July 02, 2019
Ruger has launched a dedicated long-range version of the Hawkeye. Known as the Long-Range Target, this new rifle incorporates the company’s non-rotating claw extractor action and fixed ejector into a dedicated long-range shooting platform—one that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Ruger’s two-lug one-piece stainless bolt design has been around for decades, and the system has proven itself time and again to be utterly reliable because the large claw extractor bites down on the cartridge case. Controlled-round-feed rifles are more expensive to produce than push-feed guns, but Ruger kept the suggested retail price of this rifle at $1,279, which means street prices will likely be a bit over a grand, certainly a good price for a dedicated long-range rifle capable of excellent accuracy.
While the action might look familiar to longtime Model 77 fans, virtually every other component on this rifle has been upgraded or redesigned to make it capable of shooting at extreme distances. For starters, this new gun comes equipped with a 26-inch free-floated cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel with a heavy profile and a 5/8x24 threaded muzzle.
The Hawkeye’s barrel comes with 5R rifling, and the benefits of that are twofold. For starters, by using five lands and grooves instead of the more conventional four or six lands and grooves, the bullet is not compressed between opposing grooves as it passes down the barrel. Instead, 5R rifling seats lands and grooves opposite one another in the bore, and this leads to better concentricity and, as a result, improved accuracy.
Another key element of 5R is that the sides of the lands are sloped toward the grooves as opposed to being cut at sharp angles. This makes it easier to effectively clean the barrel because fouling is easier to remove—and also less likely jacket material will be stripped from a bullet as it passes down the bore.
Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifles come with Ruger’s hybrid muzzle brake, borrowed from the company’s Precision Rifle, which reduces felt recoil by as much as 58 percent while simultaneously reducing noise and blast to the sides. Therefore, your neighbors at the range will be less inclined to petition to have you banned from the club. The brake is locked into position via an external jam nut, and it weighs just 3.2 ounces.
The stock on this rifle is excellent, especially given the price point. It’s made of durable, high-quality brown laminate and features black epoxy resin texturing over the entire length. This epoxy provides a comfortable gripping surface in any weather conditions, and it also looks great. The broad beavertail fore-end comes with a flat M-Lok rail for mounting accessories like bipods, and there are QD attachment points fore and aft on the stock for attaching a sling.
Length-of-pull spacers and a two-way adjustable comb make it easy to adjust the stock to the shooter, and the pistol grip of the Hawkeye has a steep vertical angle and scalloped sides for shooting from the prone position. The soft rubber buttpad on the stock is thin and basic, but it’s dense enough to do the job.
A 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail with four 8-40 screws sits atop the receiver, and this rail offers not only the elevation benefits long-range shooters demand, but also a stable platform for mounting optics. I opted to mount a Trijicon AccuPoint 2.5-12x42mm scope with an illuminated duplex crosshair on the Ruger, and Trijicon’s beefy 30mm rings bit down on the Ruger’s rail like a vice grip.
One Magpul PMag 5 AC L Magnum five-shot magazine comes standard, and the magazine release lever is located just ahead of the trigger guard and has a broad tang that makes mag swaps simple. The 5 AC L Magnum is built from crush-resistant polymer and features a self-lubricating follower and a stainless steel spring, and the polymer design is both durable and light. It’s virtually indestructible yet weighs just three ounces.
The magazine is one of the few lightweight components in the construction of the Hawkeye Long-Range Tactical, though. At 11 pounds (11 pounds, two ounces on my scale) you can expect a fully loaded and scoped Hawkeye Tactical to run in the neighborhood of 13 pounds.
But this is a gun for the serious long-range shooter, including competition shooters, and gun weight is not typically an issue. A little extra heft can even be an advantage if you’re calling your own shots since the gun is more stable, and that extra heft really helps tame the recoil of this rifle. When you plant the Hawkeye on bags or on a bipod it stays put, and it’s easy to stabilize. And since there are multiple comb and length-of-pull adjustment options, you can make this gun fit properly, so you’re better-equipped to handle recoil.
In shooting the rifle I found nothing about it feels flimsy or cheap. The dual-lug action runs smoothly through the raceway, and there were no issues with feeding throughout the duration of the test.
This reliability is thanks both to the controlled-round-feed action and the supplied five-round magazine. With its smooth yet durable spring and polymer follower, the magazine is easy to load, and there’s no need to fiddle with the cartridge to make sure it’s seated correctly. The action feeds, extracts and ejects cartridges with authority, just as you’d expect from a Mauser-inspired controlled-round-feed rifle.
Target guns like the Hawkeye incorporate more upright pistol grips that position the hand comfortably for prone or bench shooting. The Hawkeye’s pistol grip design is particularly comfortable because it’s trim enough to allow a secure hold and complete control over the rifle while the rounded profile fills the shooter’s hand.
The front face of the pistol grip is nearly vertical, which allows for plenty of freedom to position the hand as high or low on the grip as you’d like. It’s a comfortable design that offers maximum flexibility so that each shooter can find the right position for their hand.
Speaking of flexibility, the two-way adjustable comb is easy to customize to suit the shooter’s facial structure. It’s an austere design—a screw-adjustable clamping lever allows the shooter to lock and unlock the hard plastic comb—but this simplicity makes it easy to make minor adjustments on the field or in the range.
The lever itself is easy to open and locks securely in place, and the system is intuitive and allows the shooter to keep his or her eyes downrange while adjusting the comb if needed. And although the comb is made of polymer, it’s durable and has a wide, comfortable surface that doesn’t scrape or jar your face with each shot. The included length-of-pull spacers allow for even more customization, and the recoil pad does a good job absorbing recoil.
Ruger’s hybrid muzzle brake is quite effective at reducing recoil, and the Hawkeye Long Range is among the softest-shooting .300 magnums on the market—thanks to both the brake and the gun’s weight. The downside to any brake, of course, is added blast, yet the Ruger’s brake doesn’t seem to be as loud as competing models. I had no means to measure muzzle blast at the range, so the evidence is anecdotal, but the Ruger seems less offensive than competing braked .300 magnums I’ve shot—although I surely wouldn’t call it quiet. No braked rifle is.
Shooting the Ruger in .300 was enjoyable, which is not the case with all .300s, and if you elect to purchase this rifle in either the 6.5 Creedmoor or 6.5 PRC, I’m certain recoil would be light indeed and quite manageable even for new or young shooters.
The adjustable trigger on this rifle is superb, breaking at 2.2 pounds out of the box with no adjustments. It’s a clean, crisp design with no blades or take-up, just a smooth trigger face that breaks like glass.
The trigger guard is oversize and can easily accommodate gloved fingers for shooting on cold days, and the extended magazine release on the front of the trigger guard is easy to operate. Simply run the finger around the outer edge of the guard and you’ll contact the rear of the release lever; minimal forward pressure drops the magazine free. It’s another feature on this gun that allows the shooter to remain target-focused.
As I mentioned, the 20-m.o.a. top rail made scope mounting a snap, and it obviously provides plenty of elevation adjustment for most any shot. Similarly, the M-Lok system on the beavertail fore-end makes it easy to securely mount a bipod, and the wide, flat contact surface between the rifle and the bipod provides a strong and stable base. There’s also a generous cutout in the rear of the stock for resting on bags.
The controls are traditional M77/Hawkeye design, with a wing-type three-position safety that allows the rifle to be loaded and unloaded with the safety engaged when the safety is the middle position. Removing the bolt is simple thanks to a release lever on the left rear portion of the receiver, though fully extracting the bolt may require readjusting the comb so it doesn’t interfere with bolt removal.
The Hawkeye managed groups at or under an inch with all three loads I tested. With moderate recoil and a great trigger, you’ll want to fire group after group to see just how tightly you can compact three-shot clusters at 100 yards. I was limited to 300 yards at my range, but I did shoot the rifle out to 428 yards at stumps on a friend’s farm, and the Ruger performed perfectly. Wherever the Trijicon’s green dot rested, a .308-inch hole soon appeared, blowing spouts of wet, rotted wood high into the air. And, as I already mentioned, I was able to call my own shots.
While this is primarily a target rifle, and its weight and overall dimensions would make most hunters think twice before dragging this beast afield, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not going to move much and shots are long, the Hawkeye Long-Range Target would be a solid option. I think it would be great for, say, hunting deer from a box blind or when glassing for antelope or elk from a ridgetop.
The price of dedicated long-range rifles ranges from a few thousand to as much as 10 grand, so at $1,279 the Ruger is something of a bargain. It’s not a poser, a manufacturer’s attempt to dress-up an existing model simply to lure in a few long-range shooters. This gun has the chops it takes to make long shots, and it won’t beat you to death.
Nor will you have to excuse cut-rate workmanship in the name of value. This gun carries the DNA of Ruger’s original Model 77 rifle, which dates back 50 years yet manages to hang with the most modern, cutting-edge rifles in terms of performance. It’s certainly on the short list of the best bang-for-the-buck guns in recent memory, and it’s worth a hard look if you’re in the market for your first (or next) long-range gun.