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GUNS Magazine April 2010 - Page 26
RIFLEMAN • DAVE ANDERSON • THE .300 RUGER COmPACT mAGNUm A reloader-friendly cartridge. n the post-WWII era, hunting rifles for .30-06 class cartridges I were heavy and long, with beefy 24" barrels and overall lengths of 44" plus. Standard pre-’64 Winchester 70s weighed a nominal 8 pounds. Wood density varies, with individual rifles weighing from a couple of ounces less than 8 pounds to almost a full 9 pounds. The issue isn’t the carrying weight. The issue is handling. A rifle weighing 9-1/2 pounds and nearly 4' long is a nuisance in any kind of heavy cover, slow and sluggish anywhere. Assuming reasonable balance, a heavy rifle does swing smoothly for running shots, and the weight helps control recoil. But that’s about all the good you can say. The original Featherweights were discontinued long ago, but the style it started became tremendously popular. A rifle with an all-up weight of around 8 pounds, chambered for a fairly powerful cartridge is a mighty useful tool. The Ruger 77 Mk II Hawkeye Compact Magnum is a rifle you have to use to appreciate. Length of pull is 13" and overall length is 39-3/8" (corresponding measurements for the pre-’64 Featherweight are 13-1/2" and 42-1/2"). Weight with scope and rings for both rifles is right around 8 pounds. Both balance about 5" ahead of the trigger when the magazine is loaded. With its compact overall length, shortened length of pull and excellent balance the Compact Magnums are dynamic, fast-handling rifles. Ballistically the .300 RCM is 200 to 250 feet per second faster than factory .30-06 loads, and around 100 to 150 fps faster than full power ’06 reloads. With its modest powder charges (only a few grains more than typical ’06 loads) recoil is very similar to that of the .30-06. With its excellent stock design and soft recoil pad I found perceived recoil very similar to that of my ’06s with hard buttplates. I’m not about to chuck nearly 40 years of history with my old Featherweights. Like many a rifleman I’m a sentimental soul. But if I was just starting out, wanting a reliable and fast-handling allaround rifle, these Compact Magnums would be hard to resist. I haven’t been as impressed with a rifle/cartridge combination in a long time. Hornady Technology The original .300 RCM cartridges from Hornady were loaded with their “Light Magnum-Heavy Magnum” technology which mechanically compacts the powder in the case to allow a bigger charge. When I was dumping Dave’sloveofthepre-’64Winchester70 Featherweightsin.30-06include(fromleft)one withLeupold2.5-8Xscopeandonewitha4X KollmorgenBearCub.Anewlove,theRuger77 HawkeyeCompactmodelsin.300RCM(middle right)sportaLeupold3-9Xscopeandsecond, thenewRedfield3-9X(farright).Rugershave ashorterlengthofpull(13"vs.13-1/2")and shorteroveralllength(39-3/8"vs.42-1/2").All theriflesweighrightaround8poundsscoped. .300 RCm HANdlOAdEd AmmO PERFORmANCE BUllET POwdER CHARGE VElOCITY (BRANd, BUllET wEIGHT, TYPE) (BRANd) (GRAINS wEIGHT) (FPS) HORNAdY 165 SST WW 760 59.5 2,756 HORNAdY 165 SST IMR-4350 62.5 2,821 HORNAdY 165 SST RL-17 61.0 2,906 HORNAdY 165 SST RL-17 62.0 2,967 HORNAdY 165 SST RL-17 63.0 3,033 HORNAdY 180 SST RL-17 59.0 2,692 HORNAdY 180 SST RL-17 60.0 2,759 HORNAdY 180 SST RL-17 61.0 2,810 Notes: Hornady .300 RCM cases, Hornady SST bullets, Federal 210 primers, overall cartridge length 2.825", velocities from Ruger 77 Hawkeye with 20" barrel. Normally group size would be noted and some loads delivered 1" to 1.3" groups, but the temperature was 10 degrees F and a stiff wind developed before testing could be completed. Rounds chronographed were first kept in an inside pocket to bring their temperature up. factory powder charges to weigh them it took some fairly vigorous case tapping just to get the powder out. Rumor had it that handloaders wouldn’t be able to match factory velocities. Factory ammunition is so good these days there’s no real need to reload from a performance aspect, but from a cost aspect there’ll always be a need. Plus, like most handloaders I just like to be in control of factors such as component choice and seating depth. Alliant Powder Fortunately, I can get the performance I want by handloading. Alliant RL-17 is a double-based kernel type powder. Burning rate is similar to IMR-4350, but Alliant load data shows consistently higher velocities at safe pressures with RL-17. Alliant says, “Reloder 17 features 26 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • APRIL 2010