When it comes to hunting woodchucks in the Northeast, I’m a .22 caliber junkie. From the rimfires to commercial centerfire ammunition to my favorite wildcats, if the rifle is chambered with a .224-inch bore, I have to take it. This is the case for the new Ruger Model 77/22 chambered for the .22 Hornet.
Long a staple in the Ruger lineup, the 77/22 was introduced to the shooting public in 1994, and this new model should be a crowd pleaser. Ruger outfitted the gun with a Green Mountain stock, which is laminated in mutted shades of gray, green and what looks like burnt sienna. For the small game hunter, the pattern should blend into the summer foliage easily.
When I hunt groundhogs, I like a light gun (as opposed to a heavy-barreled one) and one that fits my style of shooting. With a classic styled stock, this gun is a pleasure to handle and carry, a big asset when I’m walking the perimeter of a large New England field.
The gun has a full-size stock with a 13.5-inch length of pull. There is more than ample checkering on both the fore-end and pistol grip, and a rubber recoil pad complements the butt of the stock. Although the sweep of the pistol grip looks a bit stretched out, I found it perfect for shooting offhand, with a bipod or from prone. Ruger calls it an “All Weather” rifle, and the laminated stock is protected with a satin urethane coating.
Over the years, we’ve seen more and more guns coming out of Newport with Ruger’s propriety Target Grey finish, which adds a pleasing hue to the barrel, action and related parts. According to Ruger, it not only looks good like a stainless gun does, it adds extra corrosion resistance and durability without the glare you can get with a full-on stainless rifle.
The receiver has three machined ring-mounting points, which come in handy to accommodate a wide range of scopes. Worth noting is the rings that come with the gun are now equipped with Torx screws.
The receiver with the bolt installed and cocked measures around 7.5 inches, matching some of its full-size centerfire rifles. To remove the bolt, pull it to the rear while pushing down on the bolt stop located on the left side and rear of the main receiver.
The two-piece bolt is more or less standard on rimfire guns, and here with a little bit of engineering, Ruger has managed to adapt it to a centerfire version. At the rear of the bolt, you’ll see a locking notch that mates with a three-position safety. When the safety lever is positioned to the rear, it completely locks the firing pin and the bolt from opening. Mid-position allows you to work the bolt to unload the gun; fully forward allows the gun to fire.
The bolt handle is rather commonplace, straightforward and without any checkering on the bolt knob. The action locks up with twin lugs at 90 degrees, while bolt rails forward of the lugs guide the bolt into the receiver. The bolt face sports a mechanical ejector, and the underside of the bolt is machined flat to keep the bolt running straight and true.
Bill Ruger liked the principle of the rotary magazine, and it’s a perfect complement to this rifle. Holding six rounds of Hornet ammunition, it worked flawlessly every time, all the time. A magazine release forward of the trigger guard drops it into your hand for loading or unloading.
Sad to say, the trigger is non-adjustable, broke just less than five pounds and, in my opinion, is excessively heavy for a varmint gun. It would be nice if Ruger would install its so-called “target” two-stage trigger on this gun as it does on the Mark II Target rifles, as it would certainly be an impressive upgrade.
The barrel is target quality, 24 inches long and mikes out to .665 inch at the muzzle. It is not clamped into the receiver like the rimfire models; instead, it is screwed in.
The gun does not have iron sights. I mounted a Leupold 2.5-8×36 scope on the rifle for accuracy tests, and the classic Hornet proved its mettle once again as an accurate cartridge. At 100 yards, Remington’s popular hollowpoint placed three shots into a group measuring a curt 0.75 inch. Hornady’s 35-grain V-Max went an even inch, followed by Winchester’s soft point at 1.25 inches.
This new variation of the Ruger M77/22 series is sure to be on the hit list for many a varmint hunter. Its clean lines, flawless operation and uncanny accuracy may place it on the backorder list for many months. Better get yours now.