Compared: Remington 504-T LS HB
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The new Remington 504 series rimfire rifles practically beg to be compared with the established Ruger M77 series rifles. Clearly the Remington rifles were designed and introduced with an eye on the competition, foremost of which in the deluxe rimfire rifle field are the Rugers.
The Remington 504-T LS HB is the .17 HMR target/varmint rifle in the 504 line, and the Ruger K77/17VMBBZ is the .17 HMR target/varmint rifle in the Ruger Model 77 rimfire line. So what could be more natural than a comparison of these fine arms from America's biggest rifle manufacturers?
We were reviewing a Remington 504-T for Guns and Shooting Online anyway, and Technical Advisor Bob Fleck, impressed by the overall performance of the Ruger K77/17 included in our recent comparison article ".17 HMR Varmint Rifles Compared: Marlin, Ruger and Savage," had purchased a Ruger K77/17VMBBZ for himself. So we had new examples of both rifles on hand.
Bob's Ruger is fitted with a Simmons Aetec 3.8-12x44mm AO variable power scope, and we mounted a Bushnell Elite 3200 5-15x40mm AO scope on our test Remington. Both scopes came with a Duplex type reticle, and both are entirely adequate for a .17 HMR varmint rifle. Neither scope conferred any particular advantage to the rifle on which it was mounted.
Accessories supplied with new Remington 504-T LS HB rifles include a magazine, owner's manual, gun lock, and warrantee cards. The warrantee period is two years.
Ruger K77/17VMBBZ rifles are supplied with a magazine, scope rings, owner's manual, gun lock, and "purchaser reply" cards. There is no formal warrantee on Ruger rifles, although the company continues to provide service to its customers. (Ruger refuses to put up with the arcane provisions of the Magnuson-Moss Act that attempts to micro-manage warrantee coverage.) The big difference here is the inclusion of excellent Ruger scope rings with the K77/17 ($40 at our local discount department store), a real saving to the consumer.
There are some interesting similarities between the two rifles. Both are designed to be mass produced so that they can be sold at a competitive price, but both endeavor to offer a high level of quality and features. After all, while not custom built rifles, these are expensive rimfire rifles. On the other hand, they are the products of companies with different gun making philosophies and strengths, so there are also important differences.
Here are the basic specifications of the Remington Model 504-T LS HB:
And here are the basic specifications for the Ruger Model K77/17VMBBZ:
Now lets take a closer look at both rifles in more detail, feature by feature. We will start with the receiver, the basic building block of any rifle.
The Remington's round receiver is machined from steel bar stock. This is a very thick walled receiver; we measured the rear receiver ring at .301". The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting bases. The loading/ejection port cut into the receiver is rather small, which when coupled with the very thick receiver walls makes the 504-T difficult to single load.
As far as we can determine, the basic receiver, escutcheon, magazine release, and magazine latch are steel, the trigger is stainless steel, and the trigger guard and magazine housing are an aluminum or magnesium based alloy.
The Ruger's receiver is investment cast stainless steel, which allows a much more complex configuration. It has integral scope mounting bases on top, flat sides, and a flat bottom with an integral recoil lug and dual bedding screws. The loading/ejection port opening is large enough to make single loading of cartridges convenient, an important consideration both at the rifle range and in the field. Especially the latter, where one more shot may be required and time constraints do not allow for removal and reloading of the magazine.
The Ruger action handles escaping gasses better than the Remington action. There is a large cutout in the right side of the receiver that serves as an avenue for escaping gas in the event of a blown case and also makes the chamber more accessible. Rimfire cases are not as strong as centerfire cases, and the .17 HMR operates at high pressure for a rimfire, so this is a pious idea.
The Ruger receiver is finished in Ruger's low glare Target Grey, which further enhances the corrosion resistance of the stainless steel beneath. The trigger guard is cast from an aluminum alloy and given a Target Grey finish. Ruger's mastery of advanced investment casting techniques makes this more sophisticated receiver possible. Advantage: Ruger.
The Remington's multi-piece, round bolt body was left in the "white," while the bolt handle assembly and bolt plug (rear cap) were finished in the same satin black as the receiver. The bolt is locked closed by a square lug at the root of the bolt handle that drops into a deep matching cut in the receiver wall behind the rear receiver ring. This is typical of mass produced rimfire bolt action rifles. There is also a shallow secondary locking lug spaced about 120 degrees from the bolt handle that engages an equally shallow cut in the left receiver wall. Judging by the wear marks, the main locking lug at the base of the bolt handle solidly engages the receiver, but the secondary lug's engagement is tenuous at best.
The bolt handle appears to be held on by a set screw (!), and incorporates a comfortable round knob. (The main locking lug, bolt handle, and set screw are labeled the "bolt cam lock assembly" in the parts diagram.) This bolt handle is bent rearward, but should be longer for comfortable operation by adult hands--a common complaint about rimfire rifles. It barely cleared the ocular bell of the 5-15x40mm scope we fitted to the test rifle.
The rear tip of the striker protrudes from a hole drilled through the center of the rear bolt shroud. This serves as a visible and tactile cocking indicator. Unfortunately, it also allows hot gasses and bits of powder to pepper the shooter's face in the event of a blown case. Always wear eye protection when shooting.
Cases are extracted by dual, spring-loaded extractors and ejected by a fixed blade as the bolt is pulled fully rearward.
The bolt release is a button at the left rear of the receiver. It is small, but easy to use.
The Ruger 77/17 uses a one-piece, forged, stainless steel bolt with dual, opposed, locking lugs, much like a centerfire rifle. It locks into the receiver just behind the loading/ejection port. The bolt handle is integral with the bolt body, as is the smooth, round bolt knob. Like the Remington, the Ruger's bolt handle, although well shaped, is too short and barely clears the ocular bell of the scope when the bolt is operated.
The bolt release is a small, flat, recessed lever at the left rear of the receiver. It works fine, but is a little less convenient to operate than the Remington bolt release.
An extended breech block equipped with dual extractors seals the chamber, and an integral fixed ejector tosses cases clear of the action when the bolt is pulled fully rearward. The bolt also receives Ruger's Target Grey finish. The Ruger bolt is one of this rifle's strong points. Advantage: Ruger.
The Remington's barreled action is finished in a flat black "satin blue." Such finishes are sold to the customers as "low glare," but the real reason they are popular with arms makers is that they eliminate the expensive and time consuming process of polishing the steel for a deep luster blue job.
The Remington's carbon steel barrel is 20" long with a heavy contour. It measures .90" at the muzzle. Remington barrels are button rifled and come with a recessed target crown.
The Ruger uses a 24" hammer forged barrel. This stainless steel barrel also comes with a recessed target crown and is thicker than a sporter barrel, but not as heavy as the Remington barrel. The Ruger's entire barreled action is finished in Ruger's Target Grey, which is more durable than bluing and inhibits corrosion.
The barrels of both rifles are secured to the front of the receiver by a "barrel clamp screw." The barrels are not threaded into the receiver. The Remington barrel is thicker in diameter, and presumably stiffer. The Ruger barrel is longer and presumably delivers higher velocity. Take your choice.
The Remington's brown laminated hardwood, varmint rifle style stock is well shaped and comfortable for most users. (One of our staffers did feel that the comb was too thick.) It is supplied with a black rubber butt pad (my favorite kind), a black plastic pistol grip cap, and detachable sling swivel bases. No checkering adorns this stock. The stock design incorporates a Monte Carlo comb, well defined pistol grip with a right hand palm swell, and beavertail forend. The stock finish is a satin synthetic.
The action is nicely inletted into the stock, as is the trigger guard, magazine housing, and escutcheon. The channel for the free-floating barrel is narrow and precisely cut.
The Model 77/17VMBBZ is supplied with a gray/black laminated hardwood stock that goes well with the Ruger's Target Grey metal finish. The stock comes with a black rubber butt pad and studs for attaching quick detachable sling swivels.
This nicely shaped stock has a straight, fluted comb and a relatively small diameter pistol grip that aids control. The forearm is slender and graceful, but flattened on the bottom to aid shooting from a rest. There is no checkering or pistol grip cap. (The latter would be a nice addition.) The inletting of the barreled action is well done, although perhaps not quite as precise around the trigger guard as on the Remington.
These stocks are both functional and reasonably attractive. Our consensus was that brown laminate is generally more attractive than grey laminate, but the Ruger stock has more graceful lines than the Remington stock and the grey stock color does go well with the Target Grey metal finish. Any perceived superiority one way or the other would be an individual, subjective opinion.
The Remington 504-T's trigger broke at 3.75 pounds with only a tiny hint of smooth creep before let off. This is excellent for a factory trigger. The trigger is adjustable "within certain limits," but supposedly for competitive target shooters only, and all adjustments are supposed to be carried out by an authorized Remington repair center. On the other hand, an owner with a modicum of knowledge who did not mind invalidating his warrantee could adjust the trigger himself. The best news is that you probably won't have to; most shooters will be quite pleased with the trigger as set by the factory.
The Ruger's trigger assembly housing is cast as part of the receiver. Pins hold the trigger, sear, and associated parts in place. This is a very solid design, but it is not user adjustable, except by hand honing. (Gordon did exactly that to his Ruger trigger, and the result was a clean 3 pound release, but he knows what he is doing.) Nor is the factory Ruger trigger as light as the Remington trigger. The test rifle's trigger, as originally set by the factory, broke at 4 pounds by my RCBS gauge after a moderate amount of smooth travel.
These days that is a very good factory trigger, but not quite as good as the Remington trigger. Advantage: Remington.
The 504-T safety is located at the right rear of the receiver. It is the usual Remington two position type, which is easy to understand and use. Forward is "fire" and back is "safe." I have always liked the position and operation of Remington bolt action safeties, and this one is no exception.
The Ruger three-position safety is located at the right rear of the action. It works just like the one on the M77 centerfire rifle. The fully forward position is "fire," the fully rearward position locks both the trigger and the bolt and is "safe," and the middle position locks the trigger but not the bolt for loading and unloading.
The three position safety is loved by company lawyers, and the Ruger version works fine, although we judged it not as convenient as the Remington's two position design. Advantage: Remington.
The Remington uses a die cast detachable magazine. It is a staggered-row box magazine cast in one piece from a lightweight magnesium-based alloy. The detachable magazine floor plate is black plastic and the follower is orange plastic. The follower has a wide rail on one side that matches a track cast into the magazine; this keeps the follower level, preventing it from tipping fore or aft.
This very lightweight magazine is dimensionally precise. It appears to be superior to the usual sheet steel box magazine supplied with most bolt action rimfire rifles. Its primary drawback is that it is easy to mis-load in a way that jams the magazine. Avoid that error and all is well.
The Remington's magazine fits flush with the bottom line of the stock, a nice touch. Pull the magazine release (located at the front of the magazine well) rearward and hold to release the magazine.
The famous Ruger rotary magazine deserves special credit. This detachable magazine fits flush with the bottom of the stock for a sleek appearance. Its internal spool keeps the individual cartridges separated and its stainless steel lips and feed ramp minimize wear. The body of the magazine is made of very tough glass filled nylon. It is easy to load, and feeding is slick and trouble free. It also has greater capacity. To release the magazine, push up on the flush magazine release button, located just behind the magazine. This is the best magazine system found in any .17 HMR bolt action rifle. Advantage: Ruger
No iron sights are supplied on either rifle (iron sights are redundant on a .17 HMR varmint rifle), but the Remington's receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mount bases. It is not grooved for tip-off scope rings.
The Ruger is supplied with Ruger scope rings, which fit the bases machined into the receiver. The Ruger scope mounting system is the best in the world. Advantage: Ruger.
Both owners' manuals provide useful information, such as how to properly disassemble the bolt for cleaning, and every purchaser should read their owner's manual. Unfortunately, both manuals are so larded with "safety information" as to make the actual text difficult to follow. Thank the lawyers for this state of affairs, the net result of which is less safety, as most owners will refuse to wade through all of the BS. Disadvantage: both.
The shooting was done over four range sessions at the Isaac Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered shooting positions and solid bench rests. As an aid to accuracy, a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with a 25 pound bag of lead shot was used throughout.
The weather was sunny and hot, with highs of 90-95 degrees and variable winds of 10-20 MPH. As always, we tried to shoot between the gusts, but there were a number of flyers from both rifles attributed to the wind. These we did not score.
Guns and Shooting Online staffers Gordon Landers, Bob Fleck, Jim Fleck and Chuck Hawks did the shooting. Four different brands of .17 HMR varmint ammunition were used, all with 17 grain bullets. These included Hornady (V-MAX), CCI (TNT), Remington (AccuTip-V), and Federal (TNT). Each shooter fired 5-shot groups with all four brands of ammunition.
For the recorded groups we used Outers Score Keeper Targets at 100 yards. Both scopes were set at 12x for the duration in the interest of equality. Here are the complete shooting results.
Remington 504-T LS HB:
OVERALL AVERAGE, ALL BRANDS OF AMMUNITION = 1.16"
OVERALL AVERAGE, ALL BRANDS OF AMMUNITION = 1.54"
The Remington 504-T LS HB averaged slightly smaller groups at the range, but it was the Ruger K77/17VMBBZ that, overall, endeared itself to the Guns and Shooting Online staff. While the Remington demonstrated better intrinsic accuracy at the range, we felt that the Ruger possessed superior practical accuracy. In other words, we felt that we could shoot it more easily and accurately in the field.
Price was not a consideration in these deliberations. We do find it surprising, however, that the generally less sophisticated Remington rifle carries a MSPR $140 higher than the Ruger.
Both are good rifles, but the superior engineering, design, and finish of the Ruger carried the day with all four of our reviewers. Certainly is it easier to single load. As Jim Fleck put it, "It just feels better, more solid, and it doesn't have than damm cocking indicator."
It is good to see Remington and Ruger competing in the deluxe rimfire rifle business. After the demise of the Browning A-Bolt, Remington Model 541, and Winchester Model 52 Sporter some years ago, things were looking grim. But the Ruger Model 77 rimfire series and now the Remington 504 series have America's two biggest rifle makers back in the thick of the battle. We all benefit from that.
Note: Individual reviews of the Remington 504-T LS HB and Ruger K77/17VMBBZ rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
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