I just finished digging out of the first
significant snow storm of the year. It was significant because
its 7" of snow and high drifts were but a prelude to the real
storm coming on Sunday. Yea for Maine! Where even the moose are
at the airport checking in for flights to Florida.
Maine is a state in transition. Out with the
old, in with the...goofy. I was down at the end of the drive,
three hundred feet through the woods, clearing snow and wearing
the proper uniform of the day; Gore-Tex coat, gauntlet gloves, a
cappello a calza, my winter beard, and peeking out through a
head wrapping woolen scarf. Coming down the hill was my new
neighbor, dressed only in a too much for 5AM Lycra jogger's
suit. With the big rotating blower blades churning between me
and jog boy, I flashed on the scene from Fargo where Steve
Buscemi got on his buddy's nerves and was fed into a large
chipper. We settled for a mutual hand wave and a "Hey".
I wanted to cap off the year with something
special, like improved grammar, but then I thought writing about
a really nifty gun might be more realistic. And so, in the name
of nifty... I bring you the Ruger M77 Compact Magnum.
What are those
bumps on the barrel?
The Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum is what is technically
described as a
kickass little gun. 39¼" in length, barely an inch longer than a
M94 saddle carbine, it weighs just 6¾ lbs. Its 13" pull is ⅝"
shorter than a M77 Ultra Light. You pick it up, it pulls
intuitively into your shoulder, and where ever you turn the
muzzle follows right along with you, without putting up a fight.
wish to personally thank Ruger for understanding how short
barreled guns are sometimes used and for having the good sense
to put them on this little gem. I use to go to a gunsmith to
have receivers drilled and tapped for scope mounts, now I
go to have metallic sights installed. We don't have a lot of
open prairie here in
Maine. We have to shoot between timbered mountain peaks and they
are only about fifty feet apart. Metallic sights are a plus.
The Compact Magnum's
Williams U notch rear sight and ramped gold bead front sight
combination are an appropriate balance of reliability and
utility. They hold adjustment and they are visible against a
woodland backdrop. Perhaps Ruger will add a nice bright
Williams Firesight set to their accessory store list for those
of us who hunt by Braille, but what's in place as the rifle is
delivered is excellent.
Fits like a
The two items below actually go well together.
I was able to comfortably operate the Ruger while wearing a pair of
Thinsulate gloves. Which is good, because I really get tired of
pulling gloves off with my teeth before taking a shot. The floorplate release, outside of the
trigger guard, provided assurance that I wouldn't
accidentally drop the floorplate when I stuck a gloved finger
through the guard opening. The stubby cartridges were also easy
to load; no finesse handling required. Bolt and safety operation were also routine with gloved hands.
Like I said, nifty gun.
Feeds like a...
positive reference analogy I can't think of at the moment
M77 Compact Magnum holds three rounds in its magazine. You could
physically squeeze in four, however, when the first round is
stripped off and rotated upward at the feed ramp, it will bottom
out the remaining rounds in the magazine well and bind and
nobody likes bent ammo. That's why it pays to read the manual
and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use.
WSM chambered rifles are a challenge to load, particularly under
hunting stress, and they all feed like....sand on ice. The
Ruger, with approximately the same fore and aft magazine well
cartridge clearance, is easy to feed and bolt close is slick. So
I put on my nerd visor and broke out the inspection light and
Pictured for context L-R: 338-378 Weatherby,
30-06 Springfield, .325 WSM, .338 RCM. Ignore the longer than
.325 WSM length of the .338 WSM in the picture as this is the
result of bullet selection, not cartridge maximum COL
specification. The .338 RCM COL spec. is 2.846" and the .325 WSM
is 2.860". Probably days away from a real SAAMI released
drawing, I rough measured two once fired cases for comparison.
The case head of the .325 WSM measured 0.553" and the .338 RCM
measured 0.530". .325 WSM case length measured 2.095", the .338
RCM case measured 2.011". New unfired Hornady brass measured
2.005" on the average. My point is that the .338 RCM is smaller
than the WSM in all respects.
Then I measured a couple of WSM chambered
rifle actions and the Ruger Compact Magnum with fraction of an
inch accuracy and found the magazine feed lips were roughly 5/8"
wide on the WSM guns and just about 3/4" on the Ruger.
Additionally, the ejection port openings of the WSM guns were 2
3/8" longs, the port on the Ruger measured 2 5/8". I guess I can
deduce the improved fill and feed is the result of a smaller
radius case and an action with greater cartridge capacity. Yes,
it was a long winding and awkward narrative that got me to these
points, but thank you not mentioning it, and for not smoking.
Magnum...heavy on the Magnum
.338 Ruger Compact Magnum
Cartridge is quite a Hornady innovation. Derived from the .375 Ruger
case, the .338 RCM's case length is just about 2" long with a
measured fired case capacity of 72
grains of H2O. For as stubby as the .338 RCM is, 200 grain factory ammo
fired from a 20" barrel consistently clocked 2880 fps over the chronograph.
Not too shabby, as the load is listed by Hornady at
2850 fps and my testing was done during 7°F Maine winter weather.
If you haven't drawn the inference, for as
compact as this rifle and cartridge combination is, it produces
all the power of the well respected .338 Winchester Magnum, only
with 4 less inches of barrel and with 14 less grains of powder.
Like I said, it is an innovative cartridge and it is suitable
for all big and dangerous North American game. Even Canadian
moose, eh. It is also quite flat shooting, so it is OK to take
it out of the woods and into open spaces and, for those
occasions, just scope it appropriately.
External Ballistics 20" Barrel
200 Grain Velocity fps
Grain Velocity fps
200 grain KE ft./lbs
Grain KE ft./lbs
200 Grain Bullet Path - inches
Grain Bullet Path - Inches
The .338" bullet has a relatively high
sectional density, which interprets into relatively high
retained velocity and energy. 200 and 250 grain bullets are
excellent choices for
factory ammunition as they provide good
coverage for big game hunting. The 225 grain, particularly
over the longer haul, may be the better performer.
are many weights and types of .338" bullets available
to the handloader, something that
makes the .338 RCM distinctly preferable to the .323" .325 WSM.
Hornady brass and dies from a number of manufacturers are
readily available for the .338 RCM, as are modified cases if
you use the Hornady system for setting and checking
cartridge overall length.
Setting up for
wanting to break with the rifle's personality of woods hunting
in all weather conditions, and to maintain the very light
firearm theme, I installed a 1.25-4x24 Bushnell Elite 4200 scope
with illuminated dot reticle. A 30mm tube product, the Elite
4200 has a 24mm objective, 4mm greater than a 1" tube product;
44% greater objective lens area and, correspondingly, a much
brighter image and increased field of view; 81 feet compared to
a 1" tube scope at 66 feet for close in shots at moving targets.
The scope is being reviewed separately.
Honestly, when I recall that I hunted for
decades with a 4x scope for woods and a 6x for prairie, it
is almost comical to see some of the giant Hubble like
devices, complete with electronic compensating range finder
functions, that have made their way onto sporting rifles.
I'd rather scope manufacturers left off the superfluous
features and put more into durability, reliability and
optimized light gathering and transmission through a
reasonable size optical package.
I picked up a set of Ruger 30mm rings. The
Compact Magnum rifle ships with a set for 1" tube products which is a more
common size, but 30mm can be ordered from online discounters as
well as directly from Ruger. Availability is limited to high and
The M77 takes rings with a one height
step differential as an offset to action height. In this case, a
medium ring height for the front and a high ring for the rear.
The high ring at the rear offered some welcome clearance between
a raised bolt handle and the scope's large eyepiece. During all
of the times I shot the rifle, This scope and ring set were more
than adequate, including while shooting 100 yard groups.
The M77 Compact Magnum is loaded with very
nice touches. I like the engraved floor plate. It isn't gaudy,
its...distinctive and very nicely done. The satin finish and
matte black hardware is very traditional looking and the cut
checkering is neatly done, covering enough area to be
The stock geometry is right for this type of
rifle. While the pull is short, the comb is high enough to
provide good support while shooting. The pistol grip angle is
comfortable and the forend is wide enough for a solid grip. The
functional cross bolt absorbs some of the stress at the recoil
Dismantling the Ruger, the inletting is very
neat with no binding edges, the wood surfaces are all sealed and
barrel contact is established near the forend. Areas intended to
be clear of contact are and inletting gaps at the barrel channel
are uniform on both sides.
Hardware pieces, including hinges, are of good
quality. Castings, a Ruger manufacturing technology talent, are
of a very high grade in casting quality and in final finishing.
As an example, most rifle manufacturers will have a conical cut
for a feed ramp and sharp edge where it falls off into the mag
well. The Ruger has a blended radius that assists in smooth
feeding. Some of the Eastern European guns brought in as
commercial Mausers are very rough in action finish, bolt tracks
and feed contact surfaces.
The M77 Hawkeye Ruger Compact Magnum has a
silent three position safety; fire, load-unload and safe. Fire,
self explanatory. Load-Unload, Bolt cycles but trigger pull
blocked. Safe, Bolt locked closed and trigger function blocked.
The safety locates positively in each position.
If there is one area that might be improved,
it would be the recoil pad. For general shooting it is not a
problem, however, if you are working on load development and
shooting sixty rounds at bench sessions, the recoil can get to
you. For a hunting season, or a box of ammo for practice
shooting, the recoil pad is fine as is.
Almost forgot, it shoots
I went through a lot of ammo with the Ruger between
snow storms. There is a hellacious one blowing through here now
and the inside-outside wireless thermometer is reading 68°F
"You've got to be kidding me" outside. Earlier today I set up a
target and shot from a makeshift bench. It was freezing, winds
gusting 10 - 12 knots, so I had to keep waiting for breaks
groups. At one point I thought a pinky fell off, but it turned
out to be a snack carrot left in the bottom of my pocket from
I hadn't shot a Ruger this year that wouldn't
group well and the Compact Magnum was no exception. After about 30
rounds dedicated to settling in and familiarizing myself with
the rifle, I shot the upper three holes with the scope set at
4X. The group measured a little under ¾". I was so
pleased with myself, I thought, "Hey, why not make it a 5 shot
group". That's when I shot the lower hole. It's hard to
shoot tight groups over chattering teeth. So I'll call it a 1" group, but with an
explanation. Generally, the gun shot under 1 ½"
with factory ammo, which is an ad campaign for some
I was quick to develop an appreciation for the
Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum and the stubby .338 Ruger
Compact Magnum cartridge. I've always had a lot of respect for the
.338 Winchester Magnum and this gun provides those ballistics in
a more compact and easier to handle package. As soon as I get
done shoveling snow I'll start the handload development portion
of this project and let you know how it all comes together.
Ruger's M77 Hawkeye
Compact Magnum Part I
Ruger's M77 Hawkeye Compact
Magnum Part II