Ruger HM77R Hawkeye .223 Rem. Rifle
If I graded the Ruger Hawkeye all by itself, it would have easily gained the rating of “nice rifle,” or perhaps a very good rifle. It didn’t, though, suffering by comparison. This illustrates the value of head-to-head comparisons with a critical eye, rather than testing in a vacuum.
For example, this M77 Hawkeye features Ruger’s new LC6 trigger (standing for “light and crisp”). It is not a bad trigger and it has no discernable take-up so I can go along with the “crisp” designation. It breaks at about four pounds eleven ounces, by far the heaviest of all the rifles tested. The Savage AccuTrigger put it to shame and so did the CZ trigger in standard mode, without being "set." The LC6 is not awful, but it is clearly inferior to both the Savage and the CZ. It is the type of trigger I would appreciate on an upland shotgun, but not on a center-fire varminter. Again, while better than many triggers out there, these things suffer by comparison. It did not compare favorably to the CZ or the Savage in trigger land.
Aesthetically, the Ruger is pleasing to the eye. The Ruger’s stock easily had the best grade of walnut of all three rifles, with distinctive grain and mineral streaks. The red rubber butt pad, touted to “absorb the most punishing recoil” looks classy. None of the tested rifles were anything but creampuffs to shoot. I was ambivalent about the Ruger’s matte blue metal finish. It is nicely done, but Ruger's standard polished blue has generally been excellent and is more attractive.
The action appears to be the well-known KM77 MKII variant. This is an investment cast, controlled feed action with a nicely turned bolt handle for good scope clearance and has been covered in detail in previous Guns and Shooting Online reviews. (See the Product Review Page.)
I mounted a Burris Signature Select 3-10x40mm scope on the Ruger Hawkeye, using the supplied Ruger medium rings with no hassle. Unlike the CZ, I have absolute confidence in the Ruger rings. I also appreciate that the rings come with hex head caps, not the old flat blade screwdriver slots that were previously a bit of a hassle.
The Hawkeye has an internal, staggered cartridge, sheet steel, box magazine of the Mauser 98 type with a hinged floorplate. The floor plate release and trigger guard are very nicely done. There is no attempt to free-float the barrel; it maintains essentially full wood contact all the way from the tip of the forend to the action.
At first blush, with better lines than the blockish CZ, much nicer wood and supplied integral rings that are easy to work with, you might think the Ruger is well on its way to winning the comparison. That is, until you start shooting it. It quickly become obvious that the Ruger is sluggishly heavy and ponderous compared to either the CZ or the Savage, has a trigger than does not compare well and is not in the same league in the accuracy department with its competition.
The Ruger, as tested, was roughly a 1.5 MOA rifle. Some folks might feel that 1-3/4 inch groups are okay at 115 yards with bulk ammo and a light barrel. (For many purposes, it is. -Ed.) That might cut it for 50 yard, iron sight work with semi-auto “blaster” genre rifles, but not when the goal is to place a bullet into the center of a coyote’s five inch kill zone at 250 yards. I tried a few other types of custom and premium ammo to see if the Ruger would suddenly come alive for us, but to no avail. I never did get it to the one MOA at 100 yards, while the CZ and the Savage had no problem grouping much tighter than that.
At the end of the day, despite the Ruger’s strong action, attention to build detail, nice wood, scope rings and clean lines, I decided that I could do better with the other brands.
Note: Several additional Ruger M77 rifle reviews can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.