Ruger’s latest offering bang on Target - American Rimfire Target Stainless .22LR

Con Kapralos

The success of the Ruger American Rifle line in both centrefire and rimfire forms has been a feather in the cap of Sturm, Ruger & Co. It can no longer be considered a ‘subordinate’ option to the classic M77 rifle offerings as its attributes make it a rifle collection that’s a pleasure to own and use while not breaking the bank. The rimfire line-up includes rifles covering hunting and target variants.

One addition is the American Rimfire Target with a stainless barrelled action. While the satin blued version has been available for a few years, Ruger heeded calls from its client base and added the stainless barrelled action edition with black laminate stock and 457mm (18") ‘bull-barrel’.

It’s available in .22LR, .22WMR and .17HMR with standard laminate stock and with the thumbhole black laminate stock in .22LR only. Nioa, Australian importer and distributor, sent Australian Shooter a review rifle in .22LR with standard black laminate stock along with a Leupold Freedom 3-9x33 EFR scope, rings and a selection of quality target ammunition from Lapua, Eley and SK.

Receiver
This is perfectly scaled to the rimfire calibres, 83mm long x 27mm wide and made from cylindrical stainless steel bar stock, the upper profile of the receiver of a semi-hexagonal design and the rifle’s serial number, maker’s logo and model name on the left of the receiver adjacent to the ejection port.

The top of the receiver has an integral dovetail milled into it for scope attachment but Ruger wisely decided to also drill and tap the receiver top flat and supply this model with a single, full-length Weaver rail which makes scope mounting much more adaptable.

Bolt
This is of a three-piece construction made of stainless steel to mirror the rest of the barrelled action. It’s 160mm long x 16mm wide and uses a single claw-type extractor with a spring clip which locates the rimfire round on to the bolt face.

Ejection is via a spur on the static action bedding block and protrudes through the bolt face and ejects the case when the bolt is pulled towards the rear, like the blade-ejector system found on so many centrefire rifles. The bolt handle is also stainless steel with a tactical-style oversize bolt knob which makes the bolt travel in the raceways of the action silky smooth and is also benefitted by a 60-degree bolt lift, making contact with the scope ocular housing avoidable.

Trigger and safety
The Marksman trigger is an excellent unit offering a compromise between a crisp trigger pull with added safety built in. There’s a 1.4-2.3kg trigger pull adjustment range with an extra inner safety blade which must be depressed as you pull the trigger before the sear is operated. For target applications or field use it was excellent and as set at 1.6kg from the factory was good to use as-is. Only a serious rimfire target shooter would look for a trigger with a lower pull weight but the Marksman unit has everything for all-round target/hunting application. The safety is on the tang behind the bolt and is of a two-position configuration - forward and back. It’s quiet to handle and sits in the perfect spot for the shooter’s thumb.

One neat touch is the blued steel triggerguard which protects the trigger blade. It’s too easy these days for makers to choose the straightforward route and opt for polymer so it’s encouraging to see Ruger still retain steel on the American Rimfire Target model.

Magazine
One of the Ruger American rimfire’s major attributes is the BX-1 rotary magazine system. Ruger is well respected for its rotary magazines which still feature on the M77 models but have been introduced to the American rimfire line. With 10-shot capacity that’s smooth to load and sits flush with the contours of the stock, it’s by far the best rimfire magazine design. The magazine is removed via a release lever that protrudes just behind the well and when pushed forward drops the magazine.

Barrel
Shining star of the American Rimfire Target Stainless, the cold hammer forged stainless steel barrel is of a semi-varmint profile 457mm (18") long with a six-groove, one-in-16" rifling twist. It’s of a parallel profile measuring 22.2mm at both knox form and muzzle and is attached to the receiver via the pinning method.

At the muzzle end, a threaded section for use with accessory devices (where permitted) is protected by a knurled stainless collar. A target-style crown is as expected on a target rimfire and protects the rifling while also providing superior bullet release from the bore and enhanced accuracy. The exterior of the barrel is finished beautifully and matches the receiver and bolt perfectly - a more attractive stainless rimfire rifle I’ve yet to see.

Stock
The striking black laminate stock is of a sporter profile but with a higher comb which makes cheek weld and scope acquisition with the master eye much easier. The pistol grip is full with a palmswell on both sides which enhances control of the rifle with the right hand. The stock is devoid of chequering with only the Ruger logo impressed into the base of the pistol grip, not a problem as the grip on the stock was perfectly adequate.

The fore-end was pure Ruger with the No.1 style tip and Alexander Henry profile adding a touch of class. Two sling swivel studs as well as a rubber recoil pad complete the stock and give it a 350mm length of pull. For users who prefer it, Ruger also offer this model with a black laminate thumbhole stock but only in .22LR.

Internally, the bedding system on the American Rimfire Target Stainless consists of the Power Bedding blocks which Ruger has patented. One aluminium V-block is inletted into the floor of the stock to which the front action screw passes through and the block mates up with recesses milled into the receiver underside.

The second bedding block is inletted into the floor of the stock directly behind the magazine well and serves to provide the rear bedding platform for the action as well as securing the magazine release lever and ejector spur. The two bedding block system is as good as you could wish for in a rimfire rifle and certainly beats the barrelled action bearing directly on the stock surfaces. The barrel is free-floating along its entire length as would be expected on a target rimfire, the rifle having an overall length of 940mm and weighing 3.04kg.

At the range
Range testing over two sessions was challenging weather-wise with gusty winds on both occasions. Nevertheless, the rifle and optic turned in some excellent 5-shot groups at the 50m distance with the Leupold optic set at the maximum of 9x and parallax at 50 yards (being a US riflescope).

In all instances the rifle performed flawlessly with the BX-1 rotary magazine feeding the .22LR rounds faultlessly and extraction/ejection of fired cases seamless. Target rimfire ammunition commands a premium price but you can see from the results in the accompanying table why this is the case, even with range conditions not conducive to shooting tight groups.

Supremely consistent manufacture of these tested loads by leaders in target rimfire ammunition are the reason competitive rimfire shooters, World and Olympic champions choose the Eley, SK and Lapua brands to name a few. I’d happily rely on any of the brands tested in my own rifle and even the solo hunting ammunition tested in the Federal Premium Hunter Match performed well.

Summary
The Ruger American Rimfire Target Stainless continues the excellence already shown in the matte blued version but the stainless barrelled action mated with the black laminate stock makes for a visual treat that shoots as good as it looks.

For those intending to try informal rimfire target shooting or hunters wanting a superbly accurate rifle that’s comfortable to carry in the field, you can’t go past this one, available in .22LR, .22WMR and .17HMR with either the standard sporter stock or thumbhole variant in .22LR. Paired with a great optic from the Leupold stable you won’t be disappointed. The Ruger American Rimfire Stainless rifle retails around the $900 mark and is available from most firearms dealers. More at nioa.com.au.

Accuracy test at 50m

Ammunition

Best group (mm)

Worst group (mm)

Average group (mm)*

Eley Standard 40gr round nose 1090fps

15

20

18

Eley Tenex 40gr flat nose 1085fps

12

19

15

Eley Edge 40gr flat nose 1085fps

11

20

16

Eley Match 40gr flat nose 1085fps

13

22

16

SK Flatnose Match 40gr 1067fps

10

18

14

SK Flatnose Basic 40gr 1067fps

15

22

18

Lapua Midas + 40gr 1073fps

10

16

13

Federal Premium Hunter Match 40gr match HP 1200fps

18

25

21

* Average calculated from five 5-shot groups at 50m from a benchrest.

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