Dominic Griffith finds the Ruger M77 Hawkeye reliable, capable and sturdy but a little underwhelming, and laments the lack of a magazine
The Ruger M77 Hawkeye will benefit from the firm’s reputation, but this was not always the case. When I started as a professional stalker some 30 years ago most stalkers used Parker Hales or BSAs, with only the enlightened few choosing Rugers, known, then as now, for rugged reliability, smoother actions and greater accuracy. Since then the MK 1 and the MK 2, both boasting a level of over-engineering for their expected use, have enjoyed excellent reputations as reliable sporting rifles and the Hawkeye is the latest incarnation.
RUGER M77 HAWKEYE
Featuring a precision-hammer-forged barrel with new integral scope mounts and the Mauser 98-style bolt with twin opposing lugs, the Ruger M77 Hawkeye has a new trigger mechanism known as the LC6 and comes factory screw-cut for a moderator.
Perhaps the first surprising element is that the barrel of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye is fully bedded rather than free floating. Most stalkers believe that floating barrels are inherently more accurate than bedded. The point of contention is that barrels bedded in walnut can, potentially, experience changes in zero when fluctuations in moisture and temperature alter or shift the predetermined pressure points between stock and barrel. Such a situation can present itself during any typical week’s open hill stalking when the rain will be driven into any exposed crevice on rifle and user alike. This rifle, however, is designed as fully bedded and should, in theory, perform as well as any free-floating-barrelled rifle, whatever the weather.
Surprising, too, is the absence of a magazine. The rifle must be top loaded before use and then unloaded by releasing the hinged magazine floor plate or by working the action until all rounds are ejected. A frequent consequence, at least in the hands of the clumsy, is that of a handful of rounds being scattered on the ground by the user’s feet or, worse still, into the surrounding vegetation. And how rounds manage to disappear under those circumstances, appearing to have minds of their own as they bury themselves right down to the roots of grass and heather alike! The base plate features a smart, etched Ruger logo for you to admire but that is no match for a magazine.
RUGER M77 HAWKEYE: THREE-STAGE SAFETY CATCH
Perhaps old-fashioned but nevertheless practical and standing the test of time is the three-stage safety catch. Set to the rearmost “super-safe” position, the Ruger M77 Hawkeye is cocked and locked. Set in the central position it is still safe but the bolt can be worked and the rifle unloaded safely. Only in the forward position can the rifle be fired. Easy to use, quiet in function and of solid design, it makes a separate unload button redundant and is a good practical alternative. It is particularly appropriate for the final approach out hill stalking, when the stalker will appreciate the rear “super-safe” position which gets shifted to the central “ready” position only when actually at the firing point and just waiting for the order to fire.
The test Ruger M77 Hawkeye came in .243 Win, factory-threaded, with low Ruger mounts, a Czech Meopro 4-12×50 variable scope and some Lapua 100gr Soft Point ammunition. On the range it performed perfectly well, cycling, feeding and ejecting consistently and reliably.
The scope, which I had used before on a Thompson Center Dimension, is a perfectly adequate mid-price scope with clear glass and a fine reticle.
The trigger on the test rifle was, frankly, poor – typical of many American rifles, heavy and with significant and detracting drag. Nevertheless, I achieved groups of just under 2in at 100 metres and, with work done on the trigger, that would definitely reduce. That said, this is not a bad group, probably about half what you would have expected from an off-the-shelf rifle 30 years ago, but it does not represent a significant or expected advance over
Ruger’s previous trigger mechanism, which the LC6 purports to supersede.
RUGER M77 HAWKEYE: UNDERWHELMING
In conclusion, the M77 is traditional, sturdy but a little underwhelming. Some months ago [July 14 issue] I reviewed the Ruger American and found it to be a thoroughly practical budget rifle. The M77 is certainly better engineered and that is reflected in the price, and it is without doubt a thoroughly reliable and capable all-round stalking rifle, but if I were to choose between the two, I think I’d probably prefer the cheaper and more modern American which, in my hands, actually felt and shot a little better.
Ruger M77 Hawkeye: £1,108
Where to buy the Ruger M77 Hawkeye: Visit www.vikingarms.com or call 01423 780810