Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye Tactical .308 Bolt Action Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

October 27th, 2009




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Ruger has been producing good bolt action centerfire rifles since 1968. They have always been good, solid, reliable rifles, serving hunters and target shooters well. For several years, Ruger has also been building bolt action rifles that are well-suited to military and police use, in addition to those excellent sporting rifles. Until recently, Ruger did not sell these law enforcement type rifles to everyone, but only to law enforcement agencies and military type folks. Thankfully, Ruger now sells their tactical bolt action rifles to the rest of us.

I never have understood selling weapons to police agencies, but not selling to the rest of the citizenry. Police are civilians, and are hired by the citizens to do for us that which we are not willing, or are unable,  to do for ourselves. They are hired to enforce the laws of our land, and they do a pretty good job of doing so.  However, the police cannot be everywhere at the same time, and sometimes we have to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our property, thereby doing the job of the police on our own when necessary. As good as they are, when the police are needed, they are needed now, not five minutes from now, and not thirty minutes from now. If someone has just kicked in your front door, even if your local police have an excellent response time, five minutes can seem like an eternity. I have never heard of a case in which a violent home invasion has been stopped in progress by the police. These crimes happen fast, and without notice. The police can show up later and draw a chalk line around your body, but if you are to survive such a violent encounter, it is up to you to do so.  You need, and deserve, the best weapons possible to defend your home and your family, and it is irresponsible to not have them at your disposal. The good news is that there are many excellent rifles, shotguns, and handguns on the market that give you a good chance of surviving a violent social encounter, and Ruger has changed their attitude in recent months, making available to their customers normal capacity magazines that hold twenty and thirty rounds for their excellent Mini-14 series rifles, and also in producing one of the best AR-15 style rifles on the market.  Twenty round magazines for the Mini-30 are in the works right now, and the Hawkeye Tactical bolt action rifles are currently available to anyone whom can legally buy a sporting rifle, and that rifle is the subject of this piece. 

The Hawkeye Tactical uses Ruger’s latest version of the 77 action, and it is also the best to date. The safety is a three-position unit. At its rearward position, the bolt is locked and the trigger is blocked from movement. In the center position, the bolt can be cycled to move cartridges into and out of the chamber, but the trigger is still blocked. The forward most position allows the trigger to be pressed to fire the weapon. It is a very simple and reliable safety, and works very well. The Tactical model does not use the Ruger LC6 trigger, but has a superb two-stage target trigger, which is adjustable for weight-of-pull. The sample rifle had an excellent trigger pull right out of the box, releasing crisply with just two pounds, nine ounces of pressure. I left it as delivered. It feels just right, and is the best trigger pull that I have ever felt on a Ruger rifle.  The barreled action is pillar-bedded into the Hogue OverMolded stock. This is a synthetic stock with a semi-tacky synthetic rubber covering, offering a secure grip, and the stock also wears a very comfortable and soft recoil pad. The stock has three sling studs attached to accommodate a sling and the supplied Harris adjustable bipod. The bipod works very well, and has the swivel feature to adjust to uneven ground, as well as the extendable legs. The exterior finish on the Hawkeye Tactical is all-business, flat black. The twenty-inch heavy barrel wears a recessed target crown, and measures .7955 inch diameter at the muzzle. The rifling is a right-hand twist, with one turn of the rifling in ten inches. The one-piece bolt and the trigger are made of stainless steel, finished to a non-glare matte, and the bolt wears the heavy-duty non-rotating claw extractor, which also serves to guide the cartridge from the four-shot magazine into the chamber.  The magazine is of the drop-plate design, and the floorplate of the magazine is engraved with the Ruger name and logo. The trigger guard and floorplate are made of steel, and wear a matte black finish. The rifle weighs in at just over eight and one-half pounds on my scale.

I used two similar scopes on the Ruger Hawkeye Tactical during testing, starting out with my Leupold 6.5 to 20 power target scope, mounted in the supplied Ruger one-inch rings.  However, I later switched to the new Leupold 6.5 to 20 power VX-3L scope. The VX-3L has the dished section at the bottom of the objective bell, allowing much lower mounting of the scope for a better cheek weld while firing, but still allowing for optimum light transmission due to the large area of the objective lens. It is built upon a 30mm one-piece tube, and has side focus and target turrets for easy and precise adjustments. I mounted it atop the Ruger receiver using Leupold 30mm rings. It is an absolutely superb riflescope, with very clear optics and reliable, repeatable adjustments. Set up ready to go with scope, rings, and bipod, the package weighs in at eleven pounds, two ounces, without ammo.

Speaking of the package, that is exactly what it is: a package. A fine rifle with a cheap, unreliable scope makes for an unreliable package. Same with the ammunition. It does no good to spend two thousand dollars on a rifle and scope, and then try to get good accuracy using surplus Eastern European bulk ammunition. However, I get emails every day from shooters who do not seem to understand this, complaining that they bought an identical rifle to mine, topped it with a thirty-dollar Wal Mart scope in three-dollar aluminum rings and shooting the finest ammunition that Cheap Charlie’s Surplus Store had in stock, and that laying it over the hood of the pickup truck resulted in less than optimum accuracy. It is a package. If you are going to cheap-out on any one component of the system, you might as well do so on the whole package.

That bring us to the ammunition. In the .308 Winchester chambering, there are a lot of very good ammunition choices on the market, along with dozens of very accurate bullets available for hand loading. However, for the past three years or so, when I am trying to see just how accurate a .308 rifle will shoot, I reach for the Buffalo Bore Sniper ammunition first. I have found it to be the most accurate off-the-shelf ammunition that I have ever fired, from a wide variety of rifles. Buffalo Bore uses the excellent Sierra 175 grain Match King bullets in this ammo, and carefully assembles it into some fine ammunition. I can handload ammo that I have fine-tuned to an individual rifle and do as well, but if I had to bet on any one brand of ammunition to shoot well, I would put my money on this Buffalo Bore load every time. It is that good, and proved itself once again in this Ruger Hawkeye Tactical. From the muzzle of this twenty-inch barrel, the Buffalo Bore 175 grain Sierra bullet clocked 2503 feet-per-second at twelve feet from the muzzle. I had hoped to have my four hundred yard range completed by now, but I don’t, so I only got to shoot out to one hundred yards, but I was very impressed by the accuracy of this rifle. This is the most accurate Ruger that I have ever fired. The combination of the heavy free-floated barrel and that wonderful trigger really paid off, making this rifle not only mechanically accurate, but easy to shoot accurately as well. I would like to see this trigger put on all Ruger bolt action rifles. The LC6 trigger is a very good one, and much better than the standard triggers on many bolt guns, but the two-stage target trigger on this Hawkeye Tactical makes me a better marksman. When I get to do some long-range shooting with this combination, I will report back.

The Ruger functioned smoothly, with one hundred percent reliability. The controlled-round feeding, claw extractor, and fixed blade ejector handled the cartridges perfectly. The Buffalo Bore ammunition once again proved to be the most accurate of all ammunition tested, and would cluster three shots tightly together at one hundred yards, and would likely shoot into the same hole, if I could do my part. I am not a champion benchrest shooter, and my eyes are not what they once were, but over a solid rest, I was able to get some fine accuracy from this Hawkeye Tactical .308, and once again I will state that this is the most accurate Ruger that I have ever fired. Ever.

I am glad to see that Ruger is making this rifle available to everyone, as this type of precision dedicated marksman rifle is very popular today, and this Ruger Hawkeye Tactical can compete with the best of them.

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Jeff Quinn

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Leupold VX-3L scope.



Side focus is a handy feature.



Leupold VX-3L scope's bell is dished to allow lower mounting of the scope.



Receiver features Ruger's integral scope mounts.



Leupold 30mm scope rings.



Jeff likes to apply a dab of grease to Ruger scope rings where they attach to the base.



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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger's Model 77 Hawkeye Tactical .308 bolt-action rifle.



With quality optics and superior ammo, such as Buffalo Bore's "Sniper" load, the Hawkeye Tactical .308 is the most accurate Ruger author has ever fired.



Excellent two-stage trigger.





Three-position safety.



Free-floated barrel.



Hinged floor plate.



Massive claw extractor provides controlled-round feed.



Heavy barrel has recessed target crown.



Pillar-bedded Hogue OverMolded stock.



Sling studs.



Adjustable bipod.