We first had a chance to handle and shoot the Ruger Precision Rifle at the 2016 SHOT Show. The outward appearance of the rifle was enough to grab our attention. Once we delved into the details we were hooked. Ruger designed this rifle to specifically target the precision rifle competition shooter.
The Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) comes chambered in three different cartridges and barrel lengths. The .308 version comes with a 20″ barrel. The 6.5 Creedmoor has a 24″ barrel and the .243 Winchester is equipped with a 26″ barrel. Our test rifle was the 6.5CM version.
The overall design of the Ruger Precision Rifle is much like a chassis equipped rifle or a “tube gun”. The barrel is inline with the buttstock tube and the bolt travels back inside the stock. This keeps the recoil impulse inline with the shooter and causes the rifle to handle much more like an AR style rifle than a bolt action. Shooters who are used to the AR15 or Large-Frame AR system will feel right at home with the RPR.
Most entry level bolt action rifles come with a basic fixed stock. This results in all manner of creative means to adjust the stock to the shooter. Usually foam and riggers tape is involved and the end result looks like the rifle is recovering from a tragic skiing accident. This is not a concern with the RPR. The Ruger® MSR buttstock is equipped with a combination of throw levers and thumb screws that allow quick adjustment of the length of pull and comb height. It is a fairly simple matter to get the rifle dialed in to just about any size shooter. The stock also comes equipped with a QD sling attachment point and a bottom picatinny rail.
Ruger made an extremely intelligent move when designing the buttstock. Instead of making it a permanent part of the rifle, Ruger utilized the standard AR15 type receiver extension. This means that the end-user can replace the factory buttstock with just about any AR15 buttstock on the market. The same holds true for the pistol grip, which is a standard AR15 type part.
Ruger also appears to have realized that we precision rifle shooters do a lot of traveling with our rifles. In order to make this a little easier, Ruger added a folding mechanism to the buttstock mount. A simple push of the button allows the stock to fold to the left side, shortening the overall length of the rifle considerably. Changing stocks to a different AR15 style stock will not disable this feature. When deployed, the folding stock locks up tight with no noticeable wiggle. The folding design is a welcomed feature when trying to fit the 24″ barreled rifle into the back of my Subaru Crosstrek without folding down the seats. It will also save shooters a few bucks when renting cars at their destination. It won’t be a “SUV Only” issue.
Ruger Marksman Adjustable™
The Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ trigger was a pleasant surprise. Ruger advertises this trigger as adjustable from 2.25-5 lbs. The trigger utilizes a blade in the center of the trigger bow. In function the trigger feels similar to a two stage trigger. You begin the pull by depressing the blade of the trigger which only requires ounces of pressure. Once the blade is flush with the face of the trigger you apply the remaining amount of pressure required to break the trigger. Our rest rifle only required 1lbs, 14oz. of pressure to break averaged over ten trigger pulls. The pull was fairly consistent with only a few pulls breaking the 2lb mark.
I generally dislike the “blade” type triggers, but the Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ made be work to find fault with it. I still do not like the tactile sensation of the blade on my finger. I much prefer a solid trigger bow. However the quality of the trigger break was clean with only a little over travel. I did not detect any creep after the “blade” had been depressed into the trigger bow. The Ruger Precision Rifle is currently the record holder for the lightest trigger we have seen in a factory rifle. If the factory pull weight is not to your liking, Ruger includes an allen key (hidden in the bolt shroud) to adjust the pull.
The safety on the Ruger Precision Rifle is a 45 degree AR15 type lever. Shooters who are familiar to working the selector on the AR will naturally find the safety on the RPR. I found the safety on our sample to be gritty and a little stiff. It functioned fine, but it really detracted from the overall feel of the rifle. This is a very small gripe because in use, the safety will likely remain in the “fire” position for most of its life. In precision rifle competition, the bolt is usually used as the final safety. When the bolt is up and back the rifle is considered “safe”. When the bolt is down, the rifle is considered “hot” and ready to fire.
Moving forward from the trigger we come to one of the Ruger Precision Rifle’s most interesting features. The RPR utilizes what Ruger calls a “multi-magazine interface”. The RPR will accept AICS, SR-25 and some M14 magazines. This covers the majority of .308 sized magazines in use in the US. This feat is accomplished by a unique magazine release paddle which not only engages the spine of the magazine (for AICS type) but also moves an AR type side mounted magazine catch. This works in conjunction with some significant relief cuts on the bolt to accept just about whatever magazine you have in your range bag.
When the RPR arrived, I actually ran around the shop and gathered every single .308 sized magazine we had and tried to jam them in the rifle. Since the RPR ships with Magpul Pmag LR20 magazines, I was fairly certain those would work fine. We found the Pmags to be snug, but we had no problems feeding from them. They are not “drop-free” so you will need to forcibly extract them for magazine changes. Next we moved on to AICS pattern magazines. Our ten round Accuracy International magazines worked just fine. Interestingly enough our five round AICS mags would not lock in. They function fine in our AE MkII, but not in the RPR. Just for grins we also tried the ten round AW magazines. They would not lock in either, but the RPR is not advertised to accept AW mags. Next up were the Magpul Pmag AC (AICS pattern). Both the five and ten round Pmag AC worked just fine. Finally, out of curiosity I grabbed one of our Armalite AR-10B magazines. These are M14 pattern magazines without a lug on the spine and with a mag catch hole cut in the side. It took a little extra love to get them to seat, but they did seat. It then took a whack on the mag while pressing the mag catch to get it to drop. I would not recommend the AR-10B mags, but if that’s all you have, it looks like they will work.
The majority of our testing was with the Pmag LR20 and the AICS magazines. Most shooters will want to run the LR20. It is not common to encounter a PRS stage that requires more than 20 rounds. Even on ten round stages, the LR20 will allow for some margin of safety without resorting to expensive mag extensions.
In addition to the extra capacity, we found an another advantage to the Pmag LR20 magazines. The follower on the LR20 acts as a bolt stop when the magazine is empty. This prevents the dreaded “click” when you wanted a “bang”. I don’t know if this was a design feature or a side-effect of the multi-magazine design, but it’s a great feature to have. The only drawback that I have found to this feature on the Accuracy International AW rifles is that it makes it difficult to single-load another cartridge. With 20 round magazines, this shouldn’t be an issue on the RPR. If you choose to run AICS magazines, there is no “bolt hold open” and you can easily single-load additional cartridges.
One feature that has been upgraded for the second generation Ruger Precision Rifle is the tubular handguard. The original handguard had a full-length top side picatinny rail. This is great for night vision or if your scope mount needs to “bridge the gap”, but for most shooters it is unneeded. The RPR provides a generous rail on the receiver for scope mounting. A drawback to the top mounted rail is that it requires a higher scope mount to clear the large objective bells on today’s scopes.
The updated handguard removed the top rail, but left threaded mounting points, should you desire to add some rail-estate on your handguard. The handguard still offers Keymod interfaces on the sides and bottom of the tube. The new design also opened up the cooling/lightening holes in the tube for a sleeker and lighter appearance. More airflow around a precision rifle barrel is always a good thing.
A very attractive option that the Ruger Precision Rifle offers, is the ability to change your barrel with a minimum of hand tools. The RPR utilizes an AR15 style barrel nut and several manufacturers are already offering pre-fit match barrels. Changing your barrel only requires hand tools and a headspace gauge. This provides very real value to the shooters who want to be able to keep a spare barrel on the bench and be able to swap them out before the next match. This also allows a new shooter who may feel more comfortable buying a .308 to be able to quickly upgrade to a “race gun” cartridge when he feels ready.
Hybrid Muzzle Brake
Also new for the second generation Ruger Precision Rifle is the Hybrid Muzzle Brake. Competition rifles greatly benefit from a good muzzle brake. Not only do they make spotting your impacts much easier, they also protect the muzzle of the rifle from severe contact with obstacles.
During our testing we found the Hybrid Muzzle Brake to do an adequate job of reducing recoil and keeping the rifle on-target. More importantly, the RPR now comes from the factory with the barrel threaded 5/8-24 tpi for most standard muzzle accessories and suppressors. Your favorite brake or can will likely thread right on.
The Ruger Precision Rifle uses a three-lug bolt head with a sixty degree bolt throw. This makes bolt operation a short and fast process. The added advantage of the sixty degree bolt lift is that it keeps the bolt handle away from large, low mounted scopes.
The previous generation of RPR utilized a plastic bolt shroud. The bolt shroud did not serve any structural purpose and plastic was likely a cost-saving measure. However, shooters generally look at plastic parts on a rifle as “cheap”. Ruger replaced the plastic shroud with an billet aluminum version. Thankfully they retained the ability to contain the bolt takedown tool and trigger adjustment key. This allows you to keep the commonly needed tools for the rifle, IN the rifle.
The bolt feel is one of my small, but nagging complaints about the Ruger Precision Rifle. The finish of the bolt raceway inside the receiver is rough. There is also quite a bit of clearance between the bolt body and the receiver. When the bolt is unlocked, there is a good deal of “chatter” or rattle between the bolt and the receiver. When the bolt is locked closed, it is tight. This is not an accuracy issue, it is simply a tactile issue.
A good bolt-action rifle feels like the bolt is running on rails. The RPR is more like a penny rattling in a soup can. This did not prevent me from running the bolt quickly, but it is one of the differences between an entry level rifle and a premium rifle. Ruger could easily improve upon this by reducing the tolerance of the bolt-stop groove and using a finer finish.
The Ruger Precision Rifle would just be a Ruger Rifle without “precision”. During our testing we used the Hornady 140gr. ELD 6.5 Creedmoor load. The rifle came to us with approximately 20 rounds down the barrel and it took until the 100 round mark before we were seeing good accuracy out of it. Velocity with the 140 ELD ran around 2677 fps with a 18.9 fps standard deviation. That is slightly slower than what Hornady advertises on the box, but that is to be expected.
Ruger uses a cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel in all varieties of the RPR. We have generally seen a “burn-in” period on these type of barrels before you reach peak-accuracy. Our groups started in the 1″ range and ended up in the 1/2″ range for five shots at 100 yards with a B&T Industries Atlas PSR bipod and Short Action Precision Run n’ Gun Rear Bag.
I expect the accuracy of this rifle to hover around the .75 MOA range, but may improve with handloads. Regardless, the accuracy we saw at the end of testing is sufficient for entry level precision rifle competition. As we mentioned earlier, premium match barrels are already available for the RPR at reasonable prices.
The Ruger Precision Rifle has its pros and cons, but overall this is a great rifle to get a shooter into competition. If you are a more seasoned shooter, looking to upgrade then it is easy to look at the RPR as a “chassis” that comes ready to shoot. You can then upgrade it to your heart’s desire.
At the time of this writing, barrels, hand guards and at least one replacement trigger are all available to tune the RPR to your individual taste. The MSRP of the 6.5 Creedmoor RPR is $1599. At this time they can be found on the open market for $1200 on up.