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Ruger M77 Compact

Ruger M77 Compact

Like many riflemen I like carbines as they look good and, more importantly, handle and carry very well indeed. However, as there’s no such thing as a free lunch; the penalty for what amounts to a short/light rifle is an increase in felt recoil with a subsequent drop in weapon control and a reduction in velocity and therefore muzzle energy. This last factor is very important to your average UK deer shooter, as the law dictates certain parameters we cannot fall below.

A carbine can be as simple as a standard length design with the barrel cut down to suit, or a true small rifle with everything reduced accordingly and this is what Ruger has done with their Compact M77 Mk II. This year saw the introduction of their third version of their highly successful M77 centrefire series. Called the M77 Hawkeye, it has been improved in the trigger and with a few tweaks to the furniture in general, as well as offering some interesting new models and calibres – 375 Ruger and 300 and 338 RCM (Ruger Compact Magnum).

Famous Four

However, Ruger has retained four models from their older M77 Mk II series; namely the great Varmint Target (VT), the full-length, Stutzen-stocked International, the 14 ½” Frontier and the subject of this test the 16” Compact. Given everything else has ‘gone Hawkeye’, surely it would have been better to re-create these models in the new format, rather than stick with the old? As the whole reason to move up to a third generation was to improve the product and let’s face it, apart from the VT that shows a good trigger from the box, the standard Mk II unit did need a bit of sorting…
So in the Compact we have a pure M77 Mk II system. The rifle is undeniably cute as Ruger have gone at it from both ends with a short, 16”, 1-12” twist barrel and an abbreviated butt with a minimal length of pull of just 12 ½”. This however is built around the standard M77 action so does look a bit big in the middle. Feed is from an internal, 5-shot (223, four in larger calibres) floor plate magazine and the 3-position safety – fire (forward), safe W bolt operation (middle) and safe/bolt locked (rear) is as ever.

Trigger pull is as you would expect from a Mk II; medium heavy with a bit of creep and the barrel is not floated. The stock is walnut with a slim rubber butt pad. There’s chequering on the pistol grip and a small section on the very abbreviated forend and QD sling studs are fitted fore and aft. There are no iron sights and Ruger’s integral 1” ring system is supplied. Pushing the tape at a mere 35 ½” and weighing a scant 5 ¾ lbs this really is a tiny rifle. Calibre-wise the Compact keeps it simple with 223, 260 and 7mm-08 Remington, 243 and 308 Winchester.

Up Side, Down Side

Calibres aside the biggest concern with the compact is making deer-legal, which is 1700 ft/lbs + for roe and upwards in England and Wales and 1000 ft/lbs + for muntjac and Chinese water deer (CWD). Frankly this is asking a lot from a 16” tube, with the 223 version certainly showing this.

story continues below...

The 1-12” rifling twist precludes the use of bullets heavier than 55-grains, which need to be driven at a minimum of 2900 fps to achieve 1000 ft/lbs. To be honest this is asking a lot! I found with a 55-grain Hornady V-MAX load the best I could achieve was about 2800 fps/950 ft/lbs, so no cigar. The only way to get this figure is to move to a heavier bullet as a 69-grain BT/HP Sierra Match King driven at a minimum of 2560 scrapes in at 1003.9 ft/lbs. However, the standard, 1-12” rifling twist will have stability problems with this weight.

Truth is in this calibre the Compact is really pretty much a fox rifle only. Likewise in 243 Winchester, which is another barrel length critical calibre, you would need to be driving a 100-grain bullet at 2770 fps to achieve 1700 ft/lbs. With a lighter 80-grain load the speed would have to go up to 3100 fps to achieve the same energy figure. Again both these are unlikely to be realised in a 16” tube; so legally 243 will only make muntjac and CWD.

Diminishing Eeturns

It’s plain to see that with the Compact’s short, 16” barrel you really do have to go up-calibre to achieve deer-legal energy for the UK. Which will result in more recoil; and less control. However, if you just want a fox carbine then the Compact in 223 Rem is a sweet little rifle. I fitted it up with my old Leupold Custom Shop 3-9x50 and used Hornady 55-grain TAP FPD ammo.

The short forend and barrel makes for a far more rigid front end and shot off a rest at 100 yard the rifle/ammo combo was turning in ¾-1”. I did find the butt a bit short and had to crank my head back to get a decent sight picture, as the scope was as far forward as was possible. You could fit a butt extension, which would do the job.

On the plus side the Compact would make a nice, moderated rifle as it’s short and light so the extra weight of a can would not add a lot to the overall package either. It would also make a nice youth rifle too.

I admit to having some fun with the Compact, though feel for your average male it’s just a bit too short at both ends. If you want a fox/small deer rifle then forget 223 Rem and go for 243 Winchester. For me I’d pick 260 Remington as I reckon that is probably the best compromise in terms of energy/effectiveness and recoil. Truth is there are a lot more UK-friendly Ruger M77 Mk IIs and Hawkeyes out there that will do the job much better…

We Reckon:
• Neat and bijou no doubt!
• 223 – problems making small deer legal
• Butt and barrel too short

PRICE: £699

  • Ruger M77 Compact - image {image:count}

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  • Ruger M77 Compact - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Ruger M77 Compact - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Ruger M77 Compact - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Ruger M77 Compact - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Ruger M77 Compact - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

gun
features

  • Name: Ruger M77 Mk II Compact
  • Calibre: 223 Rem (on test)
  • Capacity: 5 (floor plate mag)
  • Barrel: 16”
  • Rifling twist: 1-12”
  • Weight: 5 ¾ lbs
  • Length: 35 ½”

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    music23
    18 Aug 2017 at 09:45 PM
  • Thanks mate, I think we'll go the savage axis then 😊

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    Shannon
    06 Mar 2013 at 11:05 AM
  • Buy the Axis as it's new and the barrel/action is good, at a later date I'm sure you could pick up a wooden stock for it. The standard stock is plastic and if you cut the butt down I think you'd have to fill in the hole left at the back. 243 should be OK for a lady, just explain it's going to kick a lot more than a 22 rimfire!

    Good luck
    PM

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    PC moore
    06 Mar 2013 at 10:35 AM
  • Thanks for your comments, Unfortunately in Australia silencers and moderators are seen as naughty by the government and we're not trusted with them :( The ruger in question is SS version and comes to $750 2nd hand and the axis with throw-away scope comes to $509 new.
    Maybe I might be able to cut down the stock of the axis..
    There are however some axis youth models in .243 available. Do you think .243 is ok cartridge for someone who has only ever shot 5 rounds of .22LR? And is abit scared or report/ muzzle blast?

    I should add that .22 rimfire is sort of out of the question because at a stretch I want to let her or others use her gun to take goats and small pigs etc which .22 is questionable at doing.

    Thanks again for feedback

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    Shannon
    05 Mar 2013 at 09:31 PM
  • The Ruger sounds like a good idea, you might have to get the barrel floated though. I don't think recoil will be an issue, but muzzle blast/noise will. Can you own moderators in Australia? If so get a light/compact model, if not get ear plugs.

    The Axis is a butt ugly and unlovely rifle but from my expierence it shoots well enough. I suppose it's down to cost of the two makes and availability.

    Cheers
    PM

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    PC moore
    05 Mar 2013 at 01:46 PM
  • I'm tossing up whether to get a 2nd hand m77 laminated compact in .223 for my first time shooter wife who is very scared of guns and has a LOP of 12.5 inches or just get a standard savage axis in .223 since Australia isn't getting many axis youth models on .223. I wonder if the extra report and recoil from a 16.5 inch barrel will negate the virtues of the light recoil .223 round?

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    Shannon
    05 Mar 2013 at 01:16 PM
  • I have a Ruger compact in 308 Win. Put a 1 inch pad on it and the LOP is perfect. Muzzle blast is not a problem nor is recoil. I have gotten 3 shot groups of 1/2 inch at 100 meters. Reloads>>180 gr. Nosler with 44 gr. of VARGET and CCI BR2 primers. I do wish it had a 18 inch barrel. It would just "look" better to me anyway. The barrel is a regular MKII barrel cut to 16 1/2 inches and not an ultra light. Stiffness makes for an accurate barrel they tell me. I have a Kimber Montana that shoots as good or better with a 22 inch super light barrel. Go figure. I might add the new Speer Fusion 180 grain bullets are super accurate...1/4 inch 3 shot groups with the Kimber. Whitetail deer have a real problem with 180s out of a 308. In Minnesota where I live they get to 250 pounds or more.

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    Deerhttr
    03 Feb 2013 at 02:05 PM
  • Compacts are nice, but ultra short barrels kind of defeat the object in terms of excessive muzzle signature and low velocity and energy figures...

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    Pete Moore
    20 Aug 2010 at 09:26 AM
  • I got one of the MKII 223 CR variant, and boy is it LOUD!!

    It seems that most of the powder is being burned OUTSIDE the barrel thus creating a BIG flash and LOUD BOOM.

    In the range, I received many a warnings from busy bodies telling me that I should not overload a small cartridges such as 223..
    They thought the load is too high based on the booming of the rifle.

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    Gelan
    20 Aug 2010 at 08:31 AM
  • I bought this 223 compact ruger hawkeye for my daughter who is small and struggles with standard size rifles,oh she can shoot at the range with my heavy barrelled FN mauser in 270 but no way hunting could she hold it steady, The benefit for her is she can hold it steady, we mounted a leupold 2-7 var on it and its superb, it makes sensethat if she can hold it steady she can hit the animal and kill it, Youcant always line up and lean on something you have to take shots off the shoulder. Here in Australia 223 will be fine for goats and pigs and any other small animals such as foxes etc, I am impressed with the finish it has a laminated stock with matte grey finish. Great gun and with some custom loads we will work on we will get it shooting as tight as possible
    Looked for ages and are very happy.nice job Ruger
    Thanks

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    Stephen
    02 Jul 2010 at 03:49 PM
  • Glad you liked the video, we will be making more in the near future, so keep an eye out. In 308 the M03 Trail should give an easy 300-metres; given the usual factors - shooter ability and the right ammo.

    Cheers
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