The Ruger M77 MkII International is a beautiful bolt-action rifle where history and performance intersect.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Mannlicher stock on a rifle. Like the 1963 Corvette Stingray, redheads and chemistry, I just had to. Well, the problem with the Mannlicher stock was…Mannlicher. The receiver design put me off with the split rear bridge. The butter-knife bolt handle was a hot mess. And all the non-euro Mannlicher-stocked rifles were either too expensive, not as elegant—or both.
Then, Ruger came out with their M77 MkII in .275 Rigby. Actually, Lipsey’s did, as a special run just for them in .275 Rigby and marked as such. Now, the Ruger M77 in the MkII has been around since 1991. The original M77 came about back in the late 1960s, a product of Jim Sullivan, the AR-15 designer. The MkII changes made the original M77 more like the 1898 Mauser, with a controlled-feed action and a blade ejector but kept the anvil-tough Ruger design details. Then, in 2006, the MkII was updated to the Hawkeye, and now it was perfect with the lighter and cleaner LC6 trigger.
The moment I saw the International Rigby Hawkeye, I was hooked. That it was chambered in .275 meant I told the Ruger rep, “Send me one now.” When I found out that Hornady was offering ammunition headstamped “.275 Rigby,” I asked Hornady to send me ammo and told Ruger to bill me; they weren’t getting the rifle back after testing.
By Any Other Name?
The 275 (I can’t call it “The Rigby,” because that’s what you’d call one made in England by Rigby) is a wood-stocked full length to the muzzle rifle in stainless steel. The nose cap is also stainless, and the rifle, actually a carbine with an 18.5-inch barrel, comes with iron sights installed. That’s a rarity these days, with every rifle getting a set of rings and a scope before it ever leaves the gun shop.
Oh, the 275 comes with rings, the most-excellent Ruger clamp-on rings, where the receiver is machined to accept them. The action is, as all Ruger bolt guns have been since the beginning, made with the Ruger angled front-action screw. Back in the days when all stocks were wood stocks, this was a great advance. Instead of depending on precision wood inletting to bed the stock, the Ruger action screw, pointing down and to the back, pulls the action down into and back against the stocks recoil shoulder. Today, with precision machining, glass bedding and (anathema here) synthetic stocks, such a thing isn’t needed. But it’s good, and on a wood stock, it’s really good.
And, the back of the stock has one of the Ruger solid red rubber recoil pads. On something more robust than a .275 Rigby I might want a recoil pad that’s thicker or softer or both, but for this it’s just fine.
The Hawkeye Factor
The Hawkeye is your basic bolt-action rifle, but Ruger makes pretty much all of it better. The magazine is an internal magazine with a hinged floorplate that holds four rounds. The safety has three positions, so you can lock the action closed, unlock it to extract the chambered round but leave it on “safe,” or move it to “fire” to shoot.
At 7 pounds empty, the Rigby (oops, I did it there) handles quickly and isn’t a problem to carry all day long. Even if you add a scope on top and load it up, you’d be hard-pressed to get the weight much over 8 pounds, and that’s just not a lot of weight to be carrying.
The cartridge is, as I mentioned, a bonus. Those of you who might not be up to date on your African hunting cartridges and British makers marks will know it by a more familiar name: 7×57 Mauser. Yes, that Mauser.
Wait, what? It’s a 7-mill? The 7-mill? Yep. Rigby was a custom gunmaker, and if at all possible, he wanted his customers to be satisfied with his products. And to buy his products. So, by making the 7×57 under a proprietary name, he could get them onboard with his product line.
There was also another reason: quality. Even back then, ammo was expensive, and you had to depend on the name of the company providing it. If you bought “7×57” ammo some place, it probably would work, but would it be good enough? If you bought “.275 Rigby” ammunition for your Rigby rifle chambered in .275, you knew it’d work. A hunter buying ammunition in a store in Nairobi a century ago could be certain that if the boxes and cases were marked “.275 Rigby” he was getting exactly what he was looking for.
Today, we take for granted that if it’s made by an ammo company we recognize, it’ll work to our satisfaction. A century ago, not so much. And who wants to find out the hard way, a week’s walk from the store amidst angry critters ready to bite, claw or stomp you?
Now, the stock design does come with some, shall we say, peculiarities. While the rear sling swivel mounting spot is your basic stud screwed into the stock, ready for a QD sling swivel, the front sling point isn’t. There, the customary sling swivel hardware is a steel loop that has its pivot points on the sides of the forearm. If you want a sling, you have to accommodate that setup, because you won’t have a regular sling stub up front. That front sling point is forward of the checkering on the forearm, which checkering matches that on the wrist and pistol grip. The forearm is very slim; if you have large hands, you’ll find your fingers wrapping up onto the barrel. Not a problem, but it just feels a bit odd at first.
In the modern world of 30mm scopes, the .275 Rigby came with 1-inch rings. You can get 30mm rings, but in keeping with the light and compact lines of the rifle, I opted to dig an old but trusty Leupold out of the optics locker: a 1.5-5x. Overall, 5x is plenty good enough for me out to 300 yards, which is as far as I’d be willing to tag a game animal.
So, with a scope on the Ruger, I hauled it off to the range to test. The Hornady .275 Rigby ammo is loaded with their 140-grain Interlock soft-point, and out of the 18.5-inch barrel of my Ruger it “only” does 2,459 fps. In a world of laser-flat-trajectory magnums and super-BC bullets, a 140-grain soft-point may not seem like much. I agree, but the International isn’t a 1,000-yard rifle.
Following the design cues of the safari era, it’s perfectly suited to woods hunting and open areas not on the Great Plains. If I zero it 2 inches high at 100 yards, the drop at 300 yards is just over 4 inches. That means I’m good out almost to 300 without taking any trajectory into account. And if I do range-find a game animal at 300, I need only hold a couple of inches high to be all set.
Could I use other ammo? Yes. For 7×57, ammo that came with better performance than the Hornady Interlock (a difficult thing to do, by the way) is easy: Hornady Superformance. That has a 139-grain SST, with both a higher velocity and a better BC. If I needed a bit flatter trajectory, then that’d get the nod. Now tested, zeroed and ready to go, the International sits in my rack, waiting its turn.
So, my Mannlicher urge has been satisfied. The 1963 Stingray? I don’t fit; they weren’t made for someone 6 feet, 4 inches. Redheads? Got the scars from that episode. And chemistry? Despite loving it enough to get a degree in it, the thought of a 30-year career as a bench chemist for Megacorp LLC, ending with a dinner, a gold watch and pension was depressing.
So, I moved on … and here I am.
Ruger Hawkeye MkII .275 Rigby Specs
Type: Bolt-Action Rifle
Caliber: .275 Rigby (aka 7×57 Mauser)
Capacity: 4+1 Rounds
Barrel Length: 18.5″
Overall Length: 38.75″
Weight: 7 Pounds, 1 Ounce
Trigger: 4 Pounds, 4 Ounces
Finish: Stainless Steel
MSRP: $1,179 (one production run, no longer made)
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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