Photos & Story
by Buck Pope
The Ruger’s Model 77 rifle continues to be the company’s established centerfire bolt-action. The Model 77 goes back to its initial introduction in 1968. I bought myself one in 6mm Remington caliber in 1969. That rifle had a four-digit serial number and shot one inch groups all day long. I shot a number of game with that rifle and for some crazy reason sold it about 10 years ago. I very much regret selling it as do most of us when we part with an old friend.
I, like a number of sportsmen over the years, have had other calibers. A few years back Ruger modified the original Model 77 with some design changes and now it is Model 77 Mark II. Within this model series Ruger now offers a number of models designed for more specific applications. These include the Ultra Light, International, Sporter, Target, Compact and Frontier. These rifles, depending on models, come in blued or stainless finish in right- or left-handed designs.
One of the models that caught my eye at the recent Safari Club International (SCI) convention was their new stainless Frontier Rifle. This stainless Frontier is a new model for 2007 and it is quite an attractive firearm.
Right off, it has a handsome Target Gray, Low-Glare Stainless finish on all the metal and this is matched to a black laminate wood stock. I happen to like the Target Gray finish very muchand how well it goes with the black laminate.
The current Ruger catalog shows the Stainless Frontier Model available in five calibers, namely; 243 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .338 Federal and .358 Win. When I talked with the Ruger plant about a test sample, they said they had available the Stainless Frontier in the new .338 Federal caliber. I was very pleased with this, as I have a romance going with the new .338 Federal cartridge and have taken a variety of game with it. These animals include wild hogs, whitetail deer, red stag and several exotics.
The specifications given for this rifle are an overall length of 35˚ inches and a weight of 6∫ lbs. without scope. The barrel length is 16˚ inches and comes without open sights. It has a handsome quarter rib and it set up to mount a scope in either Scout position or the standard above-the-bolt assembly. This is a very nice feature to be able to switch scope locations if so desired. The rings that come with the rifle fit into the excellent built-in mounting system that Ruger has offered since its first rifles were introduced back in 1968. Again the rings are also finished in the Target Grey.
The action on this Frontier Model is the Mark II Mauser style which has the three position wing safety behind the bolt. The bolt stop is on left side. The bottom metal is steel also finished in the Target Grey. The rifle has a floorplate release on the front of the trigger guard. The magazine holds three rounds of the .338 Federal cartridge.
The stock is laminated sporter style finished in a black gray. The stock has a black ˚-inch recoil pad, swivel sling studs and checkering on the pistol grip and forend. The barreled action is held in place with two screws; a slot screw behind the trigger guard and an angle slotted screw hidden by the floor plate. The trigger pull distance is 13˚ inches. The stock is on the slim side.
As mentioned earlier the Frontier model has only a 16˚ inch length barrel. Most rifles chambered for the .338 Federal are ranging from 21 to 24 inches. Since this rifle is designed as a quick-handling, brush-type rifle, the shorter barrel is not a serious negative factor.
I wanted to set the rifle up as a Scout or Frontier style, so a person will need a scope with a special long eye relief. I mounted on the rifle a Bushnell Elite 3200 2-6x32 with the four-plex reticle. The Bushnell 3200 series scopes offer a lot of quality at an affordable price. The scope was located at the two distant integral mount locations. The rings which are included with the rifle were in the low height and the Bushnell scope fit perfectly on the rifle. Due to the shorter stock on this Ruger, I had to open up the rear objective on the scope as far as I could to allow me to get a full frame of the reticle.
The next step is to select ammunition and head to the range and try her out. At present the only commercial ammunition available is that which is offered by Federal. I must say Federal did an excellent job in offering a selection of loads for most any application. With the introduction of the cartridge, Federal announced three different loads. I might also add this is the first centerfire cartridge to be named by Federal.
These are the initial offerings by Federal in their Premium line. The first was a 180-grain Nosler AccuBond, followed by a 185-grain Barnes Triple Shock, and lastly a 210-grain Nosler Partition bullet. All three of these loads are with premium hunting bullets. Several months later Federal offered another load with their 200-grain Fusion bullet.
The Fusion line loads are Federal’s own bonded bullets and are priced as economical ammunition, whereas the Nosler and Barnes loads are listed as Federal Premium Ammunition.
I have hunted with the .338 Federal, taking game with all four of the factory Federal loads. As to what the cartridge is, Federal basically took the .308 Winchester case and expanded it to .338 diameter. Thus you pick up an additional .020 from the .30 cal diameter of .308 to .338 diameter.
In addition I have also hunted with a handload 225-gr. Barnes Triple Shock bullet. The performance of the .338 Federal cartridge, I have found, has been about as good as it can get. It is an accurate cartridge, plus an easy cartridge to shoot.
Depending on the weight of the rifle, the recoil is moderate, similar to your heavy loads in the .308 Winchester. My experience has been with your heavier bullets and with a larger diameter you get a more dynamic reaction when the animal is hit in the vitals. I shot a 225-pound wild boar and it crashed to the ground from a 200-grain Fusion bullet. A red stag was taken again with one shot using the handloaded 225-grain Barnes Triple Shock bullet. I also shot several exotic animals with the 210-Nosler Partition load; again lights out with each shot.
Big Game Cartridge
So from my experience, I would have to say this is dandy game killing cartridge. I would not hesitate to use it on elk. However, I would limit my shots to around 250 yards. As with any load, you must put the bullet in the vitals.
I had Danny Pedersen of Classic Barrel & Gunworks re-bore a rifle for me into a .338 Federal. I was already shooting this caliber before it even came out in a factory rifle. In addition, Charlie Sisk of Sisk Rifles Custom built me a .338 Federal rifle to use on a recent Texas safari-style hunt and it truly is a handsome and accurate rifle.
Now the good people at Ruger have forged ahead and have it chambered in the very rifle I am testing and writing about. Please refer to the chart on the rifle’s ballistic performance.
The Ruger shot well without any malfunctions. The grouping went well and I got my best group from this particular rifle with the Federal 210-grain Nosler Partition load. All of the loads shot under 2-inch groups at 100 yards. The Bushnell scope is a variable 2-6 and that was a handicap a bit. I normally shoot very little with the “Scout” optic set up and I am sure I was limited a bit by maximum 6x power.
No matter! This is a sweet shooting little rifle. I found the shorter stock with 13˚ inch length of pull a problem for me. I wish they had perhaps two models, the existing, plus a normal length like 14˚ for larger adults. The existing stock is ideal for smaller men and women and most youths.
Using the “Scout” optic set up, the concern of getting bumped by the scope after recoil is not a problem. The muzzle blast is rather loud due to the 16˚ inch barrel, and the recoil noticeable. Of the calibers offered in this rifle model, the .338 Federal is the most powerful of the lot.
The trigger pull on the rifle averaged right at 4-3/4 pounds which is a bit heavy for my tastes. I also would like to see the barrel changed to 20 or 22 inches. Also, I would like to see a 1-inch premium recoil pad on the rifle instead of the existing ˚ inch. I very much like the quarter rib, it really adds a custom look. My rifle with the scope mounted weighted only 7˚ pounds. This a quick handling and pointing carbine “Scout” rifle. It will make for a great brush rifle and ideal for those close-in whitetail deer hunts. Also, the rifle is ideal for hog hunting.
The Ruger Frontier is a handsome rifle and it is build for rugged hunting. It is lightweight, quick pointing and, to me, an ideal bolt-action brush rifle. I also very much like the Mauser type extractor; it’s rugged and very dependable. The caliber is adequate for most any animal in North America and, with the current load offerings, it is a dynamic combination in the Ruger Model 77 Mark II “Frontier” stainless rifle.
The rifle is listed in the Ruger catalog at $900.
|The following is part of the ballistic data from Federal Ammunition.|
|Weight||Bullet Type||Muzzle Vel||Muzzle Energy|
|180 gr.||Nosler AccuBond||2,830 f.p.s.||3,200 ft.-lbs.|
|185 gr.||Barnes Triple Shock||2,750 f.p.s.||3,105 ft.-lbs.|
|210 gr.||Nosler Partition||2,630 f.p.s.||3,225 ft.-lbs.|
|200 gr.||Federal Fusion||2,660 f.p.s.||3,140 ft.-lbs.|
|Note; With the rifle sighted in dead-on at 100 yards, the bullet drops from 3.7 to 9.4 inches at 200 yards depending on load.|
Ruger Model 77 Frontier rifle in 338 Federal Weather; fair Temp. 60 degrees Wind 10 mph
|A.||180 grain Nosler AccuBond||1.750 inch|
|B.||185 grain Barnes Triple Shock||1.875 inch|
|C.||210 grain Nosler Partition||1.500 inch|
|D.||200 grain Federal Fusion||1.800 inch|
|E.||225 grain Barnes Triple Shock||1.750 inch|
|Summary: Best grouping 210-grain Nosler Partition @ 1.500 inch. Worst grouping 185-grain Barnes Triple Shock @ 1.875 inch. Overall aggregate average 1.730-inch, including 225-grain Barnes special handload.|
Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.
Classic Barrel & Gunworks
Sisk Rifles, Inc.