Ruger M77 Mk. II Compact Rifle
By Rick Ryals
The Ruger Model 77 bolt action rifles were introduced back in the late 1960's to fill the demand for a classic style rifle. This demand had been growing since the loss of the pre-64 Winchester M70, and was also fueled by the expense of custom Mauser based rifles. To say the Ruger 77 was successful is an understatement. Chuck Hawks has provided an excellent short history of the model 77 in his article on the Ruger M77 RSI. (That article can be found on the Rifle Information Page.)
The subject of this review is the Ruger 77 Mk II Compact Rifle. The Compact comes in two variations. One is the M77CR, a traditional blued steel and walnut stocked version (see above). The other is the KM77CRBBZ, a stainless steel version with grey laminated stock (see below). Both come in calibers .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 7mm-08, and .308 Winchester.
The barrel length is 16.5 inches, the stock's length of pull is 12.5 inches, and the overall length is 35.5 inches. Weight is 5.75 pounds for the blued/walnut model and 5.88 pounds for the stainless/laminate model. Both come with clean barrels (no sights) and the standard Ruger integral scope rings. The 2006 MSRP for the blue/walnut M77CR is $695, and the MSRP for the stainless/laminated KM77CRBBZ is somewhat higher at $773.
Their lightweight and short length makes them incredibly handy woods rifles. The cartridges for which they are chambered allows them to serve well for longer shots of 250 to 300 yards.
I have always liked the classic shape of the Ruger stock, the claw extractor, the graceful bolt handle, and the fine balance. You might think that taking 6 inches off the standard length rifle would damage the classic lines and the balance. But, in the case of the Compact, you would be wrong.
They did not just chop 6 inches off the barrel and call it good. The stock was also shortened and trimmed down to fit the smaller rifle. Rather than looking chopped and shortened, it looks like a scaled down version of the full sized rifle. It still balances well in the hands. The recoil still comes straight back, the same as the standard rifle. It's just handier and easier to carry.
I purchased two of the stainless steel and laminate models, one in 308 Win. and the other in 7mm-08 Remington caliber. I have found them to be perfect for hunting in the woods of the southeast U.S. They are easy to carry and quick to shoulder. They have adequate range and power for most any deer or hog one might encounter in this part of the country. And I love the stainless steel and laminated stock. They are weather resistant without the cheap look of a plastic stock.
In the sighting department I initially installed a Burris 2-7x compact scope. I purchased the scope expecting it to fit, and then found I had to purchase rings with a rear extension mount to install the scope on the rifle. This was quite annoying. Although I like Burris scopes and find them to be durable and clear, how could a major scope manufacturer design a compact scope that would not fit on one of the best selling short action rifles in production?
I have since installed a compact Leupold VX-II 2-7x28mm variable on the 7mm-08 and a compact Leupold FX-II 2.5x20mm fixed power scope on the .308. The Leupolds fit perfectly using the supplied factory rings. Both of these compact scopes go well with the compact rifles.
For a variable I find the 2-7 power range to be about perfect for a general purpose big game rifle. I use 7 power when shooting at the range and turn them down to 2 or 3 power for hunting. This provides plenty of field of view for the deer woods of Florida and Georgia.
I have found the overall design of the M77 Compact to be excellent for the type of hunting I do. That being said, there were a few problems with the rifle that I chose to address. The worst of these was the trigger. I have read descriptions of current Ruger triggers that called them a lawyer designed abortion. That is not far off the mark. Despite Ruger's advertisements that the M77 is "First and Foremost the Hunter's Rifle," their Mark II trigger mechanism does not support that claim. With the stock trigger they are difficult to shoot accurately from the bench, much less from a field position.
I replaced the factory trigger with a Timney trigger, which I set at 3 pounds. This trigger breaks clean and crisp and is very consistent. It utilizes the factory safety, and requires minor grinding and filing to fit a notch in the trigger mechanism to the safety. It is not beyond the do-it-yourselfer, but it takes some time and patience.
Be careful. If you grind too much off, the trigger can move enough to release the sear with the safety on. The firing pin will then drop when the safety is moved to the fire position. Be sure you test this with an unloaded rifle. If you mess up, Timney will replace the trigger for $25.
I had to take advantage of this my first try. If you are uncomfortable about replacing your trigger, you can have a gunsmith clean it up. But I would not recommend a Ruger at all unless you plan on fixing the trigger.
A related problem is with the safety. It is a wing type similar to the Winchester Model 70 in appearance and operation. However, it is not part of the bolt assembly as is the Winchester safety. I have a Model 70 in which the safety can be operated smoothly and quietly, using only the thumb. But the Ruger's is neither smooth nor quiet. The only way I have found to move the Ruger safety quietly to the 'Fire' position is to grip it firmly with my thumb and forefinger until it is all the way forward. Needless to say this is difficult, especially with gloves on. If you simply push it forward with your thumb the result is a loud click, not a welcome sound in the woods. Since the Timney trigger uses the factory safety, I have not been able to fix this problem. I guess I will just have to live with it.
Ruger should address both the trigger and safety problem, but they probably will not. There were complaints about the original M77 trigger, and they solved those by making the trigger worse and non-adjustable. As far as I know there were no complaints about the original safety, rather much praise for it. But they fixed it anyway and made that worse, too. Sometimes there is just no figuring the mind of corporate decision makers.
Our only alternative is not purchasing their products. But sometimes a particular manufacturer configures a rifle in a way that no one else does. If you want it badly enough, you buy it and live with its shortcomings. And overall, I really like the Ruger M77.
Another thing I modified was the length of pull. 12.5 inches is just too short, even for a small adult like me. (I am 5' 6".) It was probably designed for a young person, although it would be a rare twelve year old that could tolerate the recoil of the .308, especially with the hard Ruger recoil pad. I removed the factory half-inch thick recoil pad and installed a one-inch thick pad.
Limbsaver makes a pre-fit pad for the Ruger Compact. This increased the LOP to 13 inches, which is the same as a Winchester M94 I have. This is still short enough to make it handy and quick to shoulder, but no longer feels too short for me. The thicker pad also helps in the recoil department.
Speaking of recoil, the light weight makes it bump your shoulder rather strongly, especially in .308 Win. The 7mm-08 is not as bad, but is still noticeable when it goes off. But they carry so nicely in the woods that I am willing to put up with the additional recoil.
Calculating the numbers, the .308 launching a 150 grain bullet at 2680 fps from a 6.75 pound rifle (with scope) generates approximately 16.7 ft. lbs. of recoil energy. The 7mm-08 with a 140 grain bullet at 2680 fps generates approximately 15.2 ft. lbs. of recoil energy. Either of these is in the tolerable recoil ballpark for the experienced adult shooter. If you were buying one for a young or new shooter, it would be better to stick with the .243. Or, if you are a handloader, you might load the 7mm-08 or .308 down to a more pleasant level for a beginner. Heck, you could even do that for yourself.
Related to recoil is muzzle blast. I have often read that short barrels increase muzzle blast. Perhaps they do, but it has never seemed much worse to me while shooting at the range than other centerfires I have. (Chuck told me in an e-mail that I've probably just lost too much hearing to notice.) I know it is not even close to the blast of a muzzle-braked magnum rifle. I refuse to shoot next to someone shooting one of those.
You're probably wondering what that short 16.5 inch barrel does to bullet velocity. I have found that in mine that I lose between 140 and 200 fps over published factory velocities with the .308 and about 200 fps with the 7mm-08.
I have tried both Winchester and Remington factory loads, and for whatever reason some Remington loads chronograph a little faster, even though the published velocities are the same. For the .308, I get around 2620 fps with the Winchester 150 grain load, and around 2680 for Remington 150 grain loads. With the 7mm-08 I get around 2680 fps with either Winchester or Remington 140 grain loads.
Although you are losing some power with these velocities, they are still in the .300 Savage or 7x57 factory load range. Either cartridge gives you a point blank range (+/- 3") of around 250 yards, and either will kill any deer you find as long as you put the bullet in the right place. Also, keep in mind that even with a 20 or 22 inch barrel you are probably down 50 to 100 fps over published velocities. There is always a trade off between barrel length and velocity. It is simply a matter of what is acceptable to you.
What about accuracy? Actually, the short barrel does not seem to hinder accuracy. Even though the barrel is very thin, the short length allows for a bit more stiffness than would the normal 22 inches. I have found my .308 to be a little more consistently accurate than the 7mm-08.
The .308 averages around 1.5 inches for 3 shot groups, while the best I have been able to get from the 7mm-08 averages over 2 inches. I have shot two 3-shot groups of a half inch with the .308, one with a Remington factory load and the other with a reload, but those are not typical.
Overall, I have been satisfied with the accuracy of the .308, considering the ranges at which I expect to use it. I ended up using the 7mm-08 for a rebarreling project, which is the subject of another article. (See "Rebarreling a Rifle to .358 Win." on the Rifle Information Page.)
Due to the lowered velocities caused by the short barrel, I would not recommend the Ruger M77 Compact as an all-around rifle. It would not be the best choice for larger game like elk or moose. However, if you are looking for a short, light, fast handling, good looking, easy to carry rifle for short to medium range deer hunting, it is a great choice. The Compact is not my only rifle, but it has become a very prized member of my rifle battery.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2006, 2012 by Rick Ryals and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.