As soon as the Hawkeye was removed from its packaging, I handed it over to my fellow fox shooting colleague and experienced rifleman Darren, to see what his first impressions were – it is always good to have an alternative view.
As ever, by the time you add the optics, bipod and moderator, the whole rifle changes in terms of balance and feel, but in the flesh it allows time to focus on the ergonomics and what the gun is really made up of.
“Ok, similar to the Mauser action, so should be very reliable. The stock feels very comfortable,” commented Darren, despite having hands like shovels. Not a bad start I thought, so we looked in more detail at the woodwork and enjoyed the quality walnut stock but immediately noticed the forend of the stock bearing against the underside of the barrel. Nothing particularly unusual about this as many sporting guns do not require a fully floating barrel for everyday game shooting, as issues with rising barrel temperature, affecting point of impact, are not a concern. The Hawkeye models all come standard with QD mounts and set of 25mm rings (30mm extra) – the latter must not be ignored as a set of decent mounts are not cheap. The magazine is a floor plated model, only allowing the shooter to reload through the action and to drop the contents, there is a well-placed release button to the front of the trigger guard.
As we moved onto the action, the three-position safety catch was easy to use – the rear setting applying the safety catch and locking the bolt, middle position applying just the safety but allowing the bolt to be turned and the forward position for firing. Being a new gun, we both thought the action was noisy and a little coarse but by the end of our test, this was not a concern as the cycling of ammunition was positive and crisp, especially at high speed. The 22in barrel comes with no field sights and this particular gun was screw cut, allowing me to drop my T8 Reflex moderator onto it for testing.
For this test, bearing in mind the supplied 25mm mounts, I decided to use my trusty Weaver 3-9x42mm scope that was used for many years for deer control on my .308, perfectly adequate for general purpose shooting. The T8 moderator was then fitted together with a Harris bipod, allowing now to feel the new LC6 trigger (light and crisp). Darren found the trigger quite heavy and not as crisp as anticipated, but very quickly he soon adapted to it. I do not believe this can be adjusted, but at a good 4lbs this will have an effect on the accuracy and when shooting the rifle a few days after this test, I was more than comfortable with it.
Once zeroed at an agreed 100 yards, as with many rifles, the accuracy varied enormously depending on the ammunition used. The .243 model comes with a tight 1 in 9in twist barrel, which I would assume should favour the heavier bullets but in this test, the opposite was found. The 100-grain Winchester grouped at 2.5in, the federal 85-grain and my home loaded 75-grain V Max at 2in, but the Federal 70-grain Nosler ballistic tips at a respectable 1.5in. As already mentioned, the trigger did not help this but anything around 1.5in (1.5 MOA) is more than suitable for deer or fox control, and I have no doubt that a suitable and legal 100-grain combination could be found to achieve this when out on larger deer species.
Both of us enjoyed shooting the gun and once the bipod was detached, it felt well balanced when being shot from all positions as used in the field. Even with the moderator removed, recoil was fine for a light sporting rifle helped by the comfortable stock. One thing to be aware of is that it shoots 2in lower with the bipod attached, probably caused by the increased pressure on the wood against the barrel. I understand the gun is designed for shooting freehand and resting against a soft support, so something to consider if you are used to bipods.
We both warmed to Hawkeye and agreed that the trigger was on the heavy side for a sporting rifle, but it must be mentioned that we are used to high quality and lighter triggers on all of our guns. As stated, the more we used the rifle, the more we liked it. It is lightweight and very pointable – I feel it is a very capable and rugged all-rounder suitable for knocking those foxes over as well as larger animals.
The Ruger brand has a loyal following with many shooters upgrading from the very popular 10/22 model but with a retail price of £1,000, it is not a budget rifle, maybe positioning itself between the cheaper Remington rifles and the more expensive Sauer models – perhaps on a par with Tikka. I know with the right ammunition, it can compete with the best, so what more can you ask for from a rifle? TP
Model tested: M77 Hawkeye in .243
Price range: Around £1,000
Contact: Viking Arms 01423 780810 www.vikingarms.com