Shooting Mystery is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Thompson Center Compass vs. Ruger American: Which One Is Superior?

Thompson Center Compass vs Ruger American

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.

So which one is the overall winner in a Thompson Center Compass vs. Ruger American competition? Right down below is an in-depth comparison that covers various characteristics of the Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American. 

Different shooters would likely value different qualities, so in the end, it’s up to you to make the call.  Take your time and determine which rifle suits you most.

Quick Overview of The Rifles

Quick Overview

Thompson Center Compass

Thompson Center

Made to match a variety of budgets, Thompson Center Compass is able to provide people with feature-right shooting experiences. Being silencer-compatible, the rifle receives a lot of praises from shooters that want to give their ears 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), and no less than 10 calibers (6.5 Creedmoor, 7MM-08, .22-250 REM, .243 WIN, .270 WIN, .308 WIN,…).

While the rifle could work with multiple types of ammunition, it’s strongly advised to use high-grade rounds to achieve optimum performance.

Ruger American

Ruger American

Ergonomic, light, and easy to handle, the Ruger American is an excellent bolt-action rifle when it comes to cost-effectiveness.

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), and more than 5 calibers (.243 WIN, .270 WIN, .308 WIN, .30-06 SPRG, .22-250 REM,…).

While the selection is indeed not as wide as the Thompson Center Compass, you still have many configurations to choose from here.

Essential Features of The Rifles

Essential Features

Thompson Center Compass


Factory-Threaded Muzzle

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 just play it safe and make sure 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, take a quick glance at the firearm regulations of where you’re living.

Adjustable Trigger Pull

For shooters to land shot after shot on target, constant trigger pull plays a vital role. The Compass tackles this issue effectively and efficiently.

Once the rifle arrives from the factory, most shooters see that the trigger pull is set at 5 pounds which is quite heavy for practical use.

Fortunately, it’s not a problem because you 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.

5R Rifling

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.  

Barrel maintenance is also a breeze and you can shoot for a long time on the field before you have clean the 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 that is made from polymer. The magazine is compact, light, and forgiving to work with so it is well suited for challenging conditions in the outdoors.

To eject the magazine, all you have to do is to press on the paddle which is located at the front of the magazine well. Reloading is straightforward and if needed, you could load rounds straight through the ejection port while the magazine remains attached.  

Composite Stock with Grip Patterns

The stock of the Compass is composite to improve handling. It has grip patterns on the fore-end and grip.

Overall, the patterns work well enough with most gloves and they cause no trouble to your bare hands. Additionally, the stock features a rubber pad that lets shooters scope with the recoil. But most of the time, the recoil kick is manageable anyway.

Thanks to the natural shape, the stock permits the shooter 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.

Ruger American

Ruger American

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, shooters shall have plenty of space for their fingers, as well as a low-mounted scope. The finish of the action seems lackluster though, 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 people feel like they’re using a 2-stage trigger without being actually designed like it.

Tang-Mounted Safety

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 does not lock the action after you engage it, you could load the rifle with ammunition while the safety is on. Once you move the safety to “safe”, you would 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. As the magazine is made out of plastic, it’s light, simple to handle, and performs admirably on 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 is exactly why rattling is not 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. That being said, the stock is mediocre when it comes to grip even though it has texture on the surfaces.

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 you place your cheek is skinny and 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   

Conclusion: Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American have similar features here and there yet in the end, your preferences will be the deciding factors.

If you value comfort and quality, the Thompson Center Compass is your best bet. But if you care about practicality and ease of use, Ruger American won’t let you down. Generally speaking, you’ll make the right call by taking your personal taste and habits into account.

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 which allow you to save some 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. For shooting a long-range, Pinnacle 5-30×50 and Pinnacle 1-6×24 are excellent choices.

As always, you need to take the recoil into consideration before buying because the bigger the round, the stronger the kick. 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.

Conclusion: Draw

Accessories for the Rifles

Similar to other bolt-action rifles on the market, 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 break. Therefore, when it comes to the ability to be outfitted with rifle accessories, the Thompson Center Compass narrowly beats Ruger American.

While certain shooters are indeed pleased with the Ruger’s basic form, it’s the Compass that delivers more configuration choices.   

Conclusion: Thompson Center Compass is the winner

Optimal Accuracy of The Rifles

Optimal Accuracy

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. Using proper ammunition, the Thompson Center Compass in the hand of a trained shooter can achieve 1 – 1.2 inches groupings at around 100 yards.

Despite the fact that it’s a budget firearm, the accuracy of the Compass is quite sufficient for usual needs. The rifle constant precision is also good enough for people that are new to bolt-action rifles and want to get some first-hand experience.

Ruger American

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, the Ruger can produce groupings between 0.9 and 1.1 inches.  

Although it’s not a stellar performance, such precision should be adequate for recreational shooting. The excellent handling characteristic of the rifle would let you nail targets at a variety of ranges with relative ease.         

If you conclude that the accuracy of factory-manufactured rounds is inadequate, then handloading is an alternative.

Conclusion: Assuming that both rifles are in the same caliber and use the same ammo, a shooter should obtain slightly better results with Ruger American compared to Thompson Center Compass.

However, it’s worth noting that the difference in precision is negligible and as a result, it won’t really have a substantial impact on your experience.

Final Thoughts: Thompson Center Compass vs. Ruger American

Final Thoughts

At this point, it’s highly likely that you already know what the rifles have to offer in terms of features, accessories, and so on. Overall, Thompson Center Compass and Ruger American are great bolt-action rifles for budget-minded shooters that want something affordable.

They both have strong points and drawbacks so it’s hard to say which one is the best without taking the user’s style into account. That is why to decide which one is the best rifle for you, you have to crosscheck your preferences with the characteristics of the rifles.

Just think about the qualities you seek in a rifle and then make your choice accordingly.



September 13, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links, updated article title

About the author

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade is a true outdoorsman. After spending most of his career as a firearms expert and instructor in Nebraska, he retreated to the great outdoors to enjoy retirement.

Christopher’s expertise in handling firearms and hunting gear are what propelled him to create the Shooting Mystery blog. He hopes for all readers to gain useful and practical knowledge for enjoying their time outdoors.