Ruger M77 Hawkeye rifle review.
Ruger offers the British shooter an array of rugged rifle types to suit either vermin shooters, fox shooters or stalkers alike.
The original Ruger M77 Mk1 bolt-action rifle was based on the Mauser action design.
Twin-locking lugs up front, a large full-length external extractor and solid action. It appealed hugely to the ardent shooter who liked traditional design but appreciated a new, modern twist. Ruger uses investment cast technology to manufacture the actions on the M77, which allows a strong and consistent structure to the rifle’s integrity.
I reviewed the updated MK11 model and found a great value stalking rifle available in most popular calibres and configurations. New product ranges always have to be honed to compete in the global market these days and the new Hawkeye model is the result.
There is a subtly changed operating system with the same reliable action design and the addition of some new Alaskan and African models, a crisper trigger unit and redesigned stock.
Old and reliable best describes the Hawkeye action. It is more than capable of great accuracy while also allowing good cartridge control on pick up and ejection, coupled with Ruger’s integral scope-mounting system.
The action closely resembles the Mauser 98 design, and those twin-opposing locking lugs to the bolt and very large external extractor claw are a giveaway. The bolt is 6.75in long and forms a substantial spine for the M77 action, and the two locking lugs provide a large surface area and cam smoothly into the receiver with good engagement to ensure a strong lock-up. The large extractor allows a controlled round feed, which ensures positive loading and extraction from the mag to barrel and vice versa.
The receiver incorporates the integral scope mount bases at the top of the action, which I really like, and which are made even better with the inclusion of a set of 1in scope rings that have a unique locking system to the rifle’s action to ensure a scope will not shoot loose, even under the most demanding recoil. I wish other manufacturers would offer this service, without sights furnished you will want to fit a scope anyway and you immediately have the option to do so here.
Well done Ruger
The stainless steel bolt handle has an angled semi-dog-legged form which, when combined with the round and smooth bolt handle, allows a good grip and comfortable overall operation. The bolt arc is relatively high but allows just enough clearance for a mounted scope and you soon become accustomed to that Mauser-type wobble’ at full extent.
Bolt release is again Mauser-type, with a lever at the rear left of the action releasing the bolt to allow inspection and cleaning of the barrel.
The magazine is the tried-and-tested internal box type with a floorplate arrangement, which is loaded from the top through the receiver and supported by a blued metal cage and follower. In .22-250 calibre, the capacity was four rounds and the hinged floorplate design, which is a bit fiddly but very secure, drops the rounds from the magazine when the catch is operated for ease of unloading. The Hawkeye model now sports a laser-etched Ruger emblem on the floorplate surface, which is a nice distinguishing feature.
Barrel and finish
The finish, as one would expect on an all-weather model, is stainless steel for both the barrel and action. However, the finish is greatly improved from older models. The texture is much finer and the usual stainless steel reflective qualities are very subdued in the Hawkeye, being almost grey in appearance which, on a sporting firearm, is very beneficial.
The use of precision hammer-forged barrels ensures a good degree of precision in the accuracy and concentricity of the barrel. The contour is standard sporter profile with a relatively steeply tapered barrel over its 22in length. The rifled barrel, being of a button form type, is cleanly executed. The barrel is non-floated and pressure is exerted at the fore-end and then along the sides of the barrel until it meets the receiver ring not my first preference but the Hawkeye still shot some nice groups for a sporting gun.
Hard, black plastic as an alternative to finely figured wood is sacrilegious in some circles, but the tough, weather-proof, abuse-resistant format cannot be denied. People will remember the old all-weather synthetic stocks Ruger offered with the heavily recessed stamped Ruger logo type that were, quite frankly, ugly as sin but practical.
Thankfully, on the Hawkeye model Ruger has opted for a more ‘traditional’ synthetic stock design, not fibreglass in construction as with some of the more expensive custom rifles.
The Hawkeye’s stock represents a good compromise between cost and usability. It is a hard, more solid plastic stock with moulded black colour and a lightly textured finish. Chequering on the pistol grip and fore-end comes in the form of moulded-in panels with a Ruger Eagle logo insert into each which are surprisingly ‘grippy’.
There is a solid black recoil pad and sling swivel studs are supplied as standard. There is no bedding or pillars to the action area and the fore-end is hollow but reinforced with three horizontal bars not the best design for ultimate accuracy, but the field trials proved me wrong.
Trigger and safety
The safety is a three-position lever-operated unit, sited on the right-rear of the action, acting into the bolt shroud.
I prefer a side-mounted sliding affair, but still it offers several options in use. In its forward position the rifle is set to fire; a middle setting indicates safe, with the bolt still operable if you need to clear a round from the chamber; and at the rear position the rifle is safe and the bolt is locked down.
It is nearly silent to operate, if a little awkward.
The trigger is another area where the Hawkeye model has had a makeover. Dubbed the LC6 system, Ruger has offered a much better and usable trigger pressure that will find favour with most shooters. American rifles all have heavy trigger pulls, Savage started the ball rolling in negating this with its Accutrigger and then Remington’s X-Pro model.
This Ruger LC6 is indeed smooth and is set up as a single- stage pull with an immediate sear let-off that is totally predictable and a nice surprise for all the right reasons.
Being in .22-250 calibre you have the option to sway both ways in terms of your intended quarry. Use a flat-shooting calibre for foxes or load a heavier bullet for roe in Scotland or muntjac and Chinese water deer south of the Border. The Hawkeye digested a good quantity of factory fodder with careful use so as not to heat that slender barrel up too much and spoil any meaningful groups.
At 100 yards I had a few groups touching the 1.25in mark but most ran 0.75in to 1in with the Remington 50-grain Accu-Tip boat tail at 3,682fps from the 22in barrel consistently grouping into 0.65in clusters which would be my choice, though some Sako 55-grain game heads came very close and would offer better brass for reloading.
The best reload 38.5 grains of Hodgdon H414 powder and 55-grain Speer spitzers ignited with Federal Match primers shrank the group size to 0.55in, with the occasional group just smaller. But from a non-floated sporter rifle, these groups are indeed good.
Good pedigree, good accuracy, a good ‘real world’ practical rifle and simple strong design that’s the Hawkeye summed up.
The stainless steel is a practical finish and the subtle grey edge to it is even better. The stock is hard and plastic but sensible and ready to take the knocks from a novice or earn a living as an estate rifle.
Though non-floated, the Hawkeye’s accuracy was as expected from a lightweight stalking or fox rifle. In .22-250 calibre you can transcend the fox and deer categories where legal to do so.
It is a rifle well worth considering in that role, as it represents good value for money and is sure to continue the Ruger’s popularity in this country.