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  Ruger 77 Compact in .260 Remington

ShootingIn spring 2005 I acquired a Ruger 77 Mark II Compact chambered in .260 Remington. I gave a lot of thought to this rifle and handled it at several gun shows before I finally broke down and bought it. There were several considerations in my choice. I wanted a small, fairly light weight rifle that I could use for deer and maybe varmints too. I wanted it to be pretty weather resistant. I also wanted a cartridge that I felt would cleanly kill deer but not have quite as much recoil as my .280 Remington. I’ll try to explain my thinking as I describe the rifle and cartridge.

First, let’s discuss the rifle. I had decided that I wanted a stainless steel action and barrel with a laminated stock to make it a bit more weather proof than my wood stocked .280. I know that a synthetic stock is even more weather resistant but I just like the looks and weight of the laminated stocks better. I’m trying to walk a fine line between “light for carry” and “heavy to absorb recoil”. I wanted a compact rifle that my daughters could use comfortably should I ever con them into hunting with me. I had narrowed my choice down to a Remington Model 7 or the Ruger. In the end I never saw a Remington exactly like I wanted but I kept bumping into this little Ruger at the local gun shows.

The Ruger 77 Mark II Compact is all stainless with a gray and black laminated stock. This is a rather small rifle. It has a 16.5” barrel and is 35.5” long overall. Length of pull is 12.5”, a bit shorter than usual. This length will be easy for my younger daughter to handle as she is only about 5’ 1” tall. It weighs 6.25 pounds without a scope. Magazine capacity with the .260 Remington cartridges is four rounds. It has a three position safety that I really like. The safety lever moves horizontally. The first position, forward, is “fire”. The second position, middle, is “safe” but you can still operate the bolt for loading or unloading. In the third position, back, the rifle is “safe” and the bolt is locked closed.

One of the concerns I had was whether the rifle could handle the heavier bullets in this caliber. I like the option of a “heavy for caliber” bullet for hunting. Early reports I saw on the .260 rifles said that they wouldn’t stabilize heavy bullets because the twist rate was too slow. This Ruger has a twist of 1 turn in 8 inches, which is faster than earlier .260s and I think faster than the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser. It looked like this would work for the 160 grain bullets that I wanted to try.

I added a Simmons AETEC 2.8-to-10X scope to the rifle. Ruger’s built in mounts always make this an easy job. I did have this scope mounted on “Ol’ Splintermaker”, my Winchester Model 70. The Simmons has a short tube though, and I never did like the way it fit the long action Win 70. However it fits the short action Ruger perfectly. The optics are bright and clear and the zoom range gives me what I need for short range woods hunting or long range varmints. With the scope mounted the rifle weighs 7.5 pounds.

Now let's talk about the cartridge. The .260 Remington is part of the .308 Winchester case family, along with the .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 and .358 Winchester. It was introduced in 1997. Initially it was intended as a target round, taking advantage of the high ballistic coefficients that the 6.5mm bullet have. The “useful case capacity” is 3.32 cubic centimeters. The .264 bullets are available in weights from 85 to 160 grains. The Lee manual gives velocities up to 3340 fps for the 85 grain bullets and 2595 fps for the 160s. I know that a lot of folks use a .243 Winchester for deer but I wanted something that would fire a heavier bullet. Blame it on all those books I read about African hunting. The heaviest .243s are only 105 grains so the .260 gives me a lot more to play with.

To get ready for shooting I placed an order to Midway for Hornady dies and Remington brass. I picked the Hornady 129 grain SST and the Hornady 160 grain round nose bullets for initial testing. I had just bought a pound of Hodgdon H4831SC so I thought I’d try that first. CCI 200 primers completed the first batches of loads. One aspect of the loads that I looked at was the pressure vs. the velocity. I wanted to try some loads that showed a lower pressure to see if I could reduce muzzle blast by any noticeable level.

All cases were sized full length and trimmed to the same length. Case mouths and flash holes were deburred. Every powder charge was weighed, especially after I realized that the powder wouldn’t meter very well through my measure. All of the charges were about at the “Starting Load” level. Bullets were seated a bit long, just short of the lands.

I hit a snag when I started loading the 160 grain round noses. I always run that first cartridge that I finish through the gun before continuing, to make sure it chambers OK. Although it chambered fine it wouldn’t feed worth a flip. In fact not at all! This Hornady has a VERY blunt nose and it kept catching on the edge of the chamber. I decided to load five just to see if they would stabilize. I checked some catalogs and saw that Sierra has a 160 grain “semi pointed” bullet that I might try later. An article I read in “Rifle” magazine said that the premium 140 grain bullets penetrated better than the 160s anyway, due to bullet construction. I’ll have to rethink my strategy here.

The 129 grain SST bullets fed fine. Since I had some cases prepped that I didn’t use for the 160 grain bullets I used them to load some of the SSTs over Hodgdon Varget powder. Varget is supposed to be pretty accurate in this family of cartridges.

I finally got to the range with my new toy. Although the temperature was comfortable the wind was blowing pretty good, swirling through the valley where the range is located. There were some thunderstorms moving into the area. Every gust of wind brought clouds of dust, pollen and debris onto the range. I decided to go ahead and shoot some 10 shot groups at 100 yards to check the velocities because I wasn’t sure when I’d get the next chance. Because we were trying to beat the storm I didn’t let the barrel cool between shots or groups.

The first loads tried were the 129 grain SSTs over Varget. My Chrony showed an average velocity of 2438 ft/sec. Extreme spread was 86 ft/sec and the standard deviation was 23.8 ft/sec. The group size was right about 2” and interestingly enough almost made a “+” sign on the target. I was disappointed with these starting loads and wonder if raising the charge will improve the accuracy.

The next loads tested were the 129 grain SSTs over H4831SC. These averaged 2510 ft/sec with an extreme spread of 64 ft/sec and a standard deviation of 21.3 ft/sec. If I throw out the called flyer I have a 1.4” group. With the flyer it opened up to 3”.

Finally I tried the five 160 grain Hornady RNs over H4831SC. I had to drop each one into the chamber. Average velocity was 2263 ft/sec with an extreme spread of 21 ft/sec and a standard deviation of only 7.8 ft/sec. Figures huh? Naturally they also made the best group, 1.1”. My shooting buddy asked “How fast can you load those one at a time?” I noticed that all three loads shot to the same point of impact at 100 yards.

Shooting from the bench I found that the rifle was very comfortable, even with the shorter stock. The trigger was decent and the recoil was fairly mild. Calculated recoil energy for the .260 was 12.3 ft-lb compared to 18.8 for my .280. I was also shooting a Winchester 94 .44 Magnum carbine that day and the .260 was much more enjoyable. My buddy fired a few rounds too and liked the way the rifle handled. I couldn’t really tell any difference in the muzzle blast between the H4831SC loads and the slightly lower pressure Varget loads. At a later range session I had a young lady in her teens shoot some of the 140 grain bullet loads and she really liked the rifle too.

I was pretty pleased with the H4831SC loads, especially because they were almost literally the first shot out of the gun, there hadn’t been any load tweaking yet. Powder charges were pretty safe so I thought I could increase the velocity some, although 2500 ft/sec out of a 16.5” barrel isn’t too bad. On a later trip to the range I was able to try some maximum loads of the same powder with the same bullet and gained a whopping 30 ft/sec. Group size was the same. Apparently the short barrel is doing about all it can with this combination.

After I started working on this review “Shooting Times” ran two articles, one on the .260 Remington cartridge and another on the Ruger 77 “Frontier” rifle. The “Frontier” is the same rifle I have with the addition of a rib in front of the action that allows a “Scout scope” to be mounted. You can find these in the May 2005 issue.

In the fall of 2005 I finally did some hunting with the rifle. I really liked the way the gun handled in the woods and up in a tree stand. A small whitetail buck became the first live target. One of the Hornady 129 grain SSTs placed behind his left shoulder at about 40 yards turned his heart/lung area to mush and he ran about 50 yards. The only exit wound was found by the BB sized drop of blood on his off-side shoulder.

Over all I am very pleased with my purchase. In fact I like the handling so much that I hope to buy a Ruger Frontier chambered for .338 Federal for use as another “woods gun”. I think the Compact in .260 Rem. would be an excellent rifle for smaller shooters while not giving up much in performance on medium sized game. It is exactly what I hoped it would be as far as something my girls could shoot comfortably. However, they haven’t shot it yet and, you know, I never really told them that I’d bought it for them…

Posted by Pumpkinslinger on Saturday, October 27, 2007 (21:22:50) (22332 reads) [ Administration ]
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