Return of a classic: the original "short magnum" holds its own in the Ruger M77.
Have you ever noticed the outrageous prices being asked for vintage Ruger Model 77s and Remington Model 600s and 660s chambered in .350 Rem Mag? A standard Model 77 commands a 30- to 50-percent price premium on the used market if it sports a .350 Rem Mag chamber, while 600s and 660s routinely carry $800 to $900 price tags.
How Can It Be?
When the .350 Rem Mag first appeared in the spacey-looking Remington Model 600, the outdoor press dumped all over it. The messenger, the Remington Model 600, almost killed off the message--the wonderfully effective .350 Rem Mag cartridge.
Writers complained about the Model 600's ventilated rib, shark finned front sight, plastic floorplate and triggerguard, 18.5" barrel, laminated stock, dogleg bolt handle, hidden bolt release as well as the muzzle blast and recoil dished out by the .350 Rem cartridge. A feeding frenzy of criticism swept through the gun press like the plague. Few scribes of the day appreciated the genius at Remington responsible for fielding an innovative carbine chambered for the first commercial short, belted-magnum cartridge ever.
At the time, I was working for New York State Conservation Department, and when I walked into Russ Carpenter's gun shop in the Mid-Hudson and saw that Model 600 sitting forlornly in the used gun rack, it was love at first sight. Walking out to the truck, I came back in with a sporterized Springfield '03A3 and a little cash in my hand and walked out with the .350 Rem Mag.
Two years later, I came across a brand-new Model 660 Magnum another gun store could not give away and bought that one for my wife for the princely sum of $150. She traded hers years later for a custom Frank Wells .308 and I don't hold it against her. I'm still carrying mine, though, and it carries notches for deer, bear and elk.
So, why do used .350 Remington Magnums carry a premium price tag? Because once you have hunted with this powerful medium-bore and experienced its performance on game, you do not want to give it up.
Ruger's original introduction of the Model 77 in .350 Remington came just as Remington was closing up shop on their Model 660 magnum. In many ways, the Ruger overcame the perceived design problems of the short-lived Model 600 and 660 Remingtons for it embodied all the inspired elements we've come to appreciate in the Model 77, and didn't have that doggone, dogleg bolt handle.
The stock, designed by Lenard Brownell, was classic in style, pleasingly trim, and securely bedded to the receiver with Ruger's ingenious angled front guard screw. The short action, M77 was a lightweight rifle weighing approximately 6 1/4 pounds with a full 22" barrel--not a spacey, little, truncated carbine. The bottom metal was real metal and the floorplate could be released and the magazine safely unloaded by depressing a catch in the triggerguard. The trigger was fully adjustable and there was as sliding tang safety right where it should be under your thumb. The handy bolt stop/release was more or less copied from the Mauser as was its massive extractor.
One of the more innovative aspects of the new M77 was the incorporation of integral scope ring bases on the receiver plus "a free set of rings" packaged with each rifle. Introduced in 1968, the original suggested retail price of a Model 77R was $160.
Rewarding True Believers
The new Ruger M77 pictured here is, of course, the Mk II, introduced in 1989. Due to the increasingly, debilitating climate of litigation, Ruger designed several safety improvements into the Mk II.
When the original tang safety was engaged, it locked the bolt. To unload the chamber, the shooter had to take the safety off. To ensure the rifle could be unloaded with the safety on, Ruger took the three-position, bolt-sleeve safety introduced on the M77/22 and transferred the design to the Mk II.
Next came the elimination of the fully-adjustable trigger. The Mk II trigger is not designed to be adjustable. On the other hand, the factory weight-of-pull isn't bad. For example, according to my Lyman digital scale, the trigger of this Mk II breaks cleanly at 4 pounds, and Ruger promises they will pay closer attention to trigger pull-weights in all their lines from now on.
On the more positive side, the action now features controlled-round feeding, a fixed blade-type ejector, and a magazine release catch neatly recessed into the front bow of the triggerguard. Overall, the changes are a real plus, with the caveat the factory trigger can easily be replaced with an aftermarket adjustable model.
Complementing the Ruger .350 Rein Mag is Weaver's latest and best, 1.5-5X Grand Slam model scope. The quality of the Weaver scope lines is increasingly impressive. These Weavers aren't your chain-store optics anymore. The lenses are clear and multi-coated. Being based on Weaver's patented Micro-Trac system, elevation and windage adjustments are sure, precise and repeatable. And the Weaver lines are still very competitively priced. They're just a sound value for the money.
I chose the 1.5-5X because it and the 2-7X variable scopes are ideal when it comes to big game hunting. You don't need more upper end magnification for big game and having the wide field-of-view (71' at 1.5X) afforded by the lower magnification end takes care of hunting in thicker cover. I like to carry either power range cranked to 3X or 4X as I cover open ground.
The Weaver 1.5-5V is 10.25" long, weighs 11.5 ounces and offers an astonishing 120" of windage and elevation adjustment. The whole Ruger/Weaver package weighs a svelte 7.75 pounds.
Regardless of what you've heard, Remington's medium-bore, short, belted magnum is not a short-range cartridge and it is not a compact .35 Whelen. It operates at a higher pressure than the Whelen and outperforms the old domesticated wildcat in terms of velocity and energy, even from an 18.5" barrel.
Current Remington ballistic data rates the 200-grain pointed Core-Lokt with a muzzle velocity of 2,775 fps and muzzle energy of 3,419 ft.-lbs. Sighted 2" high at 100 yards, the 200-grain factory loading is dead-on at 200 yards and only 9.3" low at 300. At 300 yards, it is still packing 1,639 ft-lbs of energy.
Compare the trajectory figures of the .350 Rem Mag with those of Remington's 180-grain Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point loading for the .30-06 starting out at 2,700 fps. Sighted 2.1" high at 100, the .30-06 load zeroes at 200 and is 9" low at 300.
Neither hunter nor game is going to miss that 0.3" of trajectory difference the .350 Rem Mag yields to the .30-06 at 300 yards.
From the new Ruger, the current Remington 200-grain Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point loading delivered 2,849 fps and 7/8" three-shot groups at 100 yards. Some 40-year-old Remington "green box" ammunition averaged 2,820 fps and 1 1/2". A 1960's lot of 250-grain Peter's ammunition averaged 2,527 fps and 1 5/8" and, in terms of recoil, you wouldn't know whether you were shooting a 200-or 250-grain bullet unless you read the flap on the ammunition box.
The .350 Rein Mag is a flexible cartridge delivering almost 3,000 fps with a 180-grain bullet and a little over 2,500 fps with a 250-grain pill. You can even stuff it with .357 pistol bullets for some plinking fun. My favorite handload consists of the 200-grain Remington Core-Lokt bullet, 59 grains of H4895, Remington case and 9 1/2M primer. This load hits like the Hammer of Thor and from the new Ruger delivered 2,875 fps and 1/2" three-shot groups at 100 yards.
In summary, Ruger has done the biggame community a terrific service returning the .350 Rem Mag to the Model 77 line. It's a medium-bore match made in heaven. Grab one while they're available.
1.5-5X GRAND SLAM Maker: Weaver 201 Plantation Oak Drive Thomasville, GA 31792 (800) 285-0689 www.weaveroptics.com MAGNIFICATION: 1.5-5X OBJECTIVE DIAMETER: 32mm EYE RELIEF: 3.25" INTERNAL 120" windage ADJ. RANGE: & elevation CLICK VALUE: 1/4" TUBE DIAMETER: 1" WEIGHT: 11.5 ounce OVERALL LENGTH: 10.25" RETICLE: Dual-X PRICE: $329 M77 MARK II STANDARD Maker: Sturm, Ruger & Co. 200 Ruger Road, Prescott, AZ 86301 www.ruger.com ACTION TYPE: Bolt action CALIBER: .350 Rem Mag MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 3 OVERALL LENGTH: 41" BARREL LENGTH: 22" SIGHTS: None, scope rings provided WEIGHT: 7 pounds FINISH: Blue STOCK: Walnut PRICE: $695
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|Article Type:||Cover story|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2006|
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