first thing that came to mind when I pulled the Hawkeye Compact
out of the bulk shipping carton
was where the rest of the gun might be. The box is approximately two thirds
the length of the other rifles and it feels almost empty. It
took a few moments, but then it sunk in that even through it is
a bolt action rifle, it is still only 35" long and weighs just 6
I dug around in my scope cabinet
until I located an older 3-9x variable compact scope with
excellent eye relief, installed it with the Ruger rings that
were supplied with the rifle. A quick boresight and the set up
was ready to go.
The .308 Winchester
This particular example was chambered for the
.308 Winchester, a cartridge I have ignored for most of my adult
life, so I didn't really know what to expect from the gun. I've
always thought of the cartridge as sort of a 30-06 Short. It is the "Almost as good as...", "Almost
as fast as..." cartridge that has no remarkable
Sure, it may arguably be the cartridge most ideally
suited to North American
hunting. Sure, it may also arguably be one of the most
accurate cartridges...OK, and it may even be one of the easiest
cartridges to shoot well but... We'll, where is the
challenge in all of this?
M77® Hawkeye® Compact
||6 lbs 1 Oz.
LC6 Non Adjustable
||5 Lbs 2 Oz.
||Black - Laminated
|Stock - Pull
|Stock - Drop at
Then there is the issue of the missing lever...
If there was ever a bolt action rifle that felt
like a saddle carbine when carried, this is it. I could have
used this a hundred years ago when I was trudging around in the
Black Hills, butt deep in snow and hanging onto rocks so I
wouldn't slide off of a hill. Even with compact scope and rings in
place, the rifle weighs barely over 7 lbs and it is
smaller than a traditional saddle carbine. The short stock pull
length pull brings the rifle's CG toward the
shooter, but the shortened forearm brings everything back into
balance. The result is a short barrel that is very steady on
target and one that one that doesn't get away from the shooter
when tracking to a moving target. While the M77® Hawkeye®
Compact is a fun recreational shooter, it is obviously a hills
and woods country hunting rifle.
Details, details, details...
I spent much time with Ruger firearms, I always categorized them
as Plain-Jane. The term "ignorance is bliss" does define
stress free lifestyle. When I finally got to push some
ammunition through Ruger firearms, and I was able to get a closer look at them,
the simple elegance of their mechanical design became obvious.
Makes sense for a company that was founded by an east coast gun
designer with an appreciation for art and excellence is design.
The Hawkeye M77 Compact has a hinged floorplate
to make unloading easy. The floorplate release, recessed into
the front of the trigger guard, makes for easy operation, but
also keeps the catch out of reach of misplaced fingers.
The finish on stainless parts is matte; always good to go into
the woods with something less that reflector mirrors on your
arm. The Ruger Hawk is cut into the floorplate in a tasteful
The guard is secured with two
screws that pass through the stock and into the
action. The floor plate is secured with one larger fastener at
approximately a 45° angle to the action. The stock and bottom
hardware fit cleanly together and there is nothing that shoots
loose or looks out of place.
The Hawkeye has a very attractive black laminated
stock, produced from RPC's proprietary Stratabond birch laminate.
It is amazing how much laminated stocks have improved in
durability and appearance since their early use on factory
firearms. The Ruger stock is very durable, weatherproof and
nicely finished all the way through to the inletting and
controlled barrel channel contact. The checkering is very clean and there is some
interesting coloration in the wood. The most important aspect of
this stock is its dimensional stability which really pays off
when hunting is severe weather conditions.
Ruger's casting technology is top notch, although
I am not crazy about some of the minor parting lines.
Functionally they mean nothing, they don't interfere with
operation and they never appear on handling or bearing surfaces.
I'm just very old and cranky and I like perfection in
everything. So why am I writing about them. I honestly don't
know other than I don't like seeing them in my photos.
The M77's flat bottomed action mates concisely
with the laminated stock and is, again, secured convincingly at
three points long its bottom. The action is smooth when opening
and closing for a controlled feed gun. The Ruger scope mount
system is very reliable and the fact that Ruger includes a set
of 1" rings is commendable. They hang on tight with even very
heavy cartridge applications, 30mm tube size rings are readily
available and the little cross tab under the rings locate scopes
positively fore and aft.
The three way safety is positive in actuation and
the LC6 trigger is pretty...spiffy. At a hair over 5 lbs, the
trigger has to have one of the shortest releases of almost any
rifle on the market. There isn't a whole lot of tugging distance
there to allow pulling off the target before the firing pin
drops and the Ruger has reduced lock time. The trigger does not
have provisions to adjusting things like pull weight, or over
travel, however, anything can be adjusted by a gunsmith given enough
hammer weight and grinder speed. That said, I do believe the notion
that triggers on all hunting rifles need to be light
"The perfect weight is 3 lbs 4 oz..." is an actual quote
from one writer. First of all, weight is relative to the person
feeling its resistance and there is no way for every person's
perception of a weight to be the same. Secondly, pull weight is
often a general characterization of a trigger which may ignore
pull length, creep, overtravel, etc... The closest I've come to
agreeing with a proper pull description is "...like breaking
glass". The Ruger trigger is very good. It is not so light it
could be depressed without a conscious effort to do so and its
quick sear release is clean like breaking glass...only without
all the bleeding.
Hey! How about those Giants!
I don't know how to place the .308 Winchester
into context with popular cartridges. I know the lineup to the
right, But I am not sure what logical arrangement I can place on
the left as the .308 Winchester is about as short and small in
case head diameter as an almost modern hunting cartridge can
get. OK, let's try this. While some cartridges are larger than the .308
Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield and .300 Remington Ultra Mag
to name two, the .308
Winchester can dwarf other cartridges...like the .22
The designers of the .308 Winchester must have
been doing something right as the cartridge has been responsible
for more spinoffs than a popular sitcom; 358 Winchester, 243
Winchester, .260 Remington, and 7mm-08 Remington. With a 2.810" COL and 0.473" case head, the .308
Winchester is a lean, mean....lean mean. The .308
Winchester holds all of the entertainment value of a Saturday
afternoon bass fishing show, or perhaps the Food Network during
"Cake week. And I sincerely mean that.
Enough with the accolades...
I picked up a set of Lee Precision RGB dies
because they did not include yet another shell holder that
follows the .30-06 Springfield standard and I did not need
another yellow handloader's sippy cup like powder measure. The
ramifications of that executive decision was a fiscal
exposure of $15.The Lee
Precision RGB set is less costly than even other Lee die sets
because only a sizer and seater are included. They are nicely
finished and they make good ammunition. If I wanted something
different, there are
approximately 52 types/set of reloading dies for the .308
Winchester. Someone had a lot of time on their hands.
The first thing I noticed about bullets for the
.308 Winchester is that they are REALLY big, pictured right -
actual size. I suspect, if
thrown, they could be a very effective game getter and they are a
natural selection for a hard to misplace bullet keychain. In a
real world context, over a third of my
loading bench space is populated with one variety of .308"
bullet or another.
I thought Barnes 130 grain TTSX, Hornady 150
grain soft point boat tail and Sierra 165 grain soft point boat
tail bullets would be representative of the gun's capability;
accuracy, consistency of shot placement, and terminal ballistics.
With 56 grains of powder capacity, the Ruger with
16.5" barrel has approximately the same expansion volume as a
.30-06 Springfield with a 22" barrel, so the short barrel does
not carry the ballistic compromise one might expect. With 95% of
a powder charged burned in the first 11" bullet travel, how much
more barrel is needed?
Test barrels for the .308 Winchester can
fall between 20" and 26" in length. Barnes data was based on a
24" barrel, Hornady's data on a 22" barrel and Sierra
utilized a gun
turret like 26" barrel. Hodgdon
BL-2(C) powder was used for all loads so powder type changes would be one less
are emphatic in their universal caution to of not substituting
bullets of the same weight within a data set without properly
compensating for variation in shank length by adjusting powder
charge or cartridge overall length. The current version of the
Barnes Reloading Manual #4 lists data only for their
earlier 130 Grain TSX #30838, which is approximately 0.080"
shorter than the 130 Grain TTSX #30873. This of course means the
data cannot be carried over to the new bullet as its longer
shank would seriously elevate pressure if loaded to the same COL
as the short bullet. The 130 Grain TTSX's longer
shank improved bullet retention and the nose appears to
have been reshaped which, combined with the poly tip, yields an
improved BC. In developing loads for the new 130 Grain TTSX, the
longer shank further proved advantageous as approximately the
same velocity was achieved with less powder. When handloading
cases that had been sized full length, fitting the original charge required a
high degree of compression. With the downward adjusted charge as
an offset to the newer bullet's shank length, the heaviest load
lightly compressed. Thank you. I appreciate your attention
throughout that long winded public service announcement.
recorded with 16 1/2
2 Calculated - Barnes manual does not include
Note - CCI large rifle primers were used for all
I love Partizan cheese on...
Beginning with new Prvi Partizan brass
with a measured case capacity of 55.0 grains, once fired brass expanded
57.6 grains. A useful pickup. There are a number of powders,
when loaded with 150 grain or lighter bullets, where a couple of
grains determines whether or not they can be loaded to an
acceptable level of performance. If I were to load the .308
Winchester on a routine basis, I'd lean toward making critical
loads from fired brass that had only been neck sized.
The .308 Winchester is an extremely easy
cartridge to handload, wear and tear on brass is negligible and
it has to be the king of bullet to case concentricity. Fifteen
of tightly controlled handloads were assembled to check rifle
function and to establish bullet to rifling clearance. Many more
rounds were quick to follow.
Tick avoidance and groups shot at fifty yards...
My lovely wife of 42 years is quite Irish. I am,
on the other hand, very much Italian. She can walk through the
woods of Maine and never get so much as a mosquito bite where as
I am bitten by any form of biomass that swims, walks, crawls or
flies. Clearly we have differing opinions as to why that
circumstance exists, but we both agree it is a fact. I haven't
had a chance to clear the range out back yet, so fifty yards was
about all I was willing to risk for the sake of firearm testing
in the face of tick borne Lyme disease. I do believe that, fifty
or one hundred yards, the results are an accurate indication of
the Ruger's capabilities.
Normally I have to work a little bit to tighten
up Barnes TTSX bullet. Not much, just a little finessing. The
group at the left represents the first three shots through the
gun and the first load I put together for the .308 Winchester.
Subsequent shooting with the same load resulted in virtually the
same results. The gun, with a ten inch twist, seems to like the longish 130 grain Barnes
bullet and my experience with Barnes solid material bullets
tells me this is a very good hunting selection.
OK, slightly warm barrel but not enough to warm
my coffee. The first shot went wide right, the other two shared
a hole. Doesn't matter as none were far enough a part of let a
deer walk through...even a very tiny deer. This load was
accurate and velocity was actually higher than the Hornady data
which was based on a 22" barrel. The 150 grain Hornady did well.
was actually the second group shot, so the vertical stringing
was not developing as barrel temperature was rising. 165
grains is an OK bullet weight for the .308 Winchester, and a
half inch group isn't anything to sneeze at as group sizes go. I
did manage to extend bullet weights and try a few more powder
selection and the combination appears to be innately accurate.
In short, while I would like to take credit for the rifle and
cartridge accuracy, I probably could have shot off the shelf
ammo and the results would have been similar.
little gun, and that was the opinion of any number of people who
were greeted at the shop by me saying, "Here. What do you think of this?"
Everyone initially thought the gun was too small, but as soon as
they picked it up and brought it too their shoulder they sang a
different tune. The little Ruger became a comfortable natural
pointing gun that felt very balanced and steady.
Shooting pretty much left every everyone with the same
impression; lots of muzzle blast, very low recoil and
an easy gun to shoot accurately. The cause of the muzzle blast
is the short 16.5" barrel leaving about 12,200 PSI of muzzle
pressure as compared to a 24" barrel with less than 8,000 PSI of
muzzle pressure. The recoil minor, to the point it was
surprisingly light. It has to be the stock design because even
the big .416 Ruger fired in a Hawkeye M77 demonstrates very
manageable recoil. There was that one guy who referred to the
gun's recoil as "sassy", but he's no longer allowed in the shop
and "sassy" was added to the list of fifty one...now fifty two
words that may never be spoken when describing a firearm in the
As I said at the opening of the article, the
Hawkeye M77 Compact is an excellent woods rifle. It is made with
the understanding that hunting rough terrain takes a lot of
energy and effort. Making a gun in the right caliber at the
lightest possible weight is a good place to start when making
practical hunting gear.
The gun for all occasions...