[Review] Ruger American Predator: Best Budget Rifle?

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Some guys must be living right. I mean, how else would you explain how an ordinary guy who puts his pants on one leg at a time could go to a local National Wildlife Turkey Federation dinner and walk away with two new rifles, given as prizes? Well, OK, he’s done a lot of work for the group and is a big supporter. He deserves the guns, to be sure – he’s a good guy. Anyway, he walked away with a Ruger American Predator and a Ruger Precision rifle, both in 6.5 Creedmoor. He was happy, to say the least. Now, about the guns…

How does Ruger do it? I mean, how does a company go from one homerun to another with very few strikeouts in between? Pardon the baseball analogy, but right about now I’m really missing watching my Chicago Cubs play. I think a shortened season is starting soon, but so far I’ve made do by watching broadcasts of games from past seasons where our Cubbies were triumphant. There’s an analogy there – Ruger seems to always be playing a new game without relying on past triumphs to get by. Resting on laurels is not part of their business plan, as innovation seems to be the watchword. So it goes with their rifle models.

From the company’s beginning in 1949 with its introduction of the Ruger Standard Mk. I .22 LR pistol, the company grew very fast. Orders for thousands of the Mk. I pistol flooded in, which meant that the product was a winner. Bill Ruger and partner Alexander Sturm turned out guns as fast as they could. Sturm died in November, 1951 from viral hepatitis, so Bill Ruger kept going on his own. He changed the Ruger logo from red to black in honor of his late partner. (It was changed back to red during Ruger’s 50th anniversary year. I’ve had both black-eagled and older red-eagled Rugers). The point is, the company didn’t stand still after one or two good-selling guns were introduced – they kept innovating and gradually got into rifle production.

Let’s Make Rifles, Too

The rifle end of Ruger’s firearms expansion occurred in the 1960s. Models included the Deerstalker (Model 44), a .44 Magnum semiautomatic rifle with a four-round magazine. Other rifles Ruger introduced include the M77 bolt action in many calibers and the Ruger #1 single-shot hunting gun. What really put Ruger on the rifle map was the introduction of the extremely popular 10/22 rimfire rifle in 1964. Slightly reminiscent of the M1 carbine, this rifle was not designed for youth, but was a serious plinker/hunter/competitor with adults in mind. Utilizing an innovative 10-round rotary magazine (with others up to 25 rounds available), the 10/22 has sold millions of copies since its introduction. Even if the company had made no other rifle than the 10/22, its name would be secure in the pantheon of popular, well-made rifles. Ten-twenty-two innovations abound, even to this day…just yesterday I saw an ad for a 10/22 wearing a camo finish, sporting a 3x9x40 scope direct from the factory. The 10/22 is truly a milestone in rimfire rifle production. But…it’s not a centerfire. There are many of those out there that bear the Ruger logo – we’re going to look at one in particular this time and then another one in a future review. The one we’ll examine is the Ruger American Standard rifle, in 6.5 Creedmoor.

The Ruger American Rifle Line-Up

In 2012, Ruger introduced the line of American rifles. The American moniker was not only used for rifles, but handguns as well. I owned a Ruger American .45 ACP semiauto for a good while. As with just about everything Ruger makes, it was overbuilt. The American line of rifles includes the following models:

Standard: 22-inch barrel, with a 42-inch overall length (add ½ inch for long-action guns)

Compact: 18-inch barrel, short-action-cartridges only

Magnum: 24-inch, threaded stainless barrel in .300 WM and .338 WM. Scope rail is standard

Predator: 18- or 22-inch barrel depending upon caliber; scope rail is standard. Several calibers are available. Our test sample is a Predator model

Ranch: 16.12-inch, threaded barrel version of the Predator in several calibers

Hunter: Heavy, 20-inch alloy barrel with muzzle brake, bedded into a Magpul “Hunter American” stock. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win.

This rifle also comes in six different rimfire variations. There is an option for just about anyone. The thing about Ruger is that if you don’t see what you want here, they make other lines of rifles. Next time we’ll look at the Precision rifle, to name one.

Here are the specs for the Predator 6.5 Creedmoor, model number 6973 we’re looking at…

Barrel:Alloy steel 22 inch, 1:8 RH twist with 5/8x32 thread
Weight:6.6 pounds, according to Ruger. Our sample weighed 7 pounds, 9.1 ounces on my digital scale, scoped
Stock:Moss Green Synthetic; barrel is free-floated
Trigger:Ruger Marksman, adjustable between 3-5 pounds. As tested, 3 pounds, 0.4 ounces average pull weight
Bolt:One-piece three-lug with 70° throw
Magazine:4 rounds, flush fit
Sights:None, Picatinny rail attached
Safety:Tang-mounted for ambidextrous use
Length of Pull:13.75 inch
MSRP:$529.00
Real-World Price:$430-$450

As you can see, the Predator exhibits some very impressive specs. A free-floated barrel mounted in what Ruger calls their Patented Power Bedding® integral bedding block system helps insure MOA accuracy, as touted on the Predator’s web page. Having seen the gun in action, I believe it. We are living in the age of inexpensive rifles that deliver accuracy levels unheard of in similarly-priced guns of even a couple of decades ago. I recently reviewed the Savage Axis II XP rifle – the one I wrote about is my personal copy of that rifle, and I achieved sub-½-MOA groups with factory ammo. My rifle is in .243 Winchester. My point is that, in years gone by, you’d have to spend many dollars to get that type of accuracy out of a factory rifle by having it gone over by a custom gunsmith. Nowadays, it seems that all you have to do is plunk your dollars down on the gun counter and say “I’ll take that one” – chances are that the gun will be very accurate. Of course, I’m not naïve enough to think that all rifles will shoot sub-MOA groups fresh off the rifle rack, but it just seems that accuracy is more of a given these days than in past years. Why is that?

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Accuracy Off The Rack

First of all, let me say that I have never worked for any rifle manufacturer, or in the gun industry in any capacity. I am also not a gunsmith. My comments come strictly from my experience with guns of all types, rifles in particular. I say that as something of a disclaimer so you won’t think I’m trying to “sell” you one rifle or another. This is just my humble opinion, folks…I’m no expert, just a shooter who’s picked up some knowledge over the years.

I think that rifles are more accurate at a lower price point for a few reasons…

#1 Manufacturing Technology Advances

The age of computer-aided design and machining has really helped the firearms industry. I remember back in the 1970s a rifle that shot under an inch at a hundred yards was either a very expensive, top-of-the-line factory rifle (whose name usually rhymed with “Featherby”). Or, it was a gun that had been gone over by a ‘smith with a bedded, free-floated barrel as a result. Usually, a new trigger or at least a trigger job was done, as well. The wooden stock was relieved in places and built up in others. Now, with the advent of poly stocks and related technology, the barrel can be free-floated on the production line. Triggers are easily adjusted by the shooter, a rarity in bygone days – usually, the trigger needed professional attention. Now, most any entry-level rifle has that free-floated barrel and a really decent trigger.

#2 Optics

Advancements in optics design and manufacture has really upped the game for lesser-expensive rifles. Nowadays, we have everything from short-to-medium range red dots to full-blown top-notch scopes, all available for not a lot of money. Whether you are looking for a scope for your deer rifle, one for your .22-250 groundhog gun or one for your 1000-yard target terrorizer, there is a scope out there in your price range that will do the job. After all, you can’t hit what you can’t see. Optics are one area that has made some big jumps in recent years.

#3 Ammunition

Let’s face it – most shooters don’t reload their own ammo. Being an unrepentant reloader, I can craft ammo that will best whatever factory loads I could buy…or can I? It used to be that if you wanted the very best, most accurate ammo for your rifle, you rolled your own. Nowadays, not so much. I have stated before that the sub-half-inch group I shot with my .243 was with Winchester factory ammunition, not one of my carefully-crafted, attention-to-detail handloads. (If you want to know more about reloading, check my article on it here). That same manufacturing technology advancement not only affects gun makers, it helps ammo makers as well. Never before have we had the large selection of ammo crafted to high accuracy levels that is available for us to buy today. From inexpensive plinking rounds to top-level hunting and target loads, we’ve never seen such accurate ammo on dealers’ shelves.

#4 Other Reasons

OK, what do I mean by other reasons? Well, it ties in with the first item – manufacturing advances. Today as never before shooters have access to all sorts of accessories that they might have only dreamed about owning a few decades ago that help them to be better shooters. Example: chronographs. A chronograph can really help your shooting as it will help you find ammo that is very consistent shot-to-shot. The more consistent velocities are, the smaller the standard deviation. And, the smaller the SD, the more accurate the ammo will be with others factors equal. A chronograph can be had for around $80, and the quality of that chrono will be really decent. Of course, the axiom “you get what you pay for” still works…it’s just that the overall quality of things like chronographs, trigger pull gauges, reloading accessories etc. has improved over the years as manufacturing techniques have improved and costs haven’t increased all that much. Using the chrono as an example, I bought my first one in the ‘80s and paid around $80 for it. I received a new chronograph a few years ago as a gift that cost the same – $80 – but there is no comparison between the two. We can buy the newer one for the older cost and get a better instrument because manufacturing techniques, materials, processes and quality has improved so much. Of course, the same analogy applies to guns as well. The guns of today are by and large some of the best examples of the firearm manufacturer’s craft that we’ve seen, and it means even more when you consider you’re paying not a whole lot more for them than you did back in the day.

Anyway, take the above for what you will… I for one am glad to be a shooter today. I can reap the benefits of modern technology as I seek to put my bullet holes closer together in the target – these are truly golden days for guns of any stripe, long or short. Pardon the lecture, but I can’t really talk about this Ruger rifle without at least giving a nod to their innovative manufacturing processes and the advancements they bring forth.

Photos

Now, let’s look at some photos of our sample gun…

Ruger American Predator receiver
Receiver. Note the flush four-round magazine.
scope and bolt handle
Scope and nicely-rounded bolt handle.
Ruger American Predator safety
The safety, right where it should be for both righties and lefties.
Ruger American Predator trigger
Trigger with integral safety lever.

The trigger guard is molded integrally with the stock as is the custom now with polymer stocks.

caliber stamp on the Ruger American Predator
You’ll never forget what caliber this rifle is…
Ruger logo
… or who made it.
Ruger American Predator bolt body
Bolt body and face.
Ruger American Predator bolt face
Note the three-lug design, claw extractor and ejector plunger.
Ruger American Predator bolt release
And, the way to get the bolt out – the bolt release.

You do not need to pull the trigger to remove the bolt as you do with Savage rifles.

Ruger American Predator muzzle cap
Threaded muzzle and protector
Ruger American Predator on scale
Weight with empty magazine
Ruger American Predator magazine
And, lastly, the magazine.

You can drop this one without too many worries about bending feed lips.

Shooting The Predator

Here we see Glen behind the Lead Sled as he squeezes off the first shots he’s taken with his new rifle.

shooting the Ruger American Predator

One target shot in my back yard – as stated, he had not shot the rifle before. His gun shop owner friend set up scopes on this rifle and a Ruger Precision for him and then he shot about a box of ammo through them, sighting the scopes in, but for Glen it was new.

target shot with the Ruger American Predator

We only shot the one target as our 6.5 ammo supply was, to put it bluntly, not so hot. That seems to be the song that we’re all singing these days, under the present virus conditions. Ammo is coming back, but it’s not there yet. Anyway, his first shot was high and left, and his second shot was high/right. He then proceeded to put two bullets into almost the same hole as he became more familiar with the trigger and scope. I have a feeling that if he had more each of ammo and time, most of his three- and four-shot groups might consist of one ragged hole. Once he moves the windage reticle a bit right, he’s good to go for anything from chipmunks to deer. (I know, some folks hunt elk or greater with the caliber – that’s great for them. I’ll stick to deer). This rifle is, to put it succinctly, a shooter. Most Ruger rifles are accurate – this one displayed accuracy right out of the box. With a little TLC and the right touch, this rifle might turn into a top-notch shooter. The trigger was excellent, with a 3-pound-even pull and no overtravel or take-up. That helps a lot in the accuracy department, as does the free-floated barrel. This rifle shows potential.

(By the way, if you like the targets you see me use in my reviews on this website, you can download them free. There’s a link at the bottom of this web page for a free download).

Before we end, let’s take a look at a few of what I consider to be advantages of this rifle…

Advantages Of The American Predator

Recoil

The American Predator is a rifle that weighs about seven and a half pounds, so it isn’t exactly a lightweight. That helps with recoil some. I was, however, a bit surprised at the amount of recoil displayed by this particular rifle after I had shot a Precision rifle in the same caliber. The Predator’s recoil was a bit more pronounced when compared with that of the heavier Precision, something you’d expect. The Precision had about three more pounds on the Predator – it weighed over 10 pounds. Now, neither gun showed a lot of recoil – the 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t exactly a .300 Win Mag in the recoil department – but I was a bit surprised at the difference.

Carrying During A Hunt

Another advantage the Predator had was its slightly lighter weight. If I were to hike to a deer blind or even “walk a stalk”, I’d want the Predator on my shoulder. There are other guns out there that are lighter, but also a lot that are heavier. I mentioned the Precision above – it would be the rifle of choice for an all-day, stay-in-one-spot groundhog hunt or similar activity, shooting from sort of field rest. I just wouldn’t want to carry it over hills and through hollers. The lightweight stock adds to the Predator’s ease of carry – it is stiff enough to allow excellent accuracy but light enough for easy transportation.

Price

The price is an advantage that goes without saying. For a full-blown list of $529, you’ll see it for well under $500 in most stores, although there are some stores that I ran across in my research selling it for just under $600…how they can sell it for more than Ruger asks them to is their business, I guess. Supply & demand, maybe. Anyway, this rifle is a humdinger of a shooter for under $500.

Conclusion

The American Predator rifle is a great buy. I look at my Savage Axis IIXP in .243 and am happy, but the Ruger seems to take it one step beyond, as this company usually does. Little things like sling swivels are included. Not a big deal, I know, but I recently reviewed a long gun that had no swivels. That’s another nickel-and-dime expense that’s more of an aggravation, but I get tired of dealing with things like that. Also, Ruger’s customer service is second to none – I have first-hand knowledge of that.

Looking for a fairly inexpensive rifle to carry into the hinterland, or tote around in the back of your truck? Want one that will be in one piece when you open its case? Want a gun that will put that first shot where you want it to? Check out this rifle. I think you might be surprised how accurate it is, once you’ve figured out its favorite load.

I really enjoyed shooting this rifle. If Glen brings it back over, I will be glad to go out and shoot it some more – even if there’s a Cubs game on. Now, that’s something! As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe. Leave a comment below if you’ve had experience with an American rifle in any of its models.

Price incl. tax, excl. shipping/ Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Written by Mike

Mike has been a shooter, bullet caster and reloader for over 40 years. Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, he is often found at his reloading bench concocting yet another load. With a target range in his backyard and after 40 years of shooting, his knowledge of firearms and reloading is fairly extensive. He is married, with four sons and daughters-law and 9-and-counting grandkids.

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