I first saw this little gem at the National Shot Show last January 2001. A man held the Ruger Compactrifle in his hand holding a 454 Casull cartridge up to the action muttering about how that would be perfect for his dream project which had obviously been in his mind for a long time at that point.(Don’t ask me how he got live ammo into the show) This is one of those guns that us Dealers will wind up killing if we don’t get behind it. I got one of the first to hit the distributor with customers standing around as we emptied that mornings shipment. They all jump at the compact that I had order specifically as a youth gun. The words “that’s perfect for humping up a mountain” was the agreed upon phrase then the doubts came in, “it’s too short, the muzzle blast will kill you”, and “I’ll bet that will kick the hell out of you in .308” . That type of immediate response to a product that had never been shot is what got us doing reviews in the first place.
So I went to put their minds at ease first we fired some 180 grain Remington coreloks. The 180 grain is perfect round in the 308 winchester caliber for hunting deer at 400 yards and Elk under 250 yards. To step aside for a moment owning a gun store I hear a lot of story’s of the 500 yard plus shots on Elk, all I have to say is the only 500 yards of clear shooting I have ever found is the occasional meadow and the road getting to it. One of these is an illegal shot nothing further to be said 250 yards is a very respectable distance when hunting Elk. This was my thinking when I order this as a youth gun to encourage more youth hunting of large game. Back to the 180 grain Remington coreloks without earplugs three shots did not make my ears ring. The kick was nothing at all like even I expected from a 5 3/4 lb rifle. I would note that Ruger did more than just lop off some inches on their existing Ruger M77the receiver is much narrower and made specifically for short actions. The butt and length of pull is very short but manageable for adults. I wanted to test the accuracy of our new mini-77 so we put our faithful test scope on top and sighted it in with Federal Gold Medal Match 165 grain HPBT. We chose this so that we would be testing the rifle and not our ammo. Shooting from the bench I noted more kick than the 180 grains gave us standing. But this did not become an issue until about half way through the third box. “From the bench I could not get a proper hold on the rifle because it was not built for someone my size so I had to let it sting me a little to get accurate shots, by holding it away from my shoulder when I fired. Accurate I did get too I got a 1.48″ inch 4shot group at 200 yards and a 5.4” inch 4 shot group at 400 yards grant these were my best groups I had some whopping 14 inch groups the rifle is so light that it is very easy to move or jerk at that distance. Yet to even my surprise it was capable of good groups.
I would have to say that the Ruger compact rifle went for a very niche market and designed a rifle that would wind up staying in the family through a couple of kids and pass on to grandkids in like new shooting condition with normal care. What I didn’t like was the caliber selection I LOVE the 308 winchesterand the 223 remington for a kids caliber but the 257 Roberts or the 7mm-08 would have been a better choice for a coyote/deer middle of road caliber over the 243 both are very flat and super low recoil. But I understand the ease of access to 243 drove that decision, as well as lack of imagination that folks actually ask for these other calibers. I would have liked to have seen sights on the rifle as well for not only teaching purposes but when I carry mine in the truck I would prefer to use sights on the coyotes I see. I wound up mounting a red dot so as not to have any magnification to save for the quick running shots, it makes for better stories.
While this is what I would consider a petite or youth gun it is almost a requirement in serious hunters arsenal. Politically I would have liked to see a much lower price on this rifle to make it more accessible as a youth gun growing our future shooters rather than the current method of dropping them into shooting in their twenties ignorant and easily taken advantage of by gotta haves( You’ll see me refer these people more and more in the future, they are the ones who tell you that it is impossible to group, needs to be longer, has to have this trigger, must have this premium name scope, instead of teaching shooting basics; breathing techniques and basic mathematics involved in the slight movement or twitch in order to understand groups. Reading the target to understand your technical problems. 98% of my customers keep blaming their gun or bragging about 1 inch groups at 100 yards I would be upset if ANY gun I bought didn’t do that right out of the box.) Back to the Ruger compact again my hinge plate was so tight that I had to use a screwdriver to open it and smack it with a mallet to close and lock it. (Please note that the 223 I received a week later was not like this.)
I must point out that the rifle is balanced front to back really well and this is why I am so determined about it as a youth gun I am always in favor of teaching good technique and a rifle that fits well always does that. Just think about all of the bad habits you have had to unteach yourself because you just didn’t know until later or had to compensate for weight when you were younger.
Would I recommend the Ruger Compact?
Oh yes I kept one for myself the price is much less than a Remington Model 7 and better suited for younger shooters and ranchers who truck hunt varmints a lot. Fitting it up to customers it’s a perfect fit for people between 4’8″ and 5’5″ this is a great grandkid loner gun and if you have more than one kid under 14 you will want to think seriously about this rifle. The Ruger Compact rifle will have lots of use and then become your grandkid loner. All I have to really complain about is the cost. This would be the best selling rifle this year if the price would retail around $350 anything over that and customers start looking at savage for a first gun, convinencing themselves.
As for firearm dealers this is definitely a stocking item in Ruger 223 compact and Ruger 243 compact with the stainless steel laminate rifle stock but does not seem to move quick enough in Ruger 308compact and walnut, do to the automatic assumptions of kick and muzzle blast. Customers have to understand that this is a business and we don’t like to argue with you. I have already done some work on mine I smooth the contact points on the trigger(Was very easy to do) and I keep thinking that with a good target trigger and a long heavy bull barrel this would be an outstanding custom built bench rifle its petite frame makes it nice to work around while its on the bags.