“A rifle is possibly the best survival weapon to defend yourself when presented by an indefinite stay in the wilderness. With a telescopic sight mounted on the weapon, you will be spared what may have been hefty lengths of hunting time. The additional vision directly equates to reduced expenditures of precious energy.”
—Bradford Angier, How to Stay Alive in the Woods
It is hard to argue with the words of Bradford Angier. The man knew a thing or two about living off the land and utilizing its resources. Angier was a prolific writer with a career starting in the early 1950s, but his words ring true to this day.
In an era when semiautomatic firearms occupy more magazine covers than repeaters, the bolt-action .22 rifle has a place in the hands of those who prefer simplicity, reliability, accuracy and durability.
With few moving parts, chambering in the most popular rifle caliber of all time and a reasonable MSRP, the new Ruger American Target is a rifle Bradford Angier would approve of and one ideal for the outdoorsman who shares his survival weapon sentiment.
When firearm enthusiasts hear the words, “Ruger” and “.22,” the ever-popular Ruger 10/22 immediately comes to mind. That rifle is perhaps the most popular .22 in America. And although the bolt-action Ruger 77/22 has been out for years, the Ruger 10/22 casts quite a shadow over any other rifle developed by that company.
“In an age when “bigger” is often associated with “better,” a little .22 rifle can still hold its own.”
My first rifle was a standard 10/22 carbine. Thousands of rounds later, it still sits in my gun safe, even if I don’t shoot it that often. While there is no doubt the semiauto .22 has an incredible popularity in the plinking community, there will always be a segment of the population that prefers the timeless design of a bolt-action rifle.
Enter the Ruger American Rimfire Target rifle.
The Ruger American Rimfire Target rifle is the latest in the American series of rifles produced by Ruger Firearms. Fans of the Ruger 10/22 will rejoice when they discover it shares the same 10-shot rotary box magazine of its brethren.
However, the similarities between the standard Ruger American Rimfire Target and the standard Ruger 10/22 end with the magazine. The Ruger American Rimfire Target comes standard with a laminate wooden stock and an aluminum one-piece Picatinny rail installed at the factory. The barrel of the Ruger American is 18 inches overall—2 inches longer than the standard Ruger 10/22.
The Ruger American also comes equipped with the Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger the 10/22 does not. The Ruger American Rimfire Target rifle is a very different offering than its semiautomatic brother, making it a true apples-to-oranges comparison.
“With few moving parts, chambering in the most popular rifle caliber of all time and a reasonable MSRP, the new Ruger American Target is … ideal for the outdoorsman…”
The Ruger American Rimfire Target rifle is equipped with a .860-inch-diameter, cold-forged barrel with a ½x28 threaded end. It is free floated to prevent any disruption in the barrel’s harmonics and, at 18 inches long, it is long enough to allow the gunpowder to fully burn before the projectile leaves the barrel; this will maximize the velocity of the ammunition used.
The Ruger Marksman Target trigger breaks between 3 and 5 pounds and becomes noticeably cleaner and smoother as it is worked in with use. This trigger is far from those found on similarly priced rifles and more like those on pricier target firearms.
The safety protrusion on the front of the trigger is reminiscent of Glock triggers, but it has far less travel before it breaks. If the user wants to increase or decrease the trigger pull, all that is necessary is to adjust a small screw at the front of the trigger face.
The Ruger American Rimfire Target stock features the same laminated wood found on its bigger brothers, such as the Gunsite Scout and Guide Gun. This stock is unaffected by the elements and works well with a Harris bipod for bench shooting, because the forend is contoured for accepting one.
On the opposite end, the stock has a generous rubber recoil pad capable of absorbing the force of larger calibers. Nevertheless, it is used more for locking the rifle into place in the shooter’s shoulder pocket.
Every round counts, and every round has your life attached to it. It’s easy to turn gunpowder into noise with a semiauto, and I won’t deny that rapid fire from that action or full-auto isn’t fun.
However, because every round counts—especially in a survival or extended living experience in the outdoors—the bolt-action rifle forces the shooter to slow down and aim. Any trigger-happy person can sit behind a rifle and spray, but not everyone can learn the patience and skill to stack rounds on top of rounds on a single target or learn how rounds are affected by distance, wind and other environmental conditions.
The marksmen of yesteryear—those from Bradford Angier’s time—are few and far between, unlike the Internet spray-and-pray range monkeys of today.
The Ruger American Rimfire Target is an excellent gun to practice deliberate accuracy. It teaches the user to prepare each shot with correct body position, breathing, sight picture, trigger control and discipline.
This rifle reminds us what it takes to be accurate, and we can apply the lessons learned on it to our other firearms platforms. We can also use it for what it is: an accurate range or varmint .22 rifle. With larger-caliber ammunition prices showing very little downward movement, the .22 rifle is the one we will need to fall back on if we feel we are priced out of good training.
Optic Pairing: Burris 2-7x Droptine
The Ruger American Rimfire Target is affordable, reliable and accurate. To evaluate it, a scope with matching attributes was necessary. The Burris 2-7x Droptine is the perfect match for a rifle-and-optic combination that won’t break the bank and still provide the shooter with the features of optics normally found mounted on larger-caliber centerfire rifles.
The Droptine 2-7x is constructed with precision glass that is finished to reduce glare, and the waterproof scope body is nitrogen filled. The rear focal plane in the Droptine 2-7x features the Burris Ballistic Plex reticle with ½-inch MOA steel-on-steel adjustments, providing the user with distinct tactile feedback instead of cheap plastic alternatives.
The focus of the optic is set at 50 yards, and it is meant for the 22 Long Rifle cartridge. The 11.4-inch, overall-matte-finished, 1-inch tube has a 35mm objective lens and a 39mm ocular lens—at a total weight of only 12 ounces.
During the initial outing with this rifle, it was boresighted the old-fashioned way. Unlike modern semiautomatics, the design of the Ruger American allowed one shooter to remove the bolt and steady the rifle aimed downrange at a target.
One excellent feature of this rifle is the ability to remove the bolt without having to squeeze the trigger. That feature will likely prevent negligent discharges associated with other bolt-removal designs.
The shooter aligned the image of the target through the bore with the image of the target through the optic. Changes in the windage and elevation were made, and the first shot registered about 3 inches, right at the 3 o’clock position.
This method of boresighting has been lost on generations who never handled a bolt gun and who favored modern sporting rifles instead.
I had the opportunity to try out the Ruger American with a variety of ammunition in a few different range settings. From CCI Standard ammunition to Remington Golden Bullets to the new CCI Copper and even some nasty Russian ammo I found in the deepest and darkest corner of my random ammo box, the reliable bolt-action fed, fired and ejected everything.
This rifle will operate ammunition that repeatedly fails to extract and feed in others. The short, 60-degree bolt throw was at first unfamiliar to me and other shooters accustomed to centerfire short and long actions.
There were multiple occasions when we visually checked the chamber to see if the bolt cleared the magazine and that we achieved a complete cycle of the action. Once we trusted the feel of a short .22LR action, we immediately focused on the accuracy the little rifle could produce and that we were able to cycle the bolt in a fluid motion.
1. Body Alignment
To achieve optimal accuracy, a marksman should not fight the body’s natural point of aim. While shooting prone, this might mean lining up slightly offset to the target behind the rifle. To correct body alignment, note where the rifle settles after recoil. Align your body in a manner so the smallest amount of adjustment is necessary after each shot.
A proper grip should feel like a firm handshake. Too much muscular input results in an inconsistent trigger pull. Some shooters prefer laying the thumb on the left side of the rifle; others place it on the same side as the bolt. In either case, the grip should be consistent on the rifle each time.
3. Low Magnification
The optic used during the evaluation of this rifle was variable in power. Some shooters want instant feedback on their shot placement, and instead of focusing on the reticle, they look at the target. Lower your magnification to the lowest setting to avoid this, as well as the more noticeable wiggle your reticle will have during your breathing cycle.
The human body is always in a state of motion. Learning to maximize your accuracy based on your breathing cycle is key. With a .22 rifle, this is a less-expensive endeavor than with a larger centerfire rifle. Fire a three- to five-shot group at full lung, then half and then empty. Depending on your build, conditioning and other attributes, you’ll notice slight variances. Be consistent, and go with the best results.
5. Sight Picture
When you get behind the rifle, you should have a natural and relaxed body position. If your optic is mounted properly, you should not have to adjust your cheek forward, backward or side to side from where it naturally falls. The optic sight picture should be clear and not shaded or eclipsed. Your reticle should be crisp as you hard-focus on it.
6. Trigger Pull
Your trigger pull should be smooth from start to finish. Some shooters use the last pad of their trigger finger on the very bottom of the trigger; some use the second and keep their trigger finger parallel to barrel; and others won’t have a routine at all. For repeatable accuracy, your trigger pull should be exactly the same each time.
Some shooters suggest squeezing until the trigger “surprises” you. Controlling your firearm and sending rounds down range should never be a surprise. Know when your trigger will break with “x” amount of additional pressure.
After your shot breaks, stay on the trigger and reacquire your sights and target. Reset yourself and these steps in a logical order that provides you with better accuracy that is repeatable time after time. Don’t put stock in “lucky” shots. Prove your skill by putting round after round on top of one another.
“This rifle isn’t the rifle you will shoot off hand for extended sessions; it is the rifle that will deliver repeatable accuracy, shot after shot, when every shot matters.”
Shooting from a standard Harris bipod without a rear-stock bag, dime-sized groupings were common with all shooters from 25 yards. Shooting from from a backpack, groups were slightly larger, attributable to the less-stable base. The trigger initially felt grainy, but with use, it cleaned up some and was respectably crisp for a rifle with a moderate price tag.
The Ruger American magazines release in the same manner as a Ruger 10/22 and are easily manipulated with some practice. Larger, 25-round magazines fit and won’t bottom out when used with the legs extended on a standard Harris bipod.
While evaluating the Ruger American, I traveled to the Yankee Hill Machine factory and had the opportunity to use its Stinger .22LR suppressor. Because the .22 round has very little escaping gas, .22 suppressors can offer excellent noise reduction.
To test the limits of the rifle equipped with that suppressor, various ammunition with velocities of 1,200 to 1850 fps were used. The ammunition with the highest velocity created a distinct crack! similar to a cap gun or primer exploding; but it didn’t bother our ears.
Lower velocities were noticeably quieter and similar to a hand clap. We didn’t have any subsonic ammunition that day (which would have been ideal), but I was assured by the YHM crew that using it in conjunction with the Stinger is even quieter. It is notable that the rifle performed slightly better with the suppressor than without it.
“…because every round counts—especially in a survival or extended living experience in the outdoors—the bolt-action rifle forces the shooter to slow down and aim.”
All in all, the shooters who had a chance to use this rifle found it incredibly fun to shoot—and challenging. Instead of focusing on speed shooting or sloppy plinking, sitting or sprawling out behind the little, scoped .22 forced shooters to take more-careful aim. Each shooter who tried it remarked how enjoyable it was to use.
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle, .22 Long, .22 Short
Barrel Length: 18 inches
Twist: 1:16 inches RH (six grooves)
Overall length: 37 inches
Stock: Black laminate
Length of pull: 13.75 inches
Weight: 6.7 pounds
In an age when “bigger” is often associated with “better,” a little .22 rifle can still hold its own. There is no doubt that this rifle can provide hours of fun at the range, putting meat on the table or clearing out a field of varmints.
The Ruger American is an excellent rifle that packs a lot of performance into a budget package. It is well made, respectfully accurate and easy to use for shooters of all sizes. Perhaps the only down side is its weight—which, if accepted as a trade-off for accuracy and stability in a target rifle, isn’t an issue at all. It is slightly heavier than its brother, the 10/22, but not an impossible burden to carry around the woods.
.22 Long Rifle cartridges have changed very little over the years. Some of the popular .22 loads from 20 years ago are still found on the shelves today.
The .22 round has been some similar combination of casing, primer, powder and lead projectile. There really wasn’t much room for change in how much powder could be used or how heavy the lead projectile could be loaded. That is, until CCI introduced its new Copper ammunition.
CCI adopted polymer and copper dust technology in its new projectile, which weighs in at about half the weight of standard lead counterparts. What this translates to is a velocity of more than 1,850 feet per second. The trade-off is long-range performance.
The round will be optimal at ranges out to about 50 yards, but because the bullet lacks the extra mass of lead, it starts to peter out. Velocities will be noticeably higher in rifle-length barrels than pistol-length barrels.
One noteworthy consideration is reliability. Many modern semiauto rifles have recoil springs meant to handle standard, high- and hyper-velocity lead rounds. The lighter CCI Copper ammunition might not function perfectly in these rifle and pistol recoil cycles.
However, when the CCI Copper was paired with the Ruger American Target’s bolt action, it did not induce a single problem in our review.Last, but not least, is a health consideration. I learned marksmanship at a young age with an airgun that used lead pellets, and my first rifle, a Ruger 10/22, was fed a steady diet of lead rounds.
As a child, my father told me to always wash my hands after handling lead. Even now, I scrub down after each range session. Because the .22 is likely the first real firearm used to teach youth (who are more susceptible to lead poisoning), this new CCI Copper is an excellent choice for younger shooters to handle. Even the primer is lead free.
CCI Copper Ammunition is sold in boxes of 50 rounds, with a $10.95 MSRP.
This rifle isn’t the rifle you will shoot off hand for extended sessions; it is the rifle that will deliver repeatable accuracy, shot after shot, when every shot matters. Whether that is on the firing line or out in a survival situation Bradford Angier envisioned, this rifle is an excellent choice for the modern American.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.