July 31, 2015
At first glance, the Ruger 77/357 seems like a solution in search of a problem. Why would someone buy a bolt-action rifle in .357 Magnum over more powerful chamberings? Assuming they were dead set on on the caliber, a lever-action rifle has a larger capacity. Too weak for large game, too powerful for small; what is this rifle good for?
In a word, everything.
Confused? Well, "everything" isn't entirely accurate. The 77/357's limited effective range makes it a terrible long-range rifle and its limited magazine capacity, combined with its slow-shooting manual bolt-action, makes it a poor choice for home defense. Outside of those two situations, the Ruger 77/357 is a multi-role modern ranch-rifle that doubles as a great survival/hiking gun.
Build on the ultra-rugged M77 action, the Ruger 357/77 is a control-feed, bolt-action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum, but can also fire less expensive .38 special rounds. It feeds from a 5-round rotary-type detachable magazine that looks like an oversized Ruger 10/22 magazine. It includes front and rear sling attachment points, a black polymer stock with rubberized buttpad and a said of staineless scope rings matching the rifle's finish.
The 77/357 is an odd duck to be sure and, despite not being as powerful or a quick-shooting as my favorite AR15, found its way into my range gear more often than not. The rifle is ludicrously enjoyable to shoot. The action is smooth, the recoil minimal and the relatively large-caliber rounds make easily visible holes in both paper and tin targets. More than that, it often rode shotgun with me when I rode around a neighbor's property to check up on his livestock.
Why not grab my ever-faithful AK or decked-out AR15? Both are tremendously more powerful, but that also means they are more likely to suffer overpenetration. When I either walked or rode around the property, I wanted something that was ultra-light, had minimal recoil but was powerful enough to stop small predators without risking either over penetration or a missed shot reaching an adjacent property.
The nearest dwelling is my own, which is still a substantial 500 yards of pine forest apart, but should a round go high for whatever reason, I know that when firing the .38 special round, the chances of it leaving the nearly 75 acre property are slim. This is especially true when utilizing a modern defensive expanding bullet like the Hornady FTX Critical Defense line of ammunition.
Another extremely useful aspect of the round is its compatibility with revolvers. This allows a shooter to share ammunition between the rifle and sidearm, greatly simplifying the logistics of procuring and carrying ammunition. This is the area of the carbine's design that makes it perfectly suited to a survival situation.
Also, since neither a revolver nor a bolt-action rifle are load-dependent to properly cycle, reliability will never be an issue. There are even recipes available that demonstrate how to load .38 ammo with homemade blackpowder and match sticks, though I would advise against it unless both your life depends on having ammo and there are no other options. In addition, shooters worried about finding ammo in or just prior to a disaster situation can rest easy knowing that it is one of the most common cartridges in America. With enough different loads to fill countless volumes of reloading handbooks. I suspect that, given the strength of the action, shooters could likely load borderline dangerously-high pressure loads without damaging the rifle. But having over-loading ammunition that is proven unsafe for other firearms in the same caliber could be a recipe for disaster.
One last area that the rifle unexpectedly shined in was as a training rifle for new shooters. Even though the Ruger 77/357 feels like a full-powered rifle, its recoil and report are negligible, especially when compared with modern hunting calibers, though the rifle wouldn't do well in this role without an optic. This is because the 77/357 uses the same miniscule iron sights as the 10/22. Though functional, they are too fine for precision or reactive shooting. Thankfully, the 77/357 includes a pair of scope rings.
To test accuracy, I mounted a magnified optic from one of my favorite makers, Meopta. In particular, a MeoPro 4.5-14x. The optic stayed on 4.5x for the vast majority of shooting save for accuracy tests at 100 plus yards to squeeze every ounce of performance from the carbine. While both the .38 special and .357 Magnum rounds performed well, it's important to note that point of impact shifts tremendously between calibers at range. So shooting looking to carry the rifle in the field should zero it with their desired load beforehand.
Although somewhat pricey, the Ruger 77/357 is an incredibly versatile rifle. Capable of culling whitetail with high-velocity .357 Magnum rounds and ammo interchangeability with a dizzying array of different revolvers, the soft-shooting Ruger makes an excellent farmer's companion. The only thing about the rifle that I personally believe would improve it would be the inclusion of a threaded barrel for sound suppressors, making a modern-day DeLisle carbine for quiet pest control.