Firearms

Ruger M77 .357 Magnum — A Bolt-Action Rifle for the Ages

Ruger M77 bolt-action rifle on a sight in bullseye target with a bow of Remington HTP .357 Magnum ammunition

When I was showing off my new .357 Magnum Ruger M77 rifle to the guys in the shop, one of them asked me, “What’s it good for?” His question set me back a minute because I’ve never been asked that about a gun before. “Shooting,” was my short answer, but his question got me thinking. There has been a lot of attention paid to pistol caliber carbines lately, and with its 18.5-inch barrel, my M77 could easily be classified as a carbine. Having a pistol caliber carbine is cool. However, most people think lever-action when they’re thinking along those lines.

M77 Through the Years

The Ruger M77 has been around since 1968, but with significant changes and improvements over the years. Currently, the M77 designation alone is assigned to rimfire and the revolver calibers of .357 Magnum and .44 Rem Mag. The .357 Magnum model will also fire .38 Special and the .44 Rem Mag model will shoot .44 Specials.

Ruger M77 .357 Magnum rifle with a American Walnut stock
The .44 Magnum version of the Ruger M77 is available with a beautiful American Walnut stock. The author liked that so much he replaced the synthetic stock on his M77/357 with an American Walnut M44 stock. The fit was perfect.

The other end of the Ruger M77 line has become the M77 Hawkeye, and it’s available in multiple stock/sight/scope packages and in almost every rifle hunting caliber on the market. My rifle is a beautiful example of a pistol caliber carbine. It’s the only one of the M77 line that leaves the factory wearing a composite stock.

The .17, .22, and .44 rifles are all shipped with attractive wood or wooden laminate stocks. I love wood stocks, so I called Ruger and asked if the .44 caliber stock would fit the .357 rifle. I was assured it would, so I ordered a wooden stock, and I am really pleased with the results.

Before I get into the details on the M77/357, I want to say a bit about value. I track the value of my firearms through the Blue Book of Gun Values. I’m happy to say, the value of the Ruger M77 keeps going up from year to year. Mine was $450 when I bought it, and they now have an MSRP of $1,209, which puts them in the class of recognized and respected hunting rifles.

Bill Ruger wanted to build a rifle to compete with the Winchester Model 70 and Remington 700 but not at the prices those guns were bringing. His challenge to lower the cost of production without lowering quality led him to a change in technology. Gun parts made through forging cost real money to produce.

Ruger knew he could produce strong parts for guns by employing the then-new technology of investment casting. Forging is when you mill a particular part from a block of steel. Casting is when you melt the steel and pour it into a mold to let it harden.

rear half of the Ruger M77 rifle chambered in .357 magnum showing the bolt handle and three-position safety
The current version of the Ruger M77 features a controlled-round-feed action, with a blade ejector and three-position safety mounted on the rear of the bolt.

Since it was a new venture for him, Ruger did not try to do it on his own. He tapped one of Eugene Stoner’s former designers, Jim Sullivan, to help him build a quality rifle. Since he appreciated the aesthetics of wood and steel, he recruited legendary stock maker Lenard Brownell to design the stock of his first bolt-action rifle. The resulting Ruger-Sullivan-Brownell effort was the Model 77 introduced in 1968.

I’m always curious about how guns get their names and model numbers. Ruger was building his rifle to purposely compete with the Winchester Model 70 and the Remington 700. It was a simpler rifle. Perhaps he took a seven from each of those model names for the designation for his new M77.

Investment cast parts are not the only thing that set the Model 77 apart from the other classic bolt-action rifle designs. Just as he had done with his other gun designs, Ruger employed coil springs wherever he could. To get the intimate contact between the action and the stock that was required for accuracy, Ruger rough inleted the stock quite close.

Ruger M77 rifle with the bolt open
The stainless-steel bolt has a 90° bolt throw and boasts a rapid lock time for added accuracy.

Ruger then utilized an angled screw to draw the wood and steel together. The result was a well-bedded stock with a nice, close fit that was less expensive to produce than traditional methods. During my research, I encountered many references to the angled stock screw. However, the one on my rifle is straight. It appears that particular design element was not needed for the rimfire/pistol cartridge models.

By the time 1989 rolled around, Ruger had made several changes to the action which made serious rifle hunters take notice. The Model 77 Mark II debuted as a true controlled-round-feed, with a blade ejector, three-position safety mounted on the rear of the bolt, and a somewhat slimmer stock.

Ruger box magazine inserted into a bolt-action rifle
The detachable rotary magazine features a unique rotor to separate cartridges and provide reliable feeding. It mounts flush with the stock so there are no protrusions at the rifle’s balance point.

In 2006, Ruger gave the rifle another facelift in the form of the Ruger Hawkeye. The stock was once again recontoured to a more easily handled profile. The new LC6 trigger addressed some issues voiced about the previous trigger. Overall accuracy issues were also dealt with making the Hawkeye one of the most accurate out-of-the-box factory rifles ever built.

As I mentioned, the Model 77 currently refers to the rimfire and pistol caliber rifles. The Hawkeye, Guide Gun, and African are the renditions of what was traditionally known as the Model 77. Whether you call it the Model 77, Mark II, Hawkeye, or any other name, this is a rifle that has an excellent foothold with American hunters and shooters.

My Ruger M77 Features

My M77/357 has a brushed stainless-steel finish with a walnut stock (added by me). It has gold bead/adjustable sights and a 5-round box magazine. The cold hammer-forged 18.5-inch barrel features ultra-precise rifling that was designed for accuracy.

The stainless-steel bolt has a 90° bolt throw and boasts a rapid lock time for added accuracy. A detachable rotary magazine features a unique rotor to separate cartridges and provide reliable feeding. It mounts flush with the stock so there are no protrusions at the rifle’s balance point. I have four of those magazines and all operate as advertised.

The three-position safety is easily accessible and allows me to lock the bolt open to load and unload the rifle with the safety engaged. Integral scope mounts are machined directly on the receiver for a stable mounting surface. Scope rings are included with the rifle. Sights include a fully adjustable rear and a front with interchangeable blades. You need a very small screwdriver for either task.

The open sights are fine for target shooting or removing feral pigs, coyotes, or bobcats from the property of friends who are not equipped for that mission. The Ruger M77 is so easy to keep at hand in the truck or four-wheeler for such purposes. It’s interesting to me that the .357 Magnum produces almost no discernable kick.

Adjustable rear rifle sight with interchangeable blade
The sights include a fully-adjustable rear sight, and a front sight with interchangeable blades.

I could, and sometimes do, shoot .38 Special in the rifle. However, it’s not necessary to do that to reduce recoil because the stock and the slightly thicker than .5-inch recoil pad do a great job of absorbing it regardless of what you’re shooting. That recoil pad was installed on a stock meant for a .44 Magnum rifle.

At the Range

Recently, my grandson and I shot the rifle from a bench at 60 yards. At that distance, shooting with open sights, I wasn’t expecting tack driver precision because the front sight covers the entire target. There was no way, without anchoring the gun down in a shooting vice, to ensure the sights were lined up ‘exactly the same’ on each shot.

However, assuming the paper target was a four-legged creature that needed dispatching — even at that range — the rifle would have done its job. Any failure would be clearly on the shooter. The results were better when my grandson was the shooter. Younger eyes, steadier hands, you know all that excuse stuff we tell ourselves. I think a 2.5-inch group at 60 yards with no scope is worth bragging on, and we have the picture to prove it.

Ruger M77 .357 Magnum bolt-action rifle top down quartering view
The open sights are fine for target shooting or removing feral pigs, coyotes, or bobcats from the property of friends who are not equipped for that mission.

It really is a viable pistol caliber carbine option and one I thoroughly enjoy shooting. The stainless-steel finish is durable. I don’t worry about having to baby this gun like I might one with an almost-too-pretty-to-shoot, deeply blued finish. Consequently, I’ve got a truck/ATV gun worthy of feeding ammunition.

Pistol caliber carbines are not new. In some situations, a pistol caliber in a rifle configuration can be downright handy. That being said, how do you feel about a .357 Magnum in a bolt action? Share your answer in the comment section.

  • Ruger M77 bolt-action rifle on a sight in bullseye target with a bow of Remington HTP .357 Magnum ammunition
  • Ruger M77 .357 Magnum rifle with a American Walnut stock
  • Ruger M77 .357 Magnum bolt-action rifle top down quartering view
  • Ruger M77 rifle with the bolt open
  • rear half of the Ruger M77 rifle chambered in .357 magnum showing the bolt handle and three-position safety
  • Ruger box magazine inserted into a bolt-action rifle
  • Adjustable rear rifle sight with interchangeable blade

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. To Vincent,
    The term pistol has been used for all handguns since the inception of the flintlock pistol in the 1600’s.
    I have not been able to find out the first time the term revolver was used but it seems that it was either Paterson or Colt that used the term to differentiate from the single shot pistols of the past.
    All through the history of handguns they have ALL been called pistols.
    Putting people down for using the ancient common term for all of them is not a good thing for the firearms community.

  2. Please note that in the latter part of the 1800’s the idea of a pistol and rifle using the same caliber round was common place. 44-40 also has killed a lot of game, within the limits of the accuracy of the firearm used. With that rant done, a pistol caliber carbine, when used for short range hunting or self defense, offers a major advantage of improved accuracy for the typical shooter versus using a handgun. Still, the best reason for a “Pistol Caliber Carbine” is the fun of shooting it. Both the .357 and .44 (and .45 LC?) can be loaded with Cast bullets, as many Molds are available to use Gas Checks. But – Don’t need full magnum level loads to enjoy plinking.

  3. Vincent, hard cast lead bullets are hard because of the alloy used. Pure lead is almost never used for anything besides muzzle loader projectiles as they are so soft they leave lead deposits in bbls at typical modern handgun velocities, or deform and fly erratically as shotgun pellets. Tin and antimony are the most common alloying elements, the more you add the harder the bullet becomes. When casting hardness doesn’t matter to the process as the metal solidifies, the mold opens, and the completed bullet falls out. Most mass produced lead bullets in loaded cartridges are swaged in a machine that essentially takes a roll of lead wire, cuts it to length, then shoves it into a forming die so hard the lead acts like Play Doh in a mold and flows into the shape of the die. As you might imagine, the lead wire used has to be relatively soft to form like that, so commercially swaged lead bullets are typically softer than cast bullets. However modern advancements like super lubes and powder coating them has eliminated some of the drawbacks to using softer lead.

  4. Why not chamber the M77 for the 357 MAX rather than the 357 MAG. I own a couple of T/C Contendors chambered in this caliber. This caliber is great for American big game at reasonable ranges. I own a M77/22 and a M77 Mark II in 243. I had a M77/17 that was stolen. All have composite stocks and are fine shooters and extremely accurate. I love these rifles.

  5. To Slimsummers: Your comment was very interesting and quite educational. I loved it. So, I have a question for you: are hard cast (lead) bullets forged? I am trying to find out why they are so hard as compared to regular lead bullets.

  6. To William: All you are saying about the term ‘pistol’ is that it is just fine to use the term inappropriately, and in accurately, and to push forward inaccuracies. I fully understand that the term “pistol’ is misused quite often, but this forum is to educate, and not hush things up. Semi-auto handguns are pistols, and revolvers simply are not. It is pretty simple.

  7. To TommyF: You really do not have any idea of what you are speaking about. While it is somewhat the case that people often shoot revolvers with one hand versus using two, and that makes the shot more accurate than with two hands, as you often do when shooting pistols. But this has nothing to do with the difference between a pistol and a revolver. Nor does the barrel length, as William wanted us to believe, thinking that the NRA could redefine weapon terminology. Just to enlighten you, here is a beginning excerpt from Wikipedia on the description of a pistol: “A pistol is a handgun, more specifically one with the chamber integral to its gun barrel, though in common usage the two terms are often used interchangeably.” Revolvers are simply not pistols. I fully understand people, just as yourself, and others, as you will see in the comments here, often tend to use these terms interchangeably, but that is not correct. The.357 Mag, .41 Mag. .44 Mag, .454 Casull are all revolver ammo, and are almost never shot in a pistol. Also, pistols are not usually capable of high powered ammo, although one person in here I think said that he converted his 1911 to shoot 454!

  8. Great article. I remember going to gun shows in the 90’s, and seeing Rossi .357 mag stainless pumps offered at $300-375; and me–PASSING!!!!???? Surely wish I had one of them in my collection now!! They are not to be found these days. Currently shooting a lot of .357 through my newly purchased S&W 686 Plus, and am loving it.

    I do have a Ruger M77 30-06, which I have never shot in over 15 years. Beautiful gun.

  9. In the above article, you indicated that “Forging is when you mill a particular part from a block of steel.” That’s not accurate, though. Forging is “to form (something, such as metal) by heating and hammering”, e.g. he forged pieces of iron into hooks.

  10. nice article. 357 is a great go to or ‘if I only had one caliber’ choice. BTW, what was muzzle velocity with this length barrel? THX

  11. To Vincent,
    Look up the article Origin Story: The Word “Pistol” from the NRA on the internet. A short quote from article follows, “Regardless of the true origin of the term, a common definition today for the word pistol is “a gun that has a short barrel and can be held, aimed and fired with one hand.”
    The article makes good read.

  12. Those are nice rifles, I had a 77/.22 back in the day and have always regretted selling it. I got a great deal on it because someone had chipped the toe of the stock. I sawed off enough to remove the bad spot and installed a Pachmayr recoil pad to restore the length. Shot great. The .44 version is popular to convert to an integral suppressor, a modern De Lisle carbine of sorts.

    One correction though. You have mistaken “billet” with forging. As you said, with cast parts you pour steel into a mold to get the rough shape of your part, then it is machined to final form. Machining from a block of steel, or “billet” means you start with a plain chunk of material and the machine removes everything that isn’t the part.

    Forging is different. you start with either a chunk of steel or a casting and heat it red hot so it is soft. Then like the blacksmith of old, the piece is hammered into the rough shape of the part. Where the blacksmith used mainly a hammer and anvil and his own skill to form the steel, modern forging uses dies and a huge mechanical press or “hammer”. With a press the dies are pressed together and the metal is squeezed into shape. With drop forging the upper die is fastened to the “hammer” and the part is placed on the lower die. The machine drops the heavy hammer on the lower die with tons of force, forming the shape.

    Forging is the strongest way to make a part, the steel structure is compacted by the hammering and removes any voids that might be hiding inside like you can get with a casting. Also aligns the grain structure making it tougher. It’s expensive and labor intensive, which is why so many parts are now cast or metal injection molded (MIM).

    Search Youtube for gun forging videos, S&W making revolvers and 1911 frames by forging show the process very well.

  13. Your article on the Ruger M77 was very enjoyable. I own a couple Ruger firearms and have realized unfailing performance from them. I knew Ruger M77’s were produced in 44 magnum caliber and I’m glad to learn about the 357 model. I own a Marlin lever action in 357 magnum. I have a Winchester lever action in 44 magnum, and I recently acquired a Citadel M1 9mm caliber. Handgun caliber carbine/rifles are on the market your just have to search for them. Your article was informative for someone who might not know about Ruger products and that’s great. In this age of miss information about firearms articles like this are needed. Our community should stand together and support each other not criticize when one uses a term like pistol instead of revolver. They both are handguns and the general public can learn the difference once they join our sport. I realize there will always be someone who picks at details. Let me ask this question, is the article any less interesting or informative? Does the critic bring his own biases to an article about a Ruger product? I enjoyed learning about this caliber in the M77 rifle. I hope folks that know little about firearms learned something from your article too.

  14. Great article on the most versatile calibers for pistol or carbine. Pistol definition is a gun designed to be shot with one hand so revolvers are pistols!

  15. I bought one of the M77 rifles in 44 mag for deer hunting in southern MI, it is a great 100 yd gun for that purpose.

    The only problem is the —- ‘Lawyer trigger’! There is no reason for the crappy 6-7# trigger on a rifle.

    If you buy one of the new ones you better figure on paying for a trigger job because it will need it..

  16. Vincent, I’m actually a handgun enthusiast first. I teach Basic Classes and the Texas License to Carry class and most of my firearms are handguns, a nice mix of revolves and pistols. I’m old enough that they were all called pistols. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Randolph Scott . . . they all carried pistols. But their pistols revolved. I like wood and steel, another factor with my age, and I shot all the AR-15 (actually M16) rifles I needed to in the service. The MSR holds no fascination to me. But sometimes you need a rifle and for me revolver caliber carbines are attractive. Thanks for writing.

  17. RUGER always had firearms that were “outside the box”. Their pistol caliber rifles were nearly an ideal close range HAWG/DEER firearm. Now that RUGER owns MARLIN, wonder if they will bring back (revolver caliber) pistol caliber carbines other than in 9mm. Owned one of the last of the earlier model .44 Carbine RUGERs, and had one of their lever action .44s on order when RUGER discontinued those rifles. Note – Marlin once had a (model 60?) lever action .30 Carbine rifle, but blew it by using a non M-1 Carbine Magazine, that also was unattainable. Wonder if RUGER would revisit that failed Marlin design, and rework it to use the 5.7×28, with the RUGER 5.7 pistol magazines.

  18. This was a very interesting article, and I loved the pics! I am not a rifle enthusiast at all, too much to carry and not particularly safe. I am a revolver enthusiast, which are much smaller (easier to shoot and carry), and also very safe (can instantly tell if it is loaded at all or not). But your article ended with a question I was confused about. “Pistol caliber carbines are not new. In some situations, a pistol caliber in a rifle configuration can be downright handy.”

    From this, I take it that you are not a handgun man, and deal mainly with rifles. So, let me explain that revolvers are not pistols, and that pistols and revolvers are both handguns. So, the handgun ammo you mentioned that can be ported over to a rifle are not pistol ammo at all. They are revolver ammo. But I sure did learn a lot about rifles, and that you can port a lot of revolver ammo over to rifles! But I think your whole article started off with why would you do that in the first place. So, it appears that you are a rifle enthusiast, and then that makes some sense for you. Also, you will get more power out of the same ammo when shooting from a rifle vs. from a handgun, due almost completely from the longer barrel. So, apart from your apparent penchant, this is a real benefit. And also due to the higher velocity from the rifle, it will be a bit more accurate as well.

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