As I move further into middle age and get back into shooting, I'm finding that I'm rapidly acquiring all the firearms I lusted after as a teenager and college student but could not afford. Always wanted a Weatherby--bam, a Mark V is on the way. (And I've already posted about that.) Another rifle I was quite fond of was the Ruger M77. My cousin had a heavy barrel varmint M77 chambered in 220 Swift. I was into handloading back then and I used to load his brass for him because in the mid and late 70s it was almost impossible to find commercially loaded 220 Swift. His M77 was an early version, the one with the tang safety. It was a joy to shoot, and if you've never experienced the sound of 220 Swift muzzle blast, it's quite intoxicating.
As with the Weatherby, I said to myself back then that one day I'd get a M77. So last week I picked up a well used, but very well cared for Ruger M77 Mark II in 30-06. This was an auction buy and the gun arrived today. I was a bit disappointed when I unwrapped the bolt and immediately noticed a recessed bolt face just like the original M77 had. Hmmm. So I did a little more research and as it turns out the fist Mark IIs were not controlled feed. The only change made to the bolt over the first model M77s was the switch to a blade type ejector (Mauser type). Ruger made the switch to controlled feed as a running production change. And since my M77 is one of the very first Mark IIs, it's not controlled feed. Oh, well.
The M77 was Bill Ruger's attempt to create a classic America rifle that embodied the function and features that hunters and riflemen had loved about the pre-64 Winchester Model 70. Most of the improvements that were introduced with the Mark II iteration (including the eventual move to controlled feed) were designed to further that goal. And whether or not you think comparing the M77 to the quintessential rifleman's rifle is heresy, there is no denying that the M77 has earned its place in the pantheon of great rifles. I'm glad I finally have one.