Ruger 77-17 – 17WSM Hunt Report Part One with Accuracy Update
Our original review article on the new Ruger 77/17 in 17WSM received a massive response, but after all was said and done, the issue of accuracy still bothered us. We felt that the rifle had potential, but the heavy trigger, high rings and loose bolt were too much of a factor in reaching numbers we would be happy with. Before Will shipped the rifle to California, he installed one of Jard’s 2lb. triggers made for the Ruger 77 rifles (Click Here to Buy the Jard 77/17 Trigger from Brownell’s and help out Varminter.com), as well as a shim to tighten up the bolt (TriggerShims.com). He did some initial testing, but when it arrived here, I was able to spend a lot more time working with the rifle at the range, and in the field. When I got the Ruger home, I immediately tore it down, cleaned it and checked the rings to make sure that they were secure. I always do this to any rifle I receive for testing and/or field work. The reason is, I like to remove any variables before I start shooting. After putting the rifle back together, I spent some time checking out the bolt and trigger. I found that the JARD trigger, that Will installed, was very crisp and broke cleanly. It was much better than any of the stock Ruger triggers I currently have, with the pull-weight coming in right at 2lbs. After getting everything back together, it was time to hit the range.
After making the changes to Ruger, I was hoping for a better outing at the range then Will had while shooting it stock, out of the box. I got an early start up to the central valley area of California; and while there was a little heat coming on, the wind was perfectly still. I quickly set-up my bench and verified my target with a rangefinder, at 100 yards. I began to shoot some 5-shot groups and was immediately pleased with the results! Every group was smaller than one inch, with the average over 6 groups being right at 0.640″ at 100 yards. The trigger change and bolt shimming made a huge difference in dropping the group size, from our previous averages of 1.135 moa, up to 2.304 moa. After shooting the groups, I cleaned it once more and shot another 3 rounds to zero the scope to match my ballistic chart that I ran the night before. I was ready for the hunt!
The Ruger Starts Killing Ground Squirrels
In the original article linked above, Will took a ground hog with the Ruger before he shipped out here to California. For “Part One” of our Hunt Reports, I was going to focus on ground squirrels, and the occasional rabbit. Next month, in “Part Two”, we will have some serious prairie dog hunting footage, with some at distances reaching out past 200 to 250 yards.
Since I was in the general area that I would be hunting, there was a ground squirrel in my Nikon scope (Prostaff 5 – 4.5-18-40mm) within minutes of my sight-in period. I turned on my video camera, hit record and prepared for the shot. By this time, the wind had started to blow, but I knew where to hold for the shot. It took a few seconds for the ground squirrel to clear a small tumbleweed, but as soon as it did, I shot him and he rolled over, dead right there (DRT)! Working the action of the Ruger was smooth, and I was ready for another shot without even thinking about it (those who dislike the “cock-on-close” of the Savage B.MAG, will be satisfied with smoothness of the Ruger action). The scope was a perfect match, so everything started off great!
After the first shot, I was feeling really confident in myself. I knew the rifle was dead-on, so it was just a matter of me making the shot. Turns out, my excitement at seeing more ground squirrels then I expected, caused me to rush some shots and shoot over the next two squirrels I had in my crosshairs! At this point, I stopped the video camera and took a few minutes to just relax and take in the scenery. After that small break, I couldn’t miss. I spent the rest of the day, and the next one after that, shooting a bunch of ground squirrels. I even handed the rifle off to my cameraman, Matt, and he used it to shoot a few squirrels and a nice shot on a rabbit up on the side of a hill. This trip netted about a dozen and a half ground squirrels, with a follow-up trip netting another dozen. The Ruger performed well, and I was able to kill ground squirrels from 75 yards, all the way out to 225 yards. I didn’t not take any longer shots, so a 164 and 225 yard shots were the long-shots of both trips.
Final Thoughts on Hunt Report Part One
Towards the end of the video, you will see me shoot three ground squirrels in a row, at over 130 yards. These shots attest to the accuracy, as well as the smooth function of this 77/17. Granted, it took a bit of after-market magic to get this rifle to where it is today, with the trigger making the biggest difference. I wish Ruger offered a lighter trigger in their 77/17 rifles, but legal issues probably prevent them from going any lighter. Thankfully, there are companies like JARD, who offer replacement triggers that can help us shoot better groups, and increasing our kill percentages.
Watch the Full Video By Clicking Below:
I will be heading to Northern Arizona soon for our prairie dog hunt, so Part Two of this Hunt Report will be coming in about a month.
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