When it comes to long-range cartridges and rifles, the show tends to be focused on the little 6.5 Creedmoor and today’s newest paper-puncher/head-scratcher, the .224 Valkyrie. Luckily, this article isn’t focused on weak sauce rifles or light beer cartridges. Today we’re looking at a real heavy hitter that comes in the form of the Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifle chambered in the unequalled .300 Win Mag.
Why .300 Win Mag?
What’s the deal with the .300 Win Mag today? Why would Ruger release a rifle like this when we have been bestowed with God’s latest gift to mortals, the 6.5mm, 6mm, and (fill-in-the-blank-next-SHOT-Show)mm Creedmoor?
It may seem like an odd move, but there are those of us out there who don’t buy into fads, even if all the cool kids are doing it. Sure, some units in the military have been trying to adopt the 6.5 CM in a limited capacity, but that’s cherry picked news considering the vast number of cartridges that the military considers on a sometimes weekly basis. So why .300 Win Mag?
The first consideration when looking at long-range cartridges for hunting, not just target shooting, is the general cost and availability of ammunition powerful enough to ethically bring down game at distance. The .300 Win Mag is a common, affordable round that’s inherently accurate and very, very powerful.
A round like .338 Lapua often costs two to three-time the price per round of .300 Win Mag and it is generally far more expensive to reload as well. Hornady makes some of the best bullets for long-range shooting and their ELD bullets in .300 caliber are about half the price as the heavy .338 bullets, despite having a similar effective range for most shooters and hunters. The .300 WM makes perfect sense as a balance of power and cost.
Most sensible shooters would consider it a huge positive that the .300 WM has nearly identical trajectory and energy as .338 Lapua inside 1,500 yards, depending on the load, but it can be loaded with less powder and less expensive bullets.
When compared to 6.5 CM, known for ‘blowing the .308 out of the water’, the .300 WM happily outclasses it in every single category for hunting and long-range ballistics while offering supreme versatility. The .300 WM can be loaded with bullets down in the 100gr range or up to massive 240gr projectiles and be used to reliably and ethically hunt any game alive today.
The 6.5 fans will say that their little baby has better trajectory and less recoil than .300 WM. The .300 crushes 6.5 at any distance when using similar, high BC bullets. It’s not really fair to compare a budget hunting load in .300 to dedicated VLD factory loads in 6.5, but then again, facts have never meant much to the fans of the ‘American 6.5×55’. In short, I’m a fan of Ruger’s choice of .300 Win Mag for the Hawkeye Long-Range Target.
Firing the Rifle
The first thing that I hear people say about the .300 Win Mag is its heavy recoil. In my experience, this is overblown. The .300 WM is actually a rather easy magnum round to shoot. It isn’t the shoulder-breaking monster that some people make it out to be. In my mind the recoil is like .30-06 +P.
A good muzzle brake tames this beast easily and the Hawkeye Long-Range ships with a brake that works very well in that regard. The Hawkeye rifle here is very mild and muzzle jump is minimal.
Another problem I hear about some larger caliber long action rifles is that the factory versions usually have triggers that could be better, to put it charitably. A bad trigger can make for a bad flinch, especially on big guns.
The Hawkeye Long-Range Target ships a surprisingly good factory trigger and is unique among those from Ruger. It’s like a military two-stage and has a small amount of take-up before it breaks cleanly. I love this kind of trigger and it works extremely well on this gun.
The Ruger bolt action employs a non-rotating Mauser-style full claw extractor, thus ensuring extreme ruggedness and reliability. Feeding is accomplished by means of detachable AI-style box magazines. The rifle ships with one and they’re readily available.
The stock is cleverly designed and incorporates several features that make the rifle both highly adjustable and comfortable to shoot. The stock has a two-way adjustable cheek piece which is easily moved front to back a well as up and down. It also has a spacer system for the butt pad to adjust length of pull to exactly where the shooter needs it. The stock is very comfortable for both prone and positional shooting.
I did most of my test shooting at ranges of 300-1,100 yards from a bipod. The Hawkeye Long-Range Target’s composite stock includes a slotted rail integrated into the forend that makes it easy to mount accessories like my Harris BRM.
The Ruger ships with a standard 20 MOA rail for mounting an optic. I used an SWFA SS 3-15×42 in a Midwest Industries QD scope mount when range day came. This is a reliable and robust combination that I’ve used for some time on harder-recoiling rifles.
The Hawkeye Long-Range Target features a free-floated, heavy contoured cold hammer-forged barrel with 5R rifling made of 4140 chrome-moly steel. The barrel has 5/8″-24 threads for mounting that muzzle brake or a suppressor.
Once zeroed, I fired a variety of both match and hunting loads from Hornady over my Oehler 35 P chronograph. Groups are the average of 3, five shot strings at 100 yards.
Hornady 178gr ELD Match — 3005fps, .5”
Hornady 200gr ELD-X Precision Hunter — 2874fps, .5”
Hornady 180gr SP Interlock American Whitetail — 2990fps, 1.1”
Hornady 150gr SP Interlock American Whitetail — 3317fps, .95”
I calculated each load at distance and began shooting from a field position. I was able to obtain first-round hits at 1,100 yards on a 24×24” plate with all loads. There are, of course, significant differences in the trajectories of each load, but I found each was very accurate in this rifle.
The 178gr ELD Match produced the best groups at all ranges past 300 yards. Groups for five shots on steel were approximately 9” vertical, making them sub-MOA at that range. For reference, the 150gr SP load was far less accurate, but still managed a five-shot average of 15” vertical at 1,100 yards. Impressive for a factory gun shooting factory ammo by any standard. The right hand loads will no doubt produce even more impressive results.
Another aspect of the Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifle that’s worthy of note is its price. Stock target rifles with this feature set and out-of-the-box performance will usually start at about the $2000 mark and go up from there. The street price for this bad boy is about $1,000.00 on an MSRP of $1279.
At the end of the day we have our choices. Some of us make good ones, others not so much. The .300 Win Mag is a hell of a round and with its level of performance at an exceptionally affordable price, the Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifle is a very good choice.
Specifications: Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target Rifle
Caliber: .300 Winchester Magnum
Barrel Length: 26”
Overall Length: 49”
Capacity: 5 rounds
MSRP: $1,279 ($1,015 via Brownells)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Accuracy * * * * *
This rifle one-holes with factory match ammo at 100 yards and shoots MOA with less-expensive hunting loads. Enough said.
Reliability * * * * *
It’s a Ruger bolt action with a Mauser-style extractor. There were no issues at all. And I don’t expect there ever will be.
Customize This * * * *
While not an AR that has rails on top of its rails, this rifle has subtle, but effective accessory mounting points and comes with a 20 MOA rail secured with #8-40 screws.
Ergonomics * * * * *
The stock is very adjustable and very comfortable. As you’d expect, the rifle’s eleven pound weight is almost all in its barrel.
Value * * * * *
Given its rich feature set and performance, the Ruger Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifle is a steal at $1000 street price.
Overall * * * * *
This is a budget-priced precision rifle that offers long action magnum power and custom-grade accuracy. Ruger has an ultra-affordable winner in the Hawkeye Long-Range Target rifle and I’m sure you’d agree if you get behind one.
For more on the gun, gear, and ammo in this article, visit www.ruger.com, www.hornady.com, and www.midwestindustriesinc.com.