September 23, 2010
Last year Ruger introduced two rifles for its new .375 Ruger cartridge. It came as no surprise that the first was a safari-style rifle. The company's new Hawkeye--essentially a Model 77 with a more slender profile and better handling qualities--became the platform for a Hawkeye African in .375 Ruger.
It featured practical open sights and a 23-inch barrel that, praise be, had a fetching taper that nicely matched the rifles slim fore-end and contributed to its near-perfect balance. An Alaskan version had to be in the works. It was, and you can buy one now.
The action is the same as that of the African. So are the sights. A shallow express V-notch rear, with white vertical line, is properly open and very fast. It's adjustable for windage (a screw clamps it in place after you drift the blade) but not elevation.
The barrel-band front sight is attractive, with a sturdy ramp and a white bead that's big enough to see readily but not of the golf-ball persuasion.
Ruger did a good job of engineering these sights and fitting them. Those I've used on both African and Alaskan models have directed bullets very near point of aim at 50 yards--a reasonable zero distance for open sights.
Of course, were these rifles chambered for more than one cartridge with two bullet weights, rear-sight elevation adjustment would be a must. But that's not now the case. Cosmetically and functionally, I like these sights as they are.
While the Hawkeye African wears a 23-inch blued chrome-moly barrel, the Alaskan's is 20 inches long, of hammer-forged stainless steel. Ruger gave the barrel and receiver an "ion-bonded Diamondback" matte finish. The brush-stainless look cuts glare without afflicting the steel with the sandpaper surface all too common on rifles touted for their utility.
| Specifications | Ruger .375 Alaskan
| Action Type:
| bolt-action centerfire
| .375 Ruger
| Barrel length:
| 20 in.
| Overall length:
| 40.75 in
| 8 lb.
| Hogue Rubber overmolded
| matte stainless
| shallow V-notch adjustable rear, ivory bead barrel band front
| Ruger, 203.259.7843
In my view, you needn't make a rifle ugly to make it effective in the field. Ruger has struck just the right balance here. The Hogue overmolded stock is well-fitted to the Alaskan's metal and is significantly heavier than the walnut stock on the African model. In fact, the Hawkeye Alaskan weighs eight pounds, half a pound more than its companion rifle with the longer barrel.
And while the Hogue is a sturdy, durable, weather-resistant handle, it's not as handsome as the African's stock. The grip is long but tight, with a pronounced forward hook and almost vertical fluting behind.
The fore-end appears heavy--from the side and the bottom. It terminates in an almost-squared-off tip. Beaded panels enhance grip, as does the rubbery "skin" of this stock.
How does the rifle feel in the hand? Better than I thought it would. The comb puts my eye directly in line with the sights. The grip feels better than it looks and is comfortable in all field positions. I like the "sticky" surface for deliberate shooting, and in prone, where my hand tends to fall off slender, open grips.
The fore-end is more generous in cross-section than I prefer, even though I have big hands. To be fair, it helps quite a bit in absorbing recoil. And the pebbly, almost tacky surface is good when your hands are wet. Southwest Alaska, where big bears warrant cartridges as brawny as the .375 Ruger, gets plenty of rain.
Besides the obvious strength and stability advantages of most synthetic stocks, this Hogue gives your slick, perhaps cold and awkward fingers an extra measure of control.
A barrel-band front sight with sturdy, attractive ramp holds a white bead of appropriate size. An "Express" open rear sight with shallow V notch is adjustable for windage, not elevation. A Mauser claw extractor grabs the cartridge off the follower and controls feed into the chamber. An alloy stock insert ensures the Alaskan won't back out of its inletting during the heavy recoil of the .375.
I tested the effectiveness of the stock's profile and surface by wetting my hands, then cycling the rifle quickly offhand. August heat prevented my duplicating the finger-numbing cold of a day in freezing rain on Kodiak Island. But it was clear the new stock would handle more surely than traditional walnut and speed recovery from recoil--although a smoother comb would also make the Alaskan more comfortable to shoot. As is, it tends to tug on a cheek pressed tight to its surface.
The Ruger Alaskan's trigger broke smoothly and u
niformly at 4.25 pounds, out of the box. While I prefer hunting triggers of two pounds, no triggers on commercial hunting rifles are designed for such pull weights. I found the Ruger trigger quite manageable.
For range tests, I chose a scope that seemed appropriate for the rifle: a 1.25-5x20 Sightron. Ruger rings are among my favorites because they're so quick and easy to install on a scope, and there's no base to attach. Once on a rifle, the scope and ring assembly comes off with a quick twist of two screws.
Despite its endearing simplicity, I've not yet had a Ruger ring come loose or a scope slip in the ring. I do wish the firm would offer lower rings, given my penchant for 2.5X scopes that could be mounted to more closely match the sight-line of open sights on rifles like the Alaskan.
The rifle proved tractable at the bench. The wide fore-end was not only sandbag-friendly but easy to hold down under recoil. The one-inch butt-pad is not only thicker than the African's; it's softer.
Given that the .375 Ruger hurls well over two tons of muzzle energy from a 20-inch barrel, the Alaskan is comfortable to shoot. I'll concede the stock's generous proportions and sticky surface help distribute recoil.
With the two factory-loaded bullet weights, the rifle shot extremely well. A couple of groups with 300-grain solids stayed inside 3/4 inch (one was a half-inch cloverleaf most varmint hunters would covet).
Group sizes were predictable and didn't swing wildly from tight to loose. Nor did changes in bullet weight move point of impact significantly--only 1.5 inches at 100 yards.
Shooting across a willow flat at moose, Ruger's Alaskan is a long-range rifle, shooting 270-grain bullets as flat as a .30-06 hurls 180s. In tight quarters, it's a stopping rifle.
As to function, the bolt rattled a bit in travel. But feeding, extracting and ejecting followed with reassuring certainty. The Mauser claw controlled each round from first contact to lock-down.
Not as slender as other Hawkeye rifles, the Alaskan nonetheless shoulders quickly. Its Hogue stock
fits the metal well and is durable and weatherproof.
The three-position wing safety operated easily. While it is not as quick to release from the fully "on" position as that of a Winchester Model 70, I do appreciate the Ruger's snag-proof profile with the thumb-piece tight into the striker. When anticipating a shot, I carry the rifle with the safety at its middle detent, which blocks the striker but allows bolt manipulation.
The floorplate latch was appropriately snug and required some effort to open. On rifles of heavy recoil, I want a latch that's reluctant to dump cartridges.
In sum, Ruger's new Alaskan is well suited to hunting in thick, wet, difficult places. It is sturdy, well balanced, and heavy enough to hold easily offhand and absorb the .375 Ruger's substantial recoil. It wears useful sights, shoots accurately, functions without error and handles better than it looks.
For big, dangerous animals at modest ranges, where weather and abuse test the mettle of and endurance of hunting rifles, it's a good choice. No--it's an excellent choice. You certainly won't find a better one for $1,139.
|Accuracy Results | Ruger .375 Alaskan
|Bullet Weight (gr.)
| Muzzle Velocity (fps)
| Standard Deviation
|Avg. Group (in.)
| Hornady SP
|Averages are the result of threw three-shot groups at 100 yards; chronopgraph readings measured with Oehler Sky-screens set four feet apart, 10 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: SP, softpoint; FMJ, full metal jacket.