Without a doubt, the .300 Winchester Magnum (“Win Mag”) round, is my all-time favorite round in a high-powered hunting rifle. What I like about the .300 Win Mag round is, you can load it down (if you load your own ammo) to the velocities of a .308 or 30-06, and it’s just fine the way it is, in the factory loadings as well. In a life-changing situation, where there may be a break-down of law and order, you may find that you need some type of high-powered rifle, that can really reach out there and touch someone. Or, for hunting most big game, the .300 Win Mag will fill the bill nicely, too. People spend several thousands of dollars on “Sniper Rifles” that can shoot 1 Minute Of Angle (MOA). Some folks customize their rifles into their idea of a sniper’s rifle. I wish I were rich, but I’m not. So, I have to spend my money very carefully on my firearms purchases, just like everyone else has to do.
Ruger (www.ruger.com) sent me their new Model 77 Hawkeye rifle over a year ago for test and evaluation. I elected to get the stainless version, with the black synthetic stock. I live in Western Oregon, and we get a lot of rain, so the stainless version, with the synthetic stock was the way to go for me. Of course, even stainless guns will develop rust if you don’t take care of ’em on a regular basis. I’ve found a light coating of Birchwood Casey Barricade really keeps the rust away. The black synthetic stock also won’t warp when the gun gets wet. If you’ve never experienced stock warping on a rifle, you’re in for a shock – it can really change the zero of your rifle – and not for the better.
The M77 Hawkeye I received holds 3+1 rounds of .300 Win Mag ammo. The barrel is 24″ long, and overall the gun is 44.75″ long. Weight is 7.75-lbs which is just about right for a magnum. You don’t want a gun that’s too light, nor one that’s too heavy if you have to pack it around a lot, or shoot it a lot. I also like the Mauser-style claw extractor on the M77 – they really pull an empty out of the chamber, and feed a load round into the chamber without any problems. Unfortunately, my last hunting season was a bust. Not entirely the fault of the game, either – I just wasn’t able to get out and do as much hunting as I normally do – too much work to get to. However, I did get out and shoot the Hawkeye M77 quite a bit – I really like shooting the .300 Win Mag round as I feel its really one of the more accurate rounds in a rifle – then again, that’s just my two-cents worth. I had some .300 Win Mag ammo from Black Hills Ammunition, their 190-gr Boat-tail Hollow Point. Make no mistake, this is not intended as a hunting round. However, game up to deer-size can be taken with this load – but it’s not ideal for big game hunting. This round was developed for long-rang shooting, and it’s a favorite of high-powered rifle competitors all over the country. Many matches have been won with this projectiles.
I combined the Hawkeye with a nice Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm scope, in a stainless-look finish, to go with the look of the stainless M77 – it was a great match-up, to be sure. I like 3×9 scopes the best – they seem to serve all my needs. I could go with a bigger objective lens, but the 40mm seems to work for me.
The Hawkeye M77 is a tack-driver, no doubt about it…it’s one of the most accurate .300 Win Mag rifles I’ve ever owned. If I did my best, shooting over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the hood of my SUV, at 100-yards, I could easily place 3-rds under an inch all day long…and some of my groups were hovering right around 3/4 of an inch. That’s match-grade accuracy – it’s more than good enough for “sniper” work, too. Let’s face facts, I’m sure you’ve read about sniper rifles, that can place their shoots under half an inch, and some claim better than that. However, that kind of shooting isn’t done all the time or every day, either. There’s one particular gun writer, who is a legend in his own mind, and I won’t mention his name. However, he is, without a doubt, the best rifle (and handgun) shooter who ever lived, or who will ever live. I’m sure he can place 3 round into one single hole, at 100-yards all day long, while drinking wine, eating cheese and standing on his head. Sorry, I can’t do that well – and I’ve been shooting for more than 45 years now. I’ve shot high-power rifle competition in the past – I had good days where I’d walk away the winner, and the next day, someone else would beat the pants off me. So, if you think by going out and spending thousands and thousands of dollars for a sniper rifle, you’re gonna be able to shoot one-hole groups all the time, every single day – you’re only kidding yourself. I’ve found, that if I do my part, and I have the right rifle and right load, I can hit what I’m aiming at. Again, there are a lot of things to consider in any sort of long-range shooting. You have to take into account the wind, and not just the wind at the muzzle of your rifle – you’ve got to be able to read the wind where you target is and everything in between, too. You’ve got to have an accurate rifle and a good load, too – not to mention a good scope.
I don’t do a lot of handloading these days, and I limit myself to two chamberings in high-powered rifles – one is the good ol’ .30-06 and the other is the .300 Win Mag. With my experimenting over the years, I’ve come up with a good load, that shoots very accurate in any .300 Win Mag rifle I’ve put it through. Take all loading data for informational purposes only – what has worked in all my .300 Win Mag rifles, may not work in your rifles, and always build-up your load – start 10% below what I’m giving you. I’ve found that, the Hornady 180-gr SP Interlock .308 bullet, over 71-grains of IMR 4350 is a round that is hard to beat. I also use whatever empty brass I have on had – that has been full-length resized, and I put CCI Magnum Rifle primers in the cases. Over the past 10-12 years, every single .300 Win Mag rifle I’ve shot this ammo through, has proven to be a real winner, and the Ruger M77 Hawkeye was no exception. I’ve been able to equal the Black Hills Ammunition .300 Win Mag load, but I haven’t been able to beat it – even if I tried to tweak my load. So, if you hand load, you might want to try my formula, if you don’t hand load, then the Black Hills load is the way to go for the best accuracy around.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money, to get a lot of gun these days. The Ruger M77 Hawkeye proves this. And, you can believe whatever you want, but gun writers do not get hand picked guns. I’ve had more than my share of lemons over the years, to know this. The Ruger M77 Hawkeye retails for $843 and can often be found discounted. If you top it with a good Nikon scope, we are looking at having a sniper accurate rifle and scope for under $1,000 and the stainless barrel and action, with the black synthetic stock only makes the gun that much more appealing in my book.
So, if you’re in the market for a good sniper-grade rifle, for the end of the world, or for big game hunting, the Ruger is worth a real close look in my book. Anytime I can take a factory gun, out of the box, and get groups that are under an inch, that’s a winner if you ask me. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to spend a ton of money, to get a lot of gun – you don’t. Make no mistake, I’m not putting down expensive, custom-made rifles – they are a work or art. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money, to get a lot of gun – the Ruger M77 Hawkeye proves that. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio
JWR Adds: One key advantage of .300 Winchester Magnum over some of the other belted magnums is that since it uses .308 bore diameter bullets, you can handload armor piercing (AP), tracer, and incendiary ammunition, using pulled .30-06 or 7.62mm NATO projectiles. That provides great versatility.