Ruger Model 77/17 VHZ 17 Hornet Bolt-Action Rifle

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

November 24th, 2012


Click pictures for a larger version.





Six-shot rotary magazine.





Three-position safety.





Bolt stop.





When the 17 Hornet cartridge was first introduced a few months ago, it immediately piqued my interest. Two things that I really like are accurate rifles, and efficient cartridges. The 17 Hornet cartridge and the rifles in which it is chambered fills both categories. The 17 Hornet is not just a necked-down 22 Hornet cartridge case topped with a .172" diameter bullet. The cartridge case is shaped more like the K-Hornet wildcat, which is more efficient, and more accurate than the standard Hornet case.

I have had to opportunity to briefly fire a few rifles that were chambered for the new 17 Hornet cartridge, and late this past summer, I did a review of the Savage 17 Hornet rifle. So far, I have been impressed by the little cartridge, and this Ruger 77/17 VHZ 17 Hornet rifle featured only enhances my positive opinion of the newest center-fire seventeen.

The Ruger is a handsome rifle, and a full-sized one. It is built upon Rugerís dandy little compact rotary-magazine action, but is fitted with a laminated wood stock and a twenty-four inch heavy barrel. The barrel diameter measures .652 inch at the muzzle and .920 inch at the receiver. The barrel is rifled one turn in nine inches, with a right-hand twist. The muzzle wears a recessed crown. The barrel and receiver are built of stainless steel, and wear Rugerís Target Gray finish, as do the scope rings. The trigger guard is made of stainless steel (thankfully), and has a bead-blasted type finish. The bolt and bolt handle are polished stainless. The safety is a three-position lever that swings horizontally forward to fire. The mid position blocks the trigger, but allows the bolt to be cycled. The rear position blocks the trigger and locks the bolt in place. The magazine is Rugerís rugged and reliable rotary style, and holds six cartridges.

The laminated wood stock has a green, brown, and gray pattern. The checkering on the pistol grip and forearm is well-executed and functional. The stock is fitted with sling studs, as should be any hunting rifle. The butt pad is of synthetic rubber. The trigger released crisply on the test rifle, with four and one-quarter pounds of resistance. The bolt lifts ninety degrees, and works very smoothly. The 77/17 weighs in at exactly seven and one-half pounds on my scale, and balances nicely, right where the barrel enters the receiver.

For shooting the Ruger 17 Hornet rifle, I purchased some Hornady ammunition from Midsouth Shooters Supply in Clarksville, Tennessee. They had plenty in stock, and at a good price. I mounted a four to twelve power Redfield Revenge riflescope atop the Ruger using the excellent Ruger rings that were supplied with the rifle. The Revenge has the built-in range-finding reticle, with multiple aiming points. Accuracy testing was done at a distance of one hundred yards, shooting from a Target Shooting, Inc. Model 500 rifle rest atop a solid bench. Temperature averaged around the fifty-three Fahrenheit mark, with humidity in the forty percent range. There was no detectable breeze on the shooting range. Elevation was approximately 541 feet above sea level.

I fired the Hornady twenty-grain V-Max ammunition over the chronograph at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle. The factory ammunition averaged 3659 feet-per-second (fps) at that distance. I also spent a considerable amount of time working up handloads, using the V-Max and Nosler twenty-grain bullets. All components were loaded into Hornady cases that had been massaged a bit by chamfering the case mouths and truing the primer pockets. These steps were probably unnecessary, but I like to do it anyway. The best loads tried, offering excellent velocity, easy extraction, and superb accuracy, all used Hodgdon LilíGun powder and Remington number 7 Ĺ benchrest small rifle primers. For both bullets, the best powder charge was an even ten grains of LilíGun. In this small case, even a slight increase in powder makes a lot of difference. I went as high as 10.2 grains, but pressures were excessive, resulting in great difficulty lifting the bolt handle, and with excessive case head expansion. In this Ruger rifle, ten grains of LilíGun with a twenty grain bullet is maximum. However, that ten grain charge exhibited superb performance, with excellent accuracy and high velocities. The V-Max handload clocked 3615 fps, with the Nosler bullet traveling at 3655. Both loads showed no excessive case head expansion, and extraction was easy.

Accuracy was, as mentioned above, very good. The earliest groups fired from the Ruger were impressive, with none exceeding seven-eighths of an inch for three-shot groups at one hundred yards. As the shooting progressed, accuracy improved. I did no cleaning of the bore between groups, but groups tightened substantially, with the Hornady factory ammunition averaging right at half an inch by the end of the day, with the best group from that ammo going into three-eighths of an inch. In fact, the last several groups fired with the Hornady ammo each measured only three-eighths of an inch, cutting in half the group sizes from that ammo before the barrel was fouled a bit. Handloads with the V-Max bullet equaled the performance of the factory ammunition. The Nosler bullet proved to be a bit more accurate in this rifle, with its best group going into three-sixteenths of an inch, and averaging just slightly larger. That was the best group fired from this rifle, and probably as good as I have ever fired from any rifle. This Ruger rifle is certainly a performer! Velocity is high, sending those tiny bullets rapidly towards the target. I did not have the opportunity to try this rifle on vermin, but hope to do so shooting prairie dogs next summer. I did fire the little bullets into other objects, in which they exhibited explosive performance, as designed. As noted, accuracy was superb, and recoil is minimal from this little 17 Hornet. To my shoulder, the recoil feels no greater than the recoil from a 22 Long Rifle fired from a 10/22. The Ruger 77/17 Hornet weighs in at seven and one-half pounds on my scale, and with the addition of the scope's weight, comes in at over eight pounds. The rifle balances perfectly at the front of the receiver, and handles very well in the field. The trigger pull averaged about four and one-quarter pounds, and released crisply. I prefer a lighter pull on a varmint rifle, but the Ruger trigger is certainly acceptable as is.

The Ruger 77/17 Hornet is an excellent choice for all-day shooting of vermin out to at least 300 yards. Terminal performance is impressive, and the trajectory closely matches the 223 Remington shooting fifty-five grain bullets. Recoil and cost are substantially less than when shooting a twenty-two caliber center fire with quality ammunition. For shooting prairie dogs, I canít think of another rifle that would be more fun to shoot all day, nor as accurate.

For a look at the extensive line of Ruger firearms and accessories, go to

For the location of a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the 77/17 online, go to

For more information on the 17 Hornet and other quality Hornady ammunition, go to

For a look at the extensive line of Redfield optics and accessories, go to

To order 17 Hornet ammunition, go to

Jeff Quinn

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Click pictures for a larger version.







Redfield Revenge scope.



Hornady and Nosler bullets, Remington benchrest primers, and Hodgdon Lil'Gun powder proved to be the best combinations for accuracy and velocity.



Hornady ammunition.



Superb accuracy. Shown are the smallest and the largest groups fired from this Ruger rifle.