June 23, 2022
By Keith Wood
When I was growing up, there were two ways to get a fast car. If you were a rich kid, daddy bought you a Porsche or a Corvette and off you went. For the rest of us, though, the answer was the Ford Mustang. The reason was that there were so many bolt-on aftermarket accessories for that model that you could buy a used car and make upgrades until your wallet ran dry. In today’s rifle world, the Mustang’s equivalent is the Ruger American series. These are serviceable and often accurate rifles out of the box, but a host of parts are available to trick them out to suit your personal taste.
The Ruger American is a bit of a modern marvel. Using a rigid three-lug action and a V-block style bedding arrangement. These rifles have quickly built a reputation for accuracy that is disproportionate to their price. Several configurations are available including the Standard, Predator, Ranch, Hunter and Compact. They are ready to go for most purposes out of the box but, if you are looking to add some personal touches to increase performance, the options are many. Whether you’re looking for a budget rifle for long-range competition, the perfect predator rig or just a range gun, there are plenty of choices.
A Better Trigger
The American ships with the Marksman trigger that is adjustable out of the box from 3 to 5 pounds. The factory triggers aren’t bad but there’s always room for improvement. I am personally not a fan of the safety lever inset into the Marksman trigger so an aftermarket trigger is attractive to me. Timney offers a drop-in option that the end-user can install with minimal skill. These triggers are adjustable for sear engagement and pull weight, but can be ordered with factory-set pull weights ranging from 1.5 to 4 pounds. If I were going to make a single upgrade to my American, it would be the addition of a Timney trigger.
Stock Upgrade Options
Factory stocks are a one-size-fits-all proposition that don’t accommodate every body size or type. A variety of drop-in replacement stocks are available for the American. Boyds offers a wide selection of stocks ranging from hardwood or laminated sporter-style stocks to thumbhole competition options and everything in-between. Their online stock configurator provides countless combinations of style, material, and color. Boyd’s Classic in XX Claro Walnut, for example, would be attractive to those looking for a traditional look and feel.
Magpul’s stock for the American is adjustable for length-of-pull and comb height and is available in molded-in colors including black, FDE, gray and OD green. M-LOK attachment points on the stock make mounting accessories such as bipods an easy task and the internal recoil lugs that interface with the action and lug are made from steel. Though the American Ranch can accept PMAGs out of the box, adding the Magpul stock allows for the use of detachable PMAGs on any of the rifles in the series.
For precision long-range shooting, chassis-style stocks are available from Brownells (BRN), MDT, Indian Creek Design and Oryx. These chassis setups add modularity, which is one of the reasons that they’ve become so popular in competitive circles. With the BRN chassis, for example, the rifle becomes compatible with any buttstock designed for the AR-15, the possibilities of which are all but endless.
Swapping barrels goes beyond the skill level of some hobbyist but, thanks to the American’s design it doesn’t take a machine shop to make it happen. Pre-fit barrels are available from Shaw, X-Caliber and Preferred Barrels in a variety of chamberings and contours. Changing the barrel requires a barrel vise, a barrel nut wrench, a torque wrench and a “GO” gauge. If you’re capable of assembling an AR, you’re likely qualified.
For threaded barrel models, various aftermarket muzzle brakes are available to fit the industry-standard thread patterns. An example is Next Level Armament, who offers a brake specifically designed for the 5.5-pound Ruger American chambered in the powerful 450 Bushmaster, which would otherwise be a handful. My personal American Ranch is chambered in .330 BLK and I use its 5/8-24” threaded barrel as a host for a SilencerCo Omega suppressor.
Smaller components such as bolt handles, bolt knobs and firing pins are widely available for the American along with various options for scope mounting. Bolt handles on factory American rifles are investment cast and, though Ruger’s casting abilities are legendary, some individuals simply prefer a machined steel part. Anarchy Outdoors manufactures a fully machined bolt handle in both stainless and carbon steel. The handles are threaded 5/16-24”, making them compatible with a host of bolt knob options.
Performance needs and personal tastes vary wildly. To accommodate those variances there are really two options: an expensive custom rifle or a modular rifle such as the Ruger American that can be altered and accessorized to the owner’s desires. With the wide availability of drop-in parts and bolt-on accessories, the possibilities of creating your own perfect Ruger American Rifle are only up to your imagination and budget.