When I hear 7.62 x 39, my brain always answers with “AK-47”. And why not? Billions of rounds of 7.62 have been feeding Kalashnikovs and their imitators for seventy something years now. Well, there’s a new Western consumer for all that steel cased surplus goodness – the Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 7.62×39.
The Ruger American Ranch line has been out for a few years now but the line has recently been updated. You can get the Ranch Rifle in a number of different calibers including 350 Legend, 5.56 NATO, 300 Blackout, 450 Bushmaster and yes, the pride of Russia -7.62×39.
The Case for 7.62×39
So why 7.62 you say? I could say it’s because the 7.62×39 has competitive ballistics or that the supplies of bulk steel case Russian ammo seem endless. Those are both good reasons but the best one is that the ammo is just plain cheap. As in inexpensive cheap.
Sure, 300 Blackout is a good round but if you shoot 7.62 instead you’ll have enough money left over to treat the family to Chick-fil-A tonight. Don’t be selfish, your rifle’s not the only one who eats around here.
A quick back of the napkin comparison of 7.62×39 against 300 BLK and 5.56 NATO shows the first two having very similar ballistics at 100 yards. The 5.56mm has more zip but less punch at that distance. For plinking it doesn’t matter much so cheaper is better in my book. For hunting, the 7.62×39 round is delivering more terminal energy than the others at 100 yards and doing it cheaper.
|Cartridge||Muzzle Velocity||100 Yard Energy [ft-lb]|
|300 BLK 110gr||2,350||1061|
Beyond 100 yards the flatter trajectory of the 5.56mm becomes apparent vs. the other rounds but again unless you’re only shooting paper, it still packs less punch.
The Ruger American Ranch Rifle is a utility gun. It seems perfectly suited to fill a number of roles effectively and do it at a price point that most anyone can afford. It has often been tagged as a “truck” gun. Take that a step further. It’s not just perfect to throw in the truck, it’s a lot like a truck. It’s useful for a lot of different jobs.
The Ranch Rifle is a relatively light and compact gun, just 36” long overall and weighing in at a trim 5.9 pounds. The stock is a single molded piece of synthetic (plastic) in flat dark earth color with a black rubber recoil pad. It’s understated to say the least but it’s durable and worry free. There are sling swivel studs front and back.
The forend and grip both have some modest serrations to give your hands purchase on the synthetic stock. The stock material itself is smooth but not slick, at least when dry. The stock at the tang is very narrow and your hand wraps easily around it.
The Ruger American comes with a heavy matte black, cold hammer forged 16” barrel. The barrel is threaded (5/8”-24) from the factory so you can add your choice of muzzle device. I could see a flash hider maybe if you’re likely to shoot after the sun goes down. The Ranch Rifle model offered in 450 Bushmaster comes with a muzzle brake but you really don’t need it with the moderately recoiling 7.62×39.
You could go subsonic and add a suppressor but there goes your cheap ammo. If you want to go quiet, all the cool kids are going with 300 BLK so Ruger already has that covered. I think of the Ranch as cheap utility rifle. Adding an expensive can, tax stamp and pricier ammo seems counter-productive. But you could.
The barrel sits on bedding blocks and is free floating. The top of the barrel and receiver sport no installed sights from the factory. What? No sights you say? No sir, instead you get a 6” long machined aluminum Picatinny rail secured atop the receiver where you may mount the optic of your choosing.
This is another reminder that this is a “budget” gun. No sights, no wood, no accessories. You do however get a nifty cardboard box and a magazine. Just what you need. Between the FDE stock and the accessory rail the overall look is vaguely “tactical” in a ranch kind of way.
Speaking of “tactical”, underneath is where the Ruger American Ranch has evolved from the original model – and for the better. The first Ranch Rifles were configured with proprietary plastic “rotary” magazines. They generally worked but let’s face it – they were a little flimsy, not to mention limited in capacity to just five rounds.
Ruger acknowledged the shortcoming and updated the rifles to use “standard” magazines. For the Ruger Ranch 7.62×39 you now get to use Ruger Mini-30 magazines in whatever capacity you like. If you opt for the Ranch in 5.56 or other calibers, yes – you can use standard AR mags. That’s called listening to your customers. Do you need a 30 round mag hanging under your bolt action rifle? Maybe not but heck, why not? It’s good to have choices.Best Price on Ruger Mini-30 Magazines
As shipped from the factory, the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62×39 comes with one five round magazine. Our test rifle here came with a ten rounder but don’t expect that.
There is a slide button safety on the tang. It’s a convenient location and clicks on and off very positively. Right out of the box it was stiff as heck but smoothed out with a little use.
The one-piece, three-lug bolt operates with a compact 70-degree pivot. The bolt handle stays low enough when operated so as to stay clear of optics which, as it has no sights, you’re going to need. There is a bolt release on the left rear of the receiver. Operating the button allows the bolt to easily slide free of the receiver.
The bolt itself is not exactly a work of art. Machined surfaces have that “close enough” look to them and the tolerances between the bolt and the receiver are generous. You’ve got a bit of play there for sure. If you are expecting a silky smooth precision action you may be disappointed. It is entirely functional, but it has a bit of 1960’s manual transmission feel to it. Once in a while you might miss a gear.
As it uses magazines designed for semi-auto actions, you get an obviously unneeded “last round bolt hold-open” feature. The follower of the Mini-30 magazine has an extension that when empty, protrude high enough to block the bolt from sliding forward. You cannot close the bolt with an empty magazine inserted into the Ruger Ranch Rifle (at least not without a little finagling).
Chambering a round requires a little technique to operate smoothly. Like a golfer you need to accelerate into the stroke. If you baby it, you may find the round does not strip cleanly from the Mini-30 magazine and needs a little assistance to drive home. I found using a five round magazine vs. the ten round was somewhat more forgiving.
The Ranch Rifle has an adjustable trigger which can be tweaked for a pull weight between two and four pounds. Our rifle’s trigger tested at a couple ounces shy of four pounds right out of the box.
To run the Ruger Ranch Rifle I geared up a little by adding a bipod for stability, hooking into the provided swivel stud on the forend. For an optic, I mounted a Riton 1 4×32 Gen 1 scope which although modestly priced, would be more than adequate for our 100 yard shooting test.
Ammo was a mix of Wolf steel case 123gr FMJ and “Red Army Standard” 124gr FMJBT which were currently the least expensive rounds available. Everything runs on good ammo, but I want to see it run on the cheap stuff.
Ruger Ranch Rifle – Range Day
After giving the rifle a once through with some CLP I took it to the range on the first day for some “break in”. Once sighted in, the Ruger Ranch Rifle ran well enough with some small caveats. Most noticeable were a few feed errors. As I mentioned before, unless you operate the bolt with some conviction it is possible for the bolt to strip the round from the magazine but not feed into the chamber. That happened a few times during the day.
Initial shots were spread around a bit but as shooting progressed the targets became more consistent and the groups tightened up. I took the Ranch Rifle back to the shop and gave it a thorough cleaning and lube before heading back to the range the following day.
The second day’s shooting was more impressive. Replacing the ten round Mini-30 magazine with a five round as it normally comes from the factory with, seemed to address the feed issue. It still requires a deliberate operation of the bolt but the five round magazine seems more forgiving. I’m predicting with more use this will improve still.
I was able to print some pretty decent groups with the 7.62×39 Ranch Rifle. The best of the day was five shots in a 1” group with two rounds essentially in the same hole. For an inexpensive “truck” gun, that is more than accurate enough. Although the point of impact moved between the Wolf and the Red Army ammunition, the groupings were generally similar.
For its intended purposes, an all-round utility rifle, the Ruger Ranch Rifle in 7.62×39 is an interesting choice. It is compact, solidly built and shoots well with inexpensive ammunition. You can mount any optic that suits you and the barrel is threaded so you can choose a muzzle device too. Despite a few small operational issues every round loaded fired and hit the target.
The bottom line is the Ruger American Ranch rifle is a reasonably good gun for a very reasonable price that runs on the cheapest of ammo. If I needed a rifle that my life depended on, well… I might step up to something more state-of-the-art.
However, if you want a durable and accurate, “throw-in-the-back-of-the-truck” gun for whatever comes along – this could be your rifle. At an MSRP of $549 and a street price just over $400 that’s a solid deal.