Friday, January 23, 2009

The Range Reviews: The .416 Ruger and the Hawkeye Alaskan

© 2009, 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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I have always wanted to convert a Mauser 98 I own to a 416 Taylor. I need a short barreled pig thumper for the occasional unscheduled and intimate dinner parties I get invited to with the wild hogs I hunt. Boar hunting rifles come in every size and shape, for every style of hunting. But for me, I like it up close and personal. Hence the need for something short, maneuverable, and heavy hitting. Something with the punch of a big bore express rifle but in an affordable package. (For more on hog hunting rifles calibers see: Boar Hunting Rifle Calibers Parts I and II)

Ruger Hawkeye Alaskan in .416 Ruger
Photo courtesy of Sturm, Ruger, and Co.

Well, Ruger beat me to it. While at the Bass Pro Shops sponsored "Media Day at the Range," (Held the day before the Shot Show starts.), I found the Ruger table laden with all sorts of new goodies! Drawn like one of my bees to honey, I spied the new Number 1 in .300 RCM (Ruger Compact Magnum), a couple of Mini-14s, and two or three new bolt rifles on the table. Tom Sullivan, VP of Operations, noted my interest and offered the new Hawkeye Alaskan in 416 Ruger for my inspection.

Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of stainless steel, black plastic/composite stock, or all weather rifles, having had my fill of black plastic things that shoot when I was in the US Army. But this beauty from Ruger turned me around like a set of long legs in a mini-skirt on a hot Miami street.

The first thing I noted as a held it, was the comfortable grip the Hogue OverMolded rubber stock afforded. "Grippy" not sticky is what I would call it. I could easily change my grip or slide my hand on the forearm. But when I held on, it held back. The texture, a small continuous pebble-like surface, afforded an excellent grip that didn't slip, slide, or move. Tom reminded me that the synthetic rubber coating is bonded to the fiberglass stock, and is impervious to gun cleaning solvents.

The rifle weighed in at a reasonable 7 3/4 lbs so it wasn't the weight that moderated the recoil from the Ruger 416 that it was chambered for. Control was phenomenal, and I believe that the Hogue stock along with the new improved recoil pad, had a lot to do with the relatively reasonable recoil generated by the cartridge/rifle combination.

The Hawkeye action is the standard length M77 rendered in matte stainless steel with controlled round feed. The extractor is a proper, beefy, Mauser type claw that will see to it that the expended cartridge leaves the chamber with alacrity. The three position safety was smooth and relatively quiet. The rifle sports a 20 inch stainless barrel, with a windage adjustable shallow V rear sight and a white bead up front. The rear sight debuted with the .375 Ruger M77 and is a substantial improvement over the folding rear sights they used to put on the rifle. The sights lined up easily and were surprisingly accurate. Accurate enough for me to put all my 416 rounds in a four inch circle at one hundred yards! For my eyes, that's better than good, it is great!

The receiver is of course, machined for the Ruger scope rings, which are included. The Ruger scope ring and action interphase design is by far the best made. The machined grooves in the action do not allow the scope base to move in any way, but allow quick and easy removal and replacement of the scope as the situation warrants, without losing zero. Not only that, but you can get aperture sights like those offered by NECG that lock right into place, again with no loss of zero. With the larger aperture you can line up the sights far quicker than even the standard iron sights allow. Carried with your gear, it can also save your hunt should a scope go awry.

LC 6 Trigger Photo courtesy of Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Tom pointed out that the trigger subgroup was the new LC6. Out of the box it is a much improved trigger, smooth pulling and breaking somewhere in the 3.5 to 4.5 range.

The .416 Ruger is a proprietary cartridge that is being manufactured by Hornady for Ruger. Made to replicate the power and performance of the classic .416 Rigby and the more recent .416 Remington, it does so in a standard length action with a 24 inch barrel. Using 400 grain bullets it churns out 2400 fps at the muzzle, with 5116 ft/lbs and at 100 yards it is still a very convincing 2143 fps and 4077 ft/lbs. In the 20 inch barrel that the Hawkeye sports, it is supposed to nearly equal the fabled Rigby. Viewing the ballistic charts I am not certain what criteria they are following and how the comparison is made, but if you take 300 fps off for the 20 inch barrel, you are still very close to the 5000 ft/lbs considered necessary for dangerous game.

Hornady is offering two loads: one a steel jacketed, copper clad soft point, capable of expanding to one and a half times its diameter, and a steel jacketed, copper clad solid with a super tough alloy core that will not deform allowing for deep penetration. For the handloader there are an innumerable number of bullets available for the .416 from all the manufacturers.

Both Phillip Loughlin of The Hog Blog and I were able to fire several rounds through the Alaskan. We were both impressed by the handling characteristics of the rifle, and the ballistics are compelling, to say the least. Remember we are talking about Rigby performance out of a 20 inch barrel!

Phillip Loughlin at full recoil with the .416 Ruger

The only recommendation I made to the folks at Ruger was to add a barrel band for a sling. Even though the Hawkeye was fairly reasonable in the recoil department, a sling stud could chew up a misplaced hand in the heat of battle. I noticed they had removed the stud at the show, perhaps someone had already experienced a stud bite!

I think I will look no further for a bolt action hog hunting rifle. Not only does it meet my criteria for a close range battle stopper, it's made by Ruger. (Always a big plus for me!) In addition the ammo is commercially available, and all the components for reloading, from brass to bullets, are on the shelves. So when you are in the market for a Dangerous Game Rifle that is rugged, controllable, weather resistant, and accurate, look no further than the Ruger Hawkeye Alaskan. As a dangerous game rifle with a street price of less than a thousand dollars, I think you will be as taken by it as I!

And remember, when it says Ruger it's made in America!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.


Phillip said...

Hey, look at that handsome fella getting his butt whupped by that little rifle!

That was a really nice rifle, and while that recoil looks bad in the photo, that's mostly because I tend to roll with it. By the time that shutter snapped and the muzzle had risen, the bullet was thwacking the target a couple inches below my point of aim... not too shabby for a monster-killer at 100 yards.

Great write-up, Albert! Really well done!

Albert A Rasch said...

A sincere thank you, Phillip. I said I was going to up my game and I am trying.

I'm totally enamored by that gun! The more I think about it, the more I want it. As you know my eyesight is not what it once was, but for reasons that I can't quite figure out, I was dead on with that rifle and its sights.

I too thought the recoil really reasonable; you can see that you have a target shooting grip on the fore-end, and that it hasn't shifted.

Prepareing for Shot Show '10!


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

That looks so cool, and cheap too in comparison to the cost of arms here in old blighty

Nomad44 said...

Mr Rasch,

Ruger must have listened to you. I just received my 416 Alaskan and it had a barrel band for the forward sling swivel.

Albert A Rasch said...

Thanks Nomad,
Good to know!


Toaster 802 said...

I though I was the only one who wanted to take my 8mm Mauser and convert it to a .416 Taylor!

Another point of honor for you Sir!

Anonymous said...

I loved the gun easy to sight shoot and clean best gun I have bought in a wile