Jim Grants puts the Ruger American Rifle in 7.62x39mm to the test in this bench rest review.
U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- When people think of the Soviet 7.62x39mm cartridge, they normally associate it with Russian guns like the SKS and the AK-47, not the Ruger American Rifle. And for good reason – the Russians churned out millions of the intermediate-power cartridges from the 1940s and continue to make them today.
The 30 caliber round is incredibly popular around the globe, and despite continuing sanctions against Russia, American shooters are still enamored by the round and its most popular host rifle – the AK-47. The issue with the AK is that not everyone likes its ergonomics or appearance of it. So many companies have sought to capitalize on the inexpensive round’s popularity by modifying existing designs to accommodate it.
Companies like CMMG with their Mutant and even Ruger with the Mini-30. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that the engineers at Ruger decided to chamber a handy little bolt-action rifle in the caliber – the Ruger American Rifle. But given the increasing number of companies churning out American-made AKs in the last few years, is there a spot for the little bolt-gun? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
The Ruger American Rifle is a bolt-action, magazine-fed rifle chambered in 5.56mm, 350 Legend, 300blk, 450 Bushmaster, and, for our review, 7.62x39mm. This version of the American Rifle ships with a 16.12-inch barrel with a 5/8×24-threaded muzzle. For the majority of my time shooting the Ruger, I installed a SilencerCo Saker ASR suppressor, as it made the gun very pleasant to shoot and easier to hear hits on steel at a distance.
The Ruger American Rifle stock is made from tan polymer, which free-floats the barrel and keeps the entire gun very light and handy. And I hope you like tan because aside from a handful of distributor exclusives, that’s the only color available. The good news is that if you want something very specialized, companies like Boyds make some incredible stocks for the gun.
Heading back to the receiver, the Ruger features an integral Picatinny rail on top for mounting optics. In testing, optics designed specifically for the AR-15 are somewhat uncomfortable when mounted on the Ruger American Rifle since they sit a little too high. This necessitates a ‘chin weld’ instead of a cheek weld, which complicates obtaining a proper sight picture. I found that a compact LPVO like the Vortex Viper 1-4×24 coupled with low pair of rings like my Night Force 30mm rings makes for a handy, natural-pointing firearm. Using only a four-power optic on a hunting rifle might seem odd, but it works very well given the limited effective range of 7.62x39mm.
Speaking of this caliber, the 7.62x39mm version feeds from Ruger Mini-30 magazines and ships with a single five-round example in the box. This might seem limited to shooters like myself, who normally enjoy more tactical weaponry, but the Ruger is meant more for hunting than anything else; These limited capacity magazines ensure that it is legal anywhere hunting with centerfire rifle rounds is permitted. And since the magazines were originally designed for the Mini-30, the Ruger American Rifle uses the same paddle release as the original host gun.
For testing, I ran the included magazine and a friend’s 20-round Mini-30 magazine, and both functioned flawlessly. On a side note, shooting a bolt-action rifle with a 20-round magazine is incredibly fun, as it almost feels like you’ll never run out of ammo.
Continuing backward, the tan polymer stock is topped with a rubberized polymer buttpad to reduce felt recoil, which in testing was totally unnecessary, as the gun was very soft shooting.
Ruger 7.62x39mm American Rifle Performance
I’ve had this little Ruger in my possession for a few months and, in that time, have managed to fire around 500 rounds of various types of 7.62x39mm ammunition through it. In all that time, the only issues I’ve ever encountered were when a shooter would short-stroke the bolt. Though I should probably mention that the addition of a sound suppressor had a drastic impact on point of impact – but not accuracy. So if you intend to shoot the gun suppressed, zero it with your suppressor attached.
Speaking of accuracy, the little Ruger really impressed me with its ability to squeeze every ounce of performance from a caliber normally associated with poor precision. When fired from a rest at 100 yards, the Ruger American Rifle produced groups as small as 1.3 inches with Hornady’s SST rounds, while less expensive Wolf steel-cased ammo hovered around 2.2 inches. Either way, steel gongs out to 300 yards were laughably easy to hit, provided that a shooter knew their dope and fired either from a rest or with the aid of a good bipod.
Ruger American in 7.62x39mm Verdict
The Ruger American Rifle 7.62x39mm retails for $659.00. While its price point would have made the gun a hard pass for many shooters during the days of $299 Saigas, the Ruger now represents an inexpensive, ultra-reliable, accurate, lightweight option for hunters and plinkers alike. And with proper ammunition, the 7.62x39mm cartridge packs similar energy to lower-end .30-30 rounds, making it very appropriate for hunting whitetail deer within 150 yards.
I personally believe that the Ruger American Rifle is a great option for both shooters in search of an rifle that fires inexpensive rounds, or for those already heavily invested in 7.62x39mm who wants something different than their AKs to shoot on occasion. I’m very happy with the gun overall, and the only thing I would personally change about it, would be making the gun use AK magazines. But given that I own about 50 magazines, I may be a little biased.
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who can wield a camera with expert finesse in addition to his mastery of prose. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, their son, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.