I’m starting to feel like a real old timer with my endless rambling about the good old days of cheap and plentiful .22 LR. While some parts of the country are seeing the most popular rimfire cartridge back in stock, our brethren in other areas are more likely to find hen’s teeth than affordable .22 LR. But I’m an optimist, and given the long term traffic our gun reviews get, my hope is that years from now, someone will read this review and laugh about those dark days of short supply for .22 LR. If you’re reading this in the future, and looking for an affordable, flexible bolt gun in .22 LR, you very well could have found it in the Ruger American Rimfire . . .
My very first gun was a Ruger 10/22, an experience that I share with thousands of other gun owners. I have put countless rounds downrange in that gun and many a pesky varmint have met their humane demise thanks to my little 10/22. But I’ve always longed for a bolt-action rifle chambered in .22 LR. There’s something cathartic about deliberate fire punctuated by a short-travel bolt cycling the next round into the chamber. Remove recoil from the equation entirely, and you have a great gun for working on those rusty fundamentals, or for teaching a new generation the finer points of marksmanship.
The ideal bolt-action .22 should be of high enough quality to be intrinsically accurate, but also have pleasant enough ergonomics and a trigger that enables a shooter to attain “machine” operated accuracy. Said ideal rifle should also come from the factory with a nice set of iron sights, but be able to accept a scope if the owner decides that’s necessary. Lastly, the rifle in question should be able to accept as many popular accessories as possible. In these regards, I feel that the Ruger American Rimfire (RAR) excels in most categories.
Because I’m not able to transport myself to the future, for the purposes of this review, I was only able to test the RAR with 4 kinds of ammo. I used CCI Mini Mag, CCI Subsonic, Remington Golden Bullet, and Blazer. I shot the RAR at 25 yards indoors with open sights and the included “low” comb, and outdoors, at 50 yards, using the “high” comb, with a scope set at 9X. The conditions outdoors were temperatures in the mid-90s with winds gusting to 15 mph. My targets were graph paper with 4 squares per inch.
For analysis, I used OnTarget to figure max group spread as well as average distance to center (ATC). I shot 5-shot groups indoors, and 10-shot groups outdoors with the exception of the CCI Subsonic (I ran out). Because the wind was so gusty, I also picked out the closest 5 shots for analysis from the 10-round groups, but I’m presenting both sets of data for transparency. All groups were fired from a rest with support under the forend and buttstock.
Open Sight – 25 yards
- Max Spread: 6.027 MOA
- ATC: 2.197 MOA
- CCI Mini Mag
- Max Spread: 3.280 MOA
- ATC: .952 MOA
- CCI Subsonic
- Max Spread: 2.886 MOA
- ATC: 1.137 MOA
- Rem Gold
- Max Spread: 3.889 MOA
- ATC: 1.662 MOA
Scoped – 50 yards – 10 shot
- Max Spread: 3.279 MOA
- ATC: 0.940 MOA
- CCI Mini Mag
- Max Spread: 2.982 MOA
- ATC: 0.869 MOA
- Rem Gold
- Max Spread: 3.524 MOA
- ATC: 1.197 MOA
Scoped – 50 yards – 5 shot
- Max Spread: 1.415 MOA
- ATC: 0.457 MOA
- CCI Mini Mag
- Max Spread: 1.560 MOA
- ATC: 0.538 MOA
- CCI Subsonic
- Max Spread: 1.965 MOA
- ATC: 0.604 MOA
- Rem Gold
- Max Spread: 1.715 MOA
- ATC: 0.662 MOA
I generally feel that the maximum spread between shots only really tells half the story as average-to-center is a better measure of overall group consistency and maximum spread can be heavily influenced by a flier. For the best of 5 shots 50-yard scoped shooting, Blazer grabbed the lowest ATC and Max Spread with .457 MOA, and 1.415 MOA respectively. In the all-shots-50-yard-scoped test, CCI Mini Mag grabbed top honors with ATC of .869 MOA and max spread of 2.982 MOA. In the 25-yard-open-sight category the lowest max spread came with CCI Subsonic at 2.886 MOA while the lowest ATC was with CCI Mini Mag at .952 MOA.
To frame those results in the world of practical accuracy, even with the worst ammo, at 50 yards or less, with the wind blowing like crazy, a competent shooter can keep 10 shots in a group less than 2 inches in diameter. That translates to dead varmints, soda cans, and ringing steel if the shooter does their part. I’d love to see what a better shooter and some high quality ammo could do on a calm day, but I’ll go on record to say that the RAR is definitely accurate enough for most people.
The RAR ships from the factory with a dovetail rear sight and high visibility green fiber optic front sight. That front sight is quite nice in both the midday sun as well as twilight. However, the rear dovetail bothers me. First, it is mounted forward of the receiver meaning a shorter sight radius, and thus diminished accuracy. Second, its a dovetail which is much harder to use than a peep. I’m slightly miffed at Ruger that they’d include such a stellar front sight and such a crappy rear. It could very well be me as I’ve never liked a dovetail sight on a rifle, but peep rears are soooo nice, its a shame this rifle didn’t come from the factory with one.
The market has responded with a solution in the form of the Tech-Sights MXT200 which fits the RAR. They aren’t a cheap date, but if you’re committed to open sight shooting, it seems a worthy investment. I have not tested them personally, but Tech-Sights has a good name in the industry. If I get a chance to mount them on this gun, I’ll update this review with my thoughts.
Modularity seems to be one of those fancy buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot in gun circles now, and with pocketbooks not fully recovered from the downturn of 2008, companies are finally getting wise to the fact that buyers might like to stay on one platform but change things out as they go. In this regard, the RAR does an admirable job of providing the buyer with a great deal of options.
The marquee feature of the RAR is the swappable stock pieces that allow the user to change the trigger pull as well as comb height. One of my regular gripes with gun manufacturers seems to be that every bolt-action stock comb is too low for use with a scope even when the gun ships without irons. The RAR solves this by using swappable stock components. Four are available, a compact low, compact high, standard LOP low, and standard high. Embedded in the stock is the patented Power Bedding integral bedding block system, which Ruger claims “positively locates the receiver and free-floats the barrel for outstanding accuracy.”
The RAR also ships with either of two barrel lengths, an 18 inch or a 22 inch. The model for this test was a standard LOP with the longer barrel. At the time of this writing, the standard LOP model also ships with an optional shorter barrel that is threaded. The compact version uses the 18-inch barrel in threaded and non-threaded versions. This is great news for those with .22 cans as I’d imagine this gun, some subsonic ammo, and a can would make for a pretty enjoyable day at the range.
While the RAR is definitely a practical addition to any adult’s gun safe, keen-eyed parents should be able to see that this gun is great for young shooters looking for their first rifle. Imagine being able to buy a Compact RAR that ships with the low and high combs. Start your young’n with open sights until they’ve got the fundamentals down pat. Buy them a set of scope rings and a scope (for the gun’s Weaver scope base) for Christmas, swap out the high comb, and watch as they learn the art of reading the wind, and compensating for distance using a scope. And once the young Mr. or Ms. starts to grow, simply order the longer LOP stock module and swap it out to ensure that the gun fits them into adulthood. I don’t have kids, but even I can see how attractive that sounds. And if you should ever decide to splurge and buy a 10/22, you can use the same magazines!
Which brings me to a big gripe with Ruger — cross-platform functionality. The RAR is a new model which means that Ruger had a great deal of time to try to use as many parts from the 10/22 as possible in their new rifle. As a failed engineering student, I was disappointed to see that the four tapped holes in the receiver didn’t match up with the dovetail adapter that ships with new 10/22s. And yes, the RAR does feature dovetail cuts in the receiver so you can mount a scope, but to not match the screw spacing seems downright silly.
There’s a vast world of aftermarket accessories like Picatinny rails designed to mount to the top of 10/22 receivers that can’t be used on the RAR. I found myself further frustrated to realize that the RAR doesn’t use the same barrel as the 10/22. There are innumerable options for 10/22 barrels out there in the market and as a consumer, I’d like to have the choice to swap out barrels if I see fit. Especially for those who might be interested in registering the RAR with the ATF as a SBR. It’d sure be nice to pick up a short barrel when the paperwork clears vs. paying a gunsmith to cut, crown, and thread the existing stock barrel. I’ll leave it to the experts, but as a consumer, I really wish the RAR would take 10/22 barrels.
Trigger & Safety
A good trigger can make a decent rifle and break a good one. I’m happy to report that the Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger on the RAR is fantastic. There is no slack, no creep, no nothing. It’s like pressing your index finger against a wall until the trigger breaks cleanly at a touch over 3 lbs. While it’s adjustable, I never messed with it as I think a 3-pound pull weight is just fine for a bolt-action rifle, especially one used for precision practice. The trigger also features a AccuTrigger-like safety bar that prevents from the gun from discharging unless the bar is engaged. A manual tang safety is in the mix as well and sits immediately behind the receiver in the perfect place for a thumb to engage and disengage.
There’s not a lot to say for reliability where a bolt action gun is concerned. In the few hundred rounds I put downrange, I had zero failures to fire and only one failure to extract that caused a double feed. I dropped the magazine, operated the 60-degree bolt throw, and the cartridge came with. Out of the box, the bolt was a little sticky, but with some judicious lubrication, it smoothed right out. As of now, the bolt can be manipulated with the thumb, index, and middle fingers with quick flicks of the wrist. I have not quite mastered the art of maintaining my sight picture while cycling the action, but that’s most definitely a limitation of the shooter, not the gun.
Specifications: Ruger American Rimfire Standard – .22 LR
- Stock Material: Black Composite
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Capacity: 10 cartridges or whatever you can stuff in a 10/22 compatible mag
- Finish: Satin Blued
- Barrel Length: 22″
- Overall Length: 41″
- Front Sight: Fiber Optic
- Rear Sight: Adjustable for windage & elevation
- Advertised Weight: 6 lbs.
- Measured Weight: 5.934 lbs. w/o magazine
- Length of Pull: 13.75″
- Barrel: 6 groove, 1:16″ RH twist
- Included Accessories: 1 10-round magazine, one “low” comb, and one “high” comb
- Suggested Retail: $329
- Price in the Wild: $259 on the internet
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * *
I’ll give Ruger the nod for building all the steel parts to a very high spec. The finishes are glassy-smooth, any machining cuts are nicely done, and the trigger, bolt, and magazine release all work smoothly. However, the plastic stock, while very functional, isn’t what you’d call attractive. I’m not sure the market would support it, but a nice modular walnut stock system for the RAR sure would look trick.
Function & Accuracy * * * *
I was very pleased with both the function and accuracy of the RAR. It held to roughly 3 MOA over 10 shots at 50 yards in a gusting 15 mph wind. I’m not the greatest shooter in the world, but I’ll take that sort of accuracy in a .22 LR rifle any day of the week. I am however knocking off a star for the bolt needing a bit of work and lube to function smoothly and the one failure to extract.
Modularity * * * *
Had any company but Ruger made this rifle, I’d give them 5 stars for making a truly modular rifle able to accommodate shooters of any size using irons or glass. However, since Ruger’s name is on it as well as the 10/22, I’m disappointed that the only common parts between the two platforms are magazines. At a minimum, the receivers should share the same hole pattern and overall shape. Bonus points if you had the ability to slap an aftermarket precision barrel on that receiver. I understand that’s a wholly irrational thing to ding a rifle one star on, but I feel Ruger could have a real winner on their hands if they did so.
Accessories * * * *
With a sling swivel out front, you should be able to mount the bipod of your choice and with the 3/8″ dovetail, you can find mounts from Warne to fit either 1″ or 30 mm tubes. It also appears that if you’ve got $92, Boyd’s has two stock options for you in case you grow to hate the modular plastic stock that ships with the gun.
Overall Rating * * * *
Not much has changed from my original impressions of the rifle as it related to ergonomics, trigger, and modularity. I was very pleased to see how much accuracy can be purchased for <$300. It isn’t a CZ 455, but I don’t think Ruger is trying to fill that niche. This is a working gun that is accurate enough, but offers the end user a great deal of modularity in a durable platform. I do wish that Ruger would have used a bit more 10/22 parts in the build, but I’ll take magazine compatibility between two .22 rifles over nothing at all. This is a solid gun for the enthusiast or the parent looking to get their kiddo started with a rifle they can’t outgrow. At less than $300, it’s a solid entry in the affordable bolt-action rimfire rifle category.