Ruger M77R Hawkeye Sporter rifle.
I like Sturm, Ruger & Co ? it produces some really nice rifles, which may not be the most exciting with regard to looks or exotic features, but they are reliable and sturdy.
The M77 has been Ruger?s flagship rifle since 1968 and is currently available in many different guises, from African game models to carbines, as well as standard Sporters or stainless steel weather beaters.
The latest incarnation from Ruger is the Hawkeye.
The M77R model on test includes an improved trigger mechanism and floorplate design, as well as a restyled walnut Sporter stock.
And what?s more, left-handed models are available in all the same calibres ? so southpaws need not feel neglected.
This rifle will certainly appeal to traditionalists, as it is a good-looking firearm and handles very nicely.
If it is anything like the other Rugers I?ve tested, I?m sure it will shoot well, too.
If it ain?t broke don?t fix it, and Ruger has stuck to this principle for the M77R action.
The investment casting formula that Bill Ruger devised for his rifles was a success from the beginning, producing strong and precise actions in the Mauser vein.
It does look like a Mauser 98 design ? as so many rifles do.
The large external extractor claw is typically Mauser and ensures the cartridge gets from magazine to chamber without fault, providing what is known as a controlled-round feed mechanism.
The extractor claw holds the rim of the cartridge throughout its manipulation.
The substantial bolt, which is 6.75in long, has opposing twin locking lugs to provide a strong lock up. Judging by the wear on the back of the lugs? surfaces after the fi eld tests, there is good, even contact.
The receiver has Ruger?s own integral scope mount bases on the top of the action, which ? as is typical of Ruger firearms ? also come with a set of 1in scope rings to fit.
Ruger is right to do this ? nearly all other manufacturers charge a fortune for scope mounts to fit their actions.
The mounts clamp via a single-screw adjustment that tightens on a similar cut-out in the receiver, providing a strong scope union and also allowing you to mount a scope close to the action.
The semi dog-legged bolt handle gives a good purchase on loading and cocking the M77R, though as with all Mauser-type actions there is a quite a bit of wobble on the bolt when it is fully open.
This doesn?t cause any problems, however, and its reliability makes up for any failings in this department.
BARREL AND FINISH
This Sporter model has a slender barrel profile, as befits a deerstalking rifle. This allows the overall weight of the rifle not to be too excessive and gives good accuracy for the first six or seven shots before it heats up.
It is 22in long, and it comes threaded with a 0.5 UNF thread for fitting a sound moderator.
Ruger barrels are always well finished internally and the hammer-forged construction adds to the Ruger?s good overall accuracy and longevity.
The rifle on test, a .243, had six rifling lands with a one-in-9in twist rate, so it can handle any bullet weights in the 58-100 grain range.
The barrel is not fully floated and pressure is exerted at the fore-end.
Some rifles bedded in this manner shoot well, and the accuracy tests proved this one does.
The finish is sensibly matt- blue to eliminate unwanted reflections when out stalking and it still looks pleasing despite its practical and scratch-resistant finish.
There is a good choice of calibres too, starting with .204 Ruger up to .338 Win Mag.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
Despite, or perhaps because of, the barrel bedding and upward pressure, the Hawkeye shot nicely.
The first shot was always to the point of aim from a cold barrel, which is far more important than small group sizes in the field ? one in the right place is all you need.
Factory ammunition ran from just over 1in to 1.75in in group sizes.
The Triple Shocks shot 1.75in groups, but Norma?s 100-grain semi-pointed rounds flew at 2,877fps from the 22in barrel, shooting consistent 1in groups.
The RWS were also good at 1.25in at 100 yards for three shots and a healthy 2,876 fps and 1,837ft/lb energy.
Reloads certainly helped accuracy and in some cases velocity, too. The 58-grain V-Max load of 39.5 grains of Vit N135 powder screamed at 3,678fps and would make a nice fox round, though accuracy was 1.45in at 100 yards.
Group size shrank with the Nosler 80-grain Ballistic Tip load. Three shots into 0.85in was the best I could manage with a tried-and-tested load of 40 grains of Hodgdon?s Varget powder, yielding 3,268fps and a healthy 1,898ft/lb energy.
That one would make a good deer load, as would the Hornady SST bullet, also 100-grain – a traditional .243 deer weight that shot 1in groups at 2,905fps.
TRIGGER, SAFETY AND MAGAZINE
The LC6 trigger system is Ruger?s answer to all those terrible heavy triggers we had to put up with on American guns, which were due to worries about litigation from hunters if the trigger-pull was too light and caused an injury.
The LC6 is a totally safe non-adjustable trigger mechanism set to deliver a reliable trigger-pull.
On test it was 3.25lb, which was single-stage with no creep at all. The three-position lever-operated safety unit is sited to the right rear of the action, through the bolt shroud.
With the lever forward the rifle can be fired, when it is to the centre, the rifle is safe and the bolt is still capable of opening if you need to clear a round from the chamber.
At its rear-most position the rifle is safe and the bolt is locked down, so there are plenty of choices for the safety conscious.
The magazine is pretty standard and takes the form of an internal box type with a hinged floorplate, so you load the rifle from the top through the receiver opening.
In .243 the capacity is four rounds and the hinged floorplate with laser-etched Ruger emblem is opened by a simple button which, when the catch is operated, drops the unfired rounds from the magazine for easy unloading.
A SLIMMED-DOWN STOCK
The stock is where the Hawkeye excels, its slim form is both elegant to look at and handles well. In American walnut, the design is strong, though on the model on test, the colour was a little pale and the grain average.
The rounded features make it comfortable to hold and I love the well-cut chequering on the pistol-grip and fore-end, where it wraps around the wood for a great hold.
There is no cheekpiece, it being a straight-lined classic design, with a 13.5in length of pull finished off with twin sling-swivel studs and a rubber recoil pad with black banding.
The semi-matt finish gives the Hawkeye a classic look and feel.
This is the best-looking American bolt action factory rifle on the market. The Hawkeye Sporter is typical of Ruger: a solid, dependable and accurate rifle, designed with features that stalkers want.
The slim stock looks good and handles well. Including threading for a sound moderator is a bonus.
This is a great first rifle for a small-framed stalker thanks to its weight of only 7lb, or for someone who just appreciates quality ? it is available in a very good choice of calibres, too.
Ruger M77R Hawkeye Sporter rifle
Viking Arms: 01423 780810