It was hard to write this review. Even harder to write it honestly. Still, this is ‘The Truth About Guns,’ and I guess that’s what I’ll have to stick to.

The Ruger M77 Hawkeye African model is the best bolt action hunting rifle Ruger makes. And that’s saying a lot.

The African model is supremely reliable, powerful, fast to shoulder, fast to shoot, and all class. With a retail cost of around $1,200, even in today’s market, it’s underpriced. I suspect that’s why it is so difficult to find in-stock and I hope none of you read this review in the vain hope that I would have a chance to get one for myself.

As I mentioned in my Ruger M77 Hawkeye FTW Hunter review, I got this rifle for an African plains game safari I recently completed. I’d be shooting my Ruger No 1 in .375 H&H Magnum, but I really wanted an African model for Mike, my hunting partner for the safari, to use on his first hunting trip abroad.

When both the African and the FTW Hunter models came in, I gave Mike the choice on which rifle to take on the hunt. The FTW Hunter is an excellent, capable rifle and of a style Mike was more familiar with, but I really wanted Mike to choose the FTW Hunter. Of course, whatever Mike was going to choose for his first safari he would be keeping for life. That was a given. How else could it be?

Mike chose the African model and I couldn’t blame him. Anyone would. I’m still jealous.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

This particular rifle is chambered in the extremely capable .375 Ruger. As I described in my Ruger FTW Hunter review, the .375 Ruger is the modern equivalent of the venerable .375 H&H Magnum. Firing the same bullet, the .375 Ruger is able to deliver slightly more velocity that the .375 H&H Magnum, but with a shorter barrel and from a standard length action.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

When comparing the .375 H&H Magnum to the .375 Ruger, there really are very few advantages of the older caliber, and none of them are ballistic advantages. There are more varied loads available for the century old cartridge and it is more available around the world. That’s it.

The newer .375 Ruger is beltless and intrinsically more accurate. It fits in a shorter, and therefore faster-to-reload and more rigid action. It burns powder more efficiently, producing higher velocities in a shorter barrel. The shorter barrel and shorter action makes for a rifle that’s smaller and easier to maneuver in tight brush.

.375 H&H Magnum left, .375 Ruger Right. (Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.)

The M77 Ruger Hawkeye African comes in several calibers. It’s now offered in 6.5×55, 280 AI, this .375 Ruger and the larger .416 Ruger.

The .416 Ruger was the first of several calibers created from the .375 Ruger case, and is simply the .375 Ruger case necked up for the .416″ bullet. Either caliber is effective, but the .416 Ruger’s 400gr bullet at 2,400fps gives the shooter even more mass for bone crushing power on dangerous game.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

Ruger was well represented on our safari. For this hunting trip, I carried my Ruger No 1 in .375 H&H Magnum. Mike carried this M77 Hawkeye African in .375 Ruger, and when we arrived at NB Safaris we found our guide George’s choice for his own hunts as well as backing up his clients was the now discontinued Ruger M77 Hawkeye Alaskan in .416 Ruger.

When I asked George why he went with the Alaskan model instead of the African, he responded that the African model simply wasn’t available at the time in South Africa.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The heart of the Ruger M77 Hawkeye African model is the Hawkeye action. This is the same tough machine we saw with the FTW Hunter, but with a different finish. It’s a controlled round feed rifle, but might not please Mauser purists.

It’s really the best of both worlds, as you can single-feed a round into the chamber, but it also grabs the round from the magazine and ensures it won’t fall out during rough handling, say, during rapid shots on a charging Cape Buffalo. Dual claw extraction and positive ejection further ensure reliability under any conditions.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The bolt is once-piece of solid stainless steel. This slightly contrasts with the black bluing of the rest of the gun, but the utility of the material and finish can’t be denied. If you were looking to customize the gun a bit, jeweling the bolt would be appropriate with the finish of the rest of the rifle.

The Hawkeye actions includes the appropriate three-position safety. You can choose to keep it far forward, ready to fire and work the bolt. The middle position keeps the gun from firing but allows manipulation of the bolt. All the way to the rear keeps both the trigger and the bolt inoperable. Whereas the effect of Ruger’s three-position safety is the same as the Mauser and the “improved Mauser” of Wincher’s Model 70, the safety itself is located on the receiver of the Ruger, instead of in the bolt itself.

The action may be the same as the other Ruger Hawkeye bolt guns, but the style and finish certainly are not. Ruger took pains to make a rifle that performs like a modern Ruger, but also harkens back to the great safari rifles in use well before the bolt action Ruger was ever invented.

Every single photo of the Ruger African used in this article was taken after months of shooting in the states and after 10 days of hard use in South Africa.

I do mean hard use. At one point during a zebra hunt in what our guide called “proper mountains,” the metal bar attaching the sling to the barrel band snapped, sending the muzzle of the rifle falling backwards from Mike’s shoulder and into the rocks. It was a hard fall and yet the rifle was no worse for the wear. It wore a parachute cord attachment for the rest of the safari.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

Not only did the rifle experience hundreds of trouble-free rounds in practice prior to the safari, but Mike carried the gun slung and unslung through miles and miles of brush. It was routinely covered in the dust and red sand of the plains.

It got wet. It fell over on rocks. It got used the way a hunting rifle is supposed to be used. A lot. And it never failed.

It never failed to look great, either.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The walnut stock has a bit of stripe to it and the fit is flush throughout the gun. It’s not free-floated to the barrel, and that would be nice, but not really expected or required on a safari rifle. There are a few extras here in the stock, including the ebony foreend cap and the Ruger medallion inset to the grip.

The deep checkering on the stock is well appreciated. On our safari, Mike was challenged with both steady, carefully aimed shots, as well as fast off-hand shots at moving targets.  The good grip and great ergonomics of the Ruger’s stock meant a solid connection to the gun during all hunting conditions.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The metal finish on the African is particularly well done. Ruger isn’t really known for finely finished guns. The old Single Sixes and three-screw Blackhawks had a bit of a unique plum hue to their finish, but nothing like that has been in the Ruger catalog for a while.

The M77 Hawkeye African, however, sports a glossy black blued finish throughout the rifle. This includes the heavy 23″ cold hammer forged barrel as well as the receiver itself. It’s not a mirror polish, but it’s a big step up from what I would expect, especially at this price range.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The trigger of the African model is exactly the same as one on the FTW Hunter and the other new Hawkeye models. It’s not adjustable and has a little bit of creep and squish before a break of 3lbs, 10oz for the average of five trigger pulls using a Lyman Digital Trigger Scale.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

Take a look at the butt pad. It’s red. There are a few different kinds of butt pads on Ruger’s Hawkeye bolt guns, but this is the only red one. Not only does it look great with the wood, but it’s one of Ruger’s nods to some of the fine bolt action safari rifles of the early to mid 20th century.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The same goes for the barrel band. Does a barrel band improve accuracy and shot consistency? It does not. But it’s the way the big magnums were made way back then, and Ruger’s inclusion of the sturdy barrel band is yet another tie back to those earlier guns.

If you don’t want to use the barrel band, you might want to reduce the amount of soy in your diet. In the meantime, you can install the optional included swivel stud into the forestock.

When Mike took the Ruger African out to sight-in prior to our hunt, our guide noted the muzzle brake and commented on “the guide killer” in anticipation of the report. I hate muzzle brakes for the same reason. They convert recoil to sound and blast, and I’d rather have the recoil.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The factory muzzle brake on the Ruger African is not bad at all, and is appropriate for the magnum caliber. It certainly reduced recoil. As Mike was new the to the heavy calibers, I was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to make fast follow up shots. This concern was unfounded. Mike’s practice regimen certainly helped, but the muzzle brake helped too.

If you don’t want the brake, it can be removed easily and either a supplied weight can be added to match the same barrel length, or neither can be used and the simple supplied thread protector can be screwed on. If hunting in Africa, let your guide know your thread pitch ahead of time, and they can likely supply a suppressor in-country.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The African model includes a bright white bead front sight, as well as a single leaf windage adjustable express style rear sight. The iron sight setup is traditional, designed less for precision shots far away as they are for fast shots on charging, dangerous game.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

As with all M77 Hawkeye rifles, the scope ring mounts are milled directly into the top of the receiver. Ruger includes 1″ rings for these mounts with the rifle. Mike chose to top the African with a Trijicon Huron 3-9×40 riflescope.

The Ruger African’s integral bases, included rings, and variable scope proved perfect for the varied terrain and game we hunted. Mike took shots from 40 to 200 yards, from the tall grass to the scrabble-topped mountain ridges. The rifle, mount, and scope combination worked flawlessly.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

It’s rare that I get to test the precision of a rifle so extensively both on the range and then in situ.

Shooting from bags or from a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest and using a 10 power riflescope, the Ruger African was able to print 1 1/2″ five-round groups averaged over four shots strings. These groups were used firing both a 260gr Nosler Accubond and 250gr Sierra Game King bullets. Both of these bullets were going about 2,750fps. As components were extremely limited, we practiced and hunted with the very first recipe I loaded up.

Since this recipe generated ample energy and better than acceptable precision, it was good enough on the first try. No commercial rounds were tested. Printing 1.5″ groups from a traditional hunting rifle in a magnum caliber is plenty good, but you may be able to wring even better from the rifle with the right factory round or a different reload.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

More importantly, the Ruger African, when employed by a competent marksman, was able to deliver a solid level of precision in-hand and off impromptu rests in very real hunting environments. Mike’s off-hand punch to the heart of a trotting zebra proved the real world precision potential of the Ruger African model in a way no bench queen rifle ever could.

I knew I’d regret handing the Ruger African to Mike. Along with the memories of an incredible hunt, it’s his forever now. After seeing how well the rifle performed over the course of our safari, my desire for one has only increased.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

In the M77 Hawkeye African model, Ruger has managed to make the same capable, dependable gun their reputation in North America was built on, but with a distinctly classic safari rifle style. That they’ve managed to do so with such a modest price tag is just as impressive.

Specifications: Ruger M77 Hawkeye African

Caliber: .375 Ruger (other calibers available)
Stock: American Walnut with Ebony Forend Cap
Front Sight: White Bead
Rear Sight: Windage Adjustable Express
Capacity: 3
Thread Pattern: 5/8″-18
Barrel Length: 23″
Overall Length: 44.88″
Material: Alloy Steel
Finish: Satin Blued
Length Of Pull: 13.50″
Twist: 1:12″ RH
Weight: 8 lb.
Grooves: 6
MSRP: $1,279

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * *
Very good. Maybe even better with factory ammunition or a different reloading recipe.

Style and Appearance * * * * *
Ruger absolutely nailed it here. Pretty wood, great finish, and multiple style points from traditional safari bolt guns, and on a budget much less than I would have thought.

Customization * *
There’s a lot of different models offered by Ruger, but not the same level of aftermarket support as some other brands.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect in all situations.

Overall * * * * 9/10th
I wanted this gun before, I want it even more now. The M77 Hawkeye African is the best Ruger has to offer. No 5 stars because the wood is very good, but not amazing and the trigger is just OK.

47 COMMENTS

    • “In one of the cases before the court, a Pennsylvania man who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in 2005 challenged the ban on purchasing or owning a gun.”

      Disappointing, but not surprising.

      That may have been a bridge too far for granting cert..

      “The Supreme Court took no action Monday on another pending Second Amendment question: whether the Constitution guarantees the right to carry a gun in public places. That challenge involves two New York State residents who sought a license to carry guns outside their home but were denied because they didn’t meet the state’s requirement of having a “special need for self protection.” ”

      At least they didn’t outright deny that one cert.

      Let’s see what happens in the fall term.

      Anyone know of any other 2A cases still in confrence?

      Beuller? Beuller?…

      • No, but another is coming relatively soon, hopefully before the end of term. The case is Young v. Hawaii, where the Ninth held that there is NO right to bear arms outside the home. Therefore, a “may issue” permitting scheme for open or concealed carry (which has resulted in no issue in Hawaii for the pat 20 years except to armed security guards) is constitutional.

  1. Fully agree with this article. I’ve got Weatherby, Remington, Savage, and Marlin rifles. I’ve run the Ruger M77 Hawkeye Standard in 30-06 for 13 years now and it is simply the finest rifle I’ve ever owned or had the pleasure of shooting. So very proud of this American rifle. Go Ruger – never look back.

  2. Great review. My first trip to Africa for plains game was with a Ruger Guide Gun in .300 Win Mag, which I consider my favorite all-around hunting rife ever. Short of Africa dangerous game, I’d take it for anything.

    Michael B

  3. Another well-written, informative article. Like the Ruger, JWT’s prose is capable, dependable, and distinctly classic. Well done, sir.

    Conversely, seeing the sport-killing of a horse is, well… distressing.

    But, that may just be me.

      • “the locals will consume everything but the snort.”

        And that is a creditable intention. However, having grown up an equestrian I find it disturbing that anyone would desire to shoot a horse- especially for fun.

        The disposition of the carcass is incidental to the substantive deed.

        • Well, there’s that Shakespearean “a horse of that color” thing…

          But, on a lighter note… I used to to joke about being “raised in a barn”, how some of my best friends were ponies and horses, and that horses are actually just great big, stupid dogs. It’s all true.

          Little known fact: you can tell what a horse is thinking by watching its ears.

          Equines are truly a noble breed.

        • Mr. Gunn, I was quite literally raised on top of a barn. My dad built our small home on top of an old rock barn, where our animals, included horses, were kept. You can find a photo of it in this article about my first hunt.
          https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/an-ice-cold-morning-a-savage-24-and-my-very-first-deer/
          I’ve spent a good amount of my life on and around horses. I’ve ridden horses on several continents. I like some horses, but I don’t find them particularly noble animals, at least not more so than most other domesticated animals.
          I love mules. Although the are the holiest of animals, carrying Christ not once but twice, I do not like donkeys one bit and I really just can’t stand the miniature version. The very idea of creating a smaller, meaner, less useful beast of burden baffles me.

    • Hunting isn’t a sport. There’s nothing sporting about killing.
      The zebra was the hardest, most challenging hunt I went on, and also the tastiest meat. It doesn’t taste like horse. Zebra will be absolutely at the top of my list for every hunt I ever take in Africa again. My hunting partner Mike felt the same way.

      • JWT, I’m sure you’re aware that I am not attempting to poo-poo on your parade. I respect and enjoy reading your contributions to TTAG.

        I just feel compelled to occasionally provide counterpoint to things I read here on TTAG based upon my own perspective- which I think sometimes provides a conduit for others (who might share similar considerations) to identify with.

        I recognize the importance of hunting. I accept that killing is necessary. I also acknowledge that it is not uncommon for humans to actively enjoy killing just for the thrill of it- and so be it.

        I’m merely pointing out how one can experience both captivation and revulsion concurrently when reading an article such as yours- and that it’s totally natural to feel that way.

        For me, personally…
        I take no pleasure in killing another living being.
        I take no pleasure is causing pain, injury, or suffering to other living beings.
        If I had to kill to survive, I would do so- but I would not enjoy it.
        I certainly would not travel the world specifically to kill another living being.
        If I needed to kill in order to eat- traveling halfway around the globe to do so seems like a bit of a stretch (more a rationalization, really).
        I accede that blood-lust occurs naturally- I just don’t evince it.

        So, I guess I’m just sharing what many would leave unspoken…
        or maybe I’m just Big Cind all alone in the mantle room out there. It matters not- there’s no judgement intended, just perspective.

        Carry on.

      • I ate some of a shetland pony once, meat tasted like moss and no matter how much you chewed it it was still a sponge.
        I’d reckon a Zebra might be more like a burro, but I’ve not ate a donkey yet either.
        Dogs not bad if a gook makes it.

        • If you get a little zebra it might taste like a little burro, in which case you’d have the makings of a fine burrito.

  4. “The FTW Hunter is an excellent,capable rifle… but I really wanted Mike to choose the FTW Hunter.”
    is this what you meant?

  5. Great rifle, however I’m not a big fan of proprietary cartridges.
    Never been to Africa but I’m sure it’s easier to find .375HH magnum then Ruger brand.

  6. Good looking rifle. I passed on one these a couple of years ago as I have no interest in African game.

    This makes me wish I had bought it anyway. It is a classy rifle.

    On the brake….I put a solid one on my Scout rifle and found the groups opened up quite a bit.

    Did you you guys try a solid on the African?

    I went back to the brake…reduces recoil and improves accuracy….hearing is over-rated.

  7. I too want one, but for me it would be used exclusively to make impressive booming sounds at the range about a half dozen times a year (as in 6 rounds, not 6 range days).

    I have an RSI in .260. It replaced a Rem 700 in .308 with a Timney trigger. The Timney was of course better, but for a hunting rifle the Ruger seems just about right. And while I don’t practice enough to be particularly good with a rifle, that RSI owns the best group I’ve ever shot.

    Excellent review, Jay Dub.

  8. The African is a beautiful rifle, available in a couple of interesting chamberings – unless you’re left handed, then it’s .375 or nothing. Oh well, at least they actually make one for southpaws. I keep nagging Chris Killoy for a left handed 7×57 (or maybe .338-06 in lieu of the definitely not happening .318 WR) and to add a couple of flip up leaves to that express sight, but no luck so far.

  9. I fail to see any reason to shoot a 375 Ruger in Africa or Alaska. There are better rifles in the 375 H&H and plenty of ammo for it, even now…

  10. the 375 H&H should have the higher velocity here but ammo companies have loaded it down over the years and that is the only reason why the 375 ruger has more. the H&H is a longer round and has more case volume for more powder. and I have seen reports where the H&H beat the ruger. but the ruger is a fine round and as pointed out is on a shorter action. I myself would not mind owning one if I ever go back to camping in bear country.

    • “the H&H is a longer round and has more case volume for more powder”

      Your post has a good amount of incorrect information in it.

      The .375 H&H is longer, but tapered, whereas the .375 Ruger carries its diameter all the way forward to the shoulder. The Ruger cartridge is the one with more case capacity, 100 grains compared to the H&H’s 95.

      The higher velocity of the Ruger cartridge has absolutely nothing to do with ammunition manufacturers loading the H&H cartridge down.
      They do not. It’s is simply that the H&H does not have as much case capacity as the Ruger does.

      • A bit off topic, but your comparison got me to thinking. The .375 H&H was designed to provide reliable feeding and extraction under less than ideal conditions with the temperature sensitive propellants of the day, while it is the much greater accuracy, reliability and consistency of modern propellants and components that make the design of the .375 Ruger and cartridges like it possible. We are entering into a political climate in which having ready access to modern propellants and components may prove to be problematic or impossible. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to discard the old girl and her brethren for newer, shinier offerings. I am not suggesting that this is what you are doing by simply pointing out facts, just that a lot of the sporting arms public seems to think that newer, bigger, faster is always better.

        • The .375HH was designed to feed in the double guns of the age as well as the newer bolt guns.

  11. Sling on a safari gun? You’ve never hunted the big 5, have you?

    JWT another fake expert, married to a member of a group the rejects Jesus Christ.

    • That was impressive. It usually takes you several posts to get that much stupid onto the screen.
      First, she’s Messianic and we’ve already gone over that. You’ve pretty obviously denied Christ yourself, but maybe research what a Messianic Jew is if you’d like a lesson in what commitment to living like Christ really looks like.
      After you’ve done that, take a look at the dangerous game bolt guns on the market from names like Rigby and Holland and Holland. You’ll note they all have slings. There’s even a particular type of leather-on-steel attachment many use.
      Then, when you’re done, maybe actually read the article, and note that this was a plains game safari.
      Finally, take a look at the pics again, paying special attention to the PH’s backup gun. Same gun and set up he uses on big game. Go online and look at other PH’s guns. You’ll see, like the guide’s gun above, they are all slung.
      You’ve told us, time and time again, about how your wife left you for another man. No one is surprised. I encourage you to seek God’s forgiveness and get your life right.

  12. JWT – great article, I’m also a big fan of this rifle. Did you notice a good # of rounds for barrel break in by chance?

  13. I own the Hawkeye African in 6.5×55 & snagged one of the 9.3×62 versions as well. When (not if) I pick up the 375 Ruger, I think I’ll opt for the Guide Gun…just by way of variety.

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