September 14, 2018
By David Fortier
I admit to having a couple weird fetishes. One is a weakness for full-length Mannlicher stocks. Doesn’t matter if it’s the classic Central European style or something with more American lines like the Ruger Model 77 I’ll be discussing here-they just spin my crank. Another is an affinity for classic cartridges like the .275 Rigby.
So as soon as I stumbled across Ruger’s stainless steel Mannlicher carbine in .275 Rigby-part of a special run for Lipsey’s-I ordered one. And before you start writing letters to the editor, no, this rifle is no longer in production, and you might have to do some searching to come up with one. However, Lipsey’s is offering the same configuration in .260 Rem. this year.
The heart of the rifle is Ruger’s famous Model 77 action, which was developed in 1968 by Leroy James Sullivan. It was intended to be a modernized version of the classic Mauser 1898. Like most firearm designs that have lived a long life, the Model 77 has evolved over the years. One major redesign occurred when Ruger dispensed with conventional scope mounting pads and, in their place, machined proprietary scope bases directly into the top of the receiver. This provided a bulletproof scope base that could not loosen through hard use or abuse. Of course, the downside to this was the need for proprietary Ruger rings.
The next big change came in 1991 with the introduction of the Ruger Model 77 Mk II. This model more closely mimicked the Mauser 1898 concept by adding controlled round feeding, a fixed-blade ejector and a three-position bolt-mounted safety.
The trigger was also changed at this time, with the original adjustable design being dropped. The new design eliminated the possibility of a double feed, allowed the rifle to be safely unloaded with the safety engaged and provided more reliable ejection.
In 2006 Ruger updated the Model 77 by introducing the Hawkeye series. This addressed shooters’ complaints regarding the heavy trigger. Being both lighter and smoother, the new LC6 trigger is much more user-friendly than the previous design. Down through the decades, the Ruger Model 77 has proven to be a simple and tough design capable of handling the heaviest of cartridges.
The Model 77 Hawkeye action feeds from a four-round staggered internal box magazine with a drop floorplate. I am admittedly a bit old-fashioned and believe a proper bolt gun should hold five rounds, but I got over it. The trigger guard, floorplate and follower are steel rather than aluminum. A recessed release on the front of the trigger guard unlocks the floorplate, allowing it to hinge downward.
Fitted to the front of the receiver is a fairly light stainless-steel barrel. At only 18.5 inches in length, it is compact and handy. It features five-groove rifling with a 1:8.75-inch twist. The muzzle is cut with a simple crown, nothing fancy.
The barreled action sits in a walnut stock cut from a nice-looking piece of wood. The stock is complemented by a stainless nose cap and a thin red pad with a single black spacer. A traditional-style front sling swivel is mounted using one screw that runs through the fore-end. In the rear is a sling stud.
The checkering looked good, but I did notice I could not run a piece of paper under the barrel. While there was space to do this on the right side of the barrel channel, the barrel was touching on the left.
This model is fitted with a single-stage LC6 trigger. Trigger pull on my review rifle was fairly crisp with zero creep. It broke cleanly at about 4.5 pounds. While not the lightest in the world, I had no complaints.
Machined directly into the top of the receiver are two bases for Ruger’s proprietary, robust rings. Included with the rifle was a set of steel one-inch rings, although I decided to order a set of one-inch steel QD rings from Alaska Arms. These are nice-looking rings with a quick release lever system.
While the rifle is intended to be utilized with an optic, iron sights are standard. The front sight consists of a blade dovetailed into a handsome sculpted base. The folding rear sight consists of a simple “U” notch adjustable for both windage and elevation. The sights them-selves are simple and straightforward, providing a good sight picture. I’d zero them at 200 yards and call it good.
Overall length is a handy 38.7 inches with a comfortable 13.5-inch length of pull. Weight is fairly light at seven pounds. In wanting to keep this piece light, compact and simple, I selected a 4x32mm Zeiss Conquest. This scope is short enough that I didn’t have any clearance problems with the rear sight. With a one-inch leather sling and scope the rifle weighed in at 8.4 pounds.
What distinguishes this model, in my opinion, is the .275 Rigby barrel marking by the rear sight. The history of the .275 Rigby cartridge is well known, so I will not go into great depth. For those who don’t know the story, though, here’s a quick review.
John Rigby & Co. was founded in Dublin in 1775 by a gunsmith of the same name. His grandson, also John Rigby, followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and eventually was appointed superintendent of the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock. There he was tasked with overseeing the production of the .303 Lee Enfield rifle for the British government. When he retired in 1894, he returned to the family firm with a keen knowledge and insight into the latest state-of-the-art advancements in propellants—particularly the French introduction of smokeless powder in 1886—rifle design and ammunition.
Rigby knew the key players, including Peter Paul Mauser, and in 1898 became the exclusive importer and distributor of Mauser rifles for the British Empire. He developed a line of hand-some hunting rifles based on Mauser’s 1898 action. Along the way, he noted the impressive performance of Mauser’s smokeless powder 7×57.
Developed for foreign military sales in 1892, the 7×57 was quickly adopted by Spain and then a host of others. Compared to its peers of the time, such as the .30-40 US Government, .303 British, 8x50R Lebel and 7.62x54R, the 7×57 was a modern rimless design that looked towards the future rather than the past.
The 7×57’s ability to drive relatively heavy 172.8-grain full-metal-jacket projectiles with impressive sectional density at respectable velocities impressed soldiers and sportsmen alike. At the time, it was known for its accuracy, flat trajectory, mild recoil and performance on game animals well beyond what its paper ballistics would lead you to believe.
Rigby forever became linked to the 7×57 when he Anglicized it from the Continent’s metric system to the imperial system’s inch and added his family’s name. Measuring from land to land, you come up with .275 inch, and so a legend was born.
Walter Dalrymple Maitland “Karamojo” Bell used it with mundane 1893-pattern 172.8-grain military ball ammunition to harvest some 800 African elephants. Jim Corbett slew the infamous man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag and a number of other man-eaters in the Indian Himalayas using a .275 Rigby.Hornady
has teamed with Ruger and is now offering a .275 Rigby factory load—a 140-grain softpoint—as well as properly marked virgin cartridge cases. And, of course, factory 7×57 ammunition, cartridge cases, standard .284-inch projectiles and reloading data can all be used, so I ordered two Superformance 7×57 loads from Hornady and a 175-grain roundnose softpoint and a 140-grain softpoint from Federal.
I also had my friend Neal Shera put together two handloads with Reloder 22 powder: 150-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip and Berger 195-grain Elite Hunter. While the latter is much heavier than one would traditionally shoot from a .275 Rigby, this bullet has a G1 ballistic coefficient of 0.755.
During my testing, I found rounds loaded easily into the magazine and for the most part fed smoothly into the chamber. I did have a couple of times where the bolt failed to pick up the first round from a fully loaded magazine.
Operation of the bolt was fairly smooth and trouble-free but not quite as smooth as it could have been due to the interior of the receiver being slightly rough. Some time spent running the bolt would take care of this, and a little polishing here and there certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The walnut stock was quite comfortable, but the comb is just a tad lower than optimum. Despite my nitpicking, I found the Ruger quite comfortable and easy to shoot off the bench, and the Zeiss’s fine crosshair allowed me to be quite precise despite it being only 4X.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Ruger due to its full Mannlicher stock. While all that wood looks sexy, it can have a negative impact on accuracy if not relieved properly. Not only is there a lot of surface area to contact the barrel, but also as the barrel heats the stock acts as an insulator helping to hold that heat in.
I immediately noticed the barrel heats quickly. I also noticed as testing went on that some loads were more affected by this than others. With loads it liked, the Ruger printed nice round groups. With loads it didn’t, groups spread horizontally as it heated up. I extended my 100-yard bench testing into two days, taking my time and al-lowing the barrel to cool between each five-shot group.
Accuracy ranged from excellent to acceptable. Results are shown in the accompanying table. The 195-grain Berger Elite Hunter handload had noticeably more kick than all the other loads, but it averaged 1.8 inches at 2,228 fps. While the velocity looks ho-hum, note this load actually stays supersonic to 1,300 yards.
Next, I tried my hand shooting prone with a hasty sling at 400 yards on an 11×20-inch steel plate. Looking at the factory data on the Hornady .275 Rigby box, I dialed in six m.o.a. of elevation and let fly. I kicked up dust short. Remembering the loss of velocity from the 18.5-inch barrel, I held just over the top and fired again, slapping it center. Get-ting a feel for the rifle, I had no issues making consistent hits on steel from 100 to 400 yards. Snap shooting at 100 yards, I found the Ruger to be quick to the shoulder and mild shooting.
At speed, the Ruger Model 77 per-formed well. It’s not the fastest action in the world, but it worked fine. The safety is well placed, making it easy to kick to the Fire position while shouldering the rifle. The bolt handle provides plenty to grab onto, and it’s a simple matter to work quickly without dropping it from your shoulder.
I hold the fore-end tightly to keep the rifle on target while running the bolt energetically but without excessive force. The goal is to clear the empty from the chamber, move the bolt all the way to the rear to make sure it picks up the next round, and get it closed as quickly as possible while disturbing your aim as little as you can. As soon as the bolt is closed, I refine my sight picture and fire. Most Mauser-based designs require being run with a bit of enthusiasm.
All in all, I am quite pleased with Ruger’s Model 77 in .275 Rigby. It’s light, easy to carry and fast to the shoulder. The .275 Rigby is a fun cartridge to shoot and has real historical panache. When new, the rifle retailed for $1,179. The new .260 Rem. version is $10 more.SPECIFICATIONS
RUGER MODEL 77 MK II INTERNATIONAL
TYPE: bolt-action centerfire w/dual locking lugs
CALIBER: .275 Rigby
CAPACITY: 4+1 internal box magazine
BARREL: 18.5 in., stainless steel, 1:8.75 twist
OVERALL LENGTH: 38.7 in.
WEIGHT: 7 lb.
STOCK: Mannlicher-style walnut with stainless steel nose cap
TRIGGER: LC6, 4.5 lb. pull (measured)
SIGHTS: folding “U” notch rear, blade front post; machined for Ruger rings
SAFETY: three position, bolt mounted
MANUFACTURER: Ruger, ruger.com