Ruger 77 Mark II 243 Heavy Barrel
This was an attractive $685 rifle, with a blonde-colored laminated stock sporting an extremely nice and well-done matte finish. After our initial negative experiences with the electronic Remington, the entirely conventional Ruger, with no gizz-whizzes or batteries or insulators needed to make it go bang, was most welcome. Besides .243, the same rifle is available in .223, .22-250, .220 Swift, 25-06 and .308.
All the metalwork except the sling swivel studs was finished in a semi-matte light color that Ruger calls Target Gray, which we found very attractive in contrast with the light-colored stock. The studs were blued. The 26-inch-long stainless-steel barrel was free-floated evenly all the way back to the action. (So was the Remingtons.)
The Rugers bolt felt a trifle stiff at first, but after cycling it a few times, it became very slick. The bolt came out and went back in easily via the Mauser-style release at the left-rear corner of the action. Rugers now-standard safety, on the right rear corner of the action, felt good and worked properly. The bolt body had a bump on its left side, similar to those on pre-64 Winchester Model 70 rifles, to help smoothness. It worked fairly well when everything was new, and even better after we shot the rifle a bit.
Wood-to-metal fit was excellent. The steel floorplate opened and closed positively to release the contents of the four-round magazine on command. The trigger pull was a dream. It broke at 2.5 pounds with zero creep, quite a nice surprise for a new American-made rifle. The Ruger literature specifies the trigger is fully adjustable, another nice feature.
We mounted an Artemis 7x50 scope in the Ruger rings that accompanied the rifle, and went straight to work. At the range we discovered a reluctance to feed rounds from the magazine into the chamber. The rounds seemed to go part way in, and then hang up on something. We had to rattle the bolt back and forth to get the rounds to go all the way in. This characteristic did not diminish during our shooting sessions. Chambered but unfired cases showed circumferential scratching halfway up the main body of the case. Close inspection revealed that the cases that hung up werent slipping under the controlled feed extractor as they came out of the magazine. Instead, they were bumped ahead of it and were forcibly held slightly downward when their rims contacted the front end of the extractor, which caused them to bind on the rear end of the chamber. The solution seemed to be to polish the rear edge of the chamber slightly, or ignore the problem and push the cartridges firmly into the chamber, and let time and wear do the work of smoothing up the feeding. Another possible solution would be to round the small squared-off lower front edge of the extractor.
Neither the Remington nor the Ruger were light rifles. At 11.0 pounds the Ruger was a pound heavier than the Remington. Felt recoil was very slight. The Rugers forend was much wider than the Remingtons, and as such, offered a much larger surface for supporting the rifle over sandbags, or whatever.
On the range there were no big surprises, only that the Ruger preferred the lighter 80-grain Winchester load, putting them into three-shot average groups of 1.0 inch. The 100-grain ammo averaged only 1.7 inches. Clearly, this varmint-type rifle wanted varmint-type bullets, and it would be lots of fun working up a perfect handload for it. Many of the Remingtons groups were half the size of the Rugers, but its overall average of 0.8 inch puts it close to the Ruger, and we believe a rifle that delivers one-inch average groups out of the box shows good evidence of being able to beat that with careful handloads tailored to the individual rifle. Both of these rifles clearly invited such efforts.