Ruger rocked the long range shooting world when they introduced their Ruger Precision Rifle a few years ago. Since then, each of the major manufacturers have been rushing to build their own version of these chassis style rifles. Ruger has not been resting on their laurels either as they have released several updates and changes to the RPR to improve upon the original. But the RPR has not been their only focus, last year they released a new version of their M77 Hawkeye rifle that was focused on the long range shooting scene once again, but this time for the more traditional rifle crowd. That is the rifle we are reviewing here. Upon its release, the Long Range Target (LRT) rifle was available in 300 Win Mag and this year they released two new chamberings, the 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6.5 PRC. For our evaluation, we brought in one chambered in the original 300 Win Mag.
The first thing we noticed when opening the box is that this rifle sure looks the part of a tactical rifle. The adjustable stock, matte finish, muzzlebrake, heavy barrel, detachable box magazine, flush cups, etc all combine to look like a dedicated sniper rifle. The Hawkeye Long Range Target rifle is marketed more as a target rifle, but whether they admit it to the public or not, it is also aimed right at the mid range sniper rifle market. Sniping may not be their primary market for this rifle, but there is no need for FDE colors and matte black finish on a competition rifle either, so make your own conclusions. The rifle comes packed in Ruger branded cardboard box with all the normal stuff you would expect on a rifle and some additional accessories for the LRT.
Before we get into the details of the stock, we want to let everyone know that the Ruger web page just says the stock is an adjustable “two-tone target stock”. We did not know what that really meant so we pulled the stock off the rifle and took a look ourselves. The stock is actually laminated wood with a brown epoxy paint with black splatter over the top. It looks like a synthetic stock at first glance, but be aware that it is not. Laminated wood is far more resilient to swelling and shrinking due to humidity and weather than a normal wood stock, but it is still not synthetic. Some people even argue that laminated wood is just as impervious to changes as fiberglass, and they might be right, but in our mind that doesn’t seem correct, but we have to admit we have not done any testing on this. In the mean time, if we had our choice, we would go synthetic.
With this rifle being chambered in .300 Win Mag, the thick recoil pad on the butt of the rifle will be a welcomed addition. The recoil pad is attached to a spacer system on the buttstock which allows for the length of pull to be adjustable and the rifle comes with a few additional spacers. We prefer the spacer system style setups because they are the most rigid and durable of the adjustable LOP setups. The spacers on this Hawkeye LRT rifle are made of a hard plastic, and are more shiny than the other bits on the rifle.
There is a small adjustable cheekpiece as well that has a tension based adjustment mechanism that locks down the cheekpiece by flipping over a throw lever. Flip it back over and the adjustment loosens and the cheekpiece slides up or down as well as forward and back. The cheekpiece slides easily and smoothly and then locks down securely. The tension can be adjusted by screwing the lever in or out. As we said, the cheekpiece itself is somewhat small, but it can be moved to just the right spot to work for any shooter. You will notice also that there is a flush cup on both sides of the butt-stock as well as on one side of the forearm. The one on the forearm can be switched to either side. The ability to use the nice flush cup setup on the side of the stock allows for the rifle to lay flat on its side against your back if slung over the shoulder, which is more comfortable and tactically sound than traditional sling swivel locations.
The pistol grip is a vertical grip style with a deep thumb well and while it is nicely shaped, the courners are a bit too squared off and not as contoured as they could be. As a result, it perhaps is not quite as comfortable as other similarly styled stocks. The pistol grip is also a little thinner than other pistol grips we have used with no real palm swell, which some may actually prefer. The pistol grip is plenty tall for all of the fingers from the firing hand to be placed on the pistol grip without trouble.
The Hawkeye is the latest Model 77 Ruger and as such that means it is essentially a Mauser 98 patterned action with some of their own changes. One of those changes is that the safety is located on the side of the tang and not on the rear bolt shroud. It is a three position safety with a throw style lever. The middle setting allows the operator to have the rifle on safe and still cycle the bolt. The final setting all the way to the rear locks the bolt down as well. It is a bit of a reach for your fingers to reach the safety, but it is not a major issue.
The bolt release is located on the left hand side of the action and it takes a concerted effort to operate and remove the bolt by pulling on the lever. The rear tang is a unique shape but there is nothing wrong with it. The bolt itself is a the only mismatched part on the rifle in terms of the color. It has no colored finish and just left in the bare metal, which happens to be stainless steel in this case and should hold up well in the elements. It just looks out of place being shiny silver when the rest of the rifle is quite tactical.
The bolt itself is a single piece design which means it should be very durable and the stainless helps there as well. Also, because of the M77’s roots to the Mauser 98, the Hawkeye bolt also has a control round feed “claw” extractor on the bolt to provide very positive extraction. The bolt knob is a traditional size and shape and is not enlarged and the bolt handle is slanted back slightly.
The action is robust and thick with plenty of extra metal around the chamber and sides. The Long Range Target also comes with an aluminum 20 MOA rail mounted on top by the factory which is a nice added bonus that will not have to be purchased. Not only is the rail mounted, but it is mounted with the larger oversize #8-40 screws versus the normal #6-48 screws. The action portion as a whole appears robust and overbuilt, and the same can be said for the triggerguard.
The triggerguard is also aluminum and wide and is actually a separate piece from the floorplate that houses the Detachable Box Magazine. That trigger guard slides onto some groves on the floorplate so that they are attached together, but it is not a single piece design. The detachable magazine that is includes is a single stack five-round P-Mag. That is another one of the well thought of additions to this rifle, it accepts and works good with AI style magazines which will make finding additional mags easy. As has become common, there is a mag drop lever in front of the triggerguard that protrudes down and is easily operated by the pointer finger of the shooting hand. An empty P-Mags does not drop free and needs to be pulled out of the floorplate.
The magazines snap in place with a reassuring click, but can be a little tricky to get in the magazine well. As indicated, the 300 Win Mag magazines are a single stack, so even the modest 5-round magazines hang down quite a bit and could potentially become a nuisance when in the field if they are banging on things or getting hung up during stalks.
There are two crossbolts that go through the sides of the stock near the front and rear of the action, These crossbolts do not hold anything into the stock and appear to be there just for reinforcement. The trigger is a Ruger two-stage target trigger that we found to be okay. The first stage is very light at under a pound and then the second stage breaks at a measured average of 2.38 lbs measured on our scale. There was a few ounces of variance on various pulls and it was not as consistent as we would like on a target trigger. The trigger shoe itself is a smooth silver color and while it is not as wide as we like and does not have ribs or other texture on it, the trigger shape is not bad.
In front of the magazine the forearm of the stock transitions into a slightly wider forearm that is fairly flat and stable when shooting from a rest. The forearm is inletted nicely for the heavy barrel and leaves it free floating until about 2″ in front of the action where the wood stock then mates up to the barrel. On the bottom side of the forearm there is a MLOK rail to which accessories can be attached, and even better, Ruger has included a small 3″ rail that also include a swivel stud to use for mounting a traditional bipod. That sling stud can be left off as well if the operator prefers to mount a bipod to the raid itself. Additionally, Ruger includes a MLOK flush cup mount that can be used on that rail as well. We like the inclusion of these accessories with the rifle so the owner does not have to purchase them. The color of the stock is a dark earth color with black spackles which gives the stock and rifle a business look to it.
The long 26″ cold hammer forged barrel has the ever popular 5-R rifling with a somewhat unique 1:9″ rate of twist. Typically 300 Win Mag rifles have a 1:10″ twist which can handle bullets up to 210gr and maybe a bit heavier. This 1:9″ barrel is tailored to handle the heavy bullets of 220+ grain and it will be interesting to see how lighter bullets do in this barrel.
The barrel is also threaded in the 5/8-24 TPI spec, which is the standard for accepting a suppressor. From the factory the LRT comes with a Ruger muzzlebrake to help tame recoil. This brake has a locking nut with it so that it does not have to be timed on a lathe in order to be properly orientated and the simple use of a wrench allows the entire brake to be easily removed. Even better, Ruger includes a thread protector cap in case if you remove the brake and also do not have a suppressor attached. As we mentioned, the barrel is a heavy profiled target barrel that is cold-hammer forged. That heavy profile is indeed heavy. The diameter is 1.165″ at the action and then does a straight taper down to .835″ at the muzzle. With it being 26″ long, it does hang a good amount of weight out the front of the rifle and if you put a suppressor on it, it’ll really be long and a bit unwieldy.
All of the metal work, beyond the shiny silver bolt, is finished in a matteblack finish, but Ruger does not specify what type of coating it is. Everything on the rifle seems to be built with some extra robustness, such as the #8-40 screws, the thicker metal on the action, the claw extracor, etc. which helps provide confidence in the combat durability of the rifle. The laminated wood stock gives us pause though. As a whole it is a good looking package that seems ready to deploy asap. Ruger indicates the rifle, as packaged weighs 11 lbs, our scale said it weighed 11.5 lbs, though we did have the forward rail and flush cup adapter attached, and one spacer on the rear.
To conduct the shooting portion of this evaluation, we mounted our Burris Veracity 5-25x50mm scope using a set of Leupold 30mm Mark 4 rings. Everything mounted up straightaway without any drama and then we were on our way to the range where we had to dodge the rain and snow to get some shooting time in.
If you are not familiar with how we test our rifles and scopes, please follow that link to the article to read about it. The four types of ammo we brought for our accuracy tests were the Federal Gold Medal Match 190gr (A191), HSM 185gr D46 FMJBT, Choice 220gr HPBT, and some RUAG Swiss P Styx 198gr HPBT. With the faster 1:9″ twist barrel we wanted to be sure and test a wide assortment of ammo to see how it did with all of them. The weather was a chilly 35 degrees with overcast skies for the first part of the shooting tests and then the sun finally broke through the clouds later. The wind was a calm 1-3mph for all of the shooting tests. The 100 yard accuracy tests gave us the following results:
|Federal GMM 190gr – A191||1.103″ (1.053 MOA)||1.079″ (1.031 MOA)|
|HSM D46 185gr FMJ-BT||0.647″ (0.618 MOA)||0.130″ (0.124 MOA)|
|Choice 220gr HPBT Match||0.999″ (0.954 MOA)||0.771″ (0.736 MOA)|
|RUAG STYX 198gr HP||0.896″ (0.856 MOA)||0.221″ (0.211 MOA)|
First, we were for the most part pleased with the performance of this factory production rifle, but we were also surprised. Because of the fast rate of twist, we thought the heavier weight bullets would perform better, but it turns out the lightest bullet we tested performed the best. Now, we recognize that there are more important things than the bullet weight and rate of twist that determine how a rifle and ammo combination will perform, but it was still interesting. The D46 bullet is stepped tail FMJBT design bullet that provides exceptional ballistic coeffecients without having to use an aggressive ogive that is common on the VLD and ELD bullet designs today. In theory this allows it to not be as sensitive to chambers and barrels, but then again, none of the ammo we tested used a VLD bullet design. The 185gr D46 with its 3100 fps velocity makes for a very potent long range load and would make a very deadly combination with this rifle. It had the best average group size, only .6 MOA, and an exceptional .13″ group for its best. For whatever reason, the rifle loved this ammo.
With the HSM D46 the rifle is close to what we would call a .5 MOA rifle, but we would say the rifle is perhaps a .75 MOA rifle, and that is still very good for a mass produced rifle. We would have thought the A191 would have shot better and were a bit surprised by that, but its still a 1 MOA rifle with that ammo and this ammo was by far the most consistent. Every group was just about the same 1.1″ group size. Also, recall that 300 Win Mags are a belted magnum and the headspace has to happen on the belt, which means it is harder to get a tight chamber than if headspacing on the shoulder. This means it is harder to get good accuracy from 300 Win Mag rifles, especially factory produced ones. We are not making excuses for Ruger, it is just illustrating one of those facts out there and shows this rifle did well.
The recoil on the Hawkeye with its muzzlebrake, thick recoil pad, and heavier weight is very mild for a 300 WM. Even with the hotter HSM load and heavier 220gr load it was still on par with a normal 308 rifle. There was very little shooter fatigue experienced even after a long shooting session, though the cheekrest is not the most comfortable. The tamed recoil also allows for faster follow-up shots and the rifle fed well from the magazine, though not perfect. We had a few instances of missed feeds, though the rifle will single feed with no problem at all. There is some slop in the bolt, which is very noticeable with the amount of side to side movement of the bolt went pulled all the way to the rear, but its nothing out of the ordinary for a factory rifle and perhaps gives it some more ability to operate in non-ideal conditions.
Of course, with the massive claw extractor, extraction was 100%, but the quality of ejection depended on how fast you pulled the bolt to the rear. If you slowly pull it back, ejection is weak, but the spent brass still clears the ejection port. If you cycle the bolt fast, as when doing rapid bolt manipulation drills, the ejection is very positive and ejects well clear of the rifle. The loose bolt does aide with doing clandestine bolt manipulation with your fingers reaching in and pulling the bolt back and we fund that a positive trait.
The trigger was a mixed bag. We found that we liked the two stage trigger, like we normally do on tactical rifles, but the more we shot this one the more we noticed a fair amount of creep on the second stage. It did not give us the sharp break we like on the final stage. As we noticed when we were measuring the weight of the trigger, there was a good amount of fluctuation on the weight as well and we are confident a good aftermarket trigger could improve the accuracy of the rifle even more. Is it is right now, it works and we still like the two stage trigger, but it needs some improvement. Another down side to the trigger is that it is non-adjustable and Ruger indicates it should not be altered in any way.
For our 300 yard head shot test, we selected the HSM D46 185gr load due to its excellent performance at 100 yards. We only needed 3.5 MOA of up dialed in to get us where we wanted to be at 300 yards and we loaded the three rounds into the P-Mag for the test. The three rounds of rapid fire shooting took only 22 seconds with the rifle well composed during the firing. The group measured 2.682″ (0.854 MOA) and when combined with the time, it gives us a score of 112.0, which is a very respectable total. This test does not favor the more powerful rifles like the 300 Win Mag, but the rifle still performed well as a system and would do even better when its long range potential is taken into account.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (22 secs)||32.7|
|Accuracy Score (.854 moa)||52.7|
|Energy Score (2680 ft-lbs)||41|
As we consider this rifle on a whole, we have to take into account the price, the capability and the features and whether it could hold up over the long haul as a sniper rifle. With its robust action, 8-40 rail mounting screws, claw extractor, one piece bolt, and other features, it seems as if it’ll hold up in harsh sniping conditions and it is not too heavy for extended field work. The performance met expectation and while it cannot compete with a custom built tactical rifle, it seems to be a good value at around the $1000 USD mark. If the stock was synthetic it would be better, and there are a few other things that would be nice to see changed if it were to serve as a sniper rifle. One of those being a more consistent trigger. But it did everything we asked and maybe a bit more. It checks many of the boxes and it doesn’t look too bad either. All and all, not bad and it could certainly get the job done.
While we wanted to give it the SC Endorsed tag, we just couldn’t with the wood stock and the only average trigger. We consider 1 MOA the minimum for a sniper rifle and that is where this rifle was with the A191 ammo, but it did considerably better with the D46, which we would want for a rifle that is capable for 1 mile engagements. While it did not get the SC Endorsed tag, we do plan to keep the rifle here for our 300 Wing Mag ammo tests and for other articles. We’ll be able to track the progress of the rifle over the long haul.
Sniper Central 2019