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Ruger's M-77-22 a rimfire classic.

It may seem a little strange that at a time when stock in high quality .22 rimfire bolt-action rifles seems to be on the skids, Sturm, Ruger & Company should pick this moment to add such a rifle to its line. However, if you've followed the career of firearms genius Bill Ruger, you know that he's never been one to pay much attention to trends. He just builds a gun so good, so attractive and so functional that it creates a market of its own. With his blackhawk single-action revolver he literally brought a dead phase of the handgun market back to life. Single-shot centerfire rifles were a poor bet when he introduced the Ruger Number One, and it was Ruger who shunned the Monte Carlo stock craze and offered a sleek classic-style stock as standard equipment on his Model 77 rifles.

Well, he's at it again and his latest offering--the Model 77/22 bolt-action rimfire .22 Long Rifle--holds tremendous promise, both in its present form and in what may be done with the action in the future. The 77/22 is a hefty number--6-1/4 pounds with open sights--with the looks and feel of Ruger's Model 77 centerfire guns, yet it's a totally new design and everything about it is quality. It's a rifle that will be a welcome addition to the gun cabinets of the most discerning riflemen.

In appearance the Model 77/22 very much resembles the Ruger Model 77, but as you'll see, it's entirely new. The classic-style stock on my 77/22 test rifle is walnut, a good quality but straight-grained, not figured. The length of pull is 13-3/4 inches. Cut 16-lines-per-inch checkering, both functional and good-looking, decorates the pistol grip and forearm. Sling swivel studs are standard equipment. The buttplate is black nylon as is the pistol grip cap bearing the Ruger logo in its center. The stock has a low-lustre polyurethane finish, the same as is used on all Ruger rifle stocks. Wood-to-metal fit is very good and the inletting is excellent, resulting in a tight fit of the barreled action in the one-piece stock.

External metal on the 77/22 is beautifully finished. The 20-inch barrel, bolt handle, bolt sleeve, cocking piece and shroud, triggerguard and magazine well liner are all done in a polished blue while the receiver is matte-finished, creating an attractive contrast.

The receiver is probably the first unusual thing you notice about the 77/22. It's large as rimfire rifle receivers go, not at all in keeping with the historic diminutive profile we've come to expect. It's 8-1/4 inches long and the ejection port opening measures 1.98 inches. The receiver bridge is exceptionally long--2.455 inches to where the bolt handle nestles behind it. The top of the receiver is milled to accept those famous Ruger scope rings which are furnished with every 77/22.

As you'd expect with a receiver of this size, the 77/22 bolt is massive. Best of all, it sports two locking lugs that cam into matching channels in the receiver bridge. Located about midway on the bolt, the lugs are integral with the bolt body and lock into the channels on the top and bottom of the receiver. They can actually be seen, along with their cams, when the bolt is closed. The use of locking lugs on a rimfire .22 bolt is a relatively new idea. Prior to the appearance of the 541S Remington with its multiple lugs that engage recesses in the rear of the receiver bridge, rimfire .22s were locked only by contact of the root of the bolt handle with the receiver. While it would be impossible to state unequivocally that locking lugs on the bolt of a rimfire .22 result in better accuracy, I can say that I've never tested a rifle of such design that wasn't accurate. The lugs, locked into the receiver, certainly contribute to a more rigid lockup, so it makes sense that they contribute to consistent accuracy.

The forward half of the bolt, called the breechblock, is non-rotating. Because it simply slides back and forth, the guide lugs for the entire bolt are located on the breechblock. Integral with and running full length on each side of the block, the lugs guide on the receiver rails. It's the bolt body, located behind the breechblock and on which the locking lugs are located, that rotates as the bolt handle is raised and lowered through its 90-degree arc.

Dual extractors, set on each side of the breechblock and powered by individual spring-loaded plungers, provide positive extraction for the 77/22. Ejection is effected by a stationary ejector in the bottom of the receiver. The bolt stop is a simple spring-actuated lever set in the left rear of the receiver. Its upper end appears on the outside as a flat piece set flush with the receiver. To lower the stop so the bolt can be withdrawn from the receiver you push down on the stop with your thumbnail. It sounds difficult, but it's really an easy operation and I certainly like the way the release is inconspicuously set in the side of the receiver.

The 77/22 bolt is easily broken down into four major parts--breechblock, bolt body, firing pin and bolt/sleeve assembly. No further disassembly is needed to give the bolt a thorough cleaning. In fact, further disassembly is recommended only by the factory or a skilled gunsmith.

Like a good centerfire rifle, the 77/22 action is held in the stock by two screws, one which enters the front of the receiver, the other the receiver tang. It's when you lift the barreled action out of the stock that you notice something very different. There's an unusual block of steel on the bottom of the barrel immediately forward of the receiver ring. Ruger 10/22 fans will recognize this as the same method used on the semi-auto to lock the barrel to the receiver. This arrangement is another of those Bill Ruger ideas that make a whole lot of sense. There's no place harder to clean on a rimfire .22 than the rear face of the barrel and the extractor grooves. For this reason the area is neglected and causes a good many malfunctions. But with Ruger's design, the barrel is easily separated from the receiver so both can be given a thorough cleaning.

The barrel attachment system works like this. First the barrel is slipped into the receiver until it butts against the receiver ring. Cut into the bottom of the barrel is a V-shaped notch that mates with the V-block barrel retainer. Two cap screws pass through the V-block from the front and enter threaded holes in the bottom front of the receiver. The mating of the Vs of the block with those of the barrel and receiver aligns the barrel. When the cap screws are tightened, the barrel is held firmly in place, maintaining the consistent headspace.

The 77/22 barrel is 20 inches long, has six grooves and is rifled one turn in ten inches. Bore diameter is .217 inch; groove diameter, .222 inch. At the receiver the barrel diameter is .920 inch and from there it's a straight taper to .555 inch at the muzzle. Atop the barrel are iron sights, the rear unit being a U-notch folding blade, set in a dovetail, that's adjustable for elevation only. Up front is a gold bead on a base driven into a dovetail in the barrel band. I wish there were no iron sights nor a barrel band on the 77/22. But if there must be iron sights I'd prefer that they be affixed to the barrel via 6/48 screws so they could be easily removed by those of us who top the rifle with a scope. Another option would be for Ruger to offer the 77/22 with or without sights.

A nonadjustable trigger is standard on the 77/22. As it came from the box, the trigger pull on my rifle was four pounds. There was no creep nor any rough spots in the pull, but four pounds is just too heavy for me so I disassembled the unit to see what could be done. The trigger is a simple one using a single coil spring to provide both sear tension and trigger return power. Changing this spring will produce a lighter trigger pull, but it will also reduce pressure on the rear. I experimented with a number of springs and quickly learned that any replacement must be the same length and diameter as the factory issue, yet be of lighter stock so as to afford less pressure on the trigger and sear. Through trial and error I was able to insert a replacement spring that produced a 2-1/2-pound trigger pull with complete safety. I've since talked with Trapper Alexiou, maker of Bullseye Spring Kits, and he hinted he might look at the 77/22 with the idea of possibly making a Bullseye trigger spring available for it. But let me warn you right now, Ruger does not condone any change of the trigger mechanism. If you want a better trigger on your 77/22, my recommendation is that you wait for a Bullseye spring to become available and even then be aware that changing the trigger spring will void the warranty on the rifle and absolve Ruger of any responsibility for mechanical failure.

The three-position safety on the 77/22 is the best you'll find on any rifle. In the forward position it's on FIRE. Pulled rearward to its middle position, where it is retained by a spring/plunger detent, the safety blocks the trigger yet the bolt can be operated for safe unloading of the rifle. When pulled all the way rearward, the safety blocks the trigger, the cocking piece and locks the bolt. While no safety is foolproof, this is one you can count on as long as it's properly positioned.

Ruger has elected to use their ten-shot rotary magazine in the 77/22, the same one used in their 10/22 semi-automatic. I like the rotary magazine because it's rugged, affords double the magazine capacity of other designs and it fits flush with the bottom of the stock. To release the magazine you push upward on the release located directly behind the magazine. Here's a tip for you plinkers who want to do a lot of shooting without reloading. Those 50-shot rotary mags that Mitchell Arms offers for ruger's 10/22 work beautifully in the 77/22.

Before going to the rifle range with my 77/22, I topped it with a Burris 3X-9X Mini scope set in the Ruger rings. This scope looks great on the 77/22 and with it in place the rifle weighs 7-1/4 pounds.

My first job at the range was to select the best ammunition for my 77/22, a time-consuming job necessitated by the fact that every .22 has an affinity for a particular brand and type of ammunition. My initial accuracy test was conducted by firing a five-shot group at 50 yards with each of eight different match loads and nine different hunting loads.

Then, armed with this information I fired five five-shot groups with each of the best loads to determine exactly how each would do over the long haul. I started with four target loads, but soon found that my initial group with Federal Silhouettes was a fluke. Subsequent groups opened to about one inch so I discontinued tests on it and included only three target loads. Two hunting loads were better than all others, so I worked only with them.

The 77/22 is a hunting rifle, but I was very surprised when a hunting load--CCI Mini Mag hollow point--proved to be the most accurate in my rifle. The average of five five-shot groups at 50 yards was .60 inch, super accuracy for a sporter.

Only one thing marred my work with the 77/22. CCI Stinger ammo wouldn't extract. Changing to a different lot of Stinger ammunition didn't help, leading me to suspect that a combination of high pressure and a dirty chamber was at fault. I cleaned the chamber thoroughly, but still each and every case failed to extract. At wits end, I miked the cases, but could find no difference between Stingers and all other .22 Long Rifle cases which extracted perfectly. Then I chambered and tried to extract a live round. No luck--the live round wouldn't extract until I held pressure on one extractor with a screwdriver so it couldn't slip over the case rim.

An examination of the extracted round under a magnifier revealed definite rifling marks etched into the driving band of the bullet. A careful measurement of the driving bands on ten Stinger rounds showed the bands to measure .224 to .2245 inch in diameter. On CCI Mini Mag hollow point ammo the driving bands measure .2227 inch. The problem, then, is twofold. When chambered, the Stinger bullet is jammed tightly into the rifling. Then, because it is held so tightly, chamber pressure rises enough that the case sticks in the chamber and can't be extracted.

My particular 77/22 obviously has a minimal chamber and when its dimensions are coupled with the large driving band on Stingers, a problem crops up. I contacted CCI and they advised that the larger driving band of the Stinger bullet is necessary to achieve proper stabilization of the relatively short-shanked 32-grain bullet. Therefore,

I have no choice but not to use Stingers in my rifle. I'm not concerned about chamber pressure, but I can't afford extraction failure in the field. I'm guessing, but I'll bet that most 77/22s will handle Stingers with no problem.

With all of the accuracy tests out of the way, I decided to test the repeatability of the barrel locking system on the 77/22. Are the surfaces of the Vs on the V-block and barrel cut accurately enough to allow barrel/receiver takedown and reassembly without changing the zero? Checking this presented a couple of problems. First of all, to remove the barrel from the receiver the unit must be removed from the stock. Simply replacing the stock could cause a zero shift. Second, a clean bore could cause a change in bullet impact point. Therefore, I set up my tests to try and eliminate these variables and thus evaluate the barrel locking system.

First I sighted the rifle in with RWS Rifle Match ammo, firing 25 rounds before I was satisfied. Then I shot a control group--five shots at 50 yards--which measured 82 inch. After removing the rotary magazine and bolt, I cleaned the bore thoroughly, fired two fouling shots, then another five-shot group. To my surprise it opened to 1.42 inches and its center was .7 inch higher than the control group. Obviously my 77/22 didn't like a clean bore, so I fired a second group. It was better, but not much--1.23 inch.

Next, I removed the barreled action from the stock and replaced it, taking care to cinch the screws down the same as I'd done earlier. The next group measured 1.19 inch and shifted .6 inch to the right.

Following this I removed the stock, removed the barrel from the receiver, reassembled the rifle and fired another group. This one measured .95 inch and the group shifted back to the left .3 inch, but there was no vertical shift. Then I broke the rifle completely down again, cleaned the bore and reassembled the rifle. Two fouling shots were fired, then a five-shot group. Bingo--the group opened up to 1.35 inches and the center shifted back to the right .3 inch. Obviously my early suspicions that the 77/22 shot better with a dirty bore had some basis in fact. To confirm it I fired two more groups--.91 and .90 inch respectively. However, two groups were hardly solid evidence, so I fired nine more groups. The average of the nine groups was .86 inch, nearly identical to the control group and the groups settled in, consistently centering one inch below and .3 inch right.

From this test three conclusions can be drawn, but they can be said to apply only to my 77/22 test rifle. First, the action and barrel are so nicely bedded that the stock can be removed and replaced without effecting a serious change in the rifle's zero. Second, the design of the system that attaches the barrel to the receiver is such that the two can be separated for cleaning, then rejoined via the V-block without changing the zero of the rifle appreciably. In my tests, the removal and replacement of the stock appeared to change zero more than did barrel removal and replacement. But even when the two operations are combined the impact shift at 50 yards is small enough to be negligible for most hunting situations. Third, my rifle shoots better when the bore is dirty. The groups really settle down only after 25 or 30 rounds have been fired through the barrel. While I plan to regularly clean the rear face of the barrel, extractor grooves and bolt face of my 77/22, I doubt that I'll scrub the bore any more frequently than every 1,000 rounds.

Having completed my tests of the Ruger 77/22, I must say that I'm impressed by its looks, its design, the workmanship in it, its accuracy and its price. The 77/22 is a lot of rifle for $275 and I suspect Ruger will be hard put to keep production up with the demand. A target rifle it's not, but Ruger's 77/22 is a man-sized sporter that's going to see a lot of action--both in the hunting field and on the silhouette range.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Milek, Bob
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jun 1, 1984
Words:2972
Previous Article:New brass for old, obsolete & foreign calibers.
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