It is not always easy to explain why it happens, but occasionally a product is released and the consumer cannot get enough of it and it becomes an instant hit. The Ruger Precision Rifle is one of those products. It seems that from day one, these rifles have been a hot seller and difficult to keep on the shelf. Perhaps it has just the right blend of new features combined with good looks and good performance, or maybe the rifles really are that good? That is what we are hear to finally find out. We needed to see if all of the hype on these rifles was warranted. So with the help of a good Sniper Central friend who let us use his unfired rifle, we brought in the latest version of the 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Precision Rifle to put through a thorough evaluation. This would help us determine if the rifle is a legitimate contender as a duty sniper rifle, or if they are just more for show than go.

When the proud new owner opens up their box and pulls out the RPR (Ruger Precision Rifle) they certainly get a modern looking and hansom rifle. With the huge popularity of the Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR), a kinder and gentler name for the AR-15/10 platform, it should not have come as any big surprise to anyone that one of the major rifle makers would make a bolt action rifle based on the looks, features and style of the MSR. That is essentially what the RPR is. Of course, there are several chassis systems, such as the MDT Tac-21, that have been around for a while that essentially did this very thing, and Remington now even offers a factory rifle that uses the MDT system. But Ruger took it further and developed a new complete system based around their bolt action rifle, and added some additional features.

The rear buttstock of the RPR is a fully adjustable setup with an uncovered skeleton style design. The recoil pad has about an inch of padding and it is attached to a buttplate that can easily be adjusted for length of pull by releasing the rear throw lever. The mechanism that holds the center rod attached to the buttplate is itself attached to what is normally the buffer tube on a true MSR, but is a faux buffer tube on the RPR. The bottom of this mechanism also holds a picatinny rail that is also attached to the buttplate and can be used to attach slings or mono-pods onto. Draped over the top of the buffer tube is a small cheekpiece that is adjustable up and down to allow the eye to be setup correctly to align with the scope. The cheekpiece also slides forward or back allowing precise placement for the appropriate eye relief for the shooter. This cheekpiece is made of a textured kydex material and has a plastic feel to it, though it seems to be sturdy enough. The entire buttstock mechanism is exposed to the elements and can get snagged up why crawling with things like branches, weeds and other hazards, but the design makes it easily adjustable. Additionally, the buttstock is easily folded up onto the left side by depressing a sing button at the rear of the receiver.

The action, or receiver area of the rifle is designed and configured to look and function very much like the AR/MSR family of rifles, though the obvious big difference is the bolt and bolt handle. The safety is located in the traditional location and is operated in the same manner using the thumb of the shooting hand while in place on the pistol grip. The safety is a 45 degree design that can be moved to the right hand side of the action and any AR style safety can be swapped out with the original as well. The rifle can only be placed on safe if the bolt is cocked. The safety itself is easy to throw into fire from the safe position, but on our test rifle, fresh out of the box, it was stiff and difficult to rotate from fire to safe while keeping the hand in place on the pistol grip. We had to release our grip and move the hand up to get enough leverage to rotate the safety. The safety itself is a two position safety that does not lock the bolt so that it may be cycled while still on safe.

As would be expected, the pistol grip is a standard AR pistol grip. It is made of hard plastic with only minor texture on it which leads to it having a slick feeling. Again, since it is a standard AR pistol grip, it can easily be replaced with any pistol grip on the market from the likes of Magpul or other popular AR/MSR accessory maker. The shape and location make it feel very natural to anyone who has fired a MSR before. The trigger finger is well placed to align properly for a good trigger pull with a short distance to the trigger itself, which is nestled into a typical MSR trigger guard.

The trigger is a blade style trigger for extra safety, which can be divisive among shooters. Some like them, some do not. Beyond the protruding blade, the trigger shoe itself is bare and smooth with a curve. Our rifle came out of the box set at a light 2 lbs, which was odd since Ruger indicates the trigger is adjustable from 2.25 lbs – 5 lbs. The trigger has no takeup, beyond the center blade, and no overtravel which leads to a nice trigger pull. If the operator wishes to adjust the weight of pull, it is easily done with a hex head Allen wrench placed up through the magazine release lever, which is why there is a hole through it. Ruger even conveniently provides the Allen wrench placed in the back shroud area of the bolt which was an interesting and clever use of the extended shroud which would normally just be wasted space.

Directly in front of the trigger guard is the magazine release lever that will release the magazine if pressed forward. The RPR comes with two ten round Magpul polymer magazines and they do drop free when empty, this being preferred for rapid reloading. Interestingly enough, the magazine cannot be removed unless the bolt is open and pulled all the way to the rear. We are trying to find the logic in this design and can only surmise that it is a safety reason and the lawyers do not want anyone removing a magazine with the bolt potentially closed on a live round. We don’t like it and can come up with several reasons why someone would want to drop a mag with the bolt closed. Additionally, the bolt cannot be closed on an empty magazine which can be used as a empty mag indicator when cycling the bolt. Or it could be to force the shooter to remove the magazine in order to close the bolt on an empty chamber, therefore attempting to force additional safety? Of course, this prevents single feeding the rifle which is an irritation in certain circumstances with sniper use.

The RPR is also design to accept both Magpul and AICS magazines which allows those with a collection of metal AICS magazines to be able to use them. The AICS mags were a bit loose and rattled a little, but they did work without issue. The bolt itself is a bit odd in that there is a long shroud, or “hat”, that extends off the back of the bolt which is there to help with bolt control as it cycles back. It is necessary since the action is a MSR frame and not a traditional built up action on a normal bolt action rifle. As the bolt is cycled to the rear that long hat extends back into the bugger tube area and supports the bolt allowing it to extend and slide directly back. It is somewhat odd looking, but accomplishes what it was designed to do. The bolt itself has three lugs which allows it to have a shorter 70 degree bolt throw combined with a full diameter bolt body that matches the diameter of those three lugs. This is the same bolt design as the Ruger American Predator Rifle, though there are some modifications made for the RPR. The extractor is the same small AR style claw with a plunger. The bolt handle is a large matte black tactical style bolt handle that is slightly angled back toward the shooter.

The bolt release is located on the left hand side of the action and as has been mentioned, in order to remove the bolt, the stock has to be folded forward at least half way. Once this is done then the bolt release can be pressed and the bolt removed from the action. Obviously the bolt needs to be fully forward in order to fold the stock, else the long bolt shroud is extended back into the buffer tube. It should be noted also that this is a MSR/AR style buffer tube so any MSR buttstock can be mounted in place of the current ruger buttstock. Mounted on top of the action is a 20 MOA canted picatinny style accessory rail. Ruger indicates that their upper receiver area is made of chrome moly steel to prevent distortion, which sounds like a logical choice for this arrangement, while the lower receiver is aluminum.

The barrel on the RPR is a medium weight cold hammer forged chrome-moly steel barrel with 5R rifling of which Ruger claims has minimum headspacing and is centralized for accuracy. Of course these are mass produced rifles so expectations should be kept in check about how tight the chambers and rifling may be, but it appears they have gone to extra measures to help with accuracy. On this test rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, the RPR has a 24″ barrel, where as the 308 and 223 versions have a 20″ barrel. Located on the muzzle is a muzzlebrake of Rugers own design that only has ports on the sides in an effort to minimize dust signature when firing. As is the overall theme with the RPR, the muzzlebrake can be removed and a different one used if desired.

The forward handguard is a smaller diameter handguard that Ruger used to aide in providing additional scope clearance which is a traditional MSR problem when mounting scopes. As would be expected, the handguard utilizes the standardized keymod design to allow easy accessory attachment and of course the barrel is free floating. The rifle also incorporates a single QD sling attach point on the buttstock, so an additional one would need to be added to the handguard to utilize the flush cup style QD setup.

Since the rifle is patterned after the “black rifle”, meaning the AR15/MSR family of rifles, it should come as no surprise that the rifle is completely finished in a matte black color. The Aluminum parts, including the lower receiver area, buttstock, and handguard are all hard anodized with a nice even matte black finish. Ruger does not mention what type of finish was used on the barrel, though it looks good and matches the rest of the rifle. Overall the rifle is very reminiscent of a MSR except for the bolt handle hanging off the right hand side, and it feels and handles like one as well. The rifle is long with its 24″ barrel and muzzlebrake, but not any longer than a traditional sniper rifle. It is a bit over 10 lbs without optics, which again, is not out of line with current sniper rifles. There are many edges and protrusions all along the rifle which may get in the way during field use, but it is nothing that should cause major concern.

For our shooting tests we decided to use a Bushnell Elite Tactical 3200 5-15x40mm scope, which with the 5″ sunshade is a fairly long scope. As is common on a MSR flattop rifle, mounting the scope can be a bit tricky to get just right as they need to be mounted high and forward for proper eye relief and alignment. The adjustability of the rear buttstock helps in this regard by being able to adjust the the length of pull and cheek height to match the scope. We used a set of extra high TSR 1″ steel rings and were able to get the scope mounted and stock adjusted for a good fit.

The number of factory match grade long range 6.5 Creedmoor loads is increasing, but that does not mean it is as plentiful as 308 and we had a bit of a struggle to find 4 different loads that were in stock that we could use for testing. We typically do not like to use more than 1 or 2 loads from the same manufacturer, but this time we did not have much of a choice. The four loads we settled on where Hornady 120gr ELD Match, Hornady 140gr ELD Match, Hornady 147gr ELD Match, and Winchester 140gr HPBT Match. That is a lot of Hornady loads, but they off the most variety which is no surprise since they were one of the developers of the original 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge. For our 100 yard accuracy tests the weather was beautiful, a clear Montana summer morning, 60 degrees (F) with light winds of 0-3 mph. If you are not familiar with our testing procedures, please take a moment to read about them here. The 100 yard test results are below

Ammo Average Group Best Group
Hornady 120gr ELD 0.500″ (0.478 MOA) 0.355″ (0.339 MOA)
Hornady 140gr ELD 0.659″ (0.629 MOA) 0.510″ (0.487 MOA)
Hornady 147gr ELD 0.858″ (0.819 MOA) 0.596″ (0.569 MOA)
Winchester 140gr HPBT 0.704″ (0.672 MOA) 0.298″ (0.285 MOA)

When you open up the box on the Ruger Precision Rifle, or visit their web page, one of the tag lines they have plastered all over is a quote by their CEO:

“1600 yards. Enough said.”

This is a bold claim and if you are going to print that, then the rifle better be able to walk the walk. When looking at the results from our accuracy tests with a factory rifle using factory ammunition, it certainly makes a solid impression. With the Hornady 120gr ELD load, it averaged exactly 0.500″ inches, slightly less than .5 MOA. This would be the level of accuracy needed to stretch the rifle out to long ranges beyond 1000 yards. This particular load was very consistent and pleasant to shoot. All four of the loads averaged well below 1 MOA and the Winchester match printed the tightest single group of the day at .285 MOA”.

But it was not all roses either. The action is quite notchy and not always smooth, especially if there is any sort of downward pressure on the bolt as you initially start your push forward after the rear stroke. Even if it is just a slight downward pressure the forward stroke becomes notchy and can even bind if there is not enough forward pressure to overcome the notch. The inability to single feed is not a show stopper, but it is a nuisance if you need a quick followup shot and your mag is empty. The empty mag also prevents the bolt from going forward until the mag is dropped or a loaded mag is inserted. We will give props to the trigger though, it isn’t bad at all and the shorter 70 degree bolt rotation is fairly nice as well.

For our 300 yard head target test we elected to use the most consistent performing load, the Hornady 120gr ELD and proceeded to setup our target. Remember, we only fire one iteration of this test, we do not fire multiple engagements and take the best one. With everything dialed in on the scope and confirmed, we setup and fired the test from the prone position and simulated a series of rapid fire head shot engagements at 300 yards. With your body properly placed behind the rifle and with the moderately effective muzzlebrake taming the lighter 120gr loads, the return from battery was very quick and the shooter was able to observe bullet impact even at the relatively short range of 300 yards. This light recoil aided in the results of the head shot test as three rounds were able to be fired, cycled, and brought back on target in only 23 seconds, even with the notchy action. The group measured a nice and tidy 1.965″, or .626 MOA to provide a very good overall score of 132.1. We consider an overall score of 100 or above to be acceptable for sniper use. The excellent accuracy combined with the very manageable recoil and quick target acquisition combined to lead to the good showing on this test.

300y Head Target Test
Time Score (23 secs)41.7
Accuracy Score (.626 moa)95.8
Total137.5

The accuracy maintains its consistency at mid to long range and the rifle does shoot well. As a whole the rifle performs well in terms of accuracy, though functionally there are some things we don’t care for and we have already mentioned them above. The modularity of the rifle is nice as the MSR compatibility makes the rifle easy to customize for your individual tastes and most of the changes can be done easily with common hand tools. If this is the style of rifle you or your team is looking for, it certainly should be considered. The price is on the higher side for a production rifle, but compared to other similar chassis style rifles like the Savage 110BA or Remington’s new 700 with MDT Tac-21 chassis, the price is very similar. As a whole, the rifle certainly shoots well and can indeed be a duty rifle, just be aware of its operational quirks and realize it may not be as smooth as other rifles, and then it should serve you well.

Sniper Central 2017

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6 Comments

mele-02

Howa makes a good rifle and their HCR is a good comparison to the RPR. The HCR makes use of the standard Howa 1500 action and just attaches some MSR furniture to the chassis, so its not “as” like a MSR as the Ruger is.

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mele-02

The Tikka approach is the more common approach of using a chassis style system that attaches to the traditional T3x action, versus the Ruger using an actual new “upper” as the action. I personally prefer the Tikka method, but there are valid arguments going both directions.

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