Test: Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT, the new long range rifle

The first time we saw this impressive Ruger rifle was at the "Industry Day at the Range" in the Nevada desert one day before the start of the SHOT Show, in January 2019. Now we had it in our gun cabinet to test it extensively at 100 and 300 m. Besides the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT, which is also available in 6.5 PRC and .300 Winchester Magnum, the prominent US manufacturer also offers a 3.7 lb/1.7 kg lighter Ruger M77 Hawkeye Long-Range Hunter version.

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT, a proven action

The receiver, bolt and trigger of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT radiate solid ruggedness, just like all representatives of this model series.

Like all models of the M77 series, the rifle is based on a rugged, thick-walled receiver which is cast out of a steel alloy with a lost-wax process. Inside the receiver featuring a MIL-STD-1913 optics rail with 20 MOA forward tilt, we find a Mauser-type 2-lug bolt with a long side extractor.

The complete action including bolt, head and handle, consists of a single piece of stainless steel, so that the bolt-handle cannot come loose even under the hardest conditions. The free-floated, cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel match barrel is 26"/660 mm long, with 5R rifling, 1-8" twist. On the 5/8 "x24 UNEF muzzle thread, a Hybrid Muzzle Brake with multiple radial porting holes and expansion chamber like the one on the popular RPR (Ruger Precision Rifle) series is mounted. 

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT: speckled laminate and slanted screw

The target stock with wide flat-bottom fore-end, large pistol grip and a comb featuring a plastic cheek piece, can be adjusted in both the vertical and longitudinal axis, providing a lot of comfort when shooting. An M-LOK aluminum rail flush with the underside of the fore-end allows for the mounting of additional equipment such as a bipod. If you want to use a carrying sling, you have the possibility to fit a QD mount on the right or left side of the gun.

The features of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT bolt-action rifle provide a lot of comfort when shooting at long ranges.

However, since the socket for the quick-release sling swivel is very far forward, it could be annoying when using a benchrest. For this reason, we removed the QD sling swivel mount during the 300 m test, since we were shooting using the benchrest and bipod alternately. It wouldn't have been necessary to use the benchrest, because good results could be achieved with the bipod too.. 

When disassembling the test rifle in our workshop, we examined the action bedding in the wooden stock, which was clean and with tight tolerances. The front screw pulls the action diagonally downwards into the stock to reduce or eliminate the play between action and stock compared to straight action screws.

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT: a simple but good trigger

The adjustable two-stage match trigger of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT was fun out of the box and broke crisp.

The trigger assembly was already properly adjusted at the factory. This saved us adjustment work on the simply designed, adjustable two-stage match trigger, that breaks crisp after overcoming a consistent pull weight of 2.33 lb/1060 g. The trigger is combined with a three-position safety, introduced in 2006 by Sturm, Ruger & Co. on the M77 Hawkeye series. It has been improved in detail compared to the M77 series.

In addition to the “fire” position, in the 2nd position the trigger is locked, while in the 3rd position firing pin and bolt are locked too. This allows the rifle to be locked against unintentional opening during off-road carrying, or to be loaded and unloaded in the locked position. The  AICS-style (Accuracy International Chassis System) plastic box magazine has a capacity of 10 cartridges.

Fitting the riflescope: Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56

We received the test Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT in a handsome complete package ready for shooting range use, with Spuhr SR-3000 mounting rings and a Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56 riflescope. Weighing 1.6 lb/750 g and 15.3”/39 cm long, this scope with a 30-mm main tube and parallax compensation on the left side opposite the windage adjustment turret provides astonishing performance for relatively little money

The Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56 riflescope, as the name suggests, is designed for tactical shooting and impresses with its high price-performance ratio.

The handy, easy-to-read adjustment elevation and windage adjustment turrets are absolutely waterproof even without caps and work with fine ¼ MOA (7.5 mm) steps per click. The center aiming point of the MOA-2 reticle covers just 0.27”/7 mm per 100 m at 32x maximum magnification. The parallax-free optic also impressed with its performance with pin-sharp image and the sophisticated "Zero Stop" mechanism

With other manufacturers, this function is often only a simple stop to prevent you from turning beyond your preset zero after shooting. But with the Sightron scope, the "Zero Stop" is perfectly adjustable. A ring under the elevation adjustment turret only needs to be turned up after loosening three screws until it acts as a stop. Because the ring can be positioned exactly, you can determine how many clicks you can go below zero. Thus, you are also able to make corrections when changing position or load. 

Another special feature of the Sightron "Zero Stop" mechanism is the fact that the scale also rotates upwards with the stop, so that the scale always starts at "zero". The Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56 for a measly price of 1376 euro definitely helped us to put the rifle on the target at the 300 m test.

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT long range rifle with Spuhr SR-3000 scope
Thanks to the reasonably priced complete package consisting of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT with Spuhr SR-3000 mounting rings and a Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56 riflescope, we were ideally ready for our test firing.

The Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT rifle on the shooting range

In the first part of the test, the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT was first shot at 100 m and the first groupings were achieved. We had 9 types of ammo at our disposal, 4 of which were hand-loaded, with bullet weights from 120 to 147 grains in the popular 6.5 Creedmoor caliber. With 5 out of 9 loads, we already achieved groupings below the 0.5-MOA/0.59” (15 mm) mark.

We achieved the best single result of 0.3”/8 mm with the Hornady 120-grain ELD Match factory ammunition. This was closely followed at 0.39”/10 mm by our handload consisting of 42.0 grains of Hodgdon Superformance powder and a 140-grain Hornady ELD match bullet. These good results only increased our expectations for the upcoming 300 m test 

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT 4-shot grouping with handheld rifle at 300 m
The Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT showed excellent accuracy with this 4-shot grouping with handheld rifle at 300 m, the flyer in the upper left being an error on the part of the test shooter.
Test Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT at 300 m also 5 shots
5 shots with Hornady 147-grain ELD Match factory cartridge at 300 m also achieved a 1.41"/36 mm grouping.

We were not disappointed there either. An excellent 0.63”/16 mm grouping of 4 shots was unfortunately opened to 2.4”/61 mm due to an avoidable shooter's error. Here a handloaded cartridge with 43.0 grains of Hodgdon Superformance and a 136-grain Lapua Scenar bullet was used.

All handloaded cartridges were individually adjusted to achieve the minimum rotationless bullet flight (freebore) in the test gun with the help of the Hornady "OAL Gauge" and "Bullet Comparator".

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT rifle: price and conclusion

No doubt, for just 1700 euro approx (price may vary in your country) with the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT you get a rock-solid bolt and effective action rifle, which also impresses with its reliability and shooting performance. The 300-m results show that it's also suitable for long range use, where the comparatively young 6.5 Creedmoor caliber has already proven itself.

If you want to go one step further in terms of performance, the 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge (PRC), also developed by Hornady, is the best choice. It has a 60 m/s higher muzzle velocity. All in all the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT is worth every cent in our opinion.

Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT bolt-action rifle and the Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56 rifle scope,
With the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT bolt-action rifle and the Sightron SIII Long Range Tactical 8-32x56 rifle scope, you get a very effective entry combo into the popular long-range shooting discipline.

For more information on the Ruger M77 Hawkeye LRT, please visit the manufacturer's website.

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