Last year I became interested in having a handy general-purpose rifle that is light to carry in the woods for extended periods and that makes a good trunk gun: something that is very rugged. I began researching modern scout rifles, guns that are to some extent derived from Jeff Cooper’s original idea. These bolt guns typically incorporate backup iron sights into the design, something that is unusual on most modern bolt action rifles, and actual scout rifles usually use a forward-mounted long eye relief scope. I wanted just a conventional 1-4 power scope as I find that very fast yet better suited to woodland hunting than the scout scope solution.
One thing that I did want to maintain from the scout rifle concept, however, is a gun that is generally small with a short barrel and generally light-weight. Well, as it turns out I found exactly what I was looking for in the Ruger American Rifle, the compact version. This gun is chambered in 223 Remington, exactly as I wanted it, as for my needs I like the smaller cartridge and don’t need the power of the 308 Winchester, the traditional scout rifle chambering. This American rifle is the All Weather model, stainless steel, which I wanted since it is a bit more resistant to the elements, and it has an 18 inch barrel. It is exceedingly light, more even than the dedicated scout rifles on the market which usually clock in over 7 pounds unloaded with no optics. This little sucker is 6 pounds empty and still under 7 pounds loaded and with the scope.
While I love the AR15, and would certainly take an AR15 with me if anticipating trouble, I am far more likely to grab this little rifle for a walk in the woods. I also use it for hunting white tail deer as the states in which I hunt allow for hunting with 223 (not all do). Despite popular rhetoric the 223 with a modern hunting bullet design is perfectly adequate for deer if you can place the shot where it needs to go. If not expecting trouble, but wanting the distance and power of a rifle just in case, I find a gun like this much more convenient than bringing along an AR. It is a great gun to have at the ready to zap a coyote or discard of a predator or varmint, or defend yourself at distance if need be.
Imagine being in the woods and having to engage a target at over 100 yards with just your handgun, not a good day. With a small bolt gun with a good variable powered scope it is cake. While not the ideal weapon for social disputes a rifle is still a rifle and having it in hand while in the woods where you may need to make long shots makes good sense to me. This little gun uses a proprietary Ruger magazine designed for the American rifle line. The 223 model holds 5 rounds whereas the guns chambered in the larger rounds such as 308 or 243 hold only 4. I find these magazines adequate, they fit flush in the gun which I like. If carrying a rifle with a large mag I prefer to use an AR anyway.
Overall, this is a superb rifle. The action is smooth as silk, the bolt can be run very fast. The gun is minute-of-angle accurate, perhaps more with the right ammo. For a rifle to put in the trunk or to grab for a hike through the woods this is a great option and I highly recommend it. I am partial to the compact version as I find the full-size American rifle just the usual among a whole host of affordable yet good quality bolt guns. This compact version offers a smaller yet still capable barrel length of 18 inches and offers a 12.5 inch length of pull: ideal for small statured people or for anyone who wants a gun that works while wearing heavy winter cloths.
Another reason I have embraced training with the general purpose bolt rifle beyond just the convenience of carry is as a survival gun in the event of unforeseen circumstances. While I am not quite a hard core prepper I believe in being prepared and in an extended situation of the grid being down a bolt gun makes a lot of sense for someone in a rural environment. While it is no replacement for a dedicated fighting rifle the bolt gun is far more resilient as an outdoor gun. If facing a situation where you will be spending a lot of time in the field while not necessarily expecting trouble but in need of a rifle a gun like the Ruger American Compact is excellent.
If you have a good general purpose bolt action rifle during such a time the more formidable, yet more maintenance intensive, AR15 could stay in the cabin for defensive purposes so as not to face the elements on a daily basis during a time where cleaning products and other resources may be scarce. A bolt action is beyond anything else reliable and resilient to hard use and neglect. Therefore, such a rifle, particularly chambered in the ubiquitous 223 Remington, makes good sense to have on hand.
Bottom line, awesome rifle. I think if you are in the market for a good all-purpose rifle that is small, light, and fast handling, the Ruger American Compact is a contender.