The Ruger, A Rookie And Redemption

High-Country Hunt Tests New Long-Legged 6.5 PRC
7

“It was 1,500 yards away. Getting closer was tough.”

Hans Taska would spend most of the next hour pushing through swamp-grass, wading a creek and pausing, hunched over, when his guide, Dave Sturm stopped. Hunting can be uncomfortable.

“We had the wind,” he told me, “but honestly, keeping track of that was new to me.”

Wayne carried this Long-Range hunter under a Leupold VX-3i 4.5-14x scope. It proved itself on elk.

The Rookie

Indeed it was. Hans, 34, had taken his required Hunter Education exam remotely, on his smartphone the evening before. In the mountains of north-central Colorado, the option was his salvation.

Growing up near Gilbert, Arizona, near Phoenix, Hans was introduced to shooting “when I was five or six. Three generations of men in my family had hunted, and I perforated the occasional soup can. But it wasn’t a rigorous education.”

You might assume someone working for Sturm, Ruger would have all the skills under his belt.

One shot from 150 yards with a 143-gr. Hornady load from his LRH gave Paul this dandy mulie buck.

Learning Occurs

Chasing an engineering degree at the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Hans worked in the campus machine shop. There he met a fellow who had interned at Ruger’s Prescott operation. “He liked the job and the staff and was later hired. He encouraged me to apply there,” Hans said.

Taska joined Ruger as a manufacturing engineer eight years ago. No need to ask if he still enjoys it, I decided. A hint of interest from anyone is his cue to explain anything you might want to know about building a Security-9. This 9mm autoloader “is hammer-fired, with a glass-filled nylon grip frame, aluminum chassis and carbon steel barrel and slide. It has a 15-shot magazine, drift-adjustable rear sight, fixed white-dot front.…” Then Hans really gets deep in the manufacturing weeds.

The LRH laminate stock comes with three half-inch spacers. Wayne uses two for a 13-3/4" pull.

Replacement

The Hawkeye has largely replaced the Model 77 as Ruger’s flagship centerfire series but still features the most recent 77 action. Now only rimfire bolt rifles and those in .357 and .44 Magnum handgun chamberings answer to “77-Series.”

I’m sweet on refinements distinguishing the Hawkeye from its predecessor, especially the lean, carnivorous profile of the checkered walnut on Standard and African rifles. The Compact, Varmint Target, Long-Range hunter and Predator versions feature laminated wood though stocks on both LR Target and the new Hunter are painted “speckled black/brown.”

Notably, Hawkeyes boast a long, non-rotating Mauser extractor and fixed ejector along with a three-detent safety. Unlike the first Model 77s, feeding is truly controlled from follower to chamber. All Hawkeyes except the Long-Range duo feature internal staggered-stack magazines with hinged floorplates.

Short 6.5 cartridges (below, L-R): 6.5x55 (circa 1894!), .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5PRC, 6.5/284, 6.5 Rem. Mag.

Cartridge

The first Hawkeye Long-Range Hunter was bored only for the rimless 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge (Ruger has now added a 6.5 Creedmoor). Based on Hornady’s .300 Ruger Compact Magnum and designed to hurl ballistically efficient bullets from short actions, it has the .532 head of common belted magnums. Its 30-degree shoulder is set farther back than the 35-degree slope of a WSM so the neck won’t overrun the shanks of missiles with Pinocchio noses when they’re seated to clear short magazines. The 6.5 PRC beats the 6.5 Creedmoor off the blocks by about 250 fps. Hornady lists a 143-gr. ELD-X from the Creedmoor at 2,700 fps. The PRC kicks it out at 2,960. Distance narrows the gap a tad, as faster bullets endure more drag. But at 500 yards the 6.5 PRC is still clocking about 2,250 fps, a lead of 225 fps. You can match 6.5 performance with a 6.5/284, but you’ll need a longer action.

“There!” Paul and I aligned our glass with Dave’s, toward a white speck in the brightening sage. “Antlers are heavy on top ... it’s him!”

Colorado’s high benches hold pronghorns in the shadows of mountain ranges thick with deer and elk.

The Field

Dave arrived in camp with the rifles the evening before our hunt. Tearing fingernails opening cases, we got our first look at the Hawkeye Long-Range Hunter. It looked delightfully trim! Any “long-range” moniker puts me in mind of long, heavy barrels and bulbous stocks. The stainless, hammer-forged barrel was slender enough the muzzle was bumped up slightly in diameter to accommodate the 5/8-24 threading securing the radial-ported brake. Deaf enough already, I promptly took a wrench to the brake and replaced it with the supplied cap. Two front swivel studs handily accommodated both sling and bipod.

The stock was well suited to hunting. No needless bulk. Three spacers allowed length adjustment from 12-3/4″ to 14-1/4″. The Picatinny rail, secured to the receiver with four stout 8-40 screws, added 20 minutes of gain (up-slope to the rear) so long zeroes wouldn’t tug scope adjustments to their extremes.

For my purposes, this rail was of no benefit — it forced a high line of sight, pulling my cheek off the stock. I needed a comb pad. Mercifully, the receiver was standard Ruger with scallops to accept Ruger rings. With the sun setting, I spun the ring screws loose enough to slide the Leupold VX-3i ahead so it wouldn’t bang my noggin, then snugged it all and joined the others at the range.

Hans Taska works in Ruger’s Prescott, AZ plant. He downed his first elk in Colorado with the LRH.

Ranging It

A queue behind the bench, and fading light sent me into the sage, prone. Soon bullets found the 100-yard target. I dialed to put them a couple of inches high, then shifted to 200-yard paper. As crickets and bats announced the night, my last three bullets landed just over center in a 3″ cluster at 200. Clearly Hornady’s ELD-X liked the LR Hunter’s 1-in-8 rifling. The trigger, a bit stiff, had modest but consistent take-up. Breaks were clean. The extractor and ejector functioned with smooth enthusiasm.

Ginger fed us steaks, baked her first batch of cinnamon rolls. Next morning we left at dawn.

The LRH comes with a 20-minute rail for long zeroes but might require a cheek pad.

A brake is part of the LRH package. Wayne removed it and installed the cap
because he said the gun already recoils gently.

Show Time

The guns saw action all week. My chance came from prone, but quickly, at 220 yards. Joseph Von Benedikt downed another bull in a throaty scrimmage of elk, delivering his shot at 30 steps. Eric Perkins and Tom Beckstrand each killed their first pronghorn. Hans won the biggest smile contest.

The last morning, before sunlight had crested the Never Summer peaks, Paul, Dave and I had binos to brows scrutinizing a broad slab of east-facing sagebrush below a tuft of aspens clinging to rock.

“He was there,” muttered Dave, eyes on a mid-elevation clump of bushes. He and Paul had climbed and crawled, then waited two hours within range of a fine mule deer. Their last-minute attempt to nudge it up for a shot failed. The deer spun as it rose and melted into seams in the slope.

What were the odds he’d be back?

The LRH was easy to carry in elk country at 8,500 feet — and quick to point!

Redemption

“There!” Paul and I aligned our glass with Dave’s, toward a white speck in the brightening sage. “Antlers are heavy on top … it’s him!” While we watched, the buck eased up-slope, from one brush patch to another, where he vanished. “Good grief!” Dave shook his head. “He’s bedded already!”

Instead of climbing, Dave took advantage of the low sun behind us and thickets on the slope’s hem to sneak in from the bottom. We followed. A stone’s toss uphill, Paul set his tripod and eased to a sit. His Ruger was steady when the deer rose, 150 yards off. This time it had no time to turn. A solid “thwuck!” followed the flat crack of the 6.5 PRC.

“He wasn’t quite up when you fired,” Dave grinned as we admired the non-typical antlers.

Paul took a gulp of thin air and caressed the webbing atop the thick beams. “A new rifle shouldn’t be left in the dust twice!”

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