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Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum

Always keen on new calibres, Pete Moore checks out the 300 and 338 Ruger Compact Magnums in a pair of equally dinky M77 Hawkeyes

There’s little doubt that Hornady as a company have come up with quite a few new calibres over the recent years, sometimes on their own, often as not in collaboration with a rifle manufacturer. Ruger is one of these beneficiaries with their .20”cal varmint round (204 Ruger) and more recently the 375 Ruger for big game.

Now Ruger are bang up to date with a pair of cartridges not unlike Winchester’s WSM (Winchester Short Magnum) series; called RCMs (Ruger Compact Magnums) they follow the same dumpy (short/fat) case style and are available on both 300 and 338 options. Here’s what Hornady say about them: 

“The Hornady 300 and 338 Ruger Compact Magnums (RCM) outperform the 300 and 338 Win Mag cartridges, but in a short action rifle with a compact 20” barrel. This package delivers what all the short fat cartridges don’t – superior ballistic performance in a truly compact firearms platform that achieves velocity and performance as advertised!”

Pretty impressive no doubt and all this from a 20” tube. But there’s more, as we are also told:

• Optimized case geometry, delivers more velocity with 10-15% less powder
• Longer barrel life
• Less recoil
• Less muzzle blast
• Superior temperature stability from -15°F to 140°F (reduced climactic related point of impact change)

As a long term devote of the WSM series I had yet to be convinced, but was looking forward to seeing what the real deal was. However, if they worked as stated the advantages would be a short, light and user-friendly rifle that punched well above its weight.

A nice pair

For the hardware side of the test Ruger sent me two M77 Hawkeye rifles – a stainless synthetic in 300 RCM and the more traditional wood/satin blue in 338.
Hornady backed this up with two loads – 165-grain SST (300 RCM) and a 225-grain SST (338 RCM). Though there is one more in 338 – a 200-grain SST and three more in the 300 – 150 grain GMX and SST and a 180-grain SST. Data states the ammo gives the following at the muzzle:

300 RCM (165-grain) 3030 fps/3363 ft/lbs

338 RCM (225-grain) 2710 fps/3669 ft/lbs

Now if either of these could produce anywhere near those figures in what on initial inspection is a case with slightly less capacity than a comparable 300WSM and from a 20” tube, I was going to be seriously impressed. However, reloading seemed to be at odds with these figures! Hodgdon already offer RCM data and their top end loads with 165 and 225-grain bullets were coming in around 150/200 fps under the Hornady factory quote.

It could be another case of 204 Ruger syndrome; here factory fodder hits the quoted figures, but try as you might you can’t push them that fast even with the largest, quoted reload.

Don’t get me wrong I’m really into this short/wide case thing and know for a fact that some really do bring home the bacon. My 6.5 Grendel is of that ilk and with around 30% less powder - in most cases - can out perform a 243 Winchester. It makes no sense to me but real time testing shows it works. So maybe the subtly different RCM might do the job better? Or were they just ways of re-packaging old favourites like 30-06 Springfield and 338-06?

Based on

The RCMs are based on the belt-less 375 Ruger case, which is yet another Hornady creation and a good one! My tests have shown it offers significantly more than the old 375 H&H Magnum and is far better behaved too. This to my mind boded well for the RCM as it comes from the same design ethos.

Comparisons to the WSMs show a few differences; the RCM has a gradual taper on the main body as opposed to the parallel build of the Winchester. Oddest of all is the fact that the 338 is around 1/8” shorter than the 300 at both neck and shoulder, though the cartridge overall length (COL) is the same. The WSMs all show the same length with just the neck diameter changing to accommodate the specific calibre.

This initial test would be simple as I would shoot for group and manners at 100-yards then chrono the results and run them through my Sierra Infinity 6 ballistics programme to see what the real time data was. As I now have RCM dies, bullets and brass from Hornady, I will at a later date see what reloading can achieve with these two. But first let’s look a bit closer at the hardware?

Short ‘n’ sweet

I own a lot of Ruger bolt-actions in both rimfire and fullbore, and apart from their M77 Mk II Varmint Target (VT), which is a cracker, I would have to say that the new Hawkeye version of the M77 is the best yet. The changes are subtle as the basic layout with its floor plate, top-loading magazine, 3-positon safety, action and scope mounting system remains the same. Stocks are slightly fuller with the synthetics being noticeably more stable, By far the biggest improvement is their LC6 (light & crisp) trigger unit! Until the introduction of this; the first thing you had to do with an M77 Mk II (VT excepted) was to replace or get the mech sorted!

The RCMs are identical in terms of layout and available in the matte stainless/synthetic (All-Weather), which unusually had a dark green stock and the matte blue/walnut (Standard) versions. The 20” barrel is of light/medium profile and shows a high, ramped, brass-tipped front blade and an adjustable, Williams U-notch unit at the rear. Capacity is 3+1 (either calibre) and the rifling pitch is 1-10”. Weight un-scoped is 6 ¾ lbs with the Standard running 39 ½” top to bottom and the All-Weather 40”. This is down to the length of pull (LOP) and is noticeable when you shoulder each model. Both guns show a rubber recoil pad and QD sling studs as standard, plus a set of Ruger’s 1” rings.

Barrels are unfloated and a tight fit in the forend, with both stock styles showing effective chequering. As I am now into driven game shooting I really liked the compact and handy nature of the design, with the iron sights being a useful feature for close encounters. Given the potential; either one could make a fine choice for wild boar, or where you just needed a small/easy to carry but hard hitting hunter.

In keeping with the rifles I fitted two different scopes. The 300 got a NightForce NXS 2.5-10x24, with its illuminated, Mil-Dot reticule it seemed to suit the calibre well, with enough top end mag to reach out if required. The 338 got the new Leupold VX3 3.5-10x50 in this case with their Boone & Crockett illuminated reticule. Both were fitted up in sets of Warne, Ruger-dedicated QD rings, again an essential consideration as iron sights were standard and could be needed.

Let’s play

First up the chrono and I have to say that though not hitting the exact figures the RCMs came pleasingly close:

Chrono results:

Calibre     Average Velocity   Extreme Spread   Energy

300 RCM   2976 fps           24 fps           3244 ft/lbs

338 RCM   2670 fps           32 fps           3561 ft/lbs

Factory figures:

300 RCM 3030 fps/3363 ft/lbs

338 RCM 2710 fps/3669 ft/lbs

However, neither can compare to Hornady’s 300 and 338 Win Mag factory loadings. Lopping off around 50 fps, which is probably what you would lose through a standard rifle still puts the Win Mags ahead of the game, but it also shows the RCMs in a good light too. I think it is a bit naïve to suppose that either could out perform the Win Mags, given their larger powder capacity

Factory figures:

300 WM (165-grain SST) 3100 fps/3520 ft/lbs

338 WM (225-grain SST) 2785 fps/3874 ft/lbs

Now onto manners. Both RCMs are certainly punchy in the shoulder with the 338 being the more energetic of the two… Though liking the compact package; maybe a bit more weight and perhaps a 22” barrel would have been more sensible! Both are rifles you need to be hanging on to and also aware of the potential of getting scoped if you don’t take charge of them. However, as hunters the biggest problem as with all calibres of this type is zeroing, as in the field one or two shots is not an issue.

Accuracy-wise I found the 338 was perhaps a tad more precise with it pushing one inch at 100-yards. In its 165-grain loading the 300 was turning in 1 ½” at best. Though far better than the M77 Mk II trigger I found the LC6 unit could have done with a bit less weight. Naturally both get very hot, very quickly and with un-floated barrels you need to keep an eye on thermal distortion that will open up groups.

For me, and as with my 8.5x63mm which is a slightly improved version of the 338-06 and my 300WSM, it’s not just about raw power. I load for both of these with shooter comfort, control, correct bullet choice and ability in mind. Sure they are not churning out maximum figures but they do the jobs I ask of them and that includes some big and tough animals.

This is how I see and would approach the RCMs, by taking advantage of their compact size and weight with slightly more sensible handloads. After all there is not much on the planet that’s going to stand up to the right 300 or 338 bullet pushing around 3000-3300 ft/lbs…

However, where these two cartridges fit into the UK scene remains to be seen. Of the two and though preferring the 338 I feel the 300 would be the better choice; we shall see if either catches on…

We reckon:

Neat and handy rifles
Punchy and powerful calibres
Guns maybe a bit light

Technical Specifications
Name Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Calibres 300 and 338 RCM
Capacity 3+1
Barrel 20”
Stock walnut and synthetic
Finish blued and stainless (satin)
Sights Y
Weight 6 ¾ lbs
Length 39 ½ to 40”

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

Distributer information
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User Comments
  • I was wondering about these " Warne, Ruger-dedicated QD rings"
    Ruger ships rings with the rifle I am told - but I suspect it is not these.

    I have a 338 Ruger Compact on order (should be here in next 2-3 weeks).
    I like the idea of QD rings but for moose hunting primarily I don't reckon needing to spend $100 on rings.

    I was told the oem rings shipped with the rifle are solid.

    Thoughts?

    Comment by: Ash Pardy     Posted on: 08 Jun 2010 at 08:29 PM

  • All Ruger rifles; except the 10/22 come with their standard height, 1" rings, which are a tough and solid design, if you want 30mm then you have to buy them as extra. I have a 338 RCM Hawkeye and a 375 Ruger African, both have iron sights and I fitted them with the Warne, 30mm QD mounts. The reason is simple; the 338 is for boar and the 375 for the bigger plains game and boar and the ability to quickly dump the scope (if required) for close shots on what is primarily dangerous game seemed to make a lot of sense to me...

    However, I do not consider them required for more normal game animals and I stick with the standard fixed-types on my Ruger 25-06 Hawkeye and 204 M77 VT.

    Hope that helps
    PM

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 09 Jun 2010 at 10:28 AM

  • Hi Guys Taking front sight off my Ruger RCM 300--Ruger said it is crimped on---so how do we take it off ??? THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!! POP'S !!!

    Comment by: FRANK T. CERVEN     Posted on: 21 Aug 2010 at 06:14 PM

  • Do you mean the complete front sight block and blade or just the blade?

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 22 Aug 2010 at 08:48 AM

  • hi was wondering if you guys have chronyed any reloads in the 338rcm,,i have my doughts if reloads will come any were near the factory specs,like the rifle,had a play with one yesterday, would be a good sambar deer rifle

    Comment by: garry rose     Posted on: 22 Sep 2010 at 11:23 AM

  • Just been using the new 338 RCM Hornady Superformance 200-grain SST load. This is pushing around 2800 fps; still a bit punchy in the shoulder...

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 23 Sep 2010 at 08:57 AM

  • Hi,
    nice review. I just disagree on one thing:
    Factory figure for the .338 Win Mag 225 gr SST Superformance is 2840 fps. However this is for a 24" barrel. If you consider the usual optimism in factory figures and cut that barrel down I think that more realistic figures are: 2800 fps for 24", 2700 fps for 22" and 2600 for 20". So, the .338 RCM is better and does it with less powder and less recoil. I absolutely agree on the weight of the gun.
    Think about a Mauser 03 Solid or African PH in .338 RCM with 20" barrel!
    Using 250 grains bullets one could fully duplicate the performance of the mighty 9.3x62 with 22" barrel (2450 fps with 250 grains Nosler Partition o Woodleigh RN, for instance). I think such rifle would benefit notably in terms of handling while remaining heavy enough.
    Maybe not good enough for dangerous African game but perfect for big East-European boars.....
    Just my two cents.

    Cheers,
    P. R.

    Comment by: P. R.     Posted on: 23 Jun 2011 at 10:56 PM

  • hi there,,bought a ruger 338 rcm not long after reading your artical peter, very happy with the rifle,ive shot 3 sambar stags and a couple of fellow stags with it now,and i really carnt tell the diffearance between it and my 338 win mag in killing power on sambar deer,,so far the best i can get with reloads is about 60fps below the factory specks with the 225 grain projectiles,and of cause that means nothink in thick bush,hase fast become my favorite deer stalking rifle,ideal in the thick rain forest of southen australia,,my only complant is the trigger needs a little work out of the box,,

    cheers

    Comment by: garry rose     Posted on: 12 Jul 2011 at 11:43 AM

  • Got to say I like 338 as a calibre and the RCM is a little powerhouse, as are others in the generic short magnum ethos - like the WSMs. I agree with you about comparisons to the 338 Win Mag, much like comparing the 300 Win Mag to the 300 WSM; there's a bit but not a lot in it...

    60 fps shy of factory loads in what is quite a short barrel is also good, proving to me the efficieny of the case design. I have had mixed succes with reloading and found on my Ruger that the cartidge overall length (COL) needs to be kept short with certain makes of bullet.

    The trigger; yes could do with a bit of a tweak, or a drop-in unit like the Rifle Basixs might be the way to go. Though I'm unsure if their M77 Mk 11-based unit would fit the Hawkeye with its LC6 trigger. I'm probaly going to put a muzzle brake on mine as I find it a bit kicky, though I might go at it fom the other end with a better recoil pad as I would like to preserve the iron sights.

    Good hunting
    PM

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 13 Jul 2011 at 12:43 PM

  • Hi
    I have kimber 8400 classic in wsm with feeding proubles.
    Dose the ruger 300 rcm have any feeding troubles.

    thanks Lavern

    Comment by: Lavern Thrun     Posted on: 12 Nov 2012 at 04:22 AM

  • I am starting to reload for my 338 RCM using Hornady 185 gr GMX bullets and am wondering if you have used Hodgden H4350 or BL-C(2) powders and which seems to perform best. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    Comment by: Josh Buckmaster     Posted on: 13 Dec 2012 at 01:26 AM

  • Hi Josh, I think BL-C(2) is the choice. H4350 is a bit slow for the caliber in general with this bullet weight, even more in this case where you have a short barrel.
    GMX, like Barnes TSX, has drive bands and should work with same range of powders used for lead bullets of the same weight.

    Cheers,
    Paul

    Comment by: Paul     Posted on: 20 Dec 2012 at 02:09 PM

  • I'd watch your cartridge overal length (COL) too, my reloading experiments showed it generally needed to be shorter than indicated given the bullet design. Best to make up some dummy/test rounds to get it right.

    Comment by: PC moore     Posted on: 21 Dec 2012 at 09:46 AM

  • ive,had my 338rcm now for about 2 years, love the rifle and calibre,killed few good sambar stags and pigs with it,useing the 200 and 225 grain hornady interlocks,,great little rifle for jumping in and out of 4wds when doging,,my only concern with it here in australia is factory ammo and cases can be hard to chase down.use to be a lover of the 338 win mag for sambar, it now stays home in the safe while the 338rcm and i head bush,easy cartridge to load with,most of my loads are around 60fps slower than what the reloading manuals show
    cheers

    Comment by: garry rose     Posted on: 21 Dec 2012 at 09:21 PM

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Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact Magnum
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