Here's a look at the Ruger American Rifle Predator.
It might be a rainy day here in Austin, Texas but the gun gods are smiling upon us, as my FFL has called to inform me that a shiny new Ruger American Rifle arrived this week. The American Rifle series is Ruger's budget-minded answer to the a market that demands performance at a rock-bottom price. The new Predator edition aims to add some "nice to haves" to the bargain priced rifles that Nickreviewed, and liked a great deal.
Those "nice to haves" over the base model Ruger American Rifle include the moss green stock, a Picatinny rail, and a threaded barrel. All that for an extra $40 over the standard model. The Predator edition still retains the Power Bedding Block in the stock, the adjustable trigger, and the short throw bolt. But the biggest difference has to be in the chamber.
Where the American Rifle comes in your fairly standard calibers (22-250, .223 REM, .243 WIN, .270 WIN, 7mm-08, .30-06, and .308 WIN), the Predator series drops .270 WIN and .30-06 in favor of .204 Ruger and 6.5 Creedmoor. Our test rifle is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor which is a darling of a cartridge. The 6.5 bullets are slicker than goose droppings and fly well out past the 1000 yard line. That's important for those folks looking to put a little distance between themselves and the target.
I haven't personally shot a 6.5 Creedmoor gun yet, but I did run a very (ballistically) similar .260 Remington at the Bushnell Brawl and I was floored by how well it bucked the wind down in south Texas.
We've stocked up on four different types of factory ammo to see what the Predator likes shooting best. You'll see a distinct bias towards Hornady offerings and that's strictly because Hornady has such good factory support for this cartridge. I've picked the 120 gr and 140 gr. A-MAX as well as the 120 gr. all-copper GMX from the Hornady lineup. At this time the SST offering is backordered. I also picked up two boxes of Winchester's Match offering running a 140 gr. BTHP that I suspect is a Sierra.
I mentioned earlier that the Predator comes from the factory with a threaded barrel. This should make those with heavy investments in silencers very happy along with folks who might want to put a brake on the front to tame the 6.5's recoil. The threading appears to be uniform and clean, and my guess is that our review won't identify any problems with it. But we shall see.
One problem I've already identified is the Picatinny rail used for mounting optics. Bushnell has been kind enough to give us a long-term loan of a HDMR 3.5-21X scope for accuracy testing. The burly Bushnell comes equipped with a big 34mm tube and a 50 mm objective. That makes mounting that scope a bit tough, but Warne was nice enough to send us a one-piece mount that gives enough clearance for most guns.
Keen observers will notice in the photo above that the Predator does not have uniform spacing between the slots on the rail. This means that one-piece scope mounts are a no-go. Trust me, I tried three different types.
Until I'm able to find a two-piece set of rings with enough clearance for that big 50 mm objective, our test is on hold. I can tell you now that Ruger is going to lose stars for their poor execution on this feature.
One other item that's going to detract from the overall review is, you guessed it, stock comb height. Even though this rifle ships without iron sights, and with a rail meant for mounting a scope, the comb on the stock still drops to the same level that an iron sight-equipped rifle would. This means that getting a solid cheek weld with an optic, especially one with a large objective, will be nearly impossible. The ultimate result from this design decision is a degradation in practical accuracy vs. a rifle with a properly equipped stock. We'll see how it plays out in real world testing.
The last nit that needs picking is the overall finish on the gun. I realize that this is a budget gun, and as such, if it shoots well, I'm turning a blind eye to the very obvious machining marks that are evident. The entire gun is covered in various cutting marks from the tooling pieces that transform this from a
forgingcasting to a shootable rifle. Again, at this price point, I can't expect perfection, so if it shoots well, I'll look the other way. With that out of the way, here's some good stuff.
The trigger is really, really good. It's one of the better factory rifle triggers I've used, and ranks right up there with Savage's AccuTrigger for feel. There's no takeup, no grit, no nothing. Just a wall, and a clean break with touch of over travel. Out of the box, it registered a consistent four pounds and an ounce on my trigger scale. Once I find my American Allen wrenches, I'll pop it out of the stock and adjust it down to see what the lower limit is. Oh that's right, it's totally adjustable. Score one for Ruger!
Further proof that this is a "functional" gun before a pretty one is evidenced by the completely free-floated, albeit flimsy polymer stock. I've heard good things about the Power Bedding System, so I expect that this will contribute to overall accuracy quite a bit. Ruger also seems to have gone back to putting the safety where the M77 MK I had it, and I think it works better than the throw lever that my M77 MK II has. The bolt also seems to be a bit smoother than my MK II, and I've had no issues cycling it quickly. We'll see how it does with live ammo.
On that note, the ammo is stored in a compact rotary magazine made of plastic. Ruger is well-known for their rotary 10/22 magazines, and I have reason to think that the design of these will mean no feeding and extraction issues.
Now we sit and wait on a set of rings to arrive in the mail. Once they're here, I can start shooting it to see if the compromises in finish were a trade off for stellar accuracy.