In this head-to-head bolt-action test, the Ruger 77/22-R outshoots and has more features than Remington’s 541-T.
The smallbore silhoutte game demands accuracy and reliable performance in guns that shoot the .22 LR cartridge, and there are many guns that, on the surface, fill the bill. In a recent shopping search, we located a host of guns that claimed to make Hunter Class weight and have sub minute-of-angle accuracy at 50 yards. But two guns in particular tweaked our interest because they represented the mean price of .22s we found, which ranged from $175 for a Marlin Model 25 to $700 for a Kimber single shot. Still other points, however, made us settle on the $399 Ruger 77/22-R and the $399 Remington 541-T. The 541-T is already a staple of the silo game, because it combines light weight (which allows for plenty of customization) with a reputation for accuracy. The Ruger 77/22-R has, in comparison, no profile on the steel fields, which made us curious, since our experiences with 77/22s as game rifles had shown them to shoot many brands of over-the-counter ammo well. We wondered if the 77/22-Rs were flawed in some way that had heretofore eluded us. Also, we were curious if the short 20-inch barrel on the 77/22-R had any effect on accuracy or velocity. If not, then the gun might offer a different balance point between the hands that might help it on the range.
So we decided to see. All range accuracy data was collected at 50 yards from a solid bench using the Hughes Products Ballistic Bench Shooting Bag. Average accuracy data was a compilation of five-round groups, and we shot 10-shot strings through an Oehler 35P at 10 feet to collect chronograph figures. The guns were cleaned with Pro-Shot Lead & Powder Solvent and then fouled between each load tested. Click here to view how the two rifles performed.
Ruger Model 77/22-R:
A Short-Barreled Sweetheart
Ruger’s successful 77/22 series contains several models chambered for the .22 Long Rifle round. The Ruger Model 77/22R, which we tested, had a smooth, tapered barrel without iron sights. The 77/22-RS has iron sights, and there are other configurations and barrel weights available. The 77/22-R catalog number 7002 has an MSRP of $473, but our gun retailed for $399.
The most important facet of a gun’s performance is where it puts the rounds. The 77/22-R shot all our test ammunition, except CCI Green Tag, under MOA at 50 yards. The best group came from Eley Silhouex at 0.40 inches. The overall average ended up at 0.79 inch, 0.02 inch ahead of the Remington 541-T.
With the accuracy data a wash, we looked to see if the Ruger’s 20-inch barrel lost anything in velocity. If there was a large disparity, it could mean the difference between a ram toppled or a ram lost. However, the Ruger shot four of the five ammos we tested faster than the 541-T, and the fifth brand was a tie.
Features and finish, then, would decide which gun won the test. All metal on our test gun was blued, and the top of the receiver carried a matte finish, which reduced glare off the metal. Our test gun had a 20-inch tapered barrel with an outside diameter of 0.540 inch at the muzzle and 0.920 inch at the chamber. The trigger pull was creepy at 4.25 to 4.5 pounds and had too much overtravel. Adjustment screws on this trigger are not standard, so the shooter needs to enlist the help of a good gunsmith to reduce the trigger-pull weight of 2 pounds and install an overtravel stop screw.
The stock on our test gun was American walnut with a satin, nonglare finish that resembled hand-rubbed oil and featured machine-cut checkering. A 0.5-inch-thick black-rubber-pad added to the buttstock gave the gun a 13.5-inch length of pull. The barrel was not free-floated, and there was a 0.5-inch pressure point at the end of the barrel channel. We found no bedding between the receiver and the stock, which we would add to (hopefully) improve the gun’s accuracy. Quick-detachable swivel studs are included, which aren’t needed on a competition gun. The gun measured 39 inches and weighed 6 pounds without a scope or rings. Most Ruger guns come with standard 1-inch rings that are easily attached to the integral mounting system on the receiver.
The gun comes with one removable rotary magazine that holds 10 rounds. It sits flush with the bottom of the forend stock, which provides a comfortable place to rest the shooter’s palm, fingers, or fist in the standing position.
Our Remington 541-T test gun, catalog number 29824, has a suggested retail price of $455. However, our sample actually retailed for $399. A number of cosmetic touches are reminiscent of centerfire products in the 700 BDL line: an American walnut stock with satin-polyurethane-finished stock, a black forend piece, machine-cut checkering on the forend and pistol grip, and a plastic buttpad and grip cap. The gun weighs 5.5 pounds without base and rings.
As we noted above, the 24-inch-barrel Remington 541-T ran a dead heat with the Ruger in accuracy. Groups averaged from 0.55 inches with Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch to 1.11 inches with Eley Silhouex. The gun’s overall average was 0.81 inches. Another positive was its trigger, which broke crisply at 4.75 to 5 pounds with very little overtravel. Moreover, this trigger is completely adjustable and can be tuned down to break at 2 pounds.
That said, we also had problems with the trigger, along with other areas. At the bottom of the trigger shoe, a sharp edge caught the fingers of some testers, causing discomfort when we shot the gun a lot. A trigger with less curve and a slightly wider blade would take care of this problem. The barrel was not free-floated and did not have a pressure point. Free-floating the barrel, bedding the action, and installing a pressure point would help improve accuracy of this firearm, in our opinion. Sling swivel studs were not included, which is not a factor on a competition gun. The receiver is drilled and tapped, but we had to purchase Weaver bases and rings for $30 to mount our Bausch & Lomb 36X test scope. We found that the bolt opened with a gritty feel and didn’t display the smooth operation found in other Remington rifles.
This rough, grinding feel was from the camming surface on the bolt body and the cocking piece on the firing pin. These two surfaces need to be smoother to eliminate the bolt-function problem, which without work could interfere with a shooter’s concentration. The plastic five-round magazine, when locked in place, had too much up-and-down movement. If the shooter’s hand rested on the magazine when the bolt closed, the bolt hit the back of the magazine and would not close on the last round in the magazine, causing the round to point straight up in the magazine and fail to feed. Also, the magazine protruded from the bottom of the stock, offering a poor surface on which to rest the shooter’s left hand.
Performance Shooter Recommends
The Ruger 77/22-R showed what we think are valuable characteristics in a silhouette rifle. The integral scope base and accompanying rings, smooth operation of the bolt, and a great feel on the line make this gun worth the money.
Based on the results we collected with our sample gun, we don’t recommend the Remington 541-T because of the roughness of the bolt opening and the problems encountered with the magazine. Also, the lack of a scope base and rings would jack up the actual cost of the 541-T at least $50 above that of the Ruger. That’s money better spent elsewhere, in our view.