Luckily for firearms' enthusiasts, gunmakers do us the favor of picking up old, tried-and-true shooting concepts and giving them a new spin. Take the idea of the pistol-caliber carbine, for example. Being able to feed both a long gun and a handgun from the same box of cartridges is a great way to reduce ammunition costs and lighten the load when out in the field. Most of these carbines arrive in the form of lever-action cowboy guns or AR semi-auto variants. But not too long ago, Ruger released an all-weather configuration M77 Mark II bolt-action rifle in .44 Mag. With the success of this rifle, the company has expanded the line to include a model chambered in .357 Mag.
This latest pistol-caliber carbine, dubbed the 77/357, is loaded with the features shooters have come to expect of Ruger rifles. The rugged, heat-treated stainless-steel action features a right-hand turning bolt with 90-degree bolt lift. The frame-mounted three-position safety, located at the rear of the bolt, is both accessible and practical since it can be positioned to unlock the bolt for loading and unloading the rifle with the safety fully engaged. The receiver is milled with Ruger's patented integral scope mount, with three ring cuts to facilitate different scope sizes. As an added bonus, a free set of cast stainless-steel scope rings are included with the rifle. It's a nice touch, making it much easier to get the rifle ready to shoot right out of the box.
The 18.5-inch stainless-steel barrel is hammer-forged and topped with an adjustable rear sight and a gold bead front. The lightweight composite stock features molded-in checkering, sling swivel studs and a serrated rubber recoil pad. The 77/357 uses Ruger's signature detachable rotary magazine. It's easy to load, reliable and fits flush with the stock to provide the rifle with a 5+1 round capacity. Unloaded, this rifle weighs in at just 5.5 pounds, which is only a 1/2-pound more than the ever-popular 10/22 carbine.
.357 Mag. as a Rifle Round Although the .357 Mag. has never been considered a "fluffy" cartridge, some might wonder how it found its way into a rifle. The .357 has proven its potency as a defensive round when fired from revolvers. By chambering this cartridge in a bolt-action rifle, the longer barrel gives the powder more time to burn, and the closed breach prevents the pressure loss caused by a revolver's cylinder gap. The result is a measured increase in velocity that brings the .357 Mag. in line with other cartridges appropriate for the taking of medium and small game.
To measure the increased velocity of the .357 from the 77/357 rifle,some test rounds that were later used for accuracy testing were fired through a Cutting Edge Dynamics (CED) M2 chronograph. Black Hills' 125-grain jacketed hollow points proved to be the fastest of the test group with an average velocity of 2,794 fps. Hornady's 140-grain FXT, an excellent all-purpose cartridge for both handguns and rifles, left the barrel at an average velocity of 1,818 fps. Federal’s 180-grain Swift A-Frame jacketed hollow points, a dedicated hunting round, produced an average velocity of 1,400 fps. Based on these results, proper shot placement with bullets in these weight ranges should get the job done.
A long gun chambered for .357 has other advantages to consider. The 77/357 will feed both .357 Mag. and .38 Spl. loads. As a result, this handy little rifle can be loaded down for low-recoil plinking with soft-shooting .38 target loads, or ramped up to full power with a wide variety of .357 factory or handloads. The .357 is a common round that is easy to find at reasonable prices, and, best of all, you can buy a 50-round box of cartridges to practice with for about the same price as a 20-round box of rifle rounds.
At the Range The 77/357 is an enjoyable gun to work with. Its feather-light weight, reduced overall length and low recoil make it easy to operate from the bench or from other shooting positions. The bolt showed a bit of factory-fresh roughness, and the magazine was a little tight in the rifle frame, but both of these issues resolved themselves as the rifle was broken in.
For long-range accuracy testing, the 77/357 was fitted with a Hawke Panorama EV 3-9x40 IR EV scope. The Panorama lens configuration works to give a much broader and brighter view than one would expect from a scope this size. This particular model offers a fixed black line 10x ½ Mil Dot reticule that can be illuminated with five levels of brightness in blue (day) or red (night) light. As one set of outdoor shooting tests progressed from the bright light of late afternoon to the low light of early evening, a simple twist of the light adjustment knob on the scope kept the illumination at just the right level and color for the light available.
With the Hawk scope sighted in, from-the-bench accuracy testing was conducted with the 77/357 fitted into a Caldwell Shooting Supplies' Lead Sled Solo rest, with targets set at 100 yards. The two best single groups of 1.5 inches were produced by both the Hornady 140-grain FXT and the Federal 180-grain Swift A-Frame jacketed hollow points. The best five-shot group average of 1.75 inches was produced with the Hornady load, followed by the Federal load at 1.90 inches, and the Black Hills 125-grain jacketed hollow points at 2.55 inches.
Final Thoughts The 77/357 presents itself as a handsome, handy, lightweight carbine ready to roll out as a ranch gun, a low-recoil training gun, a practical plinker or as a scoped hunting rifle for medium and small game. The rifle’s carbine configuration and all-weather construction also make it an ideal choice as a camping or survival rifle. However you choose to put it to work, Ruger's American-made M77 Mark II Target 77/357 rifle demonstrates the same level of fit, function and reliability as the company’s rifle-caliber models.