August 17, 2020
By Steve Gash
Ruger introduced the bolt-action Model 77 Hawkeye series in 2007, and some consider it to be the best Model 77 yet. Like its predecessors, the Hawkeye covered just about all shooting bases, and new variations continue to be introduced. One recent version is the Hawkeye Hunter, a purpose-built, classic-styled rifle tailored specifically for big-game hunting. It is offered in popular calibers, including 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and .300 Winchester Magnum. I ordered one in .30-06 for this report.
The metal on the Hawkeye Hunter is all stainless steel and is polished to a lustrous sheen. Barrel length for the .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter is 22 inches, and twist rate is 1:10. The muzzle is threaded 5/8-24, and a protective cap is provided.
Ruger didn’t skimp on precision features that enhance accuracy. The cold-hammer-forged, stainless-steel barrel has 5R rifling, minimum bore and groove dimensions, minimum headspace, and a centralized chamber.
The one-piece bolt has the three-position safety at its right rear, so the rifle can be carried through the woods with the bolt locked shut, but the chamber can be unloaded with the safety “On.” The extractor is a non-rotating Mauser-type for controlled feed, but the shooter can still drop a round into the receiver and close the bolt with no problem. A fixed-blade ejector positioned at the rear of the receiver flips empties out at the end of the bolt’s rearward travel. Stopping bolt movement a little before this allows handloaders to pluck a precious fired case out for future use.
The internal magazine holds four rounds of .30-06 ammo. The floorplate release is in the front of the trigger guard, and the Ruger name and crest are elegantly engraved on the floorplate.
The Hawkeye Hunter retains Ruger’s angled front action screw that pulls the action back and down into the bedding, which is thought to enhance accuracy.
The Hawkeye Hunter has Ruger’s nice LC6 trigger. It’s not user-adjustable, but five pulls on my Wheeler Professional Trigger Pull Gauge averaged 3 pounds, 5.5 ounces, and the break was very crisp with little backlash.
The barrel is completely free-floated, and the barrel is well centered in the barrel channel. The barrel has no sights, but there are two ways to attach a scope.
First, the rifle comes with a six-inch Picatinny rail with 15 cross-slots, attached with four sturdy 8-40 screws. Second, underneath the rail, the receiver is cut for the familiar Ruger clamp-on rings. The rail is easily removed, and a scope can be installed in Ruger-style rings, which are not included.
The stock is American walnut, and the pistol grip and fore-end have nicely done checkering in a point pattern. There are sling swivel studs fore and aft, and the buttstock has a half-inch, red rubber recoil pad.
For testing, I removed the rail and mounted a Leupold VX-1 3-9X 40mm scope in a set of stainless Ruger rings I had in my “save” box. I followed my normal routine for a rifle review. After a good cleaning, I checked the stock screws for tightness and examined the interior of the barrel with my Gradient Lens Hawkeye borescope. The hammer-forged bore looked as smooth as silk, with no extraneous tool marks evident. The barrel measures 0.654 inch just ahead of the thread protector, which is 0.750 inch in diameter and has two flats on either side so it can be tightened or removed with a wrench.
Before starting my accuracy evaluation, I broke in the barrel by cleaning after each shot for 11 rounds, then after every three shots for the next nine rounds, for a total of 20 rounds. I then cleaned the rifle thoroughly and began shooting for accuracy. I cleaned after each three-group test, and one fouling round was fired before the next set of groups. The shooting was done at 100 yards from the benchrest, and the results are shown in the accompanying chart.
These days, I consider any box-stock big-game rifle that averages around 1.00 to 1.50 inches very suitable. I am delighted to report that the Ruger Hawkeye Hunter averaged 1.02 inches with the 12 factory loads I fired and 1.04 inches with the nine handloads. Overall, only six of the 21 loads averaged more than one inch.
Overall, I have to give the new Hawkeye Hunter high marks. It is well made, accurate, and attractive. This is a fine rifle that is light enough to tote over hill and dale but heavy enough to hold steady for precise shooting in the field.
Ruger Hawkeye Hunter
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Caliber: .30-06 Springfield
- Magazine Capacity: 4 rounds
- Barrel: 22 in.
- Overall Length: 42 in.
- Weight, Empty: 7.25 lbs.
- Stock: American walnut
- Length of Pull: 13.75 in.
- Finish: Satin stainless-steel barrel and action, satin stock
- Sights: None; Picatinny rail over integral Ruger scope mount bases
- Trigger: 3.34-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Three position
- MSRP: $1,099
- Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc., ruger.com