Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ruger 77/50

I blame the gunrag writers for the failing sales of the Ruger 77/50 which ultimately led to it's early and unfortunate demise. Most of the writers, so it seems, were biased against the 77/50 without giving it a fair chance. It seems most of them shunned it, calling it a poorly planned "me too" entry into the muzzleloading rifle world. And why? Here are the three main reasons:
  1. It is based on their strong and popular 77 series centerfire rifles, instead of having been created from the ground, up.
  2. It has integral scope ring mounts built into the receiver.
  3. It is not rated for the latest fad of magnum powder charges.

As for basing the gun on a center fire rifle, Remington did the same thing, with the 700 ML, as has Savage with their 10ML-II. Why the writers chose to pick on Ruger and not the others for doing this is beyond me.

Now, I would just like to note that this is a modern inline muzzleloader. I have noticed that most people end up putting low-powered scopes on their modern inlines, unless state law forbids them for hunting. All Ruger did was make it easier for the consumer to do this, like they always have. They were even kind enough to throw in a set of matching scope rings with the gun. It's worth mentioning that the receiver is also drilled and tapped to accept a receiver sight, which is what I am planning on putting on mine in the near future, unless a good deal on a fixed power Burris scope comes along.

Next I will attempt to address the non-magnum power rating of the Ruger. It is rated for a maximum charge of 120 grains of black powder, not the magnum 150 grains that's all the rage lately. Now, I'm not sure how many people have really sat down and realized that a good hunting charge for a .50 caliber projectile is usually around 70 to 100 grains of black powder or suitable black-powder substitute like Hodgdon's popular Pyrodex line. Any thing over 100 or so grains, substantially increases recoil, while the gains in velocity and energy are minimal. There is only so much powder that can be burned in a barrel, and the rest gets blown out with the blast, unburned, but adding to the weight of the load being discharged, therefore increasing recoil. This is fine for those who like to be needlessly abused by excessive recoil, but I personally choose to submit myself to as little recoil as is necessary to accomplish the task at hand.

Why the magnum craze then? Simple, one hand washes the other, right? The same thing is happening in the centerfire rifle world, magnum everything. It has simply followed into the muzzleloading world. People rush out and upgrade to magnum rated firearms, and in turn, have to buy propellant for these guns more frequently. Everyone benefits except the consumer's bank account.

In any event, thanks to the gunrag gurus, this spelled the unfair demise of the well built Ruger 77/50. Some even go so far as to claim ignition problems plagued the 77/50. Now think about this: if a product is plagued by a known defect or problem, it gets around quickly. The message boards on the internet will be filled with chatter about it. Not so with the 77/50, only a few postings on any of the thousands of websites have any reference to ignition problems. Why? Because it's the exception, not the rule. The culprit is the breechplug nipple is a minute bit oversized, making the percussion cap hard to seat. A simple fix, just polish the nipple and everything is good. If that's not your cup of tea, Ruger offers breech plugs that convert the rifle for use with musket caps. Cabela's has a 209 shotshell primer conversion kit. In essence, you now have your choice of the three popular inline ignition methods at your disposal for the 77/50.

The 77/50 is a fine gun. The medium length 22" barrel makes the rifle fast handling, a dream to carry in brushy or heavily wooded areas, while being plenty long enough to provide more than enough bullet velocity to get the job the done. The version I have is the All-Weather version, with a stainless steel receiver and barrel, and synthetic stock. The synthetic stock is very rugged, not at all like the cheap feeling, lightweight, flex-o-matic synthetic stocks slapped on other brands. The fit and finish of the rifle is top notch, which is to be expect from an arms maker such as Sturm, Ruger and Company, Inc.

My main complaint about this rifle is the synthetic ramrod. I do not like it very well. The bullet pusher/jag end is not removable. The handle end is threaded for ramrod accessories, but as such, one cannot leave an aftermarket bullet starter for their favorite bullet attached to the ramrod. To put the ramrod back into the thimble and through the stock, the ramrod has to be free from any accessories. This is not convenient at all for those who insist on shooting spitzers from sabots. I'm not a fan of the plastic tipped bullets anyways, I'll stick with flat-nosed conicals, thank you very much, and for that, the factory supplied jag on the ramrod works like a charm. I would still have much preferred a solid aluminum ramrod to the flexible synthetic one supplied.

The breech-plug wrench supplied with the gun is too small to fit over the breech-plug by a hair. I had to spend a whole 30 seconds with the dremel to polish enough metal off the wrench to make it fit right. It should have fit right from the beginning, and had I gone directly to the range without checking fit first, I would have been very upset.

These complaints are minor though, and should by no means be a deal-breaker on this strong, good-looking, and well built front-stuffer. The MSRP is around $600, they were selling for about $450, but can be had for around the $200 mark, new in box, if you know where to look. I picked mine up for $210 out the door, and can honestly say this muzzleloader is a literal steal at that price. For the quality it would have been worth paying full retail price, but I'm glad I didn't have to.