’ve mentioned in several of my rifle tests, I have a nice shaded spot at the 465-yard line that’s a great place to spend a day testing long-range shooting accuracy. I shot the Norma 178 gr. BTHP and the 155 gr. A-MAX through the RPR for groups and managed to put down a 1.754 MOA and 1.737 MOA group respectively.
The wind conditions on the day I tested the .308 were slightly higher (~5 mph) than the day I tested the 6.5 so I’m willing to spot the .308 a little cushion. Keep in mind, though, that the 6.5 easily kept it around the 1 MOA mark at the same distance. I chalk this performance gap up to two distinct weaknesses. The first being that this particular RPR in .308 just didn’t seem to be as accurate as the 6.5 that I tested (more speculation on that later). That’s surprising as .308 has a reputation as being an inherently accurate, consistent cartridge. The other weakness, and the one that no gun can really overcome is that the 6.5 just bucks the wind better. Even with slightly gusty conditions, a shooter has to do a bit more work to keep a .308 inside the same circle as a comparably built 6.5 Creedmoor.
This is the part where I’m going to immediately contradict myself — it doesn’t matter. There are lots of people, many of them my friends, who are DEEPLY invested in .308. Between dies, powder, bullets, and pallets of cheap(ish) NATO ammo, the rifle they buy is going to be a .308. For the new shooter getting into shooting long-range precision, I’d absolutely recommend the 6.5 Creedmoor version of this rifle. Factory ammo is plentiful and cost competitive with factory match .308. More importantly, 6.5 long-range rifle is hands down an easier bullet to shoot in the wind. If you ever decide to get into reloading, you’ll have plenty of quality brass left over, and reloading for 6.5 Creedmoor is very well understood at this point.
But if you’re already invested in .308, don’t be scared off by these results. Sub-2 MOA accuracy at 500 yards is still fitting five bullets inside the vital zone of anything on four legs that can feed a family of four, and well within the confines of a 10-inch diameter circle. If you’re in the business of learning how to call the wind, .308 is going to make you do your homework, and I’d argue that anyone who can shoot a .308 at any meaningful distance is going to be better at shooting a higher performance chambering like 6.5 Creedmoor if ever called to do so.
In the world of “practical” accuracy, sub-2 MOA at 500 yards is still pretty good, it just isn’t great. This gun never seemed to be a laser in my hands. But given the choice of those two rifles, I’d be facing a really tough decision. While the 6.5 is obviously more accurate, it’s heavier and more unwieldy to maneuver out of and around vehicles and barricades, where I spend the majority of my time shooting. (Speaking of maneuverability, the RPR’s magazine-well front is contoured for a positive grip for bracing against shooting supports.)
Keep in mind that I have attended a precision rifle match once in my life. Alternatively, I spend quite a few days in the fall, winter, and early spring in and out of a truck or blind and on foot in search of whitetail, axis, and pigs. A gun that handles well in a caliber that translates to dead right there terminal ballistics is a friend of mine.
In my mind, the perceived lack of accuracy is offset by just about every other feature of the gun. And this is the rub as it relates to this RPR. If a $1,000 Ruger Hawkeye performed like this, I’d give it a brutal review. But this gun is so well thought out and functional. From the trigger to the patented multi-magazine interface (which functions interchangeably with AICS and M110/SR-25/DPMS/Magpul-style magazines and some M14 magazines) to its compatibility with the AR-15 platform and beyond, I have a really hard time dinging it much.
I fully expect that someone in the comments section is going to tell me about their (insert hunting rifle here) will shoot circles around this gun with 150 gr. Core-Lokts. I won’t doubt that, and I’m sure their (insert hunting rifle here) is a fine rifle. But it’s not like this one, and here’s why.
Let’s take a Rem 700 AAC-SD like the one that Nick tested awhile back. He loves that gun and it shoots regular 1 MOA groups he says. I shot a similar Remington 700 SPS for a scope review and I found it to be a tack driver. When Nick wrote that review, he said street price was $650. I’m now seeing them priced closer to $700, and even if you find a screaming deal, you still need to get it to your door. That gun comes from the factory with a threaded muzzle which will save you some money.
But if you take that perfectly serviceable barreled action out of the stock it’s in, drop it in a nice chassis that accepts AICS Mags ($400-$700), put a 20 MOA rail ($50-$100) on it, and give it an oversized bolt handle knob for better bolt manipulation ($150), you’ll be in the $1,300-$1,650 range excluding shipping, and various other gunsmith-labor-related charges that might crop up. You’ll also need to go get at least two magazines, and at the time this published, AICS mags were running $80/per. PMAGs of course are cheaper, but the only “chassis” system that will take those is Magpul’s new Hunter line. So plan on spending a minimum of $1,400 and probably closer to $1,800 when the dust settles to get your hunting gun on the level of functionality that the RPR brings to the table straight out of the box.
We can debate the necessity of the bolt knob, and magazine feeding, and adjustable stocks, and such. But the fact is that nobody in the top 10 of the Precision Rifle Series used a hinged floorplate to feed their rifle, and none of them ran stock bolt knobs, or factory stocks. The gun that Ruger made is very close to the guns I saw on the line at this year’s Bushnell Brawl. Ruger did their homework on figuring out the things a precision rifle needs.
At this writing, the RPR is running at between $1,200-$1,250 on Gunbroker.com, unsurprising since it’s still relatively new. That’s several hundred dollars saved for a gun that’s ready to shoot right now. And if you get serious about competing in precision rifle, only to find that the accuracy of the factory chrome-moly steel barrel isn’t up to your standards, several shops are already cutting and installing premium barrel blanks to fit this gun. Barrels can be easily replaced by a competent gunsmith using AR-style wrenches and headspace gauges. So if you get one that’s a mediocre shooter, you can go to a premium barrel for several hundred dollars instead of the $1,000-$1,500 it might cost to rebarrel a 700 (I’m including blueprinting).
Many speculate that this gun will create a market like the AR-15 has and you’ll be able to mailorder a barrel to your house and swap it out in an afternoon. Savage has certainly found a home in that market, and there’s no reason Ruger can’t cash in on it as well.
Specifications: Ruger Precision Rifle
- Caliber: .308 Winchester
- Capacity: 10 rounds (20- and 25-round PMags are available in the market)
- Stock: Folding stock, Adjustable Length of Pull and Comb Height. Features QD sling-attachment points, a bottom Picatinny rail (for monopods) and soft rubber buttpad
- Grip: AR-style pistol grip
- Bolt: Three-lug bolt with 70° throw and dual cocking cams
- Finish: Type III Black Hard-Coat Anodized
- Barrel: Medium contour, Cold-hammer forged from 4140 chrome-moly steel, 5R rifling
- Twist: 1:10” RH
- Barrel Length: 20.00”
- Thread Pattern: 5/8″-24
- Grooves: 5
- Trigger: Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger, pull weight of 2.25 to 5 pounds; bolt disassembly tool is stored in the bolt shroud.
- Overall Length: 38.25”-41.75”
- Folded Length: 30.60”
- Height: 7.30”
- Width: 3.30”
- Safety: Ambidextrous 45° manual safety selector
- Advertised Weight: 9.8 lbs.
- Measured Weight: 9.886 lbs
- Length of Pull: 12.00”- 15.50”
- Suggested MSRP: $1,399.00
- Real World Pricing: ~$1,250. If you’re willing to wait, KY GunCo has them for less than $1,100
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 is built of similar parts with a much higher degree of final finish. The only exception is the buttstock 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 AR-style aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum lower receiver and CNC-machined 4140 chrome-moly steel upper receiver and one-piece 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 * * *
The 6.5 got a well-deserved five stars. The .308 version gets three because I know it is capable of much more. I don’t know why this one isn’t a lights-out shooter like the 6.5. One gentleman suggested that a simple recrowning might fix some of the issues I saw, and frankly, it’s possible that a good cleaning would help. I did notice upon cleaning the 6.5 and the .308 back to back that the .308 seemed to have quite a bit more carbon and copper fouling after a fairly similar round count. The edges of the lands were sharp enough on the .308 that it would pick up bits of the dry patches I pushed down the bore, a behavior that the 6.5 did not exhibit. Naturally, this is all speculative on my part, but I think there’s work to be done to turn that particular rifle into a shooter.
Overall * * * *
I gave the 6.5 a four-star rating that was much more like a 4.8. The .308 still gets a four-star rating but its really more of a 4.1 or 4.2 because of the accuracy issues. It eked out a couple sub-MOA groups, so it passes the 1 MOA for $1,000 rule of thumb. And truthfully, I really do feel that in the hands of someone looking to optimize its accuracy, it could have done better. I ran the gun hard and didn’t give it optimal conditions in which to perform because I wanted to see a worst case scenario. The truth is that the 6.5 stood up to that better. That said, the .308 version still shoots reliably and accurately enough for 90%+ of shooters out there. Ruger still very much has a winner on their hands.
The rifle for this review was provided by the Kentucky Gun Company.
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