I used to enjoy a day of fishing, even if I never got a nibble – it was still a great day. During big game season, I used to love humping up and down logging roads, or in some areas, driving logging roads, looking for big game, in particular black tail deer in Western Oregon. I’m no spring chicken any longer, and I hate to admit that. My days of going around on foot, looking for game are over. Same for driving the logging roads. My advanced age and osteoarthritis just don’t allow me to spend hours on end driving, or hiking around looking for game. The pain isn’t worth the hunt. And, I sincerely thank the many SurvivalBlog readers who sent me suggestions on how to beat the pain – I’ve tried everything except surgery, and on a fixed income, elective surgery isn’t an option.
I miss hunting! However, I sure don’t miss target shooting. Just shooting at targets is a lot of fun, if you ask me. And, I love an accurate rifle – and Ruger has come up with some winners with the American Rifle line-up. It really pleases me to fire some nice tight groups on paper, its relaxing, and fun at the same time.
We’re looking at the Ruger American Rifle in .243 Winchester, and I’ve always found this round to be extremely accurate, with light recoil – a cartridge that won’t beat my shoulder to death. Up until the latest, and ongoing ammo drought, I could find .243 Winchester ammo for around $13.00 per box of 20 rounds. These days, there is none to be found in my neck of the woods, at any price. So, as is the case, I turned to the good folks at Black Hills Ammunition for help. They sent me samples of their 80-gr Hornady GMX and 85-gr Barnes TSX for use in this article – more on the results later.
As is the case, many times, Ruger hit it out of the ballpark with their American Rifle line. I’ve tested several of these guns. However, I was really looking forward to testing the .243 Winchester rifle this time around. I actually have had this rifle for quite some time – sitting in the box, in the corner of my office. Most people who see my office, don’t understand how I can find anything in it – even my desktop at times, is cluttered.
Some stats on the .243 Winchester is in order. First off all, this line of rifles are a bargain, and let’s not forget that, if you shop around, you can usually find most of Ruger’s firearms discounted. That’s a win for the consumer. The model I selected for this test is the American Rifle, and I elected to have the factory-installed Vortex Crossfire II scope on it, and it is a 3-9×40 scope. The Vortex is an outstanding scope for the money – better quality than scopes costing two or three times as much, but providing clarity that is outstanding in my humble opinion. Plus this scope has the Dead-Hold BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator) and it is mounted on a one-piece Picatinny scope base, and zeroed at the Ruger factory. My sample was perfect for left-right adjustment and only off about half an inch in elevation – great job, Ruger.
One of the top features on the American is the Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger. It offers a very crisp release with a pull weight that is user-adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds. My sample came from the factory with a 3.75-pound pull – I didn’t see any sense in adjusting the pull weight lighter or even heavier – it was perfect as it arrived.
The stock is made out of a black synthetic material that is tough and can stand-up to the elements. Living in a climate that offers us rain for about 8-months out of the year, I don’t worry about the synthetic stock warping, like wood stocks do in this climate – throwing off my zero. There is a great soft rubber butt pad on the stock for recoil reduction, not that the .243 Winchester round is a hard-kicking round.
A three lug, one-piece bolt with a 70-degree thrown operates smoothly, and never once hung-up when chamber a round. This bolt is also full-diameter, and has dual cocking cams for a very smooth and it is easy to cycle from the shoulder – it really is.
Ruger also used a patented Power Bedding in the stock so the barrel is free-floated, helping improve your accuracy. I’m one of those that believes a free-floated barrel is slightly more accurate than one that isn’t free-floated – save the e-mails, we all have opinions on this topic.
The barrel is hammer forged, and this also contributes to precise accuracy, and a longer barrel light. The barrel is 22-inches long. The gun comes in at 7.2-lbs unloaded. The length of pull is 13.75-inches – absolutely perfect for my shooting technique. I also like the tang-mounted safety, that is easy on/off. The detachable synthetic magazine holds four rounds and is easy to remove and insert without any difficulty.
From my military days, I zero all my rifle scopes for a 300-yard zero – seems to work well for me. Even with the BDC feature in the scope, I still zeroed the gun for 300-yards, and adjust the BDC to work with this zero for me. Now, quite honestly, in all my years hunting big game, I’ve never taken a deer at more than 100-yards, and more often than not, my shots are under 100-yards – and I’ve never lost a critter yet with that zero and proper shot placement. It is called “hunting” not just “shooting” – I like to get as close as possible to my game before taking a shot.
We have deer in our rural front yard all the time – as many as eight of them, quite often. So, I could “hunt” from my front yard, but these deer feel safe in our yard, and we can sit on the front deck and “talk” to them, and they don’t run off…so, they are safe here. Just this morning, one doe, was grazing under our front picture window on some roses, and I talked to her through the open window – no fear – she kept eating.
On to shooting this Ruger American Rifle. I had the Black Hills .243 Winchester ammo in two weights and types, as mentioned. I like to shoot a little bit heavier bullet in the .243 and the 80-gr Hornady GMX and 85-gr Barnes TSX fit the bill nicely. My shooting was done at 100-yards, and I adjust the elevation for my scope is zeroed for 300-yards (or meters if you want — that would be about 330 yards).
I use a great big boulder, with a padded rifle rest, to make sure I’m squeezing the most accuracy as I can out of a firearm. Even when testing most handguns, I use a rest. When I was hunting, I didn’t take any shots standing up. When possible, I would go prone, or at the very least from the kneeling position. Once I got the elevation zeroed, it wasn’t a problem, getting tiny groups from this fine rifle. It was pretty much a draw, between the two Black Hills rounds, as to which one was more accurate, but in the end, my three-round groups were coming in at one-inch, if I did my part with the 85-gr Barnes TSX round. However, the 80-gr Hornady 80-gr GMX was only a fraction of an inch bigger, and I mean I had to measure the groups several times when I got home to see which was the winner – it was “that” close.
Some folks might say that a .243 Winchester round is a bit lightweight for anything over the size of a deer, but I don’t think so. If you keep your shooting within a reasonable distance, I think you can also take black bear…for a black bear, I’d keep my shots down to 200 yards or less. Elk? That’s another queston – they are really big game, so I would move up to a larger caliber – maybe .270 or even bigger. Elk are tough to put down. However, the .243 Winchester would make a dandy varmint round – for taking groundhogs, jackrabbits, coyotes and similar game – this round shoots extremely flat. I know coyotes like to keep their distance, so you have to “hunt” them. Don’t take 500-to-600 yard shots. Stalk them – this is part of the fun when you hunt.
To be sure, the .243 Winchester round isn’t a do-all, be-all round – like all other calibers, it has its limitations. However, if all I had was this Ruger American in .243 Winchester, I wouldn’t feel too handicapped in the least. I know a lot of Alaska Natives, regularly take black bears with a .243 rifle, and of course, caribou are in abundance in Alaska, and they are taken with .243 all the time – one shot, one kill. And, you can just have a lot of fun poking holes in paper with this rifle.
I’ve shopped around (online) and found this same rifle, with the Vortex scope on it, brand-new for $700 or less – and it’s a bargain, and this rifle will last you a lifetime – who knows, it might just be your favorite rifle…and I strongly suggest getting it with the Vortex scope on it – you’ll really like it – a lot!