Ruger's New Frontier Rifle

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 22nd, 2005

 

 

 

Rifle shooters today have it better than ever. There seems to be an almost endless choice in the variety of rifles available at reasonable prices, and I am always ready to try out new rifle designs and configurations.

One of the most recent rifles to arrive here at our palatial offices (the gun room) is a unique new rifle from Sturm, Ruger, & Company that they call their Frontier Rifle. It is, in short, a light, handy bolt action carbine that allows for great latitude in mounting optical sights.

The Frontier Rifle is built on Rugerís excellent Model 77 Mark II action, which features a one-piece bolt with a two lug lockup, a large claw extractor, controlled round feeding from the magazine, and a fixed-blade ejector. The safety is a three-position wing type that is easy to use, and clears any low-mounted scope sight.  The Frontier is built for, above all else, handiness.  The rifle is short. The overall length is just thirty-five and one-half inches.  Grab a yardstick if you have one handy. The Frontier Rifle is shorter than that. The length of pull is only twelve and one-half inches, and the medium weight barrel measures just sixteen and one-half inches long.  The forearm on the handsome black laminated wood stock has also been shortened, which makes the rifle look more proportional. The barreled action, pistol grip cap, sling swivel studs, and hinged magazine floorplate are all made of blued steel. The bolt, extractor,  and trigger are of stainless steel. The butt plate is a dark gray synthetic rubber. Mounted on the barrel just forward of the action is a quarter rib, similar to the one on the Number One single shot rifle. The quarter rib on the Frontier Rifle is machined to accept the Ruger scope rings that are included with the rifle, and is drilled and tapped to accept a Picatinny rail scope base that is also included with the rifle. The rail will accept any type of Weaver style ring mount, as well as many military type mounts that are compatible with a Picatinny rail.

Gaining in popularity these days is the forward mounting of a scope with intermediate eye relief in what has come to be called the "Scout" concept. The idea behind this is that it moves the scope forward, allowing greater peripheral vision, easier access to the action for loading, and more clearance between the shooterís eyebrow and the ocular bell of the scope in heavily recoiling rifles. The quarter rib on the Frontier rifle allows for just such a setup.  Leupold and Burris make scopes that are purpose-built for such mounting, and  this system makes for very quick target acquisition. With the scope out front, leaving both eyes open makes tracking a moving target much easier than trying to do so through a  conventional high-powered scope. Even quicker than a low-powered scout scope is a good electronic dot sight, and the rail provided with the Frontier Rifle makes the mounting of such a sight quick and easy.  My all time favorite electronic dot sight is the rugged Trijicon Reflex sight. It never needs batteries due to its use of Tritium illumination, and it is always "on".  In use, both eyes are left open, and the gun is brought to the shoulder without losing sight of the target. Target acquisition is instantaneous. In the woods or thick brush, nothing is faster. The action is, like on all Mark II rifles, machined to also accept the Ruger scope rings for those wanting to mount a scope in the conventional over-the-action position.

The Frontier Rifle is built on RugerĎs short action, and is currently available chambered for the .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .300 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) cartridges. The sample sent to me is chambered for the latter cartridge. In addition to the round in the chamber, the .300 WSM holds three cartridges in the magazine, the others hold four. The trigger pull on the sample gun measured a crisp but heavy five pounds and eleven ounces.  The rifle weighed in at six pounds and twelve ounces, without scope. The balance point on the rifle is right under the action, making it feel even lighter. It comes to the shoulder very quickly, like a good English bird gun.  The short length of pull is really appreciated when wearing a heavy hunting coat or thick jacket.

I was a bit worried that a great deal of velocity would be lost shooting the .300 WSM from such a short barrel, and there was some loss, but not as much as I expected. I fired the ammunition that I had available over the eyes of my PACT chronograph at a distance of twelve feet, at an air temperature of 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. The three factory loads tested chronographed as follows:

LOAD VELOCITY (FPS)
Winchester 180 grain Ballistic Silvertip 2765
Winchester 180 grain Power Point 2716
Winchester 180 grain AccuBond 2796

This is respectable velocity for the 180 grain bullets from a sixteen and one-half inch barrel. It is about on par with a bullet of equal weight from a twenty-four inch barreled .30-06. To get there, the Frontier .300 WSM uses a few more grains of powder and operates at higher pressure, but has a barrel length of seven and one-half inches less and an overall length of about nine inches less.

For accuracy testing, I mounted a Leupold VX-II 2-7x32 scope atop the action using the Ruger rings provided. This is a superb scope for rifles that kick. While the recoil in the little .300 WSM Frontier Rifle is by no means punishing, the gun does back up a bit upon firing. This Leupold scope has almost five inches of eye relief, and that makes it particularly nice with the shorter than normal length of pull on the Frontier Rifle. The VX-II has great optical clarity, and is relatively lightweight, making for a good match to the Frontier. I really like the low-profile turrets, matte finish, and positive click adjustments on this Leupold. For the Frontier Rifle, I can think of no better scope.

Accuracy was good from the little carbine. While I did no hand loading for the .300 WSM, the factory ammunition that I had on hand all would group three shots into less than one inch at one hundred yards from a rested position. Case feeding and extraction was slick and easy with all shots fired.

Overall, I was impressed with the Frontier Rifle. I liked it better than I at first thought that I would. It is light and handy, but not so light as to be hard to shoot accurately. It comes to the shoulder quickly; very quickly. It handles as a good carbine should. It is built for hunting. I have owned a few rifles that were, while accurate, slow to bring to bear on target due to excessive weight. I had a very accurate Remington Sendero .25-06 that would have been great on the open plains, if one had a gun bearer along. However, in the woods, that rifle handled like swinging a pig on a shovel. It was out of its place for deer hunting from anything but a benchrest. The Frontier Rifle is just the opposite. It is every bit as handy as a good lever action carbine. The buttstock is short enough for those of smaller stature, such as women and kids, but is not too short for a six-foot, long-armed male. At least in the .300 WSM chambering, it is important to grasp the forearm back away from the sling swivel stud due to recoil, but that also helps in accurate shooting.  The fit and finish on the gun tested was excellent. The bluing was deep and black. Chambered for the standard cartridges, it would be a dandy little deer rifle. In the .300 WSM, it has enough power for larger game, and should handle just great in the thick timber where trophy elk are found. It is a well-built rifle that is built entirely in the USA. I recommend it.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

The extensive line of Leupold products can be found at: www.leupold.com.

The Trijicon Reflex and other optical products can be viewed online at: www.trijicon.com.

Jeff Quinn

 

To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Author fires Ruger's new Frontier Rifle.

 

 

The Ruger Frontier Rifle

 

 

The Frontier Rifle features a quarter rib mounted on the barrel just forward of the action. This rib accepts either the included Ruger scope rings or the included Picatinny rail.

 

 

The quarter rib and Picatinny rail allows for a wide variety of forward-mounted sights in a "scout rifle" configuration. Jeff's favorite sight for this application is the rugged Trijicon Reflex dot sight.

 

 

Like other Model 77 Mark IIs, the Frontier Rifle includes scope mounts in the "conventional" position over the action. This position is perfect for scopes such as Leupold's superb VX-II 2-7x32.

 

 

Ruger's Frontier Rifle is a very handy package, comparing favorably to a standard 20-inch Winchester .30-30 lever gun.

 

 

Built on Ruger's excellent Model 77 Mark II short action, the Frontier Rifle features controlled round feed (top), fixed blade ejector (center), and three-position safety (bottom).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author tested the Ruger Frontier Rifle with a variety of Winchester factory ammunition. The little Ruger proved to be both handy and capable of sub-MOA accuracy with all loads tested.