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(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details – enter by December 26th!)

By Donald Urbatsch

When dad suggested that we take a trip to Africa for some hunting I had to find an appropriate caliber rifle for the task. There are plenty of big game rifles to choose from on the market and if I wanted to have any money left over to pay for my hunt, I had to find the economy option. This brings us to the Hawkeye African from Ruger with an MSRP of $1199 and a street price about thee hundred dollars less, making this an attractive buy when compared to the big money commanded by some other rifle makers . . .

Ruger offers the Hawkeye African in four calibers, .300 Win Mag, .338 Win Mag, .375 Ruger and .416 Ruger. The .416 Ruger cartridge was developed as a joint venture between Hornady and Ruger in 2008 and is based on the .375 Ruger cartridge. The .375 Ruger cartridge was intended to provide the ballistic performance of the .375 H&H in a standard length action by making the case the same diameter as the belt of the belted magnums giving the case greater capacity in a shorter length.

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The .416 Ruger is just a .375 Ruger necked up to .416 caliber and has ballistic performance similar to .416 Rem. Mag. It throws a 400 grain pill at 2400 ft/sec with over 5,000 ft-lbs. of force. Hornady is the only commercial manufacture of ammo in either caliber at this time and they offer two bullet choices in their dangerous game series; the DGX Dangerous Game Expanding and the DGS Dangerous Game Solid.

This is not a cartridge review; however I wanted to point out that since this is a fairly new cartridge with only one manufacturer, factory ammo is scarce. And at $70 a box of twenty, it isn’t cheap. I practice mostly with reloads that I load light as I can only stand to shoot about ten rounds at a time of the factory stuff.

Out of the box the Hawkeye African is a good looking rifle on an American walnut stock with an ebony fore-end cap. The stock is sleek and profiled for using the open express sights. I am not an expert on grading wood, but it looks good to me and I expect that it will be scratched and dented in short order anyway. The checkering looks good and feels nice in the hands.

The standard recoil pad that this rifle comes with looks nice and compliments the rifle’s aesthetics, but it is ridiculously thin and inadequate to reduce the felt recoil unless you’re a masochist. Once I got this rifle, I just had to shoot it right away and headed off to the range. I made it through nine factory rounds before I called it quits and decided that the recoil pad had to go. This rifle now sports a KICK-EEZ magnum recoil pad.

The Hawkeye African is built on a Mauser style action with a large extraction claw. I am told that is important in a dangerous game gun. It sports a three-position safety allowing for the opening of the bolt without taking the safety completely off. The Ruger action features-built in scope mounts. I consider this one of its best features for several reasons, First, there is one less set of screws to come loose under heavy recoil throwing off your zero. Second, there are no scope mounts to interfere when using the express sights. Lastly, I just think it looks better.

Beneath the action is a three-round capacity box magazine with a metal floor plate and a latch that is unobtrusively concealed in the trigger guard.

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The barrel is 23 inches with a 1 to 14 right hand twist. Mounted on the barrel is a white front bead with a rear adjustable express style sight. The rifle comes with a set of Ruger scope rings.

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Out of the box, the open sights were an inch high at 50 yards with factory ammo and I have not adjusted them. There is sling post on a band around the barrel so that the post doesn’t hit your support hand. The Hawkeye African models now all come with the Ruger Muzzle Brake System that consists of a low profile brake, a matched muzzle weight and a thread cap. So far I have only shot it with the brake but the advertising claims that the matched muzzle weight ensures the same point of impact if you do not want to shoot with the break.

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The fit and finish appears to my eye to be of good quality. I have noticed some scratches in the finish on the action at the scope mounts when I remove the scope to use the open sights. It doesn’t bother me, but I am attempting to be thorough. The bolt could cycle more smoothly, however I only notice any roughness when I am calmly sitting on my couch slowly working the action. When shooting rapid three shot volleys, I don’t seem to notice.

I did try and slide a dollar bill between the barrel and stock to see how well floated the barrel was and it had a couple of tight spots. Since this was never intended to be a tack driver I don’t think I’ll be glass-bedding it. How big is minute of Cape buffalo, anyway?

I purchased this rifle for the purpose of hunting buffalo in Africa, so I have been shooting it with that goal in mind, shooting as much as I can off-hand and with rapid follow up shots. The rifle weighs in at 7.88 lbs. according to the Ruger website, making shouldering the rifle and getting on target with the express sites comfortable for me (I’m 6’1” and 230 lbs., so your mileage may vary). I may have mentioned the recoil — this is not a gun for the recoil sensitive or one that you would use to introduce a new shooter to the joys and fun of shooting sports. But with the muzzle break and magnum recoil pad, even the full-power loads are no worse that 12 gauge magnum slugs.

I just don’t have a sensitive enough trigger finger after years of repetitive motion injury to my hands to give a meaningful trigger review. Heck, I can’t even complain about the stock trigger on my M&P. I can say, though, that the stock trigger feels adequate to me. The pull is short and breaks with that surprise that a rifle trigger should have. I don’t happen to have a trigger gauge, but it is light enough for me to hit a stationary clay pigeon at 50 yards with the express sights.

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I read how 3-shot groups are not an adequate predictor of accuracy. Please forgive me, if you would like to volunteer to shoot ten or more rounds from the bench with this rifle, please leave your contact information in the comments below and we’ll go to the range. I shot this group because it is standard practice to put a demonstration of accuracy in a review and that’s the best group I was capable of that day. I am certain the rifle is more accurate than I am capable of shooting and for its intended purpose of shooting dangerous game at 100 yards or less, it will get the job done.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: Ruger Hawkeye African
Caliber: .416 Ruger
Magazine capacity: 3 rounds
Materials: Alloy Steel, American Walnut, Ebony
Weight empty: 7.88 Lbs.
Barrel Length: 23″
Overall length: 44.88″
Sights: Express style open sights, integral scope mounts with rings included.
Action: Mauser style bolt action.
Finish: Satin Blued
Price: $1199 MSRP as reviewed $879

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * * *
If you want a classic looking bolt gun, this one fits that description. It loses a style point with me because the muzzle break is not a classic look. This rifle is not a display model, but looks good all the same.

Ergonomics * * *
The gun can shoot better than I can. The 13.5” length of pull was just right for me out of the box. I had to cut the stock down when I went to the magnum recoil pad and on that note, it loses a couple points from me on that count. Ruger puts a big recoil pad on their Guide Gun in this caliber. They might as well have put a steel butt plate on the Hawkeye African for all the felt recoil the stock pad helps with.

Reliability * * * * *
It’s a bolt gun. There is only one brand of factory ammo. I have not had any reliability issues when shooting the factory made gun food. I will tell you I had some reloads fail to fire and I suspect it was the Remington primers I was using (thank you Freedom Group). The Federal primers have all fired fine.

Customize This * * *
If one was so inclined they could put a new stock on this rifle, give it a trigger job, have it glass bedded and polish the feed ramp. But if I was going to spend that kind of money, I could have just bought a more expensive rifle. All in all, it is not any more or less customizable than average.

Overall * * * *
Here is the deal — I have always felt that there was a point of diminishing returns on your money when it comes to firearms just as there is a price point below which I would not trust my life to the reliability of a rifle when a buffalo is charging. The Ruger Hawkeye African is an entry level dangerous game rifle. It is a well made gun with a powerful new cartridge that’s more than capable of taking any game that walks on land for a price that won’t keep you from making that trip to Africa. Or making you cry when you drag it through the brush.

59 Responses to Gun Review: Ruger Hawkeye African

      • Unfortunately, loading the heavy magnums light (even keeping to the minimum safe load) dramatically reduces their accuracy and consistency (definition nuts please excuse my use of the term accuracy there).
        For instance, I have a 338WM that prints 1/2MOA groups all day long with a 250gr Berger running as fast as I can safely push it, but you reduce that to the starting load and it prints 2MOA groups. Bottom line, those big cases like to be full.
        JWT

        • Better yet, get back with us when you have actually touched off the trigger on a 8lb .50 BMG. We would be happy to wait until you are done seeing the orthopedic surgeon.

      • just gas bagging as I have no idea of the laws in the various African countries that have legal safari hunting. But the 50 bmg may be one of those rounds that the local .gov doesn’t want in anything but their own military weapons. Like the 9mm in Italy.

    • I think the idea was to get it into a shorter action- though, it strikes me that all dangerous game cartridges are kinda oddballs, anyway, compared to more common medium game guns.

    • Exactly, have fun finding ammo for it when you show up in the bush and TSA “lost” your handloads. I get annoyed when gun makers do the equivalent of “I dont want to play with you I’m taking my toys to another playground” with stuff like ammo under the pretense that theirs is better than the original. Hornady is particularly bad about this and it is compounded when only one or maybe two rifle/ ammunition makers adopt the new spec. So you get the rifle for cheap and the ammo breaks you, or your hunt is ruined because you cant find it when you show up on site. I dont travel beyond driving distance for hunting for hunting but if the opportunity arose (especially if it was a hunt that cost a lot of money just to get out there) I would buy a rifle that would be 99% guaranteed to have ammo in stock at even the lowest off brand gas station in the middle of nowhere.

      • If everyone had your attitude, we’d all still be shooting Brown Bess muskets and modified bottle rockets. There’s nothing wrong with trying to innovate.

        • I think you are taking it a little bit further than intended…

          My point (and I think it was fairly clear at the start of my post) was What does the 416 Ruger offer over the 416 Rigby? All I could find is “Does the same thing as a 416 Rigby” Except that Ruger is the only rifle maker, and Hornady the only ammo maker? Same for the 416 Remington Magnum “does the same thing as the 416 Rigby…” they say, except only Remington makes the ammo and rifles. Same goes for the 375 Ruger “does the same thing as the 375 Holland and Holland Magnum…” except, well, you know the drill. All that and the case dimensions make it a terrible (read dangerously unreliable) dangerous game cartridge, all to shave an inch and a few ounces off the rifle action?

          We have the 7 or 300 RSAUM that does the same thing as the WSM’s which do the same thing as the their magnum brethren, which really don’t do a whole lot more than the 270/280/30.06. Now the WSM’s do a very nice job of giving you a lighter shorter rifle for backwoods hunting with near magnum ballistics, except again, short, straight walled, wide cartridge with an improved shoulder and rebated rim that make it a terribly dangerous choice if your target intends on eating you. So it replaces the big magnums for moose and elk and long range shots on whitetails/ sheep etc. But the above rifle is an African Game rifle, and everything there can kill you, and a large percent of them will actually try to kill you, and the ones that do neither could probably be hunted with the lowly 308/ 30-30, which has all of the above beat on price, availability, weight, and length.

          Even the boutique cartridges have boutique cartridges. Tell me what is the difference between the 26 Nosler and the 260 Remington? Other than Noselr couldnt stand to sell a 4k+ custom rifle with Remington in the name. Oh, and only Nosler makes 26N ammo and rifles, oh and it most definitely isn’t cheap or widely available even for a handloader. What is the difference between 762x40WT and 300BLK? Except that Wilson Combat is the only MFG that makes 762x40WT, oh and not cheap or widely available either.

          Again, Hornady is the worst offender in this regard. All of their offerings are adopted by 1 or maybe 2 rifle makers in limited runs, and surprise surprise nobody makes their ammo except… ding ding ding Hornady.

      • “Exactly, have fun finding ammo for it when you show up in the bush and TSA “lost” your handloads.”

        An excellent point. Something I hadn’t considered.

        A few weeks before the trip, Fed X (or equivalent) your ammo over there.

        • Be prepared to pay a tax (brib) to the local FedEx station to actually get your belongings out of “customs”. (Even though you pay the customs duties when you initially ship your gear.)

          From first hand expirance, Africa is a pain in the butt.

    • Also looking up the case measurements of the 375/416 Ruger cartridges makes me think this would be a dangerous (to the operator) dangerous game cartridge. Short steep shoulder (60degrees vs 29 of the H&H and Rigby), fat, short( shorter than the case it is trying to replace), and more or less straight walls. All the proven dangerous game rounds have longer shallower shoulders, and a very noticeable angle in the side walls of the cartridge, and a big fat rim that is the widest point of the cartridge.

      That’s good that this Ruger has a Mauser Claw type extractor, but for the same reason WSM’s are not recommended hunting dangerous game, you want a cartridge that is going to feed like shit through a goose EVERY SINGLE TIME you close the bolt, a 60degree shoulder and a nearly straight cartridge wall introduces to much risk of feeding and extraction problems.

        • Yes, although I might add if I was hunting anywhere that required thousands of dollars invested in airplane tickets, licenses, hunting fees, trophy fees, etc etc… I would take my 308. Or something that I was certain even Billy Bob’s Beer Bait and Ammo out in the middle of nowhere would have something I could shoot out of it. I will also note that nearly any Walmart I have been into recently carries 110grain Barnes Vortex for 300BLK as well.

          If the above mentioned trip meant buying a new rifle, I would buy one that fit the above criteria, even if it was more expensive than one that shot some oddball cartridge that only one amo mfg makes. My guess is you wouldnt have too much trouble finding 375H&H/416Rigby at any supplier near where you were hunting. Haven’t been though, so I don’t actually know.

      • Those are some good points. I’m hoping I have a good pro hunter. If it turns out I lose my ammo on the way or some other catastrophe I guess I’ll just have to use one of dads guns or my bow for the plains game.

        • Your PH will likely have ammo for it.
          Worse case scenario, you have to use one of his guns.
          You are not allowed to buy ammo from a store there. But your PH can.

      • All of those issues are valid points for rifles that don’t have the extraction capability of the bolt action. The classic African cartridges with more taper to the case and the shoulder angles you describe were designed for the double rifles of the day, which have nowhere near the extraction force of the bolt action with a claw extractor.

  1. i dont agree with canned hunts, which is basically what this is. i thought the point of hunting is to feed out of necessity, not shooting gluttony/vanity( “look at the big expensive stuff i shot, aint i cool”). i guess its all about the bragging rights, which is innately immature and something else i dont understand.

    • Where did you get the information that it’s a canned hunt?

      Where did you get the idea that the only purpose for hunting is subsistence? Hunting for sport has been a legitimate sport for thousands of years, and hunting pays for most of the conservation that gets done.

    • There is no single “point” to hunting. Some do it for sustenance. Some for sport. Some for pest management. Some for conservation purposes (herd management). Saying that one purpose or another is right and the other are wrong is not an objective assessment, but one based on opinion, as such cannot be proven one way or another. I saw nowhere where the author indicated he was going on a “canned hunt”, but even if he were, and did not want any of the meat, it is likely many many hungry people would have been fed from his kills. The game taken on many african hunting trips is donated to local charities or villages. For example, Safari Club Int’l’s Sportsmen against Hunger program donated a half million pounds of meat in 2010 (thats enough for 2 million meals). Thats 2 million starving africans who had a meal thanks to some evil hunted on a “canned hunt”. Get off your moral high-horse and stop judging others because they don’t do it exactly like you do. How about any criticisms of the gun itself, or the author’s review of it?

      • Hmm, usually it’s the anti-gunners that bring up the freudian aspect of using a big gun to penetrate hairy beasts.

  2. This isn’t the only rifle in the affordable class. There are Winchester Model 70s (list price about $1500) and Browning X-bolts (list price under $1000). Not to say that the Ruger isn’t a good choice.

  3. While guiding in Alaska, I’ve carried a Remington 700 in .458 Win Mag for bear protection. The recoil isn’t bad when shooting from a standing position. However, firing a dozen rounds downrange, from the bench, is quite punishing.

  4. I’ve never shot anything larger than a 7 mm rem mag. I’m trying to get a guy at my range let me shoot his 460 weatherby…..his ammo of course.

  5. “…when I am calmly sitting on my couch slowly working the action.”

    Are we still talking about a rifle here? 😉

    Excellent review, though.

  6. +1 on the Kick-Eez recoil pad. Have one on my .30-06 – completely transformed it.

    Sweet Ruger rifle – enjoy a fantastic Buffalo hunt!

  7. I have a few larger caliber rifles. I can shoot them all without too much recoil, and can enjoy extended time at the range with them, a key to proficiency. And I abhor recoil. It is the enemy. But I also hate the extra noise of a muzzle brake.
    Here is the secret; put rifles that burn a lot of powder into a heavier gun.
    I now pause for dramatic effect.
    With a good shoulder strap and a good stock, you will never notice the difference in carrying a 13lb gun or a 9lb gun, but you will certainly notice the difference when you squeeze the trigger.
    Yes, I realize getting the rifle in position might not be as fast, but you will probably never notice the difference in time there, and unless you hold on target for quite a while, you won’t notice the extra weight off-hand shooting either.
    More importantly, you will be much more likely to hit what you are aiming at in the first place, and get far faster follow up shots.
    For those of you who will likely be really hiking a long way with your rifle, invest in a good quality biathlon style sling. I carry a 17lb rifle like that regularly, and I barely notice it.

  8. Why not use a Marlin 1895 in 45-70 ? You can launch 500 grain bullets then and get six in the tube. Not that the African is a bad rifle (I’ve eyed it many a time).

  9. A friend of mine was sitting while sighting-in a .378 Weatherby the other day. He was wearing a Magnum recoil pad,fortunately. After 5 rounds of Weatherby 270 grain cartridges the rifle was ‘okay’ and he was massaging his shoulder. Suddenly he paused and his eyes widened as he exclaimed “Hey, the crick in my neck is gone!” Who needs a chiropracter?

  10. Capt. Jim
    Shooting a 416 Ruger is much less expensive than shooting a 416 Rigby you can still shoot large calibers economically …
    Of course my preferred weapon is 375 H&H.

  11. I like the rifle; however, the recoil pad is a little thin. It is a great rifle, but there are even cheaper alternatives. Savage make ms this short stout little .375 ruger, called the Alaskan brush hunter, and it can take down an elephant in one shot if you are lucky. It’s msrp is like 800 dollars. The Hawkeye Africa is better, but Savage’s prices are hard to beat.

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