Rimfires for the Next Generation

posted on March 14, 2014

Bat pulled his boots on and looked out the window at the drizzling rain. Walking over to the gun rack, he picked up a box of .22 LR ammunition, stuffed it in his pocket and asked, “Where do you think I should go?”

“Hickories,” I said. “There aren’t many acorns. Remember, they’ve got the yellow leaves. Take your time and slip in close.” Bat nodded, slung the new Ruger American .22 rifle and stepped out the door into a rainbow of autumn color. It’d been more than 30 years since I’d left our family hunting camp on my first, all-alone squirrel hunt. I was a proud to see my boy following my footsteps, especially with a rifle and not a scattergun.

Nervously, I paced around camp looking for things to do while trying to imagine what was happening somewhere on a timbered ridge. I wasn’t worried about safety; Bat graduated from Gunsite Academy a few months prior. I was just wishing that I was in a knothole high on an oak, watching my son grow up. A few hours later I looked out the window and saw him headed down the trail; rifle on his shoulder with a fist full of squirrels.

“I’m wet, but that was fun and this rifle will shoot!” His smile took me back to the first time I carried a mess of squirrels in and held them in front of my Dad’s grinning face. There’s nothing like a boy with a .22 rifle, and I’m confident in saying there’s never been a better one for that purpose.

Ruger introduced the center-fire American rifle in 2012. A stark departure from its popular Model 77 line of bolt-actions, the Ruger American was more affordable and packed with features, such as a detachable rotary magazine, a unique bedding system and a fine trigger. With retail prices less than $450, it got the attention of hunters everywhere. Hard-working American hunters like an affordable, dependable and accurate deer rifle.

Last summer, Ruger announced the American Rimfire, which shares many features with its center-fire counterpart, but it brings even more to the table, primarily an innovative modular stock system. In essence, the American Rimfire is the perfect understudy to the American, but it’s also a fine rifle in its own right.

The American Rimfire is offered in two chamberings-.22 LR and .22 WMR-and in two configurations: Standard and Compact. Each makes use of a detachable, rotary-feed magazine. The .22 LR employs the 10-shot magazine in use on 10/22 rifles since their introduction in 1964 (in addition to the much newer 25-shot BX-25 and tandem 25-shot BX-25x2 magazines) and the .22 WMR uses the nine-shot JMX-1 magazine employed on the Ruger 77/22 Magnum bolt-action and the now-discontinued 10/22 Magnum semi-automatic.

All American Rimfires come standard with extended magazine releases. They also haveShooting .22 LR the Ruger Marksman trigger, which incorporates a passive safety in the form of a lever that protrudes through the center of the trigger’s face and that must be fully depressed before the trigger can be pulled. It is the same trigger used on the center-fire American. Out of the box, the trigger pulls on two of the three American Rimfires I evaluated measured 3 pounds, 4 ounces, and the third measured 2 pounds, 12 ounces, on my Timney trigger pull gauge. More importantly, all were very consistent and adjustable, although the barreled action must be removed from the stock to make the adjustments.

There is a two-position, trigger-blocking, tang-mounted safety-just as on the center-fire American. It provides familiarity across the platform; if you hunt big game with an American center-fire, you can train with an American Rimfire, experiencing identical safety and trigger positioning and operation.

All American Rimfires have hammer-forged barrels. The barrel on the Standard model is 22 inches long and on the Compact model it is 18 inches long. Ruger uses what it refers to as the Power Bedding system to free float the barrels on the American Rimfires just like it does on the center-fire American. It consists of steel V-blocks embedded in the polymer stock during the molding process, and it positively locates the action both laterally and longitudinally in the stock. Two screws, fore-and-aft of the magazine well, pass through the blocks, securing the action to the stock. The design allows for the barrel to be floated for its full length.

The cock-on-opening bolt is removed from the receiver by depressing a release on the left rear of the action. The bolt is essentially lug-less and held in battery by the bolt handle when closed. A right-hand  extractor, opposed by a left-side positioner spring, provides positive extraction, and a fixed ejector is mounted integral to the rear Power Bedding block.

Each version of the American Rimfire is also equipped with a green fiber-optic front sight and a folding leaf rear sight, but you’re not limited them as each also has a grooved receiver to allow for the easy installation of 3/8-inch rimfire rings. The receivers are also drilled and tapped to accept No. 12 Weaver bases. Both scope-mounting methods were employed effectively on the test rifles.

Stocks are injection-molded black polymer. The Standard stock weighed 26 ounces, and the Compact was an ounce lighter. This works to keep overall rifle weight down with the Standard and Compact weighing in at 6 pounds and 5 pounds, 5 ounces, respectively. But, the light heft, trim lines and molded-in textured surfaces of the stocks are not their best feature. It’s the modular comb system that makes the new Ruger the most adaptable bolt-action .22 available. To accomplish modularity, the stock is two pieces; the bottom of the buttstock, the section of the stock around the receiver and the fore-end are one piece, while the butt and comb are another. The comb inserts into the main portion of the stock by hooking under a lip at the nose of the comb. The comb is then held in place by the rear sling swivel stud.

This modularity allows the user to alter the stock’s length of pull from 12½ inches to 13¾ American Rimfire Stockinches in about 15 seconds. Since there are four comb modules to choose from-two low and two high-the stocks can be set up with a comb height that properly positions the shooter’s face to work with either open sights or a riflescope. It is also an ideal system for adapting the rifles to a youth shooter and then to an adult, and back, quickly. By simply switching the modules, the rifle will fit almost any user. It’s a simple solution to a problem that has plagued shooters for a long, long time and I would not be surprised to see it incorporated into other Ruger rifles. A young person can grow up a great deal with a .22 rifle, and the Ruger American Rimfire is a rifle that can grow with him or her.

Each Rimfire is shipped with two comb modules-a low module for shooting with open sights and a high module for shooting with a riflescope. If you purchase the Compact, they will have lengths of pull of 12½ inches. If you purchase the Standard, they will provide a 13¾-inch length of pull. If you need to further refine the fit of the rifle, additional comb modules are available for $20 each at shopruger.com. You can also order No. 12 Weaver scope bases, extra magazines and a variety of other Ruger accessories there as well.

During several weeks coinciding with West Virginia’s squirrel season, my son and I put almost 1,000 rounds through three Ruger American Rimfires. A Standard in .22 LR and a Compact in .22 WMR were topped with Redfield’s new TAC-22, 2-7X 34 mm Battlezone riflescopes. One was mounted via the grooved receiver and the other with No. 12 Weaver bases. The third rifle, a Compact in .22 LR, was mostly fired with the factory open sights, but a Redfield was added for accuracy testing.

There were no misfires, failures to fire or failures to extract. There were only two performance issues of any kind, and both were with the .22 LR gun. With the Redfield scope attached, the bolt was worked very slowly to eject a fired case, and sometimes the case would bounce off the turret saddle on the scope and fall into the recess behind the magazine. Of course that jammed the action and the rifle had to be tilted to the side so the empty would fall free. The issue was corrected by working the bolt with authority. I also found that by adjusting the position of the scope in the rings, the problem could be circumvented.

The other problem came when trying to chamber blunt-nosed .22 LR loads such as Remington’s Yellow Jacket or CBee 22. These truncated-cone bullets didn’t feed smoothly. By exerting a bit of extra pressure on the bolt, they would go in but in some cases that resulted in damage to the bullet nose. Several different magazines were tried and, with some, the problem was diminished; but none corrected the issue completely. By contrast, standard and hollow-point round-nose .22 LR loads, and all .22 WMR loads, chambered smoothly.

From an accuracy standpoint, the two .22 LR American Rimfires delivered what could be considered average precision for commonly priced .22 bolt-action rifles at 50 yards. The Compact averaged 1.52 inches for 15, 10-shot groups with three different loads and the Standard averaged 1.34 inches. The same loads were used for testing both rifles.

The shocker was the Ruger American Compact in .22 WMR. It turned in an average of 0.90 inches for 15, 10-shot groups with three different loads. That rifle shot every bit as well as my walnut-stocked Ruger Model 77/22 Magnum, which is one of my favorite small-game rifles. It will be hard not to write the check and keep the Compact American Rimfire in .22 WMR. It is plenty accurate, and have you ever seen what a boy can do to a wood stock on a rifle?

Some will argue that the great days of American gunmaking are in the past. I disagree. Sure, finely figured walnut and deep bluing are not commonplace anymore. However, the true American tradition of firearms manufacturing is the ability to offer precision performance and reliability at an affordable price. No other .22 bolt-action rifle does that as well as the Ruger American Rimfire. And, due to the Marksman trigger and the modular stock system, no other .22 rifle offers a more adaptable shooter interface.

Ruger’s American Rimfire is aptly named and, in my opinion just might be the best new rimfire rifle we have seen since Ruger introduced the 77/22 about 30 years ago. Ruger is now making a second generation of dads proud and bringing a new generation of hunters into the fold. My son and I are proof.

Ruger American Rimfire

Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., 200 Ruger Road, Prescott, Ariz., 86301;

(928) 541-8892

Model: American Rimfire (Standard/Compact)

Chamberings: .22 Long Rifle, .22 WMR

Barrel: 22 inches (Standard), 18 inches (Compact),

Rifling: six-groove, 1:16-inch RH twist (1:14 inch WMR)

Weight: 6 pounds (Standard), 5 pounds, 5 ounces (Compact)

Length: 41 inches (Standard), 35¾ inches (Compact)

Magazine Capacity: 10-round-capacity, detachable rotary box (nine in .22 WMR)

Sights: folding rear leaf with green fiber-optic front

Length of Pull: 133⁄4 inches (Standard), 12½ inches(Compact); drop at comb, 11⁄8 inches; drop at heel, 1¼ inches

Trigger: adjustable; 2-pound,12-ounce to 3-pound, 4-ounce pull(measured unadjusted on

three different rifles)

Accessories: interchangeable stock module for use with scope (drop at comb, 1/2 inches; drop at heel: 1¼ inches)

Suggested Retail Price: $329


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