Despite the nomenclature of 'standard' on the test rifle, the Ruger M77 is anything but a run-of-the-mill rifle.
By Bruce Potts
Thursday, 22 February 2007
Ruger M77 Mk2 rifle review: The Ruger M77 rifle has withstood the test of time and is revamped in the Mk2, making it anything but a standard stalking rifle.
Ruger M77 Mk2 rifle review.
When I think about US rifle manufacturers, the names that spring to mind are Remington and Winchester, but just as well-known are rifles manufactured by Ruger.
Ruger maintains a commanding presence in the firearms industry, a fact that is testament to the quality of its guns. Renowned for no-nonsense, good-quality rifles, Ruger has continued to manufacture the M77 stalking rifle since its introduction in 1968.
Despite the nomenclature of 'standard' on the test rifle, the Ruger M77 is anything but a run-of-the-mill rifle. It is available with blued or stainless steel finishes, with right or left-hand configurations, with wood or synthetic stocks, and in a comprehensive 27 differing calibres.
These range from the .204 Ruger - a cracking varmint round - all the way up to the mammoth .458 Lott, for dangerous game.
Bolt and action
'Plain Jane' is a term too often banded as a lack-lustre article, but without frills and adornments the M77 Mk2 is a practical, honest stalking rifle, with great built-in features.
The action closely resembles the Mauser 98 design - it has a layout of twin opposing locking lugs to the bolt and a large external extractor claw. This design has proved itself over the years - if it works, why change it?
The bolt is 6.75in long and forms a substantial backbone for the M77 action. The two locking lugs are large and cam effortlessly into their recessed pockets within the receiver walls to ensure a good strong lock-up. The extractor is large, but allows a controlled round feed, which ensures positive loading and extraction from the chamber. The receiver is machined from a solid billet of steel, which maintains excellent tolerances and incorporates the integral scope mount-bases at the top of the action. Ruger sensibly supplies 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 severe recoil.
The bolt handle is made from stainless steel and its angle is semi-doglegged, with a necessary cut-out on the upper side to allow clearance for a mounted scope. The rounded bolt-end is comfortable enough. The bolt is a Mauser type, with a lever at the rear left of the action that releases the bolt when it is pulled clear of the bolt raceways. Cartridges are fed from a magazine of an internal box-type, which is loaded from the top through the receiver cut-out. In the .243 calibre on test, the capacity is four rounds and for ease of unloading, a floor-plate arrangement is used that will not unexpectedly open under heavy recoil.
Forging a path
Ruger uses a precision hammer-forged barrel that exhibits a deep and rich traditional blueing and looks every part the stalking rifle. The contour is standard sporter profile, with a relatively steeply tapered barrel and internally the button-rifled barrel is relatively free from tooling marks. Ruger has chosen to have the barrel bedded to the stock with a slight upward pressure ring at the base of the fore-end tip channel. Some manufacturers use such a system to stabilise barrel harmonics, while others free-float a barrel. Either way, the Ruger shot respectable groups in the field tests.
Trigger and safety
The safety is a three-position lever-operated unit sited on the right rear of the action. In its forward position the rifle is ready to fire, a middle setting indicates safe with the bolt still operable and a rear-most position shows the rifle is safe and the bolt is locked down. It is silent but a little awkward to operate in the field, especially with cold fingers after a long stalk.
The trigger is set up as a single-stage pull with a typically safe American setting of nearly 5lb. This is rather heavy and there was a little creep, but the final let-off was predictable and to be expected of a rifle in this price range. If you wish to change the setting, consult a good gunsmith or perhaps fit an aftermarket trigger such as Rifle Basix or Timney.
Spoilt for stock choice
The M77 range of rifles has a diverse range of stocks, depending on your requirements. There are synthetic stocks for the serious shooter, laminated competition stocks for varmint use, shortened stocks for the young Shot or close-quarter use or, as on the test rifle, a classical sporter-type walnut stock.
The quality of walnut is chosen with a close-grain pattern for strength but not necessarily beauty on the standard rifle. However, there was still a nice colour and detailing. The cut chequering is well-executed and both panels on the pistol grip and fore-end have a good pattern with sharp edges and no run-outs.
The classic design is pleasing to the eye and the length of pull, at 13.5/8in, is standard, and when coupled with the rounded foreend gives a comfortable hold. There is no cheekpiece, but the straight-combed stock allows your scope eye a reasonably good position without stretching your neck too much. A set of sling-swivel studs and a solid black 0.5in rubber recoil pad finishes off this plain but highly functional stock.
Getting good groups
Using the 1in Ruger scope mounts supplied, I fitted a well-used Leupold 3.5-10x42 scope, which suited the Ruger well. This outfit gave the .243 calibre good optics and made it into a capable deer rifle. Recoil was subdued from the well-profiled stock and overall weight of nearly 9.5lb. The bolt feels a little sloppy at its full extent, but then most Mauser-type designs do. However, when loaded and locked, the M77 felt reassuringly solid. From testing on the bench and sticks the accuracy potential of the Ruger proved to be more than adequate.
Factory fodder from Federal, Sako, Remington and RWS all shot between 1in and 1.5in. The Federal Vital-Shok 100-grain Sierra Game King load shot really well and just scraped a few three-shot groups under the inch mark. Reloads included 39.5 grains of H414, a spherical powder that produced a velocity of 2,806fps with a Hornady 100-grain Hornady SST bullet, and 44.5 grains of Vihtavuori N160 powder with a Nosler 70-grain Ballistic Tip yielded 3,455 fps. Both these loads shot 0.95in to 1in groups before the slender barrel heated up and strung out the group size.
The longevity of the M77 action design and its natural progression into this Mk2 version shows Bill Ruger got the original design in 1968 right. The M77 is a quality stalking rifle. The action is strong and reliable and I felt that I could get on with the stalk and not worry about knocking the rifle or damaging it. Quite often what I do not notice about a rifle out in the field is the best indication of its real performance. Priced at £655, the Ruger M77R Mk2 offers to first-time stalkers a good competent first rifle or to the seasoned professional a reliable workhorse.
RUGER m77 mk2
Model: M77 Mk2 Standard
Barrel length: 22in
Overall length: 42in to 44.5in
Weight: 7.25lb to 8.25lb, depending on calibre
Stock: Walnut sporter
Trigger: Single stage
Sights: Scope mounts included
Good looking rifle
No frills, a good honest solid rifle
Long bolt travel
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