Part one of two on Ruger’s New M77 Hawkeye Magnum Hunting Rifle! To read Part II, click here!
Ruger’s Risk, Your Reward
The New M77 Hawkeye Magnum Hunter Rifle is Built to Handle the Elements
Innovation rarely comes easily, and continuous improvement can be even more difficult. Still, in following the narrow path of “no risk, no reward,” Sturm, Ruger & Company continues to advance the state of firearms technology and manufacturing.
Consider, for example, Ruger’s recent collaboration with Hornady to develop (and chamber rifles for) new cartridges such as the .17 HMR, .204 Ruger, .375 Ruger, .300 & .338 Ruger Compact Magnums, and .416 Ruger. Whether all of these rounds survive the test of time remains to be seen, but you have to admire the company’s willingness to take calculated risks.
This emphasis on improvement got a further boost when Mike Fifer took the reigns as CEO in 2006. He brought with him a belief that growth is fueled by innovation and an emphasis on developing new products with a keen understanding of what customers really want.
Mix in some new lean design and manufacturing systems, and the result has been a steady parade of new products, such as the LCP, LCR, LC9, SR9, SR40, SR45, and SR1911–and that’s just on the handgun side. The acclaim, awards and sales these products have generated attest to the success of Ruger’s approach.
Along the way, the company also took a close look at its venerable Model 77 bolt action rifle. In 2006, the M77—which had by then evolved into the M77 Mark II—underwent a second major redesign and emerged as today’s M77 Hawkeye, and redesigns always carry an element of risk. The biggest changes included a redesigned stock and the new LC6 trigger, a mostly successful attempt to address complaints about those features on the Mark II.
The Hawkeye did retain the M77’s solid, reliable Mauser-type action incorporating twin-opposing locking lugs and a large external claw extractor for controlled-round feed. It has a fixed-blade type ejector for positive ejection and a solid-steel hinged floorplate with a latch that fits flush with the trigger guard. A three-position safety allows you to load or unload with the safety engaged. Another popular feature is Ruger’s proprietary scope mount, which is milled right into the receiver. Rings are provided with the rifles.
The M77’s evolution continues this year with the introduction of several new Hawkeye variants (Editor’s note: see last month’s issue for a review of the Ruger Model 77 African rifle). The Magnum Hunter rifle, chambered in .300 Win. Mag. only, was conceived as a go-anywhere, do-anything rifle that can take the most punishing weather Mother Nature can dish out.
The Magnum Hunter has a matte stainless action and 24-inch barrel with a 1:10 twist. Magazine capacity is three plus one. Overall length is 44.75 inches. Tipping the scales at eight pounds out of the box, the rifle is no lightweight. Of course, not too many people relish the thought of launching .300 Win. Mag. bullets from an ultra-light rifle.
The rifle’s LC6 trigger has no creep and a crisp break. My only gripe is that it breaks at a rather heavy five pounds, and isn’t designed to be user-adjustable (although you can lighten the pull by replacing the trigger sear spring).
What really sets this rifle apart are a couple of key pieces of hardware—specifically, the stock and a new muzzle brake system—that merit more detailed examination.
The Stock: Hit or Miss?
The use of a pillar-bedded Hogue OverMolded stock is an interesting choice. While the stock has many fans, detractors assert that the forend is too flexible for precision shooting or repeatable accuracy. By this, they mean it’s too easy to apply sufficient pressure to make the rubber edges of the upper barrel channel contact the stock and lose the theoretical advantage of a free-floated barrel. This effect is reportedly most pronounced, in some rifles, when a bipod is attached.
That simply wasn’t the case with the rifle I tested. I had my doubts when I first inspected the rifle because the barrel wasn’t precisely centered in the barrel channel. It did, however, prove to be truly free-floated. I shot the rifle with the forward part of the stock resting on sandbags, and I shot it with a bipod attached. In both cases, results were the same: the barrel retained its free-floated status. On this rifle, at least, forend flexibility was a non-issue, and the rifle, as you’ll see, was no slouch in the accuracy department.
The fact that Ruger and other manufacturers have elected to offer rifles equipped with the OverMolded stock from the factory is, in itself, a vote of confidence. The stock does offer some significant advantages, particularly in inclement weather. Bonded chemically and mechanically to a rigid fiberglass skeleton, the soft, synthetic injection-molded elastomer stock material is impervious to the elements as well as the usual array of cleaning solvents and lubricating oils used on firearms. It’s quiet in the brush. It won’t harden with age, and it provides a sure, non-slip grip, which is enhanced with a cobblestone texture in the right places.
If you’re a fan of lustrous, high-grade wood stocks or fancy paint jobs on synthetic stocks, you’ll find little to praise aesthetically in the Hogue stock. If, on the other hand, you find beauty in raw, utilitarian functionality, the OverMolded stock may just be your cup of tea.
Story & Photos by Mike Dickerson