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Sturm Ruger Chambers the Model 77/17® in .17WSM

June 15, 2015
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Media Range Day at the SHOT Show is always full of surprises, and the 2015 show was no different. Sturm Ruger had a prototype of a bolt action rimfire rifle chambered in .17 Winchester Super Magnum on the firing line and it must have generated quite a bit of interest. Four months later, the Ruger 77/17 in .17WSM is a reality.

The quality and craftsmanship synonymous with Ruger firearms is obvious. Picking up and holding this 77/17 for the first time, it had the feel of a quality centerfire rifle. The Ruger 77/17 in .17WSM has an overall length of 43 1/4" and weighs 7.5 pounds. The length of pull is 13 1/2". To put this in perspective, this rifle has the same weight and length of pull as the Ruger Hawkeye standard rifle in .30-06 chambering, and the overall length of the 77/17 is only 3/4" longer.

Even when you look at the individual components, the physical attributes and craftsmanship of the parts are built as if this was a centerfire rifle.

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*** Receiver

The receiver is the heart and soul of any rifle. All of the other components are connected to it either directly or indirectly. You can have the best barrel or action or stock, but without a top quality receiver to bring it all together, performance will suffer.

Ruger's commitment to quality and craftsmanship is evident in the 3-step manufacturing process of the receiver for this rifle made from heat-treated Grade 410 stainless steel. The receiver is initially made as an investment casting, a process that produces parts having high dimensional accuracy and an excellent surface finish with no flashing. Next, the cast receiver is CNC machined to precise specifications. The last step is the final finishing.

Article Photos

Ruger 77/17 in .17 Winchester Super Magnum

Scope mounts for many firearms are attached with screws into the receiver. With the 77/17, they are actually machined into the receiver eliminating the possibility that the mount can work loose.

The ejector is incorporated into the design of the receiver. As such, there are no separate mechanical parts to bend or break, and it functions perfectly.

*** Stock

The stock is made from American Walnut and has a smooth satin finish. From the factory, swivel stud mounts are already installed fore and aft. With only about 1 1/2" drop at the heel and a straight comb, the shooter has a comfortable line of sight even when a 50mm objective lens scope is mounted.

From the factory, swivel stud mounts are already installed fore and aft. A black spacer is located between the stock and the rubber butt pad, a design that Ruger has used for quite a while. This spacer better anchors the mounting screws and is more stable against the wood than the soft rubber butt pad when match sanding the pad.

During the assembly process, extra care is taken to insure proper bedding of the receiver and barrel with the stock. It's this attention to details like this that set rifles manufactured by Ruger apart from many others.

*** Barrel

Instead of manufacturing a barrel specifically for the .17WSM, Ruger chose to chamber the barrel designed for the centerfire .17 Hornet. Using a barrel capable of handling the higher pressure and velocity of the .17 Hornet will be more than ample to safely handle the .17WSM.

The barrel is hammer forged from a Grade 410 stainless steel and chromium alloy. This alloy it a good choice for barrels because of its high strength, heat and corrosion resistant. The exterior of the barrel is given a matte stainless finish for additional protection from the elements and to eliminate any glare easily spotted by game animals.

The .17WSM barrel is 24" long and has a heavy contour, just under 1" receiver diameter and .66" muzzle diameter. The rifling is 6 grooves with a 1-in-9" twist, the standard twist for this cartridge as outlined by SAAMI. To protect the rifling, Ruger recessed the muzzle and chamfered the bore to protect the crown. The barrel screws into the receiver and is head spaced conventionally.

*** Bolt

The polished stainless steel bolt is made in two sections. The bolt lugs and handle are part of the back section. The front section is a non-rotating breech block that acts as an extended bolt head pressing up against cartridge securing it in the rifle's chamber.

The 90-degree rotation of the bolt handle to close serves two purposes. Obviously, it locks the bolt assembly in position. More importantly, the bolt lugs and receiver are machined to exacting tolerances so that when the bolt lugs cam forward, the forward movement sets the head spacing precisely. As a final step, Ruger etches the receiver's serial number into the underside of the bolt. The bolt, receiver and barrel are now a matched set.

*** Action

The 3-position safety is located at the right rear of the receiver within easy reach using a thumb. In the safe position, the safety pushes a pin forward locking the bolt down from any movement, locks the striker in place and locks the trigger from any movement. Ruger's commitment to manufacturing a safe firearm is obvious in the design of this safety.

The Ruger 77/17 has a flush mounted bolt release at the left rear of the receiver. With the bolt open, pressing down on the bolt release allows the bolt to smoothly slide out. The bolt can be easily slid back into the receiver without the need to hold down the release, a very nice feature.

*** Trigger

The 77/17 has a single stage, non-adjustable trigger. From the factory, the trigger pull on the rifle used for this review consistently measured 6 pounds at the center of the trigger. The sear has a crisp, clean break with almost no creep.

*** Magazine

Like other Ruger rotary magazines, this 6-round magazine incorporates an internal rotor that keeps the cartridges separate. The magazine mounts flush with the stock for a smooth, aesthetically clean appearance.

If you watch closely, you will see that the magazine used for the .17 WSM cartridge is a work of engineering genius. As the bolt moves forward, the cartridge does not release from the magazine until it clears the retaining ridge on the magazine throat. At this point, the ballistic tip on the bullet is already inside the chamber and the cartridge head slides up onto the bolt face under the hook extractor. Now, the cartridge is aligned to feed nearly straight into the chamber, not at an angle.

There are two definite benefits. First, the chance of a cartridge not loading into the chamber when the bolt is pushed forward is nearly eliminated. Second, side of the bullet is the first point of contact in the chamber, you are less likely to distort the bullet tip that could adversely affect accuracy.

*** At the Range

For range testing, the Ruger 77/17 was equipped with a Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12x42 scope. The ammunition is Winchester's .17WSM with a 20-grain polymer tipped bullet and Hornady's .17WSM with a 20-grain V-Max bullet.

Winchester used a 24" barrel to test their .17WSM cartridge and rated the 20-grain bullet at 3,000 fps. My experience has been that muzzle velocities typically fall short of what the manufacturer states, irrespective of the manufacturer... until now. Fifty rounds of Winchester ammunition were fired through the Ruger 77/17, two test shots to check positioning of the chronograph and then 8 strings of 6 shots.

*** The results for the 48 shots:

* lowest muzzle velocity 2,976 fps

* highest muzzle velocity 3,115 fps

* average muzzle velocity 3,060 fps

* only 3 readings fell below 3,000 fps

* 3 readings were 3,100 fps or more

The 24" barrel of the Ruger 77/17 will deliver the velocity performance of the .17WSM cartridge.

*** To check accuracy initially, twenty-five 3-shot groups with Winchester ammunition were fired at 75 yards.

* smallest 3-shot group was .3"

* largest 3-shot group was 1.2"

* average was .8"

* 84% of the groups were 1" or less

The next two trips to the range checked accuracy at 100 yards by shooting fifteen 3-shot groups with both the Winchester and Hornady ammunition.

*** Winchester Ammunition

* smallest group was .6"

* largest group was 1.4"

* high-low spread .8"

* average was .9"

* 11 of 15 groups were 1" or less

*** Hornady Ammunition

* smallest group was .7"

* largest group was 1.3"

* high-low spread .6"

* average was 1.0"

* 9 of 15 groups were 1" or less

Based on these results, the Winchester ammunition tended to be more accurate (.9" vs .8") and the Hornady ammunition tended to be more consistent (.6" vs .8").

The accuracy and consistency of the Ruger 77/17 in .17WSM with a 20-grain Winchester and Hornady ammunition was very respectable. This rifle shot as good or better than many centerfire rifles at 100 yards.

*** Final Thoughts

As of this review, Ruger is the fifth manufacturer having a rifle currently available chambered in .17WSM, and only the second in a bolt action. With an MSRP of $999, the price point for this rifle falls between Savage rifles and the ones from Winchester, Franklin Armory and Volquartsen in .17WSM.

Ruger has been manufacturing the Model 77 for over 30 years. The original concept behind the Model 77/22 line was to build a .22 rimfire rifle to the same standards of quality, accuracy and strength as a centerfire rifle. The Model 77 line was expanded to include .17 caliber cartridges after the .17HMR was introduced in 2002. By adding the .17WSM cartridge to the Model 77/17 line, Ruger had put the ballistics of a rimfire cartridge that fills the void between other rimfire cartridges and small caliber centerfire cartridges into an exceptional rifle.



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