Long-range precision has become the fastest-growing competitive and recreational pastime for shooters. Because of that, many are looking to convert their current bolt-action into an extreme-distance tack-driver. This can be a fun and challenging endeavor. For those serious about sending bullets over a tremendous amount of real estate, starting with a rifle explicitly engineered for the task is the best answer—short- and long-term. The new Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target is just such a rifle.
First, you should know where the “Hawkeye” name came from. It belongs to Natty Bumppo, who was the lead character in James Fenimore Cooper’s fictional pentalogy of novels known as the “Leatherstocking Tales.” Unless you’re over 50 you’ve probably never heard of them, but you’ve probably heard of the movie, “The Last of the Mohicans.” In it, Daniel Day Lewis played Natty Bumppo—Hawkeye—who was regarded as the best marksman on the early American frontier. Since about 1850 “Hawkeye” has become a nickname for a master rifleman, and Ruger chose it to identify its line of rifles formerly referred to as M77s.
The Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target exemplifies that name because it’s intended to deliver the most precision of any of the rifles in the Hawkeye line. It’s built on the common M77/Hawkeye action, but is fitted with a 26-inch heavy barrel that measures 1.23 inches in diameter at the junction of the action and .833 inches just behind the muzzle brake. The barrel is cold-hammer-forged, 4140 chrome-moly steel with 5R rifling, and tolerances on bore and groove dimensions are held to tighter standards. Headspace is also set to an industry minimum around a chamber that is central-cut for either 6.5 Creedmoor (1:8-inch RH twist), 6.5 PRC (1:8-inch RH twist) or .300 Win. Mag. (1:9-inch RH twist).
Fitted to a laminated stock covered with a brown-speckled paint scheme is the barreled action. The stock provides plenty of room for the barrel to freefloat, and QD sling studs, an under-forearm M-Lok rail, and adjustable comb and length-of-pull are standard. Additionally, the comb, which is a saddle-type, polymer affair, can be moved about 1.5 inches fore and aft, and about 1 inch up and down. It’s locked in place by a lever on the right side of the stock. There’s a soft, 1-inch buttpad, and by removing spacers the length-of-pull can be shortened from 14.5 to 13 inches. Both of these adjustable features are advised, if not mandatory, when you’re interfacing with a rifle you intend to shoot at extreme distance.
The M77 action is of the traditional controlled-round-feed style. However, the test rifle allowed a cartridge to be dropped on top of the magazine follower and chambered by closing the bolt. It’s been my experience that on some—about 50 percent of Ruger M77/Hawkeye-style actions— cartridges must be fed from the magazine. This is something to consider or check before purchase if it matters to you. The action also sports the praised Ruger three-position safety, feeds from an AI-style magazine and has an excellent two-stage trigger that broke cleanly on the test rifle at 2 pounds. The trigger is another point of interface that’s critical on a precision rifle, and the Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target has a good one.
A SIG Sauer 5-30x56 mm Tango6 riflescope was mounted in Talley Tactical Rings and they were attached directly to the 13-slot Picatinny rail, which comes standard on the rifle.
The Hornady 140-grain ELD Match load turned in a disappointing first three groups. However, after the third group the rifle settled and turned in two back-to-back .75-inch groups. This is not uncommon when ammunition types are switched. It can take several rounds for the different copper/gilding-metal alloy used in the bullet jacket to sort of condition the bore. Thing is, with most rifles you simply will not notice it because they are not capable of shooting as well as this Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target.
Of course this rifle is intended for distance, and itty-bitty groups at 100 yards—while impressive—are not what long-range shooters dream about. So, I carried the rifle to the Beckley Gun Club and fired three groups at 476 yards, which was the longest distance available. They measured 2.42, 3.02 and 2.66 inches. That’s darn near coffee-can accuracy, and damned impressive for a rifle with a street price of less than a grand. I smiled all the way home.
My only complaints were with the comb adjustment and the bolt. The comb adjustment, though functional, seemed a bit fragile. As for the bolt, it’s been my experience that all Ruger M77/Hawkeye rifle bolts come out of the box with a bolt that’s a bit rough/gritty. No, they are not terrible, just noticeable. With time however, they all smooth-up as I’m sure this one will, too. At 11 pounds the Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifle is heavy. But, make no mistake; this rifle will shoot the cents off a dime at 100 yards and the stitches off a baseball at 500.