Ruger 77/17 Rifles
By Chuck Hawks
Ruger, Marlin and, of course, Hornady were the companies that collaborated to develop the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire cartridge and the first rifles in which to shoot it. Sturm, Ruger & Co. was therefore at the forefront of .17 HMR rifle development, and remains one of the major players in the immensely successful .17 HMR story.
At this writing (in 2005) there are three models of Ruger 77/17 bolt action rifles on the market. These are the Model 77/17RM (walnut stocked sporter), Model 77/17RMP (synthetic stocked sporter), and Model 77/17VMBBZ (laminated hardwood stocked varmint rifle). These are full-size, adult rimfire rifles and they come with adult prices. (The top of the line 77/17VMBBZ carries a 2005 MSRP of $685.)
All 77/17 rifles share some important features, including the deluxe Ruger Model 77 rimfire bolt action. This is a clever dual lug, rear-locking action with a heat-treated steel receiver and stainless steel bolt. The bolt face incorporates dual extractors; bolt lift is 90 degrees.
This action features an ultra-fast lock time. The safety is a 3-position type similar to that on the Ruger Model 77 Mk. II (and Winchester Model 70) centerfire rifles, which is located at the right rear of the action. Ruger 17 HMR barrels are hammer forged and rifled with a six groove, 1:9" twist. Iron sights are not supplied on any Model 77/17 rifle.
The receiver incorporates Ruger's patented integral scope mounting bases, and Ruger's steel rings are supplied with all 77/17 rifles. I have long regarded this as the industry's best scope mounting system. Certainly, the scope bases will never shoot loose!
M77/17 rifles are fed from a detachable, 9-shot, rotary magazine. The patented Ruger rotary magazine is made from glass-filled nylon and incorporates stainless steel lips. This has proven to be a very reliable feed system and the magazine fits flush with the bottom of the rifle, making for a clean appearance.
The Standard 77/17RM rifle is supplied with a polished, blued steel barreled action. The tapered, sporter weight barrel is 22" long. The modern classic style walnut stock is very similar to that supplied on the popular Ruger M77R Standard centerfire rifle, with a fluted comb and graceful pistol grip. The stock is cut checkered in Ruger's usual rather skimpy pattern. There is a pistol grip cap and a rubber butt pad. Studs for detachable sling swivels are supplied. The 77/17RM is 41.25" in overall length and weighs 6.5 pounds.
The Model 77/17RMP is a synthetic stocked version of the "RM," supplied with the same blued steel barreled action. This stock is, unfortunately, one of Ruger's worst creations. It is held together by three very obvious stainless steel fasteners, grooved instead of checkered at pistol grip and forearm, and the sides of the butt stock are concave. The trigger guard is plastic (rather than the black anodized aluminum of other 77/17 models), and integral with the stock. Unlike the other 77/17 rifles, cheap looking stainless steel sling swivels are pinned to the stock in place of unobtrusive bases for detachable sling swivels. All of this gives the "RMP" a very cheap appearance, yet its 2005 MSRP is identical to that of the Standard "RM" rifle. The "RMP" weighs 6 pounds; specifications are otherwise identical to the "RM."
The "big gun" (literally) of the line is the Model 77/17VMBBZ Varmint rifle. This model features a black/grey laminated hardwood stock and a stainless steel barreled action finished in Ruger's low-glare, corrosion-resistant, Target Grey. The heavy contour barrel is 24" long. The rifle is 43.25" long and weighs 7.5-7.75 pounds.
The "VMBBZ" full pistol grip, varmint rifle stock comes with a rubber butt pad and detachable sling swivel bases. It is not checkered nor is a pistol grip cap fitted. This is a business like, but attractive, varmint rifle for the shooter who wants to get the most out of the .17 HMR cartridge.
I requested a sample Model 77/17VMBBZ to examine for this article. That rifle is featured in a full length review on the Product Reviews page and also (along with equivalent Marlin and Savage rifles) in a .17 HMR varmint rifle comparison article that can be found on the Rimfire Guns and Ammo page. The big Ruger's shooting performance is more than adequately covered in those articles, so I won't go into it here except to comment that it performed at a very high level, aided and abetted by a fine Bushnell Elite 3200 5-15x40mm AO scope.
Hornady specifies extremely tight tolerances for their .17 HMR factory ammunition, which is designed to shoot 1 MOA or smaller groups at 100 yards. It requires quite a rifle to take full advantage of such accurate ammunition, but the Ruger 77/17VMBBZ proved to have the "right stuff."
Copyright 2005, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.