Ruger Precision Rifle in 308 Winchester - test & review
PUBLISHED: 11:20 20 March 2019
In depth test and review of the Ruger Precision Rifle in 308 Winchester, from our resident gun tester Chris Parkin
LIKES: An integrated package with low, inline recoil path; The trigger came in even lighter than the specifications detailed; Solid stock with dependable locking, adjustment and folding capabilities; Perhaps the most fully integrated concept rifle of its generation
DISLIKES: Do you want an extremely loud brake on such a smooth shooting rifle?
VERDICT: The RPR was first to market in the modern concept of the chassis rifle, and too easily judged against custom rifles at that time. Three years of competition now sees the fine homogenous details, especially the stock, far superior mechanically to the admiring and chasing “wanabees”
Stock/finish: Folding Adjustable Length of Pull and Comb Height, type III Hard Coat Anodized
Barrel Length: 508mm/20”, Cold Hammer-Forged, 5R Rifling, threaded 5/8” 24tpi
Twist: 1:10” RH
Weight: 4.5kg/9.8 lb.
Magazine Capacity: Two, 10 round P-Mags supplied
Overall Length: 997-1085mm/39.25”-42.75” (folded length, 803mm/31.60”
Length of Pull: 305- 394mm/12”-15.50”
Trigger: Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ trigger, Single stage with safety lever, 820gr break adjustable, adjustable to 2250gr/1.75-5lbs
Ruger Precision Rifle in 208: £1,750
Leupold LRP VX3i 6.5-20x50 Riflescope: £1,100
Buy together for £2,600 (Save over £200 against SRP when bought together)
Viking Arms www.vikingarms.com 01423 780810
Hornady Ammunition, Edgar Brothers www.edgarbrothers.com 01625 613177
Ruger’s Precision Rifle (RPR) has entered its second generation, and while many other manufacturers have chased its design ethos, few have chosen quite such a similar path in ergonomic detail. The AR-15 buffer tube copiers haven’t allowed the bolt to ride within the tube, which is a key space saver, and have chosen off-the-shelf parts, mainly for .223 rifles with little recoil. This has led to some floppy polymer stocks with adjustment that remains loose, regardless of how tight it’s wound up.
The RPR, on the other hand, started off solidly and has remained so, the main difference being the M-Lock fore-end that runs for 15” (380mm) out from the action, shrouding the barrel with complete solidity from any firing position with a well-floated barrel.
The 5R-rifled, hammer-forged .308 barrel is 20” long, and far more usable than the now-defunct fast-twist .243 RPR ‘Version 1’ that I tested a couple of years ago. The RPR concept is now offered in .22 RF on the smaller end for trigger time training, as well as in the large-scale .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua for those wanting to extend the energy delivery and ballistics over some of the mid-line guns available in 6.5 Creedmoor, as well as its smaller 6mm brother.
The medium contour barrel tapers from the action down to 0.75” at the 5/8”x24 threaded muzzle, and is now shod as standard with a side-ported brake. This is great for recoil control, but is very loud, especially on the shorter barrels that make it closer to your head. The RPR’s solid chassis with polymer comb doesn’t suffer from the horrible brake-induced resonance some hollow polymer and laminate stocks can, or those with solid cheekpieces, so it is still comfortable to shoot with ears plugged and muffs on.
5R rifling claims some benefits over conventional six grooves, but like everything to do with barrels, who really knows if it is better or not? Ruger promises tight tolerances on the headspace, so your gunsmith can swap barrels when worn or for new calibres with just headspace gauges.
Smooth machining and finishing standards are shown across the whole of the fully integrated rifle build. The action ‘upper’ receiver and one-piece bolt is 4140 chrome-moly steel, precision CNC-machined from pre-hardened steel to minimize distortion. It’s a push-feed, three-lug bolt with 60° throw, featuring dual cocking cams and a smooth-running bolt body. The bolt body is nitrided for corrosion resistance, smooth operation and durability.
The RPR follows the ergonomic patterns laid down by the AR-15, with underslung polymer grip and upper/lower receiver sections (the upper is basically a Ruger American action). Unlike an AR-15 of a totally different action design, the conventional turnbolt runs within the buffer tube to save space and allow the shooter’s face to lie closer to the bore line, and consequent recoil path, within the gun. That recoil pulse is directed straighter to your shoulder, and other than making a slightly taller rifle (probably needing higher scope mounts for bore to scope displacement), it makes for a neutral handling rifle when firing with noticeably less muzzle lift, even without recoil reducing muzzle add-ons.
The tubular fore-end is on the M-Lok pattern and is compatible with all such accessories, as opposed to the ‘Samson’ unit fitted on the V1 RPR before. There are no conventional sling/bipod studs fitted (there are QRs at the butt), but Picatinny can be bolted on for Atlas bipods, and it’s no problem fitting a Harris adaptor to keep the gun riding low. Picatinny-fit bipods generally have a higher rotational axis, and I find guns like the RPR, especially with a tall underslung grip, can be top-heavy when resting on the ground and easily toppled over.
All the machining minimises weight and aids air flow for cooling around the barrel. A 20 MOA rail used to run the length of the gun for your front-mounted optical needs, but now the rail is just the length of the action. It’s still 20 MOA for increased long-range elevation and is secured with four 8-40 screws. An ambidextrous manual safety for left- or right-handed shooters sits above the grip and does not lock the bolt.
The three-lug bolt is patented, complex machining, and shaping of the shaft ensures compatibility with multiple magazine types. Function was faultless and it didn’t jam or stutter through its stroke. Positive loading feed and plentiful ejection throw spent brass through the minimal port. Primary extraction and re-cocking of the bolt were also well timed and slick, which is very noticeable on a handy short-barrelled rifle like this that will suit improvised rests or barricades in competition, as well as fully supported prone. Lifting the bolt’s polymer teardrop handle was comfortable and didn’t disturb the point of aim.
Two 10-round twin column P-Mags are supplied, but AICS magazines (as well as M110/SR-25/DPMS) are compatible with the cleverly designed mag well on the action’s ‘lower’ to compensate for differing dimensions and locking mechanism. The P-Mags also give you a last-round interruption/hold open to the bolt cycle, although if you push hard it will still skip over the top of the follower to close the gun for transport. Single rounds dropped on top of the magazine’s follower won’t feed directly to the chamber, but the P-Mags do top-load and there is just enough space for a bare fingertip to clip fresh rounds down into the mag through the ejection port, if an emergency backup is needed. The ‘lower’ magazine well halves are precision machined from 7075-T6 aluminium and are Type III hard-coat anodized for maximum durability. They are also profiled on the underside to lock into position for the familiar barricade-type rests often used in Precision Rifle competitions.
The magazine release lever sits to the front of the trigger guard. When pushed forward with your index fingertip, you will need to pull the P-Mags out of the well; they don’t drop free alone. The Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger blade with inner safety lever is a unit I have warmed to over the years. They are fairly common now and gave a good feel to the shot release – not perfectly crisp, but always predictable with good feel and no grittiness. Mine broke at 830g, which I found pleasant to use, and was actually lighter than Ruger’s stated 1,000g minimum.
The safety lever sits to the left (it can be reversed) of the receiver/grip so is operable with the firing hand thumb in situ, but the reach to the trigger blade from the AR-15 grip/ergonomics is a little short for those not used to the characteristic feel of such guns. It’s perfectly usable but, if you aren’t careful, migrates into the first knuckle joint of the index finger rather than mid-pad. This does have the opposing benefit (if you do keep it mid-pad) of ensuring you have a good trigger squeeze and control in a straight line without undue lateral pressure; however, lazy shooters who wrap all the way through will notice the snatch if they are not careful. The trigger adjusts externally from 2¼lb up to 5lb, which is handy for certain competition rulebooks, although I would always practise as I meant to compete, so get that done well ahead of time.
The wrench is stored in the bolt-shroud, which is now aluminium. Being an in-line build, recoil is transferred straight through the gun, minimising muzzle lift, but the effective vertical height of the gun does increase. The cheekpiece is adjustable for height but not lateral position, and to wrap over the tubular structure it needs to be quite rounded and felt a bit bulky to me, but I hate having to roll my head over to get the cheek weld. I like to keep my eyes horizontal.
Scope height above the bore is already quite high, with a good 20-25mm effective clearance from the actual barrel to the scope, disregarding the encompassing tubular fore-end; I would add even higher mounts than required just to lift my head, which is something I only ever find on bullpups and full chassis guns like this.
Two locking levers adjust the height and length of pull with all secured solidly for use, just like the clunk you get from the hinge that allows the gun to fold. You need to fold the gun to remove the bolt and it has a neat rotating catch to lock it folded, so you won’t trap your fingers as it can’t swing shut.
More Picatinny rail resides below the butt pad for the possible addition of a monopod or, more likely, to support the gun on a rear bag or gripped fist. Ruger supplies a polymer Picatinny rail infill/cover, so the sharp edges of the anodised aluminium don’t dig into your hand – yet more neat little touches!
I have used several RPRs over the last few months and have enjoyed the simple feel and operation of the gun, with immediate adjustability for different shooters out to distances beyond 600m (dependant of course on available ammunition at the time). My own rifle tested on the range was used with a selection of Hornady 165gr SST and 178gr ELD’X ammunition. This rifle has a 1 in 10” twist, so will realistically stabilise .30 calibre bullets over 200gr, so although both weights shot well, the RPR preferred the lighter 165 in this instance.
Cloverleaf groups from factory ammunition through a factory barrel didn’t appear until I’d shot almost three boxes, cleaning twice on the way. There was a little copper residue and some small copper/brass fragments from the very start, but the barrel ran-in over this period with the trigger also stabilising. I shot a few heavy handloads through the gun, but wasn’t getting the performance I wanted to justify their use from a 20” tube – further tailoring of the load for this rifle is a worthy goal for long-term use.
Cheap training ammunition remained sub-MOA at 100m, although if you want to extend the range, its extreme spread of 75fps over a 10-round string wouldn’t compare well with the 165 SST. This gave me an average velocity of 2,718fps, which was a little away from the factory data printed on the box, but that’s more than likely measured in a 26” barrel with six grooves on the rifling generating more pressure. All rifles are different.
All the rifles were enjoyable to shoot and especially so at longer distances. Watching my own bullet impacts and even the trace on occasion was indicative of the RPR’s superb control under recoil, and that was with a moderator fitted, not the brake (I found the brake to be too noisy for my personal tastes).
A three-lug action with 23mm teardrop handle spaced 70mm away from the bolt-shaft is likely to handle swiftly, and the Ruger’s soon lost its initial slight mechanical clunkiness from the box and smoothed into operation in a similar fashion to the more aged guns I have shot.
This test has forced me to re-evaluate the RPR. When it first arrived three years ago, I found it a little agricultural compared to the semi-custom guns it was competing with – guns that had inspired Ruger to address the new world of chassis rifles, precision rifle sporting competitions and accuracy. Since that time, many other rifles have entered this market and, in hindsight, have often failed to do what the Ruger did. They are hampered by their use of .223 AR-15 furniture – and other than functional grips, their stocks can be weak, sometimes suffering from flex and rattles without the ergonomc benefits of the straight-line recoil path.
Ruger started this and, to some extent, still holds the edge. Most competitors shoot well, it’s just that the Ruger’s solid stock invites you to make things easier on yourself. 6.5 Creedmoor was new itself when the RPR arrived, and would still be my first calibre choice for this rifle. I have used 6mm Creedmoor and its benefits don’t outweigh the drawbacks yet and, don’t forget, moderators are harder to get in the USA where much opinion is generated online in respect to recoil.
This Ruger in .338 Lapua would be an interesting test to further push the recoil these ergonomics can handle, so that will be a project for another day perhaps. I also hope to test the totally different RPR rimfire, as a training tool to pair alongside either of its bigger brothers.