Ruger’s M77 Hawkeye Compact .243

Very Close To The "Sweetest 16"
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There’s no shortage of factory .243 ammo. And John used a boatload.

Although I’m long past the age of finding pleasure in having a heavy recoiling rifle bounce off my shoulder, I still want something capable of taking anything cleanly in my home state of Idaho. For me the ideal centerfire is something in the class of the .243 Winchester — easy to shoot, low in felt recoil, but with reach.


I well remember the introduction of the .243 in 1955. But after high school in 1956, I was totally wrapped up in sixguns and didn’t pay much attention to modern rifles. The .243 was first introduced in Winchester’s Model 70. The company had simply necked their .308 to 6mm to come up with the .243

From 1955 on I thought a little from time to time about the .243 but never owned (or even shot) one. This state of affairs eventually changed, even though it took more than 55 years.

How? Ruger eventually caught my attention with the M77 Hawkeye Compact .243.

John loves the abbreviated scale of Ruger .243. Not to mention the easy recoil.

Just Enough Gun

The .243 Winchester is always recommended for those who are recoil-shy, while at the same time being quite effective on big game. My hunting partner Rick had been using it on elk for a couple decades with no complaints. He is, of course, an excellent hunter and is very careful to choose shots on his terms. He’s always believed “hunting” means getting as close as possible — not making long shots for bragging rights. And for his style of hunting, the .243 works just fine.

Once a year our little group (including Rick) would take an annual hunt after exotic sheep, goats and feral pigs. Our hunting area was a pleasant drive from our homes in Idaho. We’d have the place entirely to ourselves so we could hunt on our own terms, where and how we wanted. Above all, it provided a great time of fellowship away from all civilization’s noise and interruptions. One year one of the fellows suggested we take .243s. The only problem was I didn’t have one, hard to admit it, but I’d simply neglected the .243 part of my shooting life. About the same time, Ruger announced the Compact Hawkeye Model 77 chambered in .243 Winchester. Who was I to go against such obvious signs?

Finally! A moment without wind! Winchester Supreme’s 95-gr. BST shows its stuff.

Scaled-Down Sweetness

Ruger’s Model 77 Compact .243 is shortened on both ends. The barrel is the minimum “Sweet 16” while the buttstock has also been shortened by approximately 1" to make it more accessible for younger shooters as well as old guys like me with relatively short arms.

With most rifles I find myself having to push forward as the rifle is mounted to my shoulder to get it past my armpit. Not so with this little .243 — the dimensions are simply perfect for me. Factor in an overall length 1/2" shorter than a yardstick — and add in a weight of 6 lbs. — and you have a non-custom rifle with custom configurations. The rifle features blued steel with a walnut stock. Capacity is 5 rounds and the trigger pull is 5-1/4 lbs. The 3-position safety is located to the right behind the bolt handle — push forward for “fire,” all the way back for “safe” and put it in the center position to work cartridges through the action safely. The magazine has a hinged floorplate for a quick and easy unloading dump.

The Compact Hawkeye may lack iron sights, but it comes with Ruger’s excellent scope rings which fit in integral slots scalloped into the receiver, making for a rugged and rigid mounting system. For a scope I pulled an older 3-9X Leupold off one of my other rifles.

On a windy day my groups were in the “above 1-1/2"” category, however without the wind they got down to 1" and — on one dead-calm morning, using Winchester’s 95-gr. Ballistic Tip at just over 2,825 fps, I placed three shots in 1/2". I’d call that exceptional from a lightweight, short-barreled, factory rifle.

The length of pull is 1" inch less than normal. John loves it!

The 6mm Solution

The Ruger .243 Sweet 16 has proven itself to be exceptionally successful in the hunting field. On the first morning of my first hunt with it, we 4x4’d up to a high meadow where I took a white sheep at just over 100 yards with a single Winchester 100-gr. Power Point. Then in the afternoon, down much lower and in the trees, I repeated using the Remington 100-gr. Core-Lokt. Performance was dramatic in either case with both animals virtually dead at the sound of the shot.

The following morning we dropped Rick off up on top so he could walk down the mountain. We were to meet him at the bottom with the Suburban. We took our time getting down, exploring here and there, and when we reached our destination we’d only been parked a few minutes when we heard a shot. Rick had taken a mouflon about 200 yards above us, using the Winchester 100-gr. Power Point load.

Three shots. Three instantly downed critters. Performance simply doesn’t get any better and my .243 Ruger has continued to provide excellent results on deer-sized game.

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