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Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Hunter

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Most rifle manufacturers start out with a hunting rifle, then attempt to turn it into a precision rifle. Ruger has completed the circle by introducing the Hawkeye in 2006, rolling out the Long-Range Target last year, and then using that as a development tool to create the Long-Range Hunter. In doing so, it may have left out some of the most useful features, while keeping the most fashionable ones — kind of like putting Raptor graphics and extended wheel arches on an F-150, but keeping the stock suspension. Does this mean it fails in the hunting role? Far from it, but we think it could be better.

Overview

Using their Long-Range Target model as a base, Ruger’s engineers shed about four pounds through the use of a shorter, lighter profile barrel and a sportier-style stock. The barrel itself is 22 inches, free-floating, stainless, cold hammer-forged and produced in-house. It ships with a muzzle brake covering 5/8-24 threads, and we wish it didn’t. If you buy one, you’ll probably want to remove it. In the field, it’s loud, and at the range, it kicks up crap from the deck courtesy of its 360-degree ports. Recoil is comparatively mild, so the downside outweighs the positives, but the big plus is that adding a suppressor is as easy as lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. So we did.

The LRH’s 5R tube is screwed into a tried-and-true, modified Mauser 98 action, which instead of being made through the old-time means of taking a chunk of bar stock and machining away anything that didn’t look like a rifle, starts out as an investment casting. Countless gallons of ink have been expended extolling the virtues of the two-lug bolt, long, non-rotating extractor and fixed ejector, so let’s not add to them here. Suffice to say, over the course of 120 years, two world wars, and countless dead critters, the design is pretty much debugged.

Up top, there’s a 20 MOA Picatinny rail that slides over Ruger’s integral scope mounts and is fastened in place with 8-40 screws. Inclined rails gained popularity last century, when people were using 308s to sling heavy bullets at long range and discovering they were running out of elevation on their scope’s turrets due to limited case capacity and low muzzle velocity. On this rifle, it qualifies as one of those “fashionable” features mentioned earlier, and here’s why. If we accept Ruger’s rationale for this rifle — that of a hunting tool capable of taking animals at extended range, then the theoretical (rather than practical) maximum distance at which this is ethically viable is defined not by the rifle itself, but by the bullets it fires, and at what velocity they reliably expand, in order to produce a lethal wound and rapid death.

Let’s take our 120-grain GMX load as an example. Hornady reckons this projectile will reliably open up at 2,000 fps, but qualifies this with a “more is better” addendum. Erring on the side of caution, let’s impose our own velocity floor of 2,200 fps, in case we manage to thread the needle between ribs and hit just the squishy bits. According to the ballistic charts, this equates to a maximum range of 675 yards. At this distance, assuming a 250-yard zero, we’d have to dial up 8.75 MOA on the scope in order to achieve a hit. Even the most basic scope should have around 50 MOA of total adjustment, giving us 25 MOA to play with assuming we can achieve a zero somewhere in the middle of its range. Which makes the addition of a 20 MOA rail redundant for performance purposes, while adding weight, complexity, and potential failure points. This is especially perplexing, given that buried underneath it Ruger has probably the most robust mounting system available on a factory gun.

Feeding duties are handled by a steel AICS magazine, made by Accurate Mag. The spacer found at the front of other short action magazines of this type is missing, allowing the 6.5 PRC cartridge to reach an overall length of 2.95 inches and maximizing available case capacity. Due to the fatter case, capacity is limited to four rounds, rather than the five you’d see in a Creedmoor, but feeding is slick, unlike most short magnums. When you pick the rifle up to carry at the trail position, the mag falls right at the balance point, which is lumpy and angular — at least, until you add a suppressor. This shifts weight forward and makes things way more comfortable.

The Mauser-style striker is released by a single stage trigger, which is adequate, but a far cry from the two-stage model found on the Long-Range Target version. Breaking at around 4.5 pounds, it’s tough to wring out the best in terms of accuracy, and begging to be replaced with a Timney or Rifle Basix. The trigger’s overall feel improved after a few hundred dry-fire cycles, losing the bit of grittiness we felt on pulling it out of the box.

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