Ruger American Competition [2021]: Big Time Performance on a Budget

by Jens Hammer

January 9, 2021

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Today we’re taking a long look at the Ruger American, an uncommon competition pistol from a well-known manufacturer. This review will cover exactly what it is, how it varies from others in the American Lineup, and how it performs.

The competition variety of the Ruger American pistol series.

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Ruger American Competition Specs

  • Capacity 17+1
  • Caliber 9mm
  • Length (Overall) 8.31″
  • Barrel Length 5″
  • Weight 34.1 ounces empty
  • Trigger Pull 5.5 lbs

Ruger American Competition Background

The Ruger American was released into the civilian market in late 2015, after being created to meet and exceed the guidelines required to compete in the US Army’s Modular Handgun System trials. The American wasn’t entered into the MHS, but could have proven a worthy contender if the quality meets the spec sheet.

The Ruger American isn’t a specific handgun, rather it’s a lineup. Much like how the 1911 has many variations, the Ruger American has three different versions currently: compact, duty, and competition. As the names imply, the Compact version is geared towards concealed carry, while the Duty version is a mid-sized option. Today’s review focuses on the Competition model.

Ruger American Competition Features

1 Fiber Optic Sights

Decent quality and adjustable.

2 Pre-Tensioned Striker

This provides for a lighter/crisper trigger pull similar to that of a single action.

3 Ambi Magazine Release

Makes magazine operations a breeze for lefties or righties.

4 Ported Slide

The slide is also pre-machined and ready to accept a fitting red dot.

5 Modular Grip System

Comes with additional interchangeable grips to custom fit the gun to your hand.

Ruger American Pistol Series Models

This particular pistol we’re reviewing today is only one part of the three separate Ruger American series pistols. Here’s the entire lineup:

Ruger American Competition – Our Take

When I take a new review gun out of the box, it’s in for a short period of visual scrutiny, followed by an extended period of dry fire drills. The Ruger American didn’t take long to get used to, as the controls are placed intuitively and shaped well. The magazine release is the real joy here, as even my favorite (and CCW) handguns do not have mag releases where I can reach them half so easy as the American allows. Lefties will be happy at the ambidextrous nature of both the mag release and the slide stop.

Not to be left behind, the grip also brings features above the minimum. First, the texturing is awesome. Aggressive, yet wont leave your hands shredded. The grip module is also changeable, allowing you to choose from three different contours. After swapping back and forth, the one that came installed from the factory is what I stuck with.

The Ruger American series is based on the legendary Browning tilt action design, which has proven to have an incredible capacity for reliability. This Competition American has shown itself to be a worthy member of the “wont stop” club over the last 6 months, chewing over 1,000 rounds of mixed ammo (115-147 gr, FMJ, HP, MHP) without a single failure. Or cleaning. This gun chugs along happily, kinetically de-loading all my brass for reprocessing.

The Ruger American shows me a great deal of accuracy potential, even if I’m not always able to harness it. If I stand in a moderate stance or hold the gun with a moderate grip, I get some pretty “average-to-terrible” groups. If I hold in “MAXIMUM AGGRESSION™” stance, I can get some fantastic groups. This is a competition pistol that wants to be held in a competition stance, which seems reasonable.

While I can’t claim to be responsible for the national ammo shortage of 2020, I can say that the Ruger American is mostly responsible for my personal ammo shortage. I’m well-stocked on rifle calibers, but it seems my incoming 9mm supply stream isn’t big enough to refill the crates with the Ruger American hanging around.

This gun is eminently shootable. The recoil impulse is nice with the cam lug in there. There’s no “snap”, just more of a “push”. The trigger is nice, though it’s different enough from the bulk of my usual lineup that I struggle with groups at times. If I focused more on this gun and less on others (like say, a competitor would), then this would be a non-issue. This is a good trigger, just not one I’m as used to as I’d like.

At 34 ounces (unloaded) this isn’t going to be confused for a carry gun anytime soon. The weight is certainly balanced lower in the frame instead of the slide, making transitions from target to target smoother and faster than one would expect when told “34 ounces+”. Ruger took their time getting the American right, and it shows in this gun’s performance.

This marks my first foray into fiber optic sights with a non-target pistol. The fiber optic front sight works well here, grabbing attention even during the recoil cycle. The rear sight is just a U-frame, but does its job well enough.

Before 2020’s pre-election panic, Ruger had an MSRP of $579.99 on the American, with street prices around $479.99.

Ruger American Competition Pros and Cons

  • Accuracy: Out of the box and using bulk ammo, the Ruger American is capable of great groups. With top shelf ammo and a more patient shooter, the sky is the limit.
  • Ambi controls: Wrong handers and ambi enthusiasts alike will appreciate the built-in and minimalist nature of the American’s ambi controls.
  • Reliable: Like an ‘80’s Toyota pickup had a baby with an Energizer battery, the Ruger American runs and runs and runs.
  • Minimal Aftermarket Support: Good luck finding holsters or 3rd party parts modifications.

Report Card

Reliability

Through the first 1000 rounds the American has been flawless, despite widely varying ammo and being run dry while remaining uncleaned.

A+
Accuracy

Very good. Possibly among the best groups I’ve shot from a handgun, but you can’t let off that grip at all or they’ll open up fast.

A
Shootability

A comfortable gun to hold with a nice recoil impulse. I blamed being unfamiliar with the trigger for some of my mild frustrations, but as I’m counting up my rounds shot on all the different range days, I’m wondering “when WILL I get used to it?”.

B+
Ergonomics

Comfortable grip, well-placed controls and great texturing on the grip make this an easy gun to get a handle on.

A
Value

An entry level competition gun for under $500? That’s tough to beat. While this doesn’t represent what top level competition guns look like for the most part, the American does look a lot like what you’ll see at more local competitions. With this price, you’ll have room to spare for extra ammo (election prices notwithstanding).

A-

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Jens Hammer

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Ruger American Pistol Starter Pack 

So, you’ve decided to pick up a Ruger American Pistol….In all honesty. it’s a great pistol, and you’ll definitely get some great use out of it. However, there are some bare essentials you’re going to need to pick up in order to maximize its potential and your safety.

Ruger American Pistol Gun Deals

Finding a gun in stock nowadays can be a bit difficult. However, we put together a list to make things simple. If there’s a Ruger American in stock that we know about, you find it listed below.

Upgrades and Accessories for the Ruger American Pistol

The Ruger American Competition comes pre-machined and ready for a red dot sight. Here’s a couple of selections we recommend to get the most out of your Ruger American.

Best Miniature Red Dot Sights for the Ruger American

Red Dot SightsDetailsCheck Price
Vortex Venom
  • High Quality Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
  • Large Viewing Window
  • 10 Brightness Levels
  • Easily Adjustable in 1 MOA Increments
Check Price
Burris Fastfire III
  • 8 MOA Red Dot
  • Super Lightweight and Durable
  • Automatic Brightness Sensor
  • 3 Manual Brightness Settings
Check Price
Trijicon RMR Type 2
  • 3.25 MOA Red Dot
  • 8 Different Brightness Settings
  • Extremely Rugged Design
  • Comes with 2 Night Vision Settings
Check Price

And there’s no point in picking up a nice red dot if you don’t have anything to shoot at. Don’t get me wrong, popping soda cans out back might work for your Daisy Red Ryder, but a nice pistol like the Ruger American deserves some quality targets. Check out our Best Training Targets article to get our favorite selections for paper, polymer, and steel targets.

Best Ammo for Your Ruger American

If you thought finding a gun in stock was difficult, ammo can be even trickier. However, we’ve set up some quick links to get you to the best ammunition for the Ruger American. If possible, you’ll want to pick up both some ball ammo to pop off at the range and some quality working rounds for when you need maximum stopping power.

Range Rounds

MagTech-9mm-Ammo

MagTech 9mm 115 GR FMJ Ammo

Working Ammunition

Barnes 9mm 115 GR Ammo

Other Competition Pistols of Its Class to Check Out

If we’re going to take a look at this top-notch low-cost competition gun, it’s only fair that we bring up something a little more on the premium end of things. And the Sig Sauer P320 X-Five Legion is a great start.

#1 Sig Sauer P320 X-Five Legion

Check Latest Price

  • Reliability A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Customization A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A+

Reviewed by Jens Hammer

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Just to get this out of the way, the Sig P320 X-5 Legion is the highest-graded gun on Gun University. It’s an absolute dream to handle and shoot. And it’s Ryan Cleckner’s very own IPSC/3-gun pistol. It’s definitely more expensive than the Ruger, but every penny worth it because…READ MORE

How to Care for Your Ruger American Pistol

If you are going to pick up a nice competition pistol–or even one of the compact or duty variants–knowing how to take care of it is an absolute must. At times, your pistol is only as good as its upkeep.

Fortunately, Brandyn at Galloway Precision has put together one of the most detailed videos out there on how to disassemble and put back together the Ruger American.

Important Links and Manuals for the Ruger American Pistol

Need more info on the Ruger American Pistol? Don’t worry. There’s plenty out there. We recommend you get started with the following resources:

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About Jens Hammer

Life is an adventure for Alaskan expat Jens Hammer-a.k.a. Rex Nanorum. He’s a combat veteran with the 2nd Bn, 75th Ranger Regt and has completed 5 tours between Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, Rex is a certified helicopter pilot instructor, salvage diver, commercial fisherman, and personal trainer. And Gun University contributor.

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