When I first started writing about firearms, back in 1992, one of the first rifles I received for testing was the Ruger Model 77. It was a heavy barrel rifle in .308 that was meant for serious long-range shooting. To be sure, the rifle itself was heavy, with the wooden stock and the heavy barrel. It was not my first choice in a hunting rifle. However, it was a tack-driver! The late Bill Ruger, who owned Sturm, Ruger & Co., sent me a letter telling me to keep the rifle with his compliments because he didn’t have any use for a “used” rifle in the Ruger inventory!
If you’re a hunter, like I am, you are always on the look out for a new hunting rifle. I haunt my local FFL dealer almost on a daily basis to see what’s come in that is new or used that might catch my eye. Quite often, I step behind the counter to help customers out when the shop is busy. All too often, a month or so before deer season, hunters come into the shop and I hear them say, “I need a new hunting rifle.” I’ll ask them why they need a new rifle. They are just taken by surprise when I ask that. Last deer season they didn’t fire a round, or if they did they fired a single round! So, why do they “need” a new hunting rifle if the current one works just fine? It’s a good question!
I have to admit that I’m sometimes in the above crowd. However, I don’t really “need” another hunting rifle. I just “want” one. Maybe I just want a different caliber to shoot or a new rifle, just because. My wife often reminds me, “You said that last time, that you just needed one more gun…” Well, it is still as true today as when I first said it many years ago. And, let’s be honest. It’s not about needing a new rifle; it’s about “wanting” one. There is a big difference, eh?
Now that I’m in my Golden Years, I have all the time in the world for hunting and fishing, and if you believe that I have some ocean front property for sale in Oklahoma. Matter of fact, I didn’t get out and do some deer hunting for the past several years. There ‘s just never enough time in the day to get everything done I need to get done. However, this year, I promised myself I’m getting out there for some deer hunting this fall. Once in a great while my oldest daughter will go out hunting with me, but more often than not I’m out hunting alone. Well, I’m not entirely alone. One of my German Shepherds is in my pickup with me. Hopefully this fall, a long-time friend from Colorado will be here to go hunting with me. He plans on moving to my area, if he can get his home sold.
Ruger just came out with their American Rifle with the Vortex Crossfire II rifle scope package. The gun comes with the scope mounted; however, at least in my case, the scope wasn’t bore-sited, so it took some time to get the crosshairs where they needed to be. It is just another excuse to do some additional shooting, if you ask me. The Ruger American Rifle has been in production for a few years now, and it has been a winner for Ruger and hunters. I’m always on the hunt for a bargain in firearms, and more often than not I buy used guns that are hardly “used” at all.
A quick run down on the American is in order. I selected one in .308 Winchester caliber, which is hard to beat for much of the big game hunting we have in Oregon. If you do your part, the gun and caliber will bring the game home. The stock on my sample American is black synthetic. We have a lot of rain in this part of Oregon, and these days I prefer synthetic stocks over wooden stocks. Wooden stocks can warp and change the point of impact of your bullet. I’ve been there, done that! While I love a good piece of wood on a rifle, it is just more practical in my humble opinion to go with synthetic stocks these days, not to mention the weight-savings of synthetic over wood. As I grow older, I think I’m getting smarter, and I don’t want to pack any more weight when I’m hunting than need be.
The barrel is 22 inches long on my sample that I requested from Ruger, and that’s about all I need. I’m not firing magnum rounds that need the longer 24-26 inch barrels to gain all the velocity out of those rounds. So, in my book a 22-inch barrel works just fine for many calibers. The barrel has a 1:10 twist rifling, which is perfect! Plus, the barrel is made out of an alloy steel, making it even lighter than an all-steel barrel. Capacity is four rounds in the detachable magazine and one in the barrel; that’s more than enough to get any hunting job done. The magazine is polymer and very well made. Plus, the magazine locks securely in the gun. There are no worries about it falling out under recoil. Also, we have the proven push-feed bolt-action. Many gun owners believe nothing is better than the Mauser-feed system in a bolt action rifle. However, the push-feed is proven to get the rounds chambered nicely!
The American in .308 Winchester weighs seven pounds, which is not too heavy and not too light. The overall length is 42 inches, with a length of pull of 13.75 inches, which works for me and most hunters. We also have the Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger, which the user can adjust to set the pull weight to their liking– between three and five pounds. My sample came out of the box with a 4-lb trigger pull, and I didn’t see any need to adjust it. However, adjustment is very easy and only takes a few minutes.
I’ve never found the .308 Win round punishing in the least. However, there is a very nice soft rubber recoil pad on the stock that absorbs recoil. The one piece bolt is a short throw one, with a throw of only 70 degrees. It has three locking lugs for a sure lock-up and provides ample clearance with the mounted Vortex scope. The bolt cycles smoothly, too. There’s no hint of it hanging up on anything. Another nice touch is the Power Bedding block in the stock that assures a solid fit of the action to the stock, for added accuracy. Ruger claims a MOA accuracy, and there’s more on that later. The tang safety operated smoothly, too. I like a tang safety on my bolt-action rifles.
Now, to the Vortex Crossfire II scope that came mounted on the American. It is a 3-9X40. I prefer this type of scope over most. I don’t need a more powerful scope for my hunting purposes. Bigger scopes means more weight. I’ve never taken a deer beyond 150 yards, and most have been taken at 100 yards or less. Remember, it’s called “hunting” and not just “shooting”. This was my first exposure to the Vortex line of scopes, and I’m here to tell you, I was totally blown away with the clarity and brightness this scope offered.
The Vortex Crossfire II also comes with the Dead-Hold BDC reticle that you can zero to your liking. I usually zero my high-powered rifles for 300 yards. However, this time, I used the BDC reticle and used the dead-center one and zeroed it for 100 yards, and you go from there as to what distance you believe your game to be at. If you think your deer is at 200 yards, then you move down to the next hash mark, and it goes all the way down to 500 yards. This will get you within a couple inches of your point of aim by using the hash marks as your aiming points.
I checked around, and the Vortex Crossfire II is selling between $125-$200. Quite honestly, I’ve owned scopes by well-known makers that cost a lot more, however, they didn’t offer any better clarity or brightness. As I stated, this scope just blew me away. There’s so much for so little money, and it came mounted on the Ruger American, too.
All my shooting was done at 100 yards, for a few reasons. Number one is that most of my deer have been taken at that distance. Secondly, I have severe osteo-arthritis in my right hip, and walking back and forth to change targets can be challenging on some days because of the pain I experience in my hip. The doctor said, “Hip replacement”, but I’m fighting it! I’ve had e-mails from some readers before complaining that I don’t fire high-powered rifles at longer distances. Well, if the gun is shooting great at 100 yards with the right ammo, why would I believe it isn’t going to shoot that well at longer distances. Think about it.
Hands down, I had the best selection of .308 Win ammo on-hand, for testing in the Ruger American. From Double Tap Ammunition, I had their new Ted Nugent 180-gr Sierra Game King load, 125-gr Nosler Ballistic Tip, and their 150-gr Barnes TTSX load. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their Sniper 175-gr JHP load, 150-gr Supercharged Lead-Free Barnes TTX, and their 180-gr Supercharged Sptz load. From the folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 168-gr Match Hollow Point and the same in 175-grs. From their Gold line hunting ammo, I had 155-gr Tipped Match King, 155-gr Hornady A-Max, 168-gr Hornady A-Max, 168-gr Barnes TSX, 150-gr SST, 180-gr Nosler Accubond, and their 175-gr Tipped Match King.
With the above super selection of .308 Win ammo to test in the American, my testing took place over several shooting sessions. Ruger advertises that their rifles will give MOA, and it did not let me down. With the Black Hills 168-gr Match Hollow Point, it gave me groups just around an inch. Ditto was true for the Buffalo Bore 175-gr Sniper JHP load and the Double Tap 150-gr Barnes TTSX. No loads exceeded two inches, if I did my part, and most loads would give me a three-shot group of about an inch and a half, so long as I was on my game. Now, to be sure, on different days, different loads gave me better groups. One day one load would be the top group, and the next time out that same load would be beat out by another similar load from another maker. It had to do with me– the shooter– on particular days. Some days I just shot better than other days, period!
The American was very consistent, and it seemed to really like the Black Hills 168-gr Match Hollow Point load over its 175-gr sibling. There is just a few grains difference, and the lighter bullet gave me better accuracy.
The .308 Win offers the shooter a wide variety of loads, as demonstrated in my shooting, from the Double Tap 125-gr Nosler Ballistic Tip that would be great for coyotes to the heavy Buffalo Bore 180-gr Supercharged Sptz for bigger game, like elk and moose, to the 155-gr Hornady A-Max for deer and other similar-sized game. The .308 can do it all, and it is still the number one choice for many military snipers around the world, as well as long-range competition shooters.
All my shooting was done over the hood of my pickup truck using a rolled-up sleeping bag for the best accuracy I could wring out of the gun and the ammo. And, to be sure, it is always a marriage between a good gun and good ammo. Be sure to test different ammo to see which brand and type of ammo will give you the best accuracy, and match your ammo to the game you are hunting. It makes a big difference. Don’t go hunting moose or elk with a 125-gr light bullet; go heavier for bigger game with a bullet built to withstand all that bone and muscle it will have to penetrate.
The Ruger American with the Vortex Crossfire II scope package has a full retail price of $639, and it would be a bargain at that price. However, you can often find Ruger products deeply discounted, so shop around and get the best deal you can find on an outstanding rifle and scope package in a great caliber!
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio