Every firearm enthusiast knows the rule of thumb when it comes to shopping for weapons: “You get what you pay for”.
In the budget bolt-action rifle category nowadays, two names stand out from the rest: Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American.
I’ve tried both back in the day; needless to say I spent way more time in out on the field than I probably should have.
So who’s the overall winner in a Thompson Center Compass vs. Ruger American competition?
Read my in-depth comparison that covers various characteristics of the Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American to find out.
- Quick Overview of The Rifles
- Essential Features of The Rifles
- Compatible Rifle Scopes
- Accessories for the Rifles
- Optimal Accuracy of The Rifles
- Final Thoughts: Thompson Center Compass vs. Ruger American
Quick Overview of The Rifles
Thompson Center Compass
Made to match a variety of budgets, Thompson Center Compass is able to provide people with feature-right shooting experiences.
Right off the bat, I’m grateful for this rifle being silencer-compatible. God knows my ears need a break.
In terms of configuration, Thompson Center offers the Compass in:
- 2 barrel lengths (22 inches and 24 inches)
- 4 rates of twist (1:8, 1:9, 1:10, and 1:12)
- No less than 10 calibres (6.5 Creedmoor, 7MM-08, .22-250 REM, .243 WIN, .270 WIN, .308 WIN,…).
While the rifle can work with multiple types of ammunition, I strongly recommend using high-grade rounds to achieve optimum performance.
- Silencer-compatible; easier to mount accessories
- Adjustable trigger pull
- Less fouling, easy barrel maintenance
- The magazine is easy to use
- Manageable recoil
- Less accurate groupings compared to the Ruger American
- May be difficult to zero in
Ergonomic, light, and easy to handle, the Ruger American is an excellent and cost-effective bolt-action rifle.
Compared to its competitors in the price range, the rifle possesses several advanced features without making significant compromises in quality.
For the configuration, the manufacturer offers the Ruger in:
- 3 rates of twist (1:8, 1:9 and 1:10)
- 2 magazine capacity (4 + 1 and 5 +1)
- More than 5 calibers (.243 WIN, .270 WIN, .308 WIN, .30-06 SPRG, .22-250 REM,…).
While I’ll admit the selection isn’t as wide as the Thompson Center Compass, you’ve still got many configurations to choose from here.
- Ergonomic and easy to handle
- Adjustable trigger pull
- Light plastic material
- High durability
- Accurate group shots
- Limited selection compared to the Thomas Center Compass
- Stock is too skinny
- May be pricier than the Compass
Essential Features of The Rifles
Thompson Center Compass
The muzzle of every Compass is threaded before leaving the factory, and that means you can outfit the rifle with a silencer, flash hider, or muzzle brake.
You don’t need additional gunsmithing to mount these accessories, but I recommend playing it safe and checking that it’s legal to do so first.
For instance, private ownership of a silencer is illegal in states like California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.
To avoid trouble with the law, I always take a quick glance at the firearm regulations of where I live.
Adjustable Trigger Pull
For shooters to land shot after shot on target, constant trigger pull plays a vital role.
Thankfully, in my experience, the TC Compass rifle tackles this issue effectively and efficiently.
When I got my rifle, I saw that the trigger pull is set at 5 pounds which I found a little heavy for practical use.
Fortunately, it’s not a problem because I can adjust the trigger pull as you see fit from 3.5 pounds to 5 pounds.
But since the trigger is also a single-stage design, some shooters might complain about the lack of a take-upstage.
The 5R rifling of the Compass features 5 slightly rounded grooves instead of sharp edges. The result is a gentle pattern that collects less fouling.
I’ve found barrel maintenance to be a breeze, and have spent a long time in the field before having to clean my barrel.
Of course, in order to preserve the longevity of the barrel and the rifle as a whole, you should clean the rifle after each use.
If possible, stick with non-corrosive ammunition to reduce fouling build-up.
Polymer Box Magazine
Similar to other bolt-action rifles on the market, the Compass utilizes a removable magazine made from polymer.
The magazine is compact, light, and forgiving to work with, so it’s well suited for challenging conditions outdoors.
To eject the magazine, all you have to do is to press on the paddle located at the front of the magazine well.
Reloading is straightforward, and if needed, you can load rounds straight through the ejection port while the magazine remains attached.
Composite Stock with Grip Patterns
The stock of the TC Compass rifle is composite to improve handling. It has grip patterns on the fore-end and grip.
Overall, the patterns work well enough with most gloves, but I haven’t encountered any problem using them bare-handed.
The stock also features a rubber pad that lets me scope with the recoil. But most of the time, the recoil kick is manageable anyway.
Thanks to the natural shape, the stock permits me to get a hold of it regardless of the position.
There are some discussions about adding an adjustable length of pull stock to the rifle though.
3-Lug Bolt And 70-Degree Throw
The action of the Ruger is based around its 3-lug bolt that offers slightly more clearance around the scope and a somewhat FASTER bolt cycling rate.
The fluid movement of the bolt also receives substantial boosts from the short 70-degree throw and therefore facilitates fast firing.
Considering the layout, I have plenty of space for my fingers, plus a low-mounted scope!
However, I found the finish of the action a bit lackluster, as several people have detected marks of machine tools on the bolt surfaces.
User-Adjusted Trigger Compression
Have you ever seen the AccuTrigger of a Savage rifle? Well, the manufacturer of the Ruger uses a similar trigger-level design.
Depending on your preferences, the trigger compression of the rifle can be adjusted between 3 and 5 pounds.
By setting the trigger pull heavy, the Ruger trigger makes me feel like I’m using a 2-stage trigger without being actually designed like it.
While other rifles tend to put the safety on the receiver, the safety of the Ruger lies on its trigger housing behind the cocking indicator.
Usually, a tang-mounted safety lets the shooter get the rifle ready to fire QUIETLY without involving too much movement.
Because the safety itself doesn’t lock the action after you engage it, you can load the rifle with ammunition while the safety is on.
Once you move the safety to “safe”, you’ll hear an audible click but you should be able to quietly push the safety to “fire”.
Compact Removable Magazine
The magazine of the Ruger is a rotary design that holds between 4 and 5 rounds, depending on the caliber of the rifle.
I appreciated the magazine’s plastic material. It’s light, simple to handle, and performs admirably in the field.
Thanks to the smooth profile, the magazine slips into the magazine well without much difficulty.
Moreover, the magazine achieves a firm hold on the well and that’s exactly why rattling isn’t an issue.
Although the catch magazine and the corresponding shelf are plastic, their durability is superb!
Rigid Polymer Stock
From the first glance, the stock of the Ruger seems sleek and so it gives the rifle a compact feel.
Despite its looks, I found the stock’s grip pretty mediocre even though it has a textured surface.
On a shooting bench, the stock should give you no problem but if you take it out on a hunt, there can be certain difficulties.
The spot on the stock where I place my cheek is skinny. It might give you bumps while firing.
Regarding the butt pad, it’s not top-tier but still squishy enough for the average budget bolt-action rifle.
Compatible Rifle Scopes
The Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American have pre-installed scope mounting so they can accept multiple models of optics nowadays.
Instead of making separate purchases, several stores offer the rifles in packages that include mounting rings and scopes.
Thanks to this, I, and anyone else on a budget, can save money!
A couple of scopes that the Compass and the Ruger are often seen with are:
As people mostly use rifles in short-to-medium range shooting, the 3-9x magnification setting is actually quite popular.
As always, you need to take the recoil into consideration before buying because the bigger the round, the stronger the kick.
For example, the recoil of a 30-06 SPRG round is more powerful than a .243 WIN so keep that in mind while searching for scopes.
On the bright side, once you manage to get a good optic for your rifle, then the installation is a breeze!
Accessories for the Rifles
Similar to other bolt-action rifles I’ve tried, both the Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American have available accessories like a scope and a sling.
However, the threaded muzzle of the Compass allows it to better accept attachments like a silencer or a muzzle brake.
Therefore, regarding the ability to be outfitted with rifle accessories, I have an easier time with the Thompson Center Compass than the Ruger American.
While certain shooters are indeed pleased with the Ruger’s basic form, I’d say it’s clear the Compass delivers MORE configuration choices.
Conclusion: Thompson Center Compass is the winner.
Optimal Accuracy of The Rifles
Thompson Center Compass
It goes without saying that the actual precision of a rifle on the field relies a lot on the skills and techniques of the shooter.
In my experience, with the proper ammunition, the Compass has achieved 1-1.2 inches groupings at around 100 yards.
Despite being a budget firearm, I’ve noted that the accuracy of the Compass is quite sufficient for usual needs.
The rifle’s constant precision is also good enough for people that are new to bolt-action rifles and want to get some first-hand experience.
Because of its well-aligned design and floated barrel, the Ruger American is able to deliver a fair level of accuracy.
At a distance of 100 yards or so, I’ve produced groupings between 0.9-1.1 inches with the Ruger.
Although it’s not a stellar performance, such precision is adequate for recreational shooting.
The excellent handling characteristic of the rifle will let you nail targets at a variety of ranges with relative ease.
If you think that factory ammo aren’t accurate enough, then handloading is an alternative.
Conclusion: Assuming that both rifles are in the same caliber and use the same ammo, I obtained slightly better results with the Ruger American than the Thompson Center Compass.
However, I’ve noted that the difference in precision’s negligible, so it won’t really have a substantial impact on your experience.
Final Thoughts: Thompson Center Compass vs. Ruger American
If you value comfort and quality, I recommend the Thompson Center Compass.
But if you care about practicality and ease of use, Ruger American rifle won’t let you down.
Generally speaking, you’ll make the right call by taking your personal taste and habits into account.
Overall, both are great bolt-action rifles for budget-minded shooters that want something affordable.
They both have strong points and drawbacks so I can’t really say which one’s the best without taking your style into account.
That’s why you have to cross check your preferences with the characteristics of the rifles to make the best choice.