This accurate and reliable Ruger will give sterling service throughout its life and is ideal for fox and vermin control, writes Bruce Potts.
After the .17 Hornet round was introduced by Hornady it was not long before a rifle was made by Ruger for this mini marvel of the cartridge world. Ruger had a perfect platform for the .17 Hornet round in its excellent M77/22 model — which was capable of shooting the .22LR, .22WMR and .22 Hornet — and the newer M77/17, so a few modifications and a barrel change were all that was needed. Combine this with Ruger’s patented rotary magazine of six rounds and a new practical laminated stock, and the manufacturer has created a highly accurate and practical rifle for vermin and foxes.
The action size is just about perfect for the .17 Hornet round, and the round’s rimmed case feeds perfectly through the Ruger.
One less expense for the gun buyer
The model on test had the stainless steel action option with the three-position integral proprietary Ruger scope-mounting slots to the top of the action using Ruger’s 1in mounts supplied — this gives you a choice of eye-relief options. Ruger is excellent at supplying scope rings with its rifles, so that’s one less expense for the gun buyer, and they fit perfectly.
The bolt is long, made of stainless steel and split into two halves. The front half has twin guiding rails to the sides that stop it binding in operation. In the bolt face there are two opposed extractor claws that ensure positive extraction and hold the rim of the case centrally. The rear half has two large locking lugs that are parallel to the front bolt guides when the bolt is open but when closed these twin lugs lock down vertically to the action, providing a solid, strong lock-up.
The bolt handle is short but easily operated, though the bolt release lever at the left side of the action is too small and awkward to operate.
Good clean lines
As with the action, the 24in barrel is made of stainless steel with a sporter taper. It has been threaded for a sound moderator with ½in UNF thread — for this test Viking supplied a B&T Tiger moderator, which was quiet on the .17 Hornet. The finish is Ruger’s “Target Grey”,which takes the shine off the stainless steel finish and gives a subtle, even matt finish — this is very nice, especially on a hunting rifle.
Interestingly, the barrel is not free-floated along its length, as you would expect, but this did not seem to affect accuracy from the sixgroove 1-in-9in rifl ing twist barrel. There are no iron sights, which means the rifle has good, clean lines overall.
The trigger is slim and crisp to let off, but it is quite heavy. Once you have shot the Ruger for a morning you get to learn its break point. Lightening a few internal springs would help but this requires a gunsmith to carry out.
The safety is of a three-position lever design: forward is the fire position; the mid-position makes the trigger safe but allows the operation of the bolt to remove a cartridge; and the rear-most position locks up both the trigger and bolt, with the lever residing in a notch cut within the bolt shroud, which makes the whole rifle safe.
The stock on this Ruger catches the eye. Dubbed the “Green Mountain”, it is a laminated stock of stained wood in black, grey, green and brown alternate layers epoxy-glued together. Not only does this give an almost camouflaged appearance, but the laminated design makes the Ruger impervious to the weather and avoids any stock warpage that could adversely affect your accuracy. It is also a lot nicer-looking than a synthetic stock and feels more solid.
The finish is a hard lacquer, and to stop your hands slipping there are twin panels of cut chequering to the fore-end and pistol grip. Seeing as there is no cheekpiece, the Green Mountain is good for left or right hookers. A solid yet tacky rubber recoil pad keeps the rifle secure in the shoulder.
Crows beware of Ruger
Hornady list its factory 20-gr V-Max load at 3,650fps, but over an average of six shots this Ruger shot them at 3,476fps for 537ft/lb energy. This could be due to variations in cartridge manufacture, conservative factory loading and small differences in bore dimensions. Accuracy at 100 yards was
excellent — all shots grouped below 1in — despite the fact it was quite windy when testing.
I tried to duplicate the factory loadings and started with the Hornady 20-gr V-Max bullet and a light load of 10grains of Vit N120 powder. The burn rate of this powder is a little slow for the Hornet but it is consistent. At 11grains, I achieved 3,464fps and 533ft/lb energy, but top velocity went to the Hodgdon H110 load with 9.5grains pushing that V-Max at 3,567fps for 565ft/lb. Accuracy, too, was good at 0.85-1in at 100 yards.
The Berger 20-gr Varmint bullet at 11.25grains of Vit N120 powder was the most accurate at 0.75in groups and achieved 3,468fps for 534ft/lb energy.
I did try some heavier 25-gr Hornady Hollow Points but velocity dropped to 3,061fps and, though accurate, the .17 Hornet is best with the 20-gr class bullets.
If you want a medium-range, quiet and effective vermin/fox tool then this Ruger is one of the best available today