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The Ruger Hawkeye Compact Rifle live fire exercise was a welcome break from days of heavy snow fall, even if slip and slide treks to post and retrieve targets and to set up equipment were required. The first part of the exercise was to assess the influence of the rifle’s short 16.5″ barrel in comparison to some of the more typical 243 Winchester barrel lengths. The ammunition was pulled from controlled lots that are logged as used specifically for this purpose.

243 Winchester Handload And Factory Ammunition Velocity Comparison
Manufacturer Type Weight
Grains
COL Primer Powder Charge MV
16.5
MV
18.5″
MV
22″
Δ
Lo-Hi
fps
Sierra BlitzKing 55 2.630 LR Varget 45.5 3386
3614 3769 383
Hornady V-Max 65 2.600 LR Varget 43.5 3309
3534 3651 342
Remington AccuTipV 75 2.616 LR Varget 42.0 3162
3330 3433 271
Nosler Ballistic Tip 95 2.700 LR Re 19 45.5 2817
3069 3114 297
Prvi Partizan Soft Point 100 2.650 LR Re 19 45.5 2744
2959 3095 351
Speer BTSP 100 2.700 LR Re 19 46.0 2805
3037 3168 363
Remington
PSP
80
Factory Ammunition 3046
3207
3337
291
Remington
PSP
100
Factory Ammunition 2649
2812
2937
288

Great, lots of velocity numbers, but what do they mean?

Best Zero Results 100 Grain 2805 FPS MV
Near-Zero – Yards 25 Mid Range – Yards 133
Far-Zero – Yards 235 Max Ordinate “ +3.0
Point Blank – Yards 250
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2805 2698 2594 2492 2393 2296 2201
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1747 1616 1494 1379 1271 1170 1076
Momentum – lbs-sec 40 39 37 36 34 33 31
Path – in. -1.50 1.20 2.70 2.92 1.73 -0.97 -5.33

 

Best Zero Results 100 Grain 3168 FPS MV
Near-Zero – Yards 28 Mid Range – Yards 149
Far-Zero – Yards 264 Max Ordinate “ +3.0
Point Blank – Yards 281
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 3168 3053 2941 2831 2723 2619 2516
Energy – ft.-lbs. 2228 2069 1920 1779 1647 1522 1406
Momentum – lbs-sec 45 44 42 40 39 37 36
Path – in. -1.50 0.95 2.48 2.99 2.43 0.69 -2.32

In terms of trajectory and reach, inside 300 yards the differences are not meaningful. With optimized zero, the difference between point blank range for long and short barrel is only 30 yards, but even then the holdover difference at 300 yards is only 3″ greater for the short barrel rifle.

If there is a meaningful difference between short and long barrel performance it would be in kinetic energy and, to a lesser degree, momentum, two indicators of penetration potential. But it is important to remember that the short barrel rifle was never intended to be a standard for 300 yard hunting and inside 200 yards there is not a practical difference between short barrel and long barrel performance.

Shooting personality

The Ruger Hawkeye Compact Rifle has little recoil, none that would bother a young or small shooter, even with its light six pound weight. Accuracy is as good as longer barrel versions and the sharply tapered barrel is pretty rigid. All of the handloads and factory loads issue shot under 0.8″ with some as small as 0.3″ at one hundred yards for three shot groups, making it more than accurate enough for a hunting rifle. While I can see that everyone in social media can routinely shoot 1/4″ 5 shot groups, on horseback and riding side saddle with a snub nose revolver, I would hazard a guess that the Ruger can produce greater accuracy than most of the people who shoot them.

The stock felt balanced and it shouldered comfortably. I kind of handles like my 1895 Guide Gun, one of the most intuitive point and shoot rifles I own. Trigger pull was light enough and very clean. Drop at the comb and heel worked well with the included medium rings and the installed moderate magnification Leupold Scope.

Flash – Bang!

Ejecta comprised of bullet and primer residue, burned and unburned powder, exit the rifle as the as the bullet leaves the barrel. The small particles travel faster than the bullet for a short distance and powder continues to ignite. The result is heightened muzzle flash from a short barrel and erroneous chronograph readings if the rifle is too close to the chronograph. The departing small particles trip the first photocells prematurely and dissipate, leaving the slower moving bullet to trigger the second photocells. The result is inaccurately low readings.

A more obvious characteristic of the Ruger Hawkeye Compact Rifle loud report. Why might that be? In the example below, peak pressure happens within the first 2.25″ of bullet travel. As the bullet continues down the barrel, the exposed bore volume increases more rapidly than the gas volume generated by the burning powder, causing pressure at the heel of the bullet to continuously falls. The longer the barrel, the lower the pressure when the bullet exits and the lower the report. In table form, it looks a bit like this –

243 Winchester 100 Grain Sierra
MV
FPS
Barrel
Length “
Net
Bore
Length “
Net Bore
Volume
Cubic “
Chamber
Pressure
PSI
Muzzle
Pressure
PSI
% Powder
Burn
3100 24.0 22.3 1.036 58272 15800 98
3023 22.0 20.3 0.943 58272 17300 97
2944 20.0 18.33 0.850 58272 19202 96
2878 18.5 16.83 0.780 58272 20672 95
2777 16.5 14.83 0.688 58272 23613 94

Conclusions?

The Ruger Hawkeye Compact Rifle for woodland hunters is a good choice. A quality, traditional firearm in a compact form virtually anyone from a young to mature hunter could put to good use. Performance measured by velocity and trajectory is penalized by the rifle’s short barrel, but not within the context of intended applications. Certainly a rifle worth a look.