Ruger’s bolt-action is compact, sturdy, reliable, accurate, and extremely fast to get on target.
The new Model 77 Mark II Frontier Carbine from Ruger (Dept. ST, 200 Ruger Rd., Prescott, AZ 86301; 928-541-8820; www.ruger.com) is truly a compact, lightweight carbine, with a spec-sheet weight of six pounds without a scope. The carbine has a nominal 16-inch barrel length and 35-inch overall length, making it easy to stow out of sight in a pickup. It is also quick pointing and fast handling in the woods and would be readily managed by a youthful or smaller female shooter.
The 7mm-08 Frontier carbine I reviewed had a black laminated stock and highly polished blued steel. There was no checkering on the wood. I noticed what is commonly called a “quarter rib” on top of the barrel, but on this rifle it was almost a half rib because the rib is 6 5/8 inches long and the barrel extends only 15 3/4 inches forward of the receiver. While Ruger’s initial spec sheet indicates a 16-inch barrel, an actual measurement of the test rifle barrel was 16.5 inches. A chamber cast revealed six narrow lands and six wide grooves in the bore.
The length of pull was a short 12.5 inches, or about an inch shorter than standard. If you place the Frontier’s stock alongside a standard Model 77 Mark II stock, you find that the Frontier stock is 51/4 inches shorter in overall length. It is not only shortened at the rear, but it is also bobbed at the forend. All this helps to reduce weight and make a more compact rifle. While the nominal weight is six pounds, the test rifle tipped the scale at 6.84 pounds, unloaded and without a scope or a sling.
If you look a little closer at the quarter rib you see that there are Ruger scope ring bases milled into it, just like on a single-shot No. 1’s quarter rib. On the Model 77 Frontier, however, this positions the scope well forward so that an extended eye relief scope is the one to pick for this mounting location. For the purposes of this review, I used a
Leupold M8 2.5X fixed magnification Intermediate Eye Relief Scout scope. With an eye relief of 9.3 inches the scope is a good choice for the carbine and its forward mounting system.
The entire Model 77 Frontier carbine is not the typical bolt-action hunting rifle we’re used to seeing. It would likely appear odd to someone used to looking at traditional scope-mounted hunting rifles. Yet there are distinct advantages in the forward scope mount design. I am not sure if Jeff Cooper popularized the scout rifle or invented it. And I don’t know that it matters because he is identified with the scout rifle. When it comes to firearms, the well-known Mr. Cooper is highly practical, so when he departs from tradition, there is always a good reason for it.
Many shooters squint their nonaiming eye closed when looking through a riflescope, yet the more effective method is to keep both eyes open. When I was learning to shoot benchrest competitively, I was taught to use my nonaiming eye to watch the wind flags up and down the range. The aiming eye is used to keep the crosshair aligned on target at all times. Then, when shooting conditions are right, the trigger is squeezed in that instant, without delay. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, you realize that you can see a lot of things with the nonshooting eye that otherwise would be missed.
In a hunting situation, the advantages in keeping both eyes open are very great, particularly with a forward-mounted scope. With the scope mounted well forward, as it can be on Ruger’s Frontier, you will quickly see that the scope does not block as much of your vision with the nonaiming eye. It is also very fast to get on target. Once you get used to a forward-mounted scope you will probably want to go with this type of setup whenever you think you might need to get a quick shot. Jump a whitetail in heavy cover and you are more effective with a forward-mounted scope. With a little practice, the eye aligns the sight naturally, and you can see far more of your surroundings than you could when your vision was limited to the scope’s field of view.
And with the scope forward of the rifle’s ejection port there is no problem with any scope interfering in cartridge ejection. In addition, you have complete access to the port and magazine box for loading the rifle. You do not have to slip your fingers under the scope to insert cartridges into the magazine. You not only have clear access, but clear vision into the magazine box without a scope directly over it.
The shorter stock ensures that the butt will not snag on a coat as the firearm is shouldered in a hurry. The short barrel makes for a quicker pointing rig. At the same time, the rifle is a bolt action with a shorter, stiffer barrel that makes for accurate shooting whenever you need to take a crack at 300 yards, for example. In all, while the Ruger Frontier is a nontraditional-looking hunting rifle, it proves to be highly practical overall and particularly advantageous in close cover situations where any shot offered is short-lived.
At the same time, the basic firearm is a solid, rugged, reliable Ruger Model 77 Mark II all the way. It has the all-but-foolproof and exceedingly safe Mark II trigger and safety system. The trigger on the test rifle averaged six pounds, five ounces of pull as it came out of the box. The new carbine has the strength of a Ruger receiver and bolt, and the positiveness of Ruger’s Mauser-type extractor. It is another variation on the basic Ruger and that firm has a variation to suit anyone’s whim on the basic Model 77.
Accurate, Dependable & Good Looking
I fired a series of six factory loads and seven handloads through the new 7mm-08-chambered Frontier. Due to the rifle’s light weight, I wanted to record recoil figures as well as other downrange numbers as I fired the rifle. To do this, I needed to know the weight of the rifle with scope and rings attached: 7.52 pounds on my digital scale. I also needed to know the weight of the powder charges of all the factory ammunition as well as the handloads. All the factory loads were with 139- or 140-grain nominal bullet weights. In my opinion, the 140-grain bullet is the most practical weight for the 7mm-08 Remington cartridge. This is also the most commonly available bullet weight; several stores I checked stocked no other weight. All powders in the factory ammunition used for test firing were spherical or ball powders.
I decided to fire 10-shot strings, but I also recorded the group size of the first three shots as well as the first five shots. Some shooters relate more to three-shot strings while others relate to five-shot strings. I have the most experience with 10-shot strings because I think 10-shot strings provide for a better representation of the other internal and external ballistics figures. Ten shots provide a better look at uniformity as well.
Handloaded bullets ranged from the Speer 110-grain TNT through the Swift 150-grain Scirocco. None of the handloads were tweaked for the specific firearm, they were simply worked up as being safe, using data from manuals published by respective bullet companies, and were then fired. The best 10-shot string was fired with a handload, the Sierra 120-grain Spitzer ahead of 43.0 grains of Varget in a Remington case with a Remington 9 1/2 primer. It measured 1.50 inches.
|SHOOTING RUGER’S MODEL 77 MARK II FRONTIER 7MM-08|
|Recoil (ft. lbs.)|
|Speer 110-gr. TNT||IMR-3031||45.0||CCI 200||Rem.||2959||31||.317||0.90||1.40||1.90||13.3|
|Sierra 120-gr. Spitzer||Varget||43.0||Rem. 9 1/2||Rem.||2605||21||.315||1.10||1.30||1.50||11.1|
|Hornady 139-gr. SST||IMR-4064||40.0||Rem. 9 1/2||Hor.||2476||24||.425||1.30||1.30||1.70||11.4|
|Swift 140-gr. A-Frame||Reloader 15||41.0||WLR||Rem.||2549||18||.305||1.10||1.50||2.20||12.5|
|Nosler 140-gr. AccuBond||AA 2520||40.0||WLR||Rem.||2493||19||.423||0.30||1.50||1.80||11.7|
|Barnes 140-gr. XBT XLC||VV N150||44.0||Fed. 210M||Rem.||2624||15||.386||1.50||1.70||3.40||13.8|
|Swift 150-gr. Scirocco||H 4350||47.0||Rem. 9 1/2||Rem.||2509||16||.432||0.60||1.10||2.20||14.5|
|Hornady 139-gr. SP||FACTORY LOAD||2660||19||.316||1.60||2.10||3.80||16.0|
|Hornady 139-gr. SST||FACTORY LOAD||2685||20||.420||1.30||1.60||2.10||16.1|
|Federal 140-gr. Ballistic Tip||FACTORY LOAD||2621||20||.395||1.70||1.70||2.30||14.0|
|Federal 140-gr. Partition||FACTORY LOAD||2573||18||.358||1.40||2.40||3.20||13.6|
|Remington 140-gr. C-L PSP||FACTORY LOAD||2566||36||.331||1.00||1.80||2.30||12.9|
|Winchester 140-gr. Fail Safe||FACTORY LOAD||2616||24||.315||1.40||1.70||3.70||13.7|
|NOTES: Accuracy is for three, five, and 10 shots (as indicated) with the carbine fired from a sandbag benchrest at 100 yards. Velocity is the average of 10 shots measured 15 feet from the gun’s muzzle.|
This is excellent accuracy from an off-the-shelf rifle with no load adjustment whatever. The trigger was also used as it came from the factory without alteration. The best three-shot group was a mere 0.3 inch fired with the Nosler 140-grain AccuBond bullet ahead of 40.0 grains of AA 2520. The best five-shot string measured 1.10 inches and was fired with the Swift 150-grain Scirocco ahead of 47.0 grains of IMR-4350.
|MODELL 77 MARK II FRONTIER 7mm-08 DOWNRANGE PERFORMANCE|
|Bullet||Muzzle Velocity (fps)||Muzzle Energy (ft. lbs)||B.C.||300-yd|
|Trajectory* (in.)||Deflection ** (in.)||Velocity (fps)||Energy (ft-lbs)|
|Speer 110-gr. TNT||2974||2161||.317||-7.70||9.60||2141||1120|
|Sierra 130-gr. Spitzer||2619||1828||.315||-10.50||11.60||1845||907|
|Hornady 139-gr. SST||2487||1909||.425||-10.60||9.20||1904||1123|
|Barnes 140-gr. XBT XLC||2636||2160||.386||-9.50||9.10||1991||1233|
|Nosler 140-gr. AccuBond||2503||1949||.423||-10.50||8.90||1920||1146|
|Swift 140-gr. A-Frame||2563||2043||.305||-11.20||12.50||1778||983|
|Swift 150-gr. Scirocco||2519||2115||.432||-10.10||8.60||1953||1271|
|Hornady 139-gr. SP||2675||2209||.316||-9.90||11.20||1893||1106|
|Hornady 139-gr. SST||2696||2244||.420||-8.80||8.00||2091||1350|
|Federal 140-gr. Ballistic Tip||2633||2155||.395||-9.40||8.90||2002||1246|
|Federal 140-gr. Partition||2586||2079||.358||-10.20||10.20||1903||1126|
|Remington 140-gr. C-L PSP||2579||2068||.331||-10.60||11.20||1848||1061|
|Winchester 140-gr. Fail Safe||2630||2151||.315||-10.40||11.50||1856||1071|
|*200 Yard Zero
NOTES: All figures were acquired from actual test-firing
The light weight of the Frontier tweaked my interest in measuring the recoil from the various loads, and the recoil figures, as provided by the Oehler system, are included in the chart. As you can see, kick from the 7mm-08 Remington cartridge is not particularly heavy even with this carbine. All loads were relatively pleasant to fire.
All the figures can be gleaned from the accompanying charts. I’ve also included a chart of downrange figures for those interested at 300-yard performance from the various loads.
Like I said in the beginning of this report, the brand-new Ruger Model 77 Mark II Frontier is a handy, compact carbine that experienced hunters and young or small-framed shooters will really appreciate. It is accurate, dependable, and good-looking. Looks like Ruger has another winner.