The Ruger Model 77RSI International
By Chuck Hawks
The bolt action Ruger Model 77 rifle was introduced in 1968 to an appreciative shooting world. Truth be told, in many ways it was similar to the late, lamented, pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 and the famous Mauser Model 98. Bill Ruger was nothing if not a marketing genius, and gun writers had been praising the old Model 70 and the Mauser 98 for years. This had created an enormous demand for these rifles, which Bill Ruger set about to fill, much as his Blackhawk revolver had filled the demand for single action revolver similar to a Colt SA after the famous Colt had been discontinued by the Hartford firm. As with the Blackhawk, the new Model 77 bolt action rifle was not a copy of the Model 70 or the Mauser, but rather an improvement on both incorporating modern technology and metallurgy while largely preserving the virtues of the older rifles.
The Model 77 was an immediate success. It was well engineered and tastefully executed in an understated, classic style. It came with an improved Mauser-type action, a flat bottom receiver, a one piece bolt (including the bolt handle), a full length extractor, a user adjustable steel trigger assembly, an aluminum trigger guard and hinged magazine floorplate, and a satin finished walnut stock with hand cut checkering and a red rubber butt plate. (At that time many other factory rifles came with impressed checkering.) I regard the sliding shotgun style safety on the rear tang as one of the most convenient safeties ever fitted to a bolt action rifle. The diagonal front-screw bedding system (hidden under the magazine floor plate) pulls the receiver downward and back into the stock. The bolt release catch is located at the rear of the receiver in Mauser 98 fashion. Additional plusses were the built-in scope mount on some models, which were supplied with well designed Ruger rings, and the studs for quick detachable sling swivels. The Model 77 got rave reviews from almost all of the gun writers at the time of its introduction.
As production caught up with demand, model variations were added. One of these was the Model 77RSI International. This is Ruger's version of a mountain carbine with a full length Mannlicher-style walnut stock. The barreled action is finished in a polished deep blue. It is a compact and lovely little rifle with an 18.5 inch barrel and a catalog weight of 7 pounds. It comes with open sights as well as built-in scope bases and Ruger rings. A front Mannlicher style sling swivel and a rear detachable sling swivel stud are standard. It is, in my opinion, still the most attractive of all Ruger 77's. Both short and long action versions are supplied. At various times it has been offered in calibers .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, .250-3000 Savage, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7x57, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield.
The Model 77RSI was produced all through the 1980's and early 1990's, until the original Model 77 action was replaced by the Model 77 Mark II version. The Model 77RSI International Mark II was introduced in 1993 and produced until 2008 when it was replaced by the M77RSI Hawkeye International, which is still in production in 2009.
The Model 77 Mark II incorporates certain improvements and revisions compared to the original. Among these are a three position safety (like the Winchester Model 70), a new (non-adjustable) trigger assembly, a new steel trigger guard and floorplate latch (the aluminum magazine floor plate remains), and a stainless steel bolt with a non-rotating Mauser type extractor for controlled feed. The stocks on some models are slimmer (but, like all Ruger rifles, the checkering patterns are still quite skimpy), the pistol grip cap is blued steel, and the solid rubber butt pad is now black.
The Hawkeye introduced a somewhat slimmer, more rounded stock profile and another new (LC6), non-adjustable, trigger mechanism. The checkering patches have been increased in area, an improvement we have requested for years. The butt pad is red again. The rounded stock and more expansive checkering patterns are appreciated, the LC6 trigger is not and the color of the butt plate doesn't matter.
I regard the stainless steel bolt, steel trigger guard and bottom plate, slimmer stocks as plusses, but the three position safety and non-adjustable triggers as minuses. The The new LC6 trigger assembly, in particular, is inferior to even the Mk. II trigger in our testing and impinges on the rifle's practical accuracy. The serious shooter who buys a new Model 77 Hawkeye will also have to foot the bill for an aftermarket trigger assembly.
The basic specifications of the Model 77 Hawkeye International are as follows: full length International style walnut stock with cut checkering; Ruger hammer forged barrel, length18.5 inches; overall length 38.5 inches (short action); Weight 7 pounds; Integral scope base receiver; comes with open sights and Ruger scope rings; front sling swivel and rear detachable sling swivel stud supplied. Current calibers are .243, .270, .308 and .30-06. The 2009 list price is $939.
The Model 77RSI reviewed for this article wears a Leupold Vari-X 2-7x28mm Compact scope. This scope weighs only 8.2 ounces and balances nicely with the relatively petite M77RSI rifle. It provides a good field of view at the low end for close ranges and running game and plenty of power at the high end for any possible long range big game hunting situation. It is parallax free at 150 yards. Its fully coated optics are adequately sharp, the continuous tension windage and elevation adjustments work as advertised and it has proven to be 100% reliable.
The Ruger Model 77 International serves quite well as both a mountain rifle and a woods rifle. My only complaint is that the 18.5 inch barrel is unnecessarily short; a 20 inch barrel would have served the same purpose and provided higher velocity. The muzzle flash from that 18.5 inch barrel is bad enough with the .308 cartridge, I can imagine it's truly spectacular in .270 caliber!
Compared to a Remington Model 700 Mountain Rifle (see my review of that rifle on the Rifle Information Page), the Ruger International benefits from an extra 1/2 pound of recoil taming weight, but sacrifices velocity compared to the 22 inch barrel of the Remington. The Remington comes with a better trigger. Pay your money and take your choice.
Remington also offers a version of their Model 7 called the MS, which comes with a 20 inch barrel and a full length Mannlicher stock made of laminated hardwood. This rifle, however, is only available from the Remington Custom Gun Shop, and is priced accordingly. It can be ordered chambered for just about any short action caliber from .222 Remington to .350 Remington Magnum! I have been down that road before, and I would humbly suggest that .308 Winchester is the most powerful caliber suitable for any of these lightweight rifles; .257 Roberts or .260 Remington would be just about optimum.
The Ruger 77 International is arguably the classiest and most traditional rifle of the bunch. What is clear is that it is accurate enough to get the job done in the woods or in the mountains. I have fired and recorded a considerable number of three and five shot groups from sandbags at the range. I have never had a malfunction of any kind. The average 3 shot group size with Remington Express factory loads using the 150 grain Core-Lokt bullet runs 1.75 inches. Using my handloads with 150 grain Sierra GameKing BT bullets in front of 42.0 grains of IMR 3031 powder, 3 shot groups generally run about 1.5 inches at 100 yards if I do my part. The best group I have fired with that rifle and load measured just .5 inch from center to center. I had some luck with that group!
The .308 Winchester cartridge is so well known, and there has been so much written about it (including my article "The .308 Winchester") that there is little left to say. It is popular world wide. With the 150 grain factory load it has a maximum point blank range (+/- 3 inches) of 275 yards. It a satisfactory mountain cartridge as well as a lethal woods cartridge and one of the top all-around calibers. Being a short action cartridge makes it a good choice for compact rifles like the Model 77RSI.
The recoil of a light .308 is fairly noticeable. On paper a 7.5 pound .308 rifle shooting the factory load with a 150 grain bullet at a MV of 2800 fps delivers about 15.9 ft. lbs. of free recoil energy to the shooter's shoulder. The recoil velocity is 11.7 fps. It is not difficult to shoot, at least for the first few groups.
The M77RSI International is an easy rifle to carry in the field. The .308 Winchester kills deer size game very well if the hunter gets the bullet into the heart/lung area and it has power in reserve for much bigger animals if required. The Ruger M77 International is a fine hunting rifle and it is a rifle you can be proud to own.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2002, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.