Ruger American No. 6904 243 Winchester, $449
Gun Tests magazine tested 243 Win. bolt rifles in the February 2013 issue. Here’s an excerpt of that report, used with permission:
If we were to choose a couple of new 243 Win. bolt-action rifles that sell for less than $500, would they really perform at a level of accuracy that just as few years ago would be much more costly in terms of time and money? To see if today’s rifle shooters really are being treated to superior accuracy at a bargain price, we decided to test two synthetic-stocked rifles from Ruger and Mossberg. Our rifles were the $449 Ruger American and the $471 Mossberg 4X4. Both rifles are lightweight hunting models fitted with black synthetic stocks, matching blued barrels with recessed crowns, pre-mounted two-piece scope bases, sling attachments front and rear, rubber buttpads, and removable box magazines. Barrel lengths for the Ruger and Mossberg rifles were 22 inches and 24 inches, respectively.
To give our budget rifles the opportunity to excel, we chose a little more scope than might be found on an everyday hunting rifle. The new Steiner Predator Xtreme model 5003 offered 4-16X variable power with a 50mm objective lens. Built on a 30mm tube, it measured 15 inches in length and weighed 22 ounces. Side parallax adjustment was calibrated from 50 yards to 500 yards to infinity. Click-adjustment value was ¼ MOA. We counted 240 total clicks of elevation and 200 clicks of windage from lock to lock. The Steiner Plex S1 is a second-focal-plane reticle that offers ballistic lines for holdover calibrated for most popular calibers and bullet weights. Stick-on reference charts are supplied. In addition, the hold-over lines were bordered by a series of cascading dots to the left and right to help compensate for wind. The dots are calibrated for a 10-mph wind value, according to the owner’s manual. We found the added visual reference to be useful and clear. The Steiner Predator Xtreme comes with a 30-year warranty.
After successfully mounting the Steiner on the Mossberg rifle, we couldn’t get the scope to stay seated atop the Ruger. Measuring the interior dimensions of the slots on the Mossberg’s scope mounts we found that rear notch on the Mossberg measured only 0.146 inches wide, but the two notches on the front base were larger, measuring only about 0.150 inches across. Whereas the mounts didn’t match, they still were able to provide a good enough fit for the thin, round cross bolts of our Leupold Rifleman rings. The Ruger’s cross-slots were uniform but wider, measuring about 0.156 inches across. Switching to a set of Warne Maxima rings (No. 215M), which utilize rectangular lugs for seating, solved the mounting problem.
To test, we chose ammunition topped with four bullet weights. They were Black Hills Gold 85-grain Barnes TSX, Winchester Super X 80-grain Pointed Soft Point, Black Hills Gold 62-grain Varmint Grenade, and 58-grain Hornady Varmint Express ammunition. Each rifle was tested for accuracy from a bench. We shot at targets located 100 yards away. Here’s how the Ruger rifle performed:
Ruger American No. 6904 243 Winchester, $449
The Ruger American rifle is currently chambered for 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, and 308 Winchester as well as our 243. Two guns were listed as weighing 6.25 pounds; the 308 was listed at 6.12 pounds. The 243 fires through a 1:9-inch-twist hammer-forged barrel, but the others are fit with 1:10-inch twists. Otherwise, specifications and the suggested retail price for each model was the same.
Early on, our eyes were drawn to the trigger and bolt. The three-lug 70-degree bolt was the only chromed piece, and the somewhat short handle was fit with a large ball that rested almost directly above the trigger. The trigger itself showed an extra lever, much like we’re accustomed to seeing on some semi-automatic pistols. This is Ruger’s Marksman adjustable trigger. The hinged section that was seated inside the trigger face was referred to as the trigger release. To move the trigger rearward, this flat skeletonized panel needed to be compressed against the face of the trigger.
Holding the American for the first time our immediate impression was how narrow the stock was, especially at the buttstock. This allows the mount at the comb to be entirely neutral for left- and right-handed shooters. Ruger nevertheless ships each rifle with a card redeemable for a free cheek pad. The pad is designed to add height and softness to the stock as well as a side pocket and cartridge loops. We judged the buttstock to be entirely suitable as we found it. Elsewhere, the buttstock pad was soft and thick. The forend grip was enhanced by an inlet contour, where it bordered the free-floated barrel. We thought the pistol grip was slender as well, but not quite thin enough to be considered anything other than neutral. The safety was located atop the pistol grip at the center of the tang.
Beyond cleaning and oiling the barrel, there was one additional maintenance point available to the owner. This was lubrication of the dual cocking cams located beneath the polymer sleeve that covers the tail end of the bolt. The bolt is removed by depressing the release located on the upper left side of the receiver. We found if you draw back the bolt and then press the release, the bolt tends to catch and prevent removal. Rotating the bolt slightly will free the bolt, but it’s a sticky proposition. We think a more efficient method to remove the bolt was to press the release lever while the bolt is still fully forward. It makes no difference if you begin with the bolt handle up or down, just so long as you have already removed the magazine and pulled the bolt rearward to inspect the chamber.
To expose the cocking cams, the section of the bolt directly behind the bolt handle needed to be twisted clockwise about one-quarter turn so that the cocking flat lines up with the black square seated flush with the surface of the bolt. The black polymer sleeve can now be removed. The cams may be periodically lubricated with light viscosity oil. This ensures that bolt action will remain smooth. Twisting the tail-cap counter clockwise until it snapped shut required less effort than opening it.
The flush-fit four-round magazine was compact. The release latch was located on the magazine itself, much like the design found on Steyr rifles. At first we found loading the magazine to be a little odd. Normally, we expect to either press directly downward or slide the round case rim first over the follower. In this case, the first round needed to swing the follower out of the way instead of downward. After the first round was in place, with a little twisting and probing we were able to press down and slide the rounds easily into place front to rear. The reason for the unexpected learning curve was that the Ruger American magazine is something of a hybrid rotary design. Rotary magazines generally accept rounds like cogs in a gear. But the interior of this magazine featured a spring-loaded panel. Once the gate was pushed aside, the rounds followed a track leading to the bottom of the magazine and then looped upward behind the hinge in a J-shaped track. Our testers found the bolt action to be smooth, and all rounds likewise fed smoothly from the magazine. Minor nit: Single-loading rounds into the chamber over the top of an empty magazine was not as reliable and required more care.
The Ruger Marksman trigger was adjustable. Loosening the two 3/16-inch Allen bolts to either side of the magazine well released the barreled action from the stock. This gave us a good look at Ruger’s Power Bedding blocks seated into the composite stock. The Allen-type trigger-weight adjustment screw was located at the front face of the trigger housing. It takes about 3 turns to change weight of pull 1 pound, and according to Ruger, you can turn it down or loosen it completely, and pull weight will only vary from about 3 pounds to 5 pounds of resistance. We left it at the weight it was received, requiring about of 3.75 pounds of pressure to break the shot. We found the trigger action, at any weight, displayed little or no take up and broke with a pleasingly crisp snap. An important point to remember when reseating the action into the stock is to remember that the two Allen bolts can be overtightened. Maximum pressure is about 75 inch-pounds. According to Ruger, it was probably safe to use a small hand wrench, thanks to the limited amount of leverage such a tool provides.
At the range the barrel was swabbed with a cleaner lubricant over the rough side of military patch material every 10 rounds. We found that accuracy improved after about 50 shots. We thought the accuracy results were remarkable. Our test shooter was able to land at least 1 sub-MOA five-shot group with all four choices of ammunition. The smallest average groups were achieved firing the two lighter bullets. This turned out to be a pattern followed by both rifles. Whereas the 85-grain and 80-grain rounds produced average size groups measuring about 1.2 inches and 1.1 inches respectively, the Black Hills Gold 62-grain Varmint Grenade rounds averaged just less than 1.0 inches for all shots fired. The 58-grain Hornady Varmint Express rounds produced an average sized group measuring only 0.70 inches across, with a best-of-test smallest group to be about 0.40 inches.
Our Team Said: Our team shooters said, “Where do I get one of these?” Over the course of one afternoon, we enjoyably fired more than 100 rounds. The Ruger American was comfortable and delivered performance that was worthy of a much more expensive rifle.