Gun Digest

Ruger 77/44: A Masterful .44 Magnum Rifle

Ruger’s bolt-action .44 Magnum Rifle, the 77/44, has all features to make it a modern-day classic.

What Sets The 77/44 Apart From Other .44 Magnum Rifles:

It’s hard to explain what makes a rifle so appealing, but there can be no doubt that esthetics are an important consideration when selections are made. To me, the quintessential favorites are the lever-action Winchester Model 94 and the bolt-action Model 70. However, any classic bolt-action model that is complete with sights mounted on the barrel is appealing. I have scopes on most of my rifles, but even so iron sights are a real plus for any rifle that I have to depend on in remote areas.

Short, light and handsome, the Ruger 77/44 is an excellent choice for roaming forests or short-range hunting.
Short, light and handsome, the Ruger 77/44 is an excellent choice for roaming forests or short-range hunting.

Not long ago, I read an article written by one of my favorite authors on selecting the walkabout rifle. After giving the general characteristics about portability, power and availability of ammunition, he discussed sights. The conclusion was that a scope might not be attached and that the open sights would be sufficient.

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Moreover, after discussing several rifles as possibilities, the selection was a Ruger, either the 77/44 or 77/357. That author’s preference was for the latter, but mine is for the former so I am suddenly the proud owner of a Ruger 77/44.

As all general purpose rifles should, the Ruger 77/44 is provided with excellent open sights.

The Ruger 77 Series of rotary magazine rifles was introduced in 1983 with the .22 LR version. I got one in the first or second year of production and thus started my devotion to the rifles. Dual locking lugs located on the rear section of the two-piece bolt of the 77/22 mate in recesses in the steel receiver, making the action of the rifle very robust for a rimfire.

As a result, the rifle was subsequently offered as the 77/22M in .22 WMR, 77/17 in .17 HMR and 77/22H in .22 Hornet calibers. In 1998, the slightly longer action of the .22 Hornet was modified to accommodate the .44 Magnum, and thus was formed the 77/44. Later, the version in .357 Magnum came along. From the beginning, the .44 and .357 versions wore iron sights in keeping with their intended use as short- to moderate-range hunting arms.

A Welcomed Homecoming

Like the 77 Series rimfire and .22 Hornet rifles, the 77/44 utilizes a rotary magazine.

In late 2016 came an email indicating that most models of the rotary magazine rifles were being discontinued. This was unwelcome news to those of us who are very fond of the series, but about a year, several models were reintroduced, including the 77/44. Currently, four versions of the 77/44 are listed on Ruger’s website. These include two that have blued steel barrels and actions with either walnut (MSRP $999) or black (MSRP $939) synthetic stocks.

Also available are versions that feature stainless-steel with either black or a camo synthetic stock, both with MSRP of $999. Barrel length on the Ruger 77/44 is 18.5 inches and the .44 Magnum rifle weighs approximately 6 pounds. Most of the walnut-stocked specimens that I’ve seen have very attractive wood and crisp checkering.

Feeding of cartridges having a variety of bullet styles was flawless.

Several clever and functional features are to be found on the Ruger 77/44.

Options, Through Ammo

But, “pretty is as pretty does” goes the old saying. When it comes to a .44 Magnum rifle, the “does” is enhanced by a very wide choice of factory ammunition. All of the major loading companies offer .44 Magnum loads that feature 240-grain jacketed bullets that are either soft or hollow-points. Some of the sources are Remington, Winchester, Federal, Hornady, CCI, PMC, Magtech, Buffalo Bore, Armscor, Fiocchi, Swift and others.

The Ruger's .44 Magnum rifle employs a three-position rotary safety.

It would require a long article just to give the details about the various .44 Magnum loads that are available. However, there are a great many choices other than those with the typical 240-grain bullets. For example, Hornady offers a load having a 240-grain XTP bullet, but it also loads with 200- and 300-grain XTP bullets.

One of the most unusual .44 Magnum loads is the 225-grain LEVERevolution from Hornady. It features the FTX bullet that has a flexible tip so it can be used in rifles having tubular magazines. From a rifle, the advertised velocity is 1,870 fps, giving a muzzle energy of 1,750 ft-lbs. From the 18.5 inch barrel of the Ruger 77/44, the velocity measured 1,768 fps. One of the interesting aspects of this round is that having a pointed bullet means that it retains velocity better than the typical hollow- and blunt-pointed bullets. However, this is not much of a factor at the relatively short ranges at which a .44 Magnum rifle is used.

The rear sight on the Ruger 77/44 is of the folding type and is fully adjustable.

The Winchester 240-grain jacketed soft-point gave a measured velocity of 1,722 fps. Sometimes, one hears criticism of the hollow-point bullets regarding penetration, but the soft-points usually avoid that problem. The issue of insufficient penetration can really be solved by use of some of the loads such as those from Buffalo Bore that utilize 270-grain Speer Gold Dot bullets.

For use where both penetration and expansion are required, it’s difficult to imagine a more effective round than that from Swift, which utilizes a 300-grain A-Frame bullet. Of the factory ammunition in .44 Magnum caliber that I’ve tested, the real screamer is the 180-grain soft point from Remington that gave a measured velocity of 2,244 fps from the Ruger 77/44. Of course, such a short, blunt bullet would lose velocity rapidly, but it should produce dramatic effects on predators. The point is that there are plenty of ammunition options to allow the shooter of a Ruger 77/44 to be equipped for many uses.

This three-shot group was obtained at 50 yards with the Ruger 77/44 and shows that the .44 Magnum rifle is plenty accurate for use at 100 yards.

By any standard, the Ruger 77/44 is a trim, elegant little .44 Magnum rifle. When I obtained mine, I envisioned some uses of it for which I would rather not have the beautiful stock subjected. Accordingly, I immediately ordered a black composite factory replacement stock from Midway USA for the very reasonable price of $59.99. Now, I can configure the rifle with either wood or composite stock holding the blued barrel and action.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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