First impressions count for a lot.
That’s as true today as it was during my long-ago halcyon bachelor days in southern California, when a certain minimum threshold of aesthetic acceptability applied equally to automobiles, rifles and members of the opposite sex. The fact that my tastes sometimes exceeded my budget was beside the point. A man simply had to have standards. My preference in rifles in those days ran toward richly figured, high-gloss walnut stocks with Monte Carlo combs. I also came to appreciate the virtues of a well-executed stock in the classic style, as long as it had nice wood. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I discovered that some of those beautiful rifles could be as heart-breakingly inaccurate as any other. Today, the practical virtues of modern synthetic stocks are widely acknowledged, but old tendencies are hard to buck. Perhaps that’s why I was initially disappointed upon unboxing a new Ruger American Rifle Predator bolt-action rifle. I’d heard some good things about these guns, but my first examination left me yawning.
First, there was the matter of that green synthetic stock. Give me wood, laminated, black or camo-dipped stocks, please – anything but a flat-green “plastic” stock devoid of bottom metal. And then, there was the bolt which, upon initial cycling, felt as stiff as a day-old corpse.
Handling the rifle, I had to remind myself that the Ruger American Rifle was designed to be inexpensive, and that knowledge was probably influencing my judgment. Perhaps the bolt would loosen up with some break-in, and perhaps the rifle would shoot as well as its proponents claimed. However, I then saw the words, “6mm Creedmoor,” stamped on the barrel, which piqued my interest considerably. I took the Predator to the range and put it through its paces.
And my lukewarm opinion of the rifle completely changed.
Betting on a Wildcat
Ruger’s decision to chamber the Predator in 6mm Creedmoor might surprise some, considering that the cartridge was, until relatively recently, a wildcat made by necking-down 6.5mm Creedmoor brass. The cartridge gained considerable popularity in Precision Rifles Series competition before Hornady took it mainstream with a 108-grain ELD Match factory load. Other big-name ammo makers have yet to follow, but a company called Copper Creek Cartridge Co. now offers several excellent loads in 6mm Creedmoor.
“Ruger took the leap and chambered the bargain-priced Ruger American Rifle Predator for the round. The result is an affordable, sporter-weight rifle that’s equally at home hunting varmints and deer-sized game or punching long-distance targets.”
This is far from the first time that Ruger and Hornady have brought innovative rifle and cartridge pairings to market. The collaborative efforts of the companies, which were both founded in 1949, date back to the friendship between their founders and have involved such cartridges as the 17 HMR, 204 Ruger, 300 and 338 Ruger Compact Magnums, 375 Ruger and 416 Ruger. More recently, Ruger gave Hornady’s 6.5mm Creedmoor a boost by chambering the company’s Ruger Precision Rifle for the cartridge.
The little-brother 6mm Creedmoor has a lot going for it. It’s a true 1,000-yard cartridge, with velocities ranging from just under to a bit more than 3,000 fps. It’s inherently accurate and kind to barrels and shoulders, alike. Unlike many similar cartridges, it will happily feed long, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets through the actions of AR-10 platform rifles, and on that basis alone, it commands attention. More importantly, for its continued viability, the cartridge wins a lot of shooting matches.
In addition to offering the 6mm Creedmoor in its popular Ruger Precision Rifle— which makes all the sense in the world—Ruger took the leap and chambered the bargain-priced Ruger American Rifle Predator for the round. The result is an affordable, sporter-weight rifle that’s equally at home hunting varmints and deer-sized game or punching long-distance targets.
Clean and Utilitarian
The Predator has what I would call a medium-contour, free-floated barrel measuring 22 inches in length. The business end of the cold hammer-forged barrel is threaded 5/8-24, allowing you to install a suppressor (if you don’t mind adding to the rifle’s unloaded weight of just 6.6 pounds). The barrel has a fast, 1:7.7-inch rate of twist to better stabilize long, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets and is attached to the action using a Savage-like barrel nut, which allows for precise headspacing and enhanced accuracy.
The rifle employs Ruger’s solid, patent-pending Power Bedding system, which uses V-shaped integral steel bedding blocks. Two large Allen-head screws secure the action to the stock.
I’m still not a huge fan of the synthetic stock, mainly because of its color, but it does have a classic profile, along with what Ruger calls “modern forend contouring.” It has molded-in serrations in the forend and grip, but the stock is still going to be somewhat slippery when wet. It comes with a soft rubber buttpad that does a good job of soaking up the rifle’s already-negligible recoil in the 6mm Creedmoor chambering.
“The barrel has a fast, 1:7.7-inch rate of twist to better stabilize long, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets.”
The Ruger utilizes a push-feed action. The receiver has milled flat surfaces, giving it a clean, utilitarian appearance. On the left rear surface, you’ll find a flush-mounted bolt release. The rifle has a rather beefy bolt shroud, and the bolt, itself, has three large lugs, a generously sized extractor and a plunger ejector. It has a short bolt throw of 70 degrees, providing lots of clearance for scopes. (As I noted, bolt cycling was sticky, to put it mildly, out of the box. Some lube and break-in nudged it into the acceptable category, and it has become continually smoother with use, erasing my initial concern about the bolt.)
Up top, you’ll find a one-piece aluminum, Weaver-style scope rail. Scope rings are included.
The rifle uses a flush-mount, four-round rotary magazine, which has received some mixed reviews. That’s partly due to its $40 price tag and partly due to reported feeding issues, in some cases, due to apparent weak spring tension. I had no such issues with the magazine included with the rifle sent to me for testing, and others have reported that replacement magazines supplied by Ruger work fine. The magazine release lever is somewhat protected within a recess in the stock, minimizing chances of accidentally dumping the magazine. It locks into place solidly and does not rattle.
The Predator has a tang-mounted safety that does not lock the bolt down, so you can cycle rounds through the action with the safety in the rear, engaged position.
For testing, I topped the rifle off with a Bushnell Elite 3500 4-12x40mm scope and headed to the range. The “safety blade” trigger is adjustable within a range of about 3 to 5 pounds, but I left it at the factory setting for testing. It broke consistently and cleanly at a pull weight of 3 pounds, 13 ounces with no hint of creep. It’s actually quite a nice trigger for a rifle in this price category.
I experienced no malfunctions with the rifle during testing. The magazine stayed put, rounds fed smoothly from the rotary magazine, and there were no issues with extraction and ejection.
Given the 6mm Creedmoor’s relatively new status as a factory-loaded round, there aren’t a lot of options yet in factory ammo offerings. At the time of testing, I was only able to obtain two loads for testing. One was the Hornady 108-grain ELD Match load, and the other was a load from Copper Creek Cartridge Co. that used a 105-grain Berger Hybrid bullet. Out of the Ruger, they produced velocities of 2,902 fps and 2,892 fps, respectively. In the field, this translates into flat-shooting, mild-recoiling performance.
Let’s look at the Hornady load as an example: Zeroed 2 inches high at 100 yards, bullet impact will be little more than 5 inches low at 300 yards. Out to that distance, you need only hold dead on the vitals of deer-sized game.
“The barrel has a fast, 1:7.7-inch rate of twist to better stabilize long, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets and is attached to the action using a Savage-like barrel nut, which allows for precise headspacing and enhanced accuracy.”
If you do your part, the rifle will send bullets where they’re supposed to go. On a day the wind was blowing full value at up to 12 miles per hour, the Hornady load produced five-shot groups averaging 0.78 inch and a best group of just 0.60 inch at 100 yards. The Copper Creek load also produced sub-MOA average groups, with a best group of 0.78 inch. That’s impressive performance for any sporter-weight rifle, let alone one in this price category, but I suspect the rifle can do even better. In fact, my friend and fellow outdoor scribe John Barsness shared a photo of a group he shot with the Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor with his own handloaded ammo. All five shots went into a single ragged hole.
Since I tested the rifle, Hornady has added a 103-grain Precision Hunter ELD-X load to the lineup, with an advertised muzzle velocity of 3,050 fps. It should be a dandy hunting round for predators and deer-sized game. Copper Creek Cartridge Company also loads additional 6mm Creedmoor rounds with a 115-grain DTAC bullet, a 108-grain Hornady ELD-M bullet and a 105-grain Hornady BTHP bullet.
Only time will tell if the 6mm Creedmoor will achieve the commercial success of its 6.5 sibling, but I wouldn’t bet against it. If you’re unsure about taking the leap with this cartridge, the Predator is also chambered in .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .204 Ruger, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win.
The MSRP for the rifle is $529, but with a little searching, you can probably find it at a real-world price that’s south of $400. If you do, grab it, buy it, and run.
Avg. Muzzle Velocity
|Avg. 100-Yard Group||
Best 100-Yard Group
|Copper Creek 105-grain Berger Hybrid||
|Hornady 108-grain ELD Match||
Note: Velocities were measured with Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph. All five-shot groups were fired in wind 6 to 12 mph at 100 yards.
Caliber: 6mm Creedmoor (tested); also .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .204 Ruger, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win.
Action: Push-feed bolt action
Barrel: 22-inch medium contour
Capacity: Four-round rotary magazine
Rate of twist: 1:7.7
Muzzle: Threaded 5/8-24
Trigger: Ruger Marksman Adjustable
Stock: Moss-green synthetic
Weight: 6.6 pounds (unloaded)
Sights: None; scope rail installed
Length: 42 inches
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.