Ruger M77 Standard .243 Rifle
By Cole Wimer
The Ruger Model 77 that is the subject of this review represents a lot of firsts for me. First deer rifle, first sub-MOA rifle and first bolt action gun. One of my Grandfather's friends gave it to him in the early 1990's and we believe it to have been made sometime in the mid 1980's. When I became interested in guns and hunting, he decided to give it to me.
It had not been shot much when I got it, but it hadn't ever been cleaned, either! When I finally got it cleaned all the way down to the bare metal, there was a very small amount of light pitting in the barrel. Probably five or six pits total. Despite this, the rifle is accurate; indeed, it is the most accurate rifle that I own. Otherwise, the rifle is in great shape. The stock bears very few marks and the metal finish is flawless.
When I got it, the rifle had a Tasco 4x20 scope in the supplied Ruger rings. The scope would not hold zero and I never got a group much better than 4" until I changed the scope. It now wears a 3-9x40mm Nikon Buckmaster scope and I could not be happier with its performance.
When I got the M77, the trigger was just as it was when it left the Ruger factory. That is to say creepy, heavy and with a lot of overtravel. I was going to replace the trigger with an aftermarket design when I realized how easy it is to adjust. All the adjustments that you need to make are easy to do after removing the stock. In addition, the trigger can be set to about 2.5 or 3 pounds and still be absolutely safe.
The action is smooth and dead reliable. It will feed upside down, although there are a very limited number of scenarios where this would be necessary. The only way this gun will jam is if you push a round out of the magazine toward the chamber, then pull the bolt back far enough to strip another round off the magazine. That seems even less likely than needing the rifle to feed upside down, which is probably why I have never had a jam.
The safety on this gun is another of its high points. The sliding button is on the tang and it has two positions. "Safe" blocks the trigger and locks the bolt, while "Fire" enables the rifle to fire and cycle. The safety is positive and easy to manipulate. With a little practice, it can also be operated silently, a big plus when game is nearby.
The American Walnut stock on this rifle is oil finished to a matte luster. It has, so far, been adequately durable. Back when my Grandfather had it, he had a Pachmayr Decelerator pad installed and the stock shortened accordingly. This makes the already light kicking .243 round essentially recoil free. Provided you are wearing hearing protection (as you always should), you can comfortably shoot the gun all day.
The metalwork on this gun is excellent and the wood to metal fit is good. The barrel is about 21" long and has the traditional "field" crown. The bolt is buttery-smooth (after I put a little toothpaste on the raceways) and the receiver bears no tool marks. The barreled action is dressed in a polished blue, including the supplied Ruger scope rings.
Although I was unable to do a detailed accuracy report for this review, I shoot my M77 regularly with standard Winchester, Remington and Federal factory loaded 100 grain ammunition and can attest that any group larger than 2" is due to shooter error and not the fault of the rifle. This rifle will occasionally shoot sub-MOA groups and does so at least once on each trip to the range. On average, however, it shoots groups between 1" and 1 ½" at 100 yards.
All of these factory loads exhibit fine accuracy for deer and predator hunting. I can personally vouch for the Federal Power-Shok ammo as a fine deer round. I used it to drop a 100 pound doe (my first deer!) at about 92 yards last season. I am sure that most any load would have sufficed, as the 100 grain soft point bullet hit right behind the shoulder, but the point is that the Federal factory load worked great, the deer taking only two steps after being hit.
The Ruger M77 and .243 Winchester cartridge are a great CXP1 and CXP 2 game combination. The lighter bullets (58-85) grains are generally varmint bullets, while 90-105 grain bullets are well suited to deer size game. When set up with a good scope, as mine is, the rifle and .243 cartridge combination is a good medium to long range rig and I would not hesitate to use it out to about 250 yards on CXP2 game.
The Ruger Model 77 is a fine hunting rifle, as good as or better than anything on the market today, and I am proud to own such a well made gun. Its good trigger, reliable feeding and high level of accuracy all combine to make this rifle worth keeping.
Note: Complete reviews of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye, M77R Mark II Standard Rifle, M77RSM Mark II Magnum Rifle and M77CR Mark II Compact Rifle can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2008 by Cole Wimer. All rights reserved.