July 20, 2018
As shooting and hunting here in the United States evolves, more and more firearm owners are becoming interested in legally owning suppressors. This growing market has led many companies in the firearms industry to offer models that are suppressor ready from the factory — with properly cut and aligned muzzle threads allowing easy installation of the sound suppressor of your choice. Ruger is one of those companies, and its new American Rifle Ranch line includes five models with threaded muzzles, including 5.56 NATO, .300 BLK, .450 Bushmaster and the classic Russian 7.62x39. The .450 Bushmaster model comes with an effective muzzle brake installed; the other three calibers all wear muzzle nuts.
The 7.62x39 is of particular interest to me. Why select this old Combloc cartridge over the .300 BLK, the darling of the shoot-quiet crowd? Well, there are actually a number of excellent reasons. The first is the most obvious: economical imported steel-case ammunition. There are a number of excellent imported soft point loads for hunting, too. By comparison, even the least expensive .300 BLK factory loads are dramatically more expensive.
If you prefer high-quality domestic ammunition loaded with the latest expanding bullet designs, there are many to consider in this caliber. A number of companies, including Winchester, Hornady and Federal, all offer excellent loads that expand reliably. I have been impressed by Winchester's and Hornady's offerings in particular. Testing in properly calibrated 10 percent ballistic gel has shown them to be excellent performers.
The short Russian cartridge also has a lot to offer if you enjoy handloading. Reloading data, components and dies are all readily available. I started reloading 7.62x39 about 30 years ago, and I have loaded everything from light 85-grain jacketed hollowpoint pistol bullets to 150-grain hunting bullets originally intended for the .303 British. While building good-quality ammunition is not difficult with the diverse array of components available today, just don't expect to hot-rod it.
The compact 7.62x39 is also an excellent candidate for subsonic ammunition. The Soviets developed and fielded a 200-grain subsonic load for use in suppressed AKMs decades ago, and factory subsonic 7.62x39 ammunition is, in fact, available on the U.S. commercial market. I have been shooting factory subsonic loads in this caliber for well over a decade.
Ruger's new American Rifle Ranch model is a modern-looking sporting rifle designed to be affordable, accurate and rugged while possessing a number of features today's riflemen have been asking for. Is it an elegant piece that will impress your friends with the grain of its stock or fine machining? Not hardly. Ruger offers other models that do that. The American Rifle series was designed for people looking for an affordable, feature-packed rifle they don't have to baby. Toss it in your pickup and forget it until you need it.
The Ranch model is a bolt action with a synthetic stock and a detachable box magazine. The heart of the rifle is a beefy, modern-looking action with a bit of European flair. This is a distinct departure from the Model 77 line based on the Mauser '98. While the M77 looks to the past, the American Rifle looks toward the future.
Ruger's proprietary integral scope bases are gone. In their place is a conventional aluminum scope rail with 1913-type slots. The slots aren't continuous for the rail's length, so a one-piece scope mount may or may not fit. Two rings are good to go, though. The rail is bolted to the top of the receiver, so you can change styles you want to.
Riding inside the receiver is a beefy-looking, one-piece, three-lug bolt with a sturdy claw extractor and plunger ejector. It features cock on opening and dual cocking cams to ease the initial upward bolt stroke. Machining on the bolt body is a little rough but nothing to complain about. The three-lug bolt features a relatively short 70-degree rotation that enhances speed. An easy-to-reach tang safety is southpaw-friendly and out of the way of low-mounted optics. The receiver features a bolt release on the left rear of the receiver. The magazine release is an easy-to-reach ambidextrous paddle at the rear of the magazine well.
Rather than a traditional Mauser-style internal box magazine, the Ranch model feeds from detachable box magazines. In the case of the 7.62x39 model, Ruger uses Mini Thirty magazines. One five-round mag is included with the rifle, but 10- and 20-rounders are available at ShopRuger.com for $40 apiece.
I can hear the groaning and gnashing of teeth from readers asking, "Why didn't they use AK magazines?!" There are two simple answers. The first is Ruger produces Mini Thirty magazines and has control over their dimensions, so it was an easy fit. The second is there is a small but occasionally troublesome variation in 7.62x39 AK magazines from country to country and depending upon the materials used. Ruger didn't want customers to run into any magazine issues it had no control over.
The American Rifle series features Ruger's Marksman Adjustable trigger. As the name implies, this design is user adjustable from three to five pounds. As it came from the factory, the trigger on my sample had just a hint of creep and then broke cleanly at 4.5 pounds. No complaints.
Threaded to the front of the action is a 16.1-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel. Rifling is six-groove with a 1:10 twist, which is just a bit slower than the Russian standard 1:9.4 twist. The Russian twist, however, is simply a holdover from the 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifle in 7.62x54R. Retaining the same twist rate allowed the Russians to reuse their existing barrel manufacturing tooling. While not ideal with the light bullets normally fired in this caliber, a faster twist is an advantage when firing projectiles weighing more than 200 grains at subsonic velocities.
The barrel tapers from 1.1 inches just ahead of the receiver to 0.73 inch just behind the muzzle threads. The muzzle features 5/8x24 threads, which allow easy attachment of muzzle brakes, flash suppressors and sound suppressors.
The matte black barreled action is dropped into a lightweight synthetic stock in flat dark earth, the two colors complementing each other nicely. It features a 13.75-inch length of pull and distinctly American aesthetics on the butt.
The action mates to the stock using Ruger's Power Bedding system. This relatively simple integral bedding system consists of two V-blocks in the barrel channel: one at the front action screw and the other the rear. It is designed to positively locate the receiver while free-floating the barrel to aid accuracy.
The polymer stock features a soft, black, rubber recoil pad and sling studs on the fore-end and toe of the stock. The fore-end is contoured to provide a positive grip. The trigger guard is integral with the stock, and the magazine well is plastic.
As the American Rifle Ranch model does not come with iron sights, my first order of business was mounting a proper optic. I wanted something compact and light with a useful BDC reticle. I found what I was looking for in Leupold's Tactical Mark 4 1.5-5x20mm MR/T. The model I chose has a BDC reticle designed for use with both supersonic and subsonic .300 BLK ammunition. It provides holdovers to 850 yards for supersonic ammunition and 400 yards for subsonic ammunition.
Why a .300 BLK BDC? Well, the exterior ballistics of the .300 BLK and 7.62x39 are close, so I wanted to see how it would work. I mounted it using a set of M10 medium-height 30mm rings from American Rifle Company Inc. They use just two screws to secure the ring to the rifle and the scope inside the ring, and they're fast to install.
There's no point in having a suppressor-ready rifle without having a sound suppressor handy. So I removed the factory thread protector the Ruger comes with and replaced it with a 5/8x24 LaRue Tactical's TranQuilo muzzle brake/sound suppressor adapter. By itself this unit acts as a conventional muzzle brake to reduce felt recoil and muzzle movement. It also acts as a mounting adapter for LaRue Tactical's TranQuilo sound suppressor ($700), which reduces the report to hearing-safe levels while almost eliminating flash. It's eight inches long and weighs 23 ounces.
I chose four popular supersonic 7.62x39 loads for testing, which you can see in the accompanying chart. The Hornady and Wolf loads are steel case; the other two are brass (nickel-finished in the case of Winchester). The Engel load I included is subsonic.
The Ranch's five-shot magazine loaded easily and inserted with a simple upward push until it locked into place. Rounds fed smoothly. Recoil was mild with just the muzzle nut and almost nonexistent with the brake or suppressor. The 7.62x39 acquired a reputation for mediocre accuracy the old-fashioned way: It earned it. Even so, this Ruger shot well for the caliber, thanks in part to the nice trigger.
As you can see in the chart, best accuracy was obtained using Hornady's 123-grain SST load. The subsonic Engel load had a point of impact eight inches lower than the others.
Next I moved to running the Ruger offhand and kneeling at 100 yards. I have a variety of steel targets on my range, and I ran some speed drills to see how the Ruger would perform. For this portion of testing, I swapped the five-round magazine for a 20-rounder, and I was interested to see if the increased spring pressure would make feeding difficult.
The compact Ruger really came into its own during these drills. The 70-degree bolt proved fairly fast, and feeding from the 20-round magazine was flawless. The lightweight carbine was not only quick handling, but also extremely fun to shoot. Report with the suppressor mounted was quite pleasant.
What about longer distances? At 300 yards from prone with Hornady's 123-grain SST load, the Ruger stayed in the center of a full-size silhouette. Groups at this distance were about five inches. Moving to 400 yards was a bit more challenging due to a 12- to 15-mph wind. The light 123-grain SST has a .295 BC, but even so I had no problem ringing an 11x20-inch steel silhouette at this distance—as long as I didn't miss any wind changes.
Overall, I liked Ruger's American Rifle Ranch, and it proved to be a fun shooter, especially with the 20-round magazine. It's light at 5.9 pounds, and it's easy to carry and handles well thanks to its compact 36-inch overall length. Feeding from several different Mini Thirty magazines was 100 percent reliable.
The safety is well placed and easy to manipulate. The bolt handle is large enough to run easily, and I liked the short 70-degree throw. The trigger breaks nicely, and accuracy is quite acceptable for the caliber. It suppresses nicely, is very quiet when teamed with subsonic ammunition, and recoil is mild.
Is it perfect? No, the stock feels cheap, and I dislike the molded-in trigger guard. The machining on the bolt could be better. I ran into weak ejection using brass-cased ammunition. I spoke to Ruger about this, and the company acknowledged some early guns had less than perfect ejection but said it had corrected the problem.
If the thought of a bolt-action 7.62x39 intrigues you, the Ruger American Ranch is one to consider. Suggested retail is $599, so it's priced well under CZ-USA's competing CZ 527 Synthetic Suppressor Ready model in this caliber. Best of all, ammunition is inexpensive, so you can enjoy a long day at the range without killing your wallet.