The Ruger Model 77 bolt-action rifle has been steadily evolving since its introduction in 1967. The M 77 garnered a reputation for being rugged and reliable, with the accuracy required for successful big-game hunting. Over the years, the rifle has been produced in a wide variety of calibers ranging from the lightweight .22-250 Rem. to the massive .458 Win. Mag. Additional configurations were also released, such as the Mark II and the Hawkeye.
In 2007, the Hawkeye was chambered for the then brand-new .375 Ruger cartridge and dubbed “The African” bolt-action. As the name implies, this particular rifle and ammunition combination was intended for use when hunting large and dangerous game. The next step in Ruger's evolution of the M 77, released in 2013, takes the form of its all-weather Guide Gun. This rifle blends the action of the big-game Hawkeye rifle, the stock system of the Gunsite Scout rifle and a new removable muzzle-brake system.
The .375 Ruger rifle cartridge is the result of a collaboration between Hornady and Ruger to produce a round for dangerous game that provides the performance of .375 H&H Mag., while having external dimensions compatible with standard-length rifle actions. This required the development of a unique cartridge case instead of altering an existing case. The result is a cartridge that is about the same length as the 30-06 that is capable of generating 2,840 fps of velocity (4,835 ft./lbs. of energy) at the muzzle with a 270-grain bullet and does so without the excessive recoil of other magnum-size safari rounds. If you are interested in learning more about how the .375 Ruger’s performance compares to other cartridges in its class then take a look at the Cartridge Comparison Guide, written by Andrew Chamberlain.
The Guide Gun's rugged one-piece bolt, receiver and barrel are constructed of stainless steel with a non-reflective matte finish. This includes the logo-engraved hinged floor plate and trigger guard. At the heart of the rifle is the M 77 Hawkeye action featuring a Mauser-type fixed blade extractor, which has proven to be one of the most reliable extraction systems available.
The 20-inch, hammer-forged barrel is topped with express-style iron sights. The front sight has a fixed white bead and the rear is a windage adjustable V-notch. The muzzle is threaded to accept one of three provided muzzle accessories, including a radial-port muzzle break that can be installed to reduce felt recoil. The down side to the break is an increased level of muzzle blast and noise. A dynamically matched muzzle weight can be used in place of the brake without changing the rifle's point of impact. A thread protector can be installed in place of the brake or weight.
Ruger's patented integral scope mounts are machined directly into the stainless-steel receiver. A matching set of 1-inch, stainless-steel rings are shipped with the rifle. This mounting system eliminates the need for a set of base screws that could loosen and fall out in the field and it does not interfere with the iron sights. This rifle is outfitted with an LC6 trigger system, which is lighter and smoother than previous generations. A three-position safety lever is located at the rear of the bolt assembly, which allows the bolt to be opened while the safety is still engaged.
The stock installed on the Guide Gun takes its cues from the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle. Instead of an all-gray color scheme like the Scout, the dimensionally stable laminated wood has what's called a Green Mountain pattern of alternating green, gray and brown layers. The stock is checkered around the fore-end and the grip. Three 1/2-inch polymer recoil pad spacers are provided. The thick, soft-rubber recoil pad can be removed and the spacers added or subtracted to adjust the rifle's length of pull (LOP) from 12.75 to 14.25 inches. A sling swivel stud is mounted near the recoil pad. The user can attach the forward end of a sling to either an integral mount located on the barrel, about 4-inches in front of the stock, or to a stud (shipped with the gun), which can be installed in place of the stock forearm support screw.
Testing the Guide Gun began with some informal standing shots using the express-style iron sights. A few shots at 25 yards showed the sights to be well tuned, with rounds making a nice, neat cluster in the center of the target. Pushing the target out to 50 yards produced similar results. The bolt cycled smoothly, ejecting spent cases and chambering fresh ones reliably from the three-round magazine.
The LC6 trigger demonstrated a smooth, clean trigger pull of 4 pounds, 8 ounces, with just a bit of travel after the break. The felt recoil produced by the .375 Ruger while standing was stout, but not punishing. It was more of a good solid shove instead of a sharp kick thanks to the muzzle break and thick recoil pad. The rifle was certainly manageable for a smaller-statured shooter like me. Was it comfortable for extended bench rest testing? Let's just say setting the Guide Gun in a BLACKHAWK! premium-grade adjustable Sportster Titan FXS rifle rest made the bench work more comfortable than it would have been using sand bags.
For the formal 100-yard, benchrest accuracy testing, a Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 3-9x40 mm Multi-X hunting scope was attached using Ruger's stainless-steel, 1-inch scope rings. The Legend scope was a good match for the Guide Gun because the strong one-piece tube construction can handle the recoil, the Rain Guard HD coating on the lenses provides a clear view of the target and the scope is weather-proofed against the tough outdoor conditions.
Because the .375 Ruger is still a fairly new cartridge, the current off-the-shelf factory options were relatively limited. Those options have been further reduced by the ongoing ammunition shortage that has been taking place over the past year. DoubleTap Ammunition provided three .375 loads used to range test this rifle. These .375 Ruger loads lose between 85 to 150 fps when fired out of the 20-inch barrel of the Guide Gun when compared to a 23-inch barrel. This means the 270-grain round leaves the muzzle at around 2,665 fps with 4,257 ft./lbs. of energy. The best single five-shot group of 1.25 inches at 100 yards was produced using a 260-grain Nosler Accubond bullet. The best five-group average was also yielded by the Nosler bullet, followed by the Barnes 270-grain TSX lead-free bullet at 1.5 inches and the Barnes 235-GR TSX at 1.57 inches.
The Guide Gun is a big-bore, bolt-action carbine that arrives ready to run in the harsh conditions that hunters often face when chasing down big and dangerous game. In the heavy calibers like the .375 Ruger, the Guide Gun is literally loaded for bear, as well as lions and Cape buffalo. But it would be a mistake to limit this rifle to just dangerous game. As of this writing, this rifle is chambered for a total of seven calibers. Amongst the magnum options are the .300 Win. Mag. and .30-06 Sprg., which are popular options for taking big game in North American. From one end to the other, this is a very well constructed all-weather rifle.