When Strum, Ruger & Company first introduced the Ruger M77 it was initially met with less than enthusiastic fanfare, at least among firearms experts. So how is it that over 50 years later the M77 has become one of the most iconic American bolt-action rifles?
1964: Jim Sullivan, formally of Armalite, joins Ruger for the purpose of developing a new bolt action big game rifle to compete with the Winchester Model 70 and Remington Model 700
1968: M77 is introduced
1969: M77 Varmint, or M77V, is introduced
1970: M77 Magnum is introduced and includes a slightly longer action and calibers such as .25-06 Rem., .270 Win., 7MM Rem. Magnum and -30-06n Springfield.
1976: M77 RSC big-bore is introduced
1982: M77RL is introduces and includes Mannlicher type stock
1984: M77 RL is introduced
1989: Mark II, the first major revision of the M77, is introduced
2004: Mark II .350 Rem Mag. introduced
2006: Ruger introduces the Hawkeye, the second update to the M77 design
2011: Ruger and Gunsite Training Center collaborate on the Gunsite Scout Rifle, the second special purpose design based on the M77
2013: Canadian SAR technicians adopt the .30-06 Cal. SAR Model
The 1960’s were a pivotal decade in many ways including firearms, especially American made big game rifles. Remington’s Model 700 dominated the market. Winchester’s redesigned Model 70 remained a contender and the Savage 110 was building its own loyal following.
Keep in mind, there were still an abundance of surplus Mausers, Carcanos and Arisakas for bargain basement prices and lever action models remained the most popular big game design. But everyone was looking for something different and Strum, Ruger & Company soon joined the arms race.
In 1965 when Jim Sullivan joined the Ruger team. Sullivan had previously worked at Armalite where he played a pivotal part in bringing the M16 into production. He was brought on by Ruger specifically to help develop bolt action big game rifle capable of competing with Winchester’s Model 70 and Remington’s Model 700.
Although Sullivan is credited with designing the M77, it was not without Bill Ruger’s influence. Ruger was reportedly a big fan of the Mauser 98 which became the foundation on which the M77 was designed. Twin forward locking lugs and 90-degree bolt lift are two such influences but there is no doubt the original M77 resembles a distant cousin of the ‘98. Ruger was also responsible for features such as the hinged floorplate, flanged left side bolt sleeve and tang safety – although the latter would be replaced in future designs.
Despite the similarities, the M77 is not a redesigned or improved Mauser. There are several features that not only distinguish the M77 but were also ground break in terms of firearms design. First and foremost are the receiver and bolt construction. Sullivan insisted on using investment casting for both, while the standard for the time was to mill each from solid bar stock steel. He also utilized a relatively plain walnut stock. Although designed by famed stock maker Lenard Brownell the result was remarkably simple and, apart from the necessary checkering, void of embellishments.
The final design was introduced in 1968 and, despite lukewarm reception, would go on to become one of the most popular big game rifles of the era. For the next 21 years the M77 would remain virtually unchanged and sell over 1 million units.
Features (original M77)
- Casted receiver and bolt
- Plain walnut stock by Brownell
- Twin forward locking lugs
- 90-degree bolt lift
- Hinged doorplate
- Tang safety
- Flanged left side bolt sleeve
Features (currently available models)
- Cold hammer-forged barrel
- Stainless-steel bolt
- Detachable, flush mounted rotary magazine
- Integral scope mounts machined directly on the solid steel receiver
- Three position safety that allows loading & unloading with safety engaged
- Factory mounted swivel studs
- 17WSM, 17 Hornet
- 22 Hornet
- 357 Magnum
- 44 Rem Mag
- 22-250 Rem., .223, 230 Swift, 6mm Rem., 250/3000, 264 Win., 7×57, 7mm-08 Rem., 30-06 Sprg., 300 Win Mag., 308 Win., 338 Win., 350 Rem., 35 Whelan, 359 Win Mag., 416 Taylor, 458 Win Mag., 458 Rem Mag.
The Mark II
While there had been minor changes along the way, including a milled scope mount and more accurate Ruger produced barrels, the M77 remained relatively unchanged until 1991 with the introduction of the Mark II. This model was almost entirely retooled and included a redesigned safety, trigger, and bolt. Additional changes included an open-face bolt, Mauser style blade ejector and elimination of the adjustable trigger. The classic bare bones but bulky stock was also slimmed down.
Shooters responded with a renewed interest and the Mark II once again propelled Ruger to the top of the big game bolt action market. Especially popular were the 3-position wing safety, fixed-blade ejector, and the use of stainless steel for the bolt body & handle. The Mark II was also available in additional variation including a Compact, Target & All-Weather model as well as a large selection of calibers.
- Three action lengths – short, standard and magnum
- Circassian walnut stock
- Sights – ramp front & folding leaf express rear
- Magazine control feed from 4 or 5 round box magazine
- Pivoting ejector
- 3 position safety
- Fast lock-time steel trigger mechanism
- Quick release hinged floorplate
- Rubber recoil pad
- Three version – Standard (M77R), Magnum (M77RSM) and Compact (M77CR)
- .204 Ruger, .22-250 Remington, .223 Remington, .270, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .300 Magnum, 7mm, .338 Magnum, .30-06..416 Rigby,.404 Jeffery, .357 Magnum & .458 Lott
Despite the continued popularity of both the original M77 and the Mark II there was still room for improvement. Many shooters complained that the Mark II trigger, which unlike the M77’s was not adjustable, performed poorly. Stock designs had also started trend towards a sleeker, more compact profile.
In 2006 Ruger introduced the Hawkeye, the second reincarnation of the original M77. The trigger was the LC6 and the stock was a rounded, compact walnut design with a new checkering pattern. Finally, a left-handed model was introduced as well.
The Hawkeye is also offered in a wide range of specialty versions, each offering specific features or calibers best suited for the task at hand. These versions include:
African– utilizes a 23” barrel, Ruger muzzle break and walnut stock. Offered in
calibers including .223 Remington
All-weather – lighter version of standard Hawkeye with synthetic stock and stainless-steel barrel & receiver.
Alaskan – 20” Stainless steel barrel & receiver with Black Hogue stock, bead front sight and adjustable rear sight.
Compact – shorter version of standard Hawkeye with 16.5” barrel. Also available in a laminated version.
Hunter – available in three barrel lengths (20”, 22” or 24”), American walnut stock and right or left hand models.
FTW Hunter– stainless steel & Hawkeye Matte finish, Natural Gear Camo Hardwood stock and 22” or 24” barrel.
Long Range Target – alloy steel & matte black finish, Speckled black/brown laminate stock, and 26” barrel.
Long Range Hunter – stainless steel & Hawkeye Matte finish, speckled black/brown laminate stock, and 22” barrel
Predator – stainless steel & Hawkeye Matte finish, Green Mountain laminate stock, and 22” or 24” barrel.
Guide Gun – stainless steel & Hawkeye Matte finish, Green Mountain laminate stock, 20” barrel & removable Ruger muzzle break.
Magnum Hunter – chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum and fitted with Ruger muzzle break.
Sporter – mid-weight version offered with either 22” or 24” barrel.
- Non-rotating Mauser type controlled round feed extractor
- Fixed blade ejector
- Hinged, solid-steel floorplate with patented, flush mounted latch
- 3 position safety to allow unloading with safety engaged
- Cold hammer-forged barrel
- Integral scope mounts machined directly on the solid-steel receiver
- One-piece stainless-steel bolt
- Sling studs
- Variety of barrel lengths – 16.5”, 20”, 22”, 23”, 24”, 26”
- Hunter – 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win., .30-06 Sprg., .300 Win Mag., 7mm Rem Mag., 204 Ruger
- FTW Hunter – .375 Ruger, 6.5 Creedmoor
- Long Range Hunter – 6.5 Creedmoor
- Long Range Target – .300 Win Mag., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 204 Ruger, .308 Win.
- Predator – .22-250 Rem., .223 Rem., .204 Ruger, 6.5 Creedmoor
- Compact- .308 Win., 7mm-08 Rem.
- Laminated Compact – .243 Rem, .308 Win., 7mm-08 Rem.
- African – .416 Ruger, 375 Ruger, 6.5×55, .280 Ackley Improved
- Alaskan – .375 Ruger, .338 Win Mag., 300 Win Mag.
- Guide Gun- .338 Win Mag., .30-06 Sprg., 375 Ruger, 416 Ruger
The .30-06 Cal. SAR
This model was based on the Mark II and specifically designed for use by Canadian Search & Rescue teams. The stock was replaced by an orange butt that can be folded, the barrel was shortened to 14.5” and the capacity was increased to include 6 additional rounds (stored in butt). Each rifle also included a carry case that allowed the folded rifle to be easily attached to a parachute harness.
The Gunsite Scout Rifle
In 2011 the Gunsite Scout Rifle was added to the M77 family tree. This pastiest addition was a collaborative effort between Ruger and Gunsite Training Center, with a goal of producing a modern Scout Rifle based on the criteria forwarded by Col. Jeff Copper.
This rifle incorporates a black laminated stock, ghost ring sights, picatinny optic rail, flash suppressor and 16.5” barrel. It is chambered in .308 Winchester and available with either 3,5, or 10 round box magazines. Canadian & Australian models have a stainless steel 18” barrel and no flash suppressor.