My good friend Eric came to me at work a few months ago and asked some questions about setting up a hunting rifle for his son, Isaac. I had helped Eric set up a 30-06 that spring and provided some basic shooting instruction- his 12 year old son was now looking to equip himself for pursuing big game that fall.
A couple of days after picking up the rifle, Eric and Isaac dropped by the house to equip the rifle with a scope and head out to the range. The father/ son arrangement had Isaac spending some of his hard earned "wood splitting, yard mowing" money and if he did then Eric would provide the scope. It's very easy as a hunting and shooting enthusiast to get sucked into the heady world of custom rifles, premium ammunition and European optics, but most hunters don't care nearly so much about such things and when your money comes to you at $5 an hour wielding a splitting maul and a push mower- you're doubly concerned with cost. I've received a couple of emails wanting a review of more inexpensive rifles…so to those readers, you're getting your request met.
In regard to cost the Ruger American shown through. Very similar to "budget" rifles from several other makers, it features an injection molded stock, a "trigger in a trigger" to get a decent pull without a lot of expensive hand fitting of the mechanism, and a tubular push feed action that's more forgiving in a mass production environment. My impression upon inspection of the new piece was highly favorable- they'd made every effort to produce an inexpensive rifle…but not a cheap one. I've had enough experience to know the difference and while my personal tastes and budget tend toward more esoteric pieces, there's absolutely nothing wrong with inexpensive and good enough. However, I detest "cheap" and often think they represent a false economy that fails to meet the intended need and new shooters are often handicapped right out of the gate with a cheap rifle or a cheap scope or both. On the Ruger sample the trigger broke clean and the extra tab in the center didn't bother me at all. I ran a couple of patches down the barrel to remove any manufacturing debris and was pretty impressed by the finish of the bore- something Ruger has not always excelled at in days gone by. The finish was a pretty well executed basic matte black. There were certainly no frills to be found, but no glaring flaws either.
Isaac has also picked up a couple of boxes of Federal "Blue Box" ammunition in the 100gr weight. Nothing fancy here but a proven performer in a lot of rifles I've had over the years for accuracy and appropriate bullet construction for big game hunting. Eric took the rifle and proceeded to fire three rounds. I was watching through the binoculars and saw a nice, tight cluster appear just a few inches from the bullseye. A couple of clicks on the turrets and the second group was centered nicely there and a mere 1.25" in diameter. Isaac took the rifle, assumed the prone position and fired a nice 2" group on the bull- a great effort for the first experience with a high powered rifle.
As far as cost goes it broke down to something like this:
Total: $600 ready to hunt.
I've got to admit that I've spent considerably more on a rifle that didn't shoot nearly this good, much less one with a scope and other required accessories. I certainly believe that we've entered a new era of firearms, optics and ammunition manufacturing- CNC machining and manufacturing has made tolerances not achievable in years gone by not only possible…but affordable. As a result we often now find very inexpensive rifles that shoot as a good (or better) as the efforts of highly skilled gunsmiths only a generation or so ago.
After a couple more practice sessions with the rifle, Isaac got a "go" for big game hunting with the piece.
More to come in "First Blood….Part 2"