January 04, 2022
Ruger Hawkeye rifles are the latest incarnation of Ruger’s famous Model 77 bolt-action centerfire rifle design. The origin of the name "Hawkeye" is found in early American literature. It was the nickname of fictional hero Natty Bumpo, the lead character in James Fenimore Cooper’s "Leatherstocking Tales." (Remember "The Last of the Mohicans?")
Today, "Hawkeye" is commonly used to describe anyone who is an exceptional rifle shot. This all makes it a fitting name for an American-made hunting rifle.
I recently tested the newest rifle in the Hawkeye line. Called the Predator, it is available in four chamberings: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem. and 6.5 Creedmoor. One version comes with an adjustable length of pull, and all but the .223 Rem. Hawkeye Predator have 24-inch barrels. Ruger gives the .223 Rem. rifle a 22-inch barrel.
For me, the appeal of the Predator is the melding of a standard sporting-type rifle with a moderately heavy barrel, making it seemingly ideal for mobile, or "walking," varmint and predator hunting.
Like all Hawkeye rifles, the Predator utilizes a non-rotating, Mauser-type, controlled-round-feed extractor, has a hinged floor plate with an engraved Ruger logo, and a bolt-mounted three-position safety. Other shared features include a cold-hammer-forged barrel, integral Ruger scope bases, and a two-stage adjustable target trigger.
Features unique to the Predator are a natural camo-like Green Mountain laminated hardwood stock, and a stainless-steel action and barrel with a matte finish. Additionally, though the Predator is not a heavy rifle, it does have a robust barrel. Just in front of the action the barrel’s diameter is 1.155 inches, and it gently tapers to a muzzle diameter of .676 inch.
For testing, I mounted a 3-10x42 mm Swarovski Z3 riflescope with a 1-inch tube in the matte stainless rings that came with the rifle. Since the current trend in riflescopes seems to be bigger is better, some discussion of the Ruger rings is in order. The rifle ships with Ruger No. 4 front and No. 5 rear rings, which are considered medium in height.
Attached to the Hawkeye’s integral scope bases, these rings positioned the 48 mm (external measurement) objective bell of the Swarovski .13 inch above the barrel. This is about ideal. If you were to mount a riflescope with a much larger objective bell, you’d probably need to order a No. 6 ring for the rear and use the No. 5 ring on the front. Doing so might push the centerline of the scope above the height desired for a comfortable cheek weld while shooting.
Ruger Hawkeye Predator Specs
- Type: bolt-action centerfire rifle
- Caliber: .223 Rem.
- Barrel: 22”; cold-hammer-forged stainless steel; medium contour; 1:9” twist rate trigger: two-stage adjustable; 3-lb. pull weight safety: three-position wing magazine: internal box with hinged floorplate; 5-round capacity
- Sights: none, scope bases integral to receiver and Ruger rings included
- Finish: matte stainless steel
- Stock: Green Mountain laminated hardwood; 13 1/2” length of pull
- Overall Length: 42”
- Weight: 7.7 lbs.
- MSRP: $1,359
I went with a scope having a more traditional size and magnification range because, while this rifle proved long-range capable, I felt it best suited to snooping around the edges of pastures for groundhogs and setting up in the same locations to call coyotes. Both situations typically offer shots in the 100- to 300-yard range, and at those distances a 3-10X riflescope works well. In fact, after testing from the bench I conducted a good deal of shooting from unsupported field positions and from a Spartan Sentinel tripod.
The rifle’s perfect balance—right between the hands at the front scope ring—was optimum for that type of shooting as the results on target proved. Several three-shot groups from the sitting position at 100 yards measured right at an inch, and from the tripod, two of the 200-yard groups were about the same size.
I did not tinker with the Hawkeye’s adjustable trigger. Out of the box it broke at exactly 3 pounds and was very crisp. Interestingly, Ruger describes it as a two-stage trigger with a short take-up stage.
I could detect only an infinitesimal amount of first-stage movement, and as advertised there was no creep. It is a very good trigger—as good a factory trigger as I have pulled on a sporting-weight Ruger rifle—especially for off-hand shooting where most of the shooter’s focus needs to be directed toward sight alignment.
I had only a single complaint with the rifle. As I’ve found with most Ruger Hawkeye rifles, out of the box the bolt seemed a bit rough. Experience with previous Ruger 77s and the more modern Hawkeye iteration has shown this roughness ebbs rather quickly. Ultimately, after several hundred rounds you end up with a bolt action that operates smoothly.
I also must mention that the test rifle in .223 Rem. weighed 7 percent more than the advertised 7.7 pounds. It’s not unusual for factory weight specifications to be a bit off, they’re generally averages as opposed to exacts, but a half-pound discrepancy is worth noting. Regardless, don’t mistake the rifle’s svelte appearance to mean it’s a lightweight. The moderately heavy barrel is there for good reasons: to not heat up during volume fire and to help stabilize precision shooting in the field.
Ruger offers 10 different Hawkeye rifles suitable for hunting everything from prairie dogs to pachyderms. Several are available in 6.5 Creedmoor and two come chambered for the .204 Ruger. However, only the Predator version of the Hawkeye is available chambered for the .223 Rem. and 22-250 Rem., which are unquestionably two of the best predator hunting cartridges ever offered. The Predator also comes out of the box with a matte finish on all steel surfaces including the scope rings and a stock that’s somewhat camouflaged. All it needs for stealthy predator hunting is a suitable riflescope and a good shooting sling.
I really liked this rifle and expect serious predator hunters will too; the Predator shoots very well, balances perfectly, and requires no aftermarket camouflage treatment for the field. In .204 Ruger it’ll work just fine for gophers, groundhogs, bobcats and coyotes.
The .223 Rem. and .22-250 Rem. options can do the same and work for deer with the right ammo where .22 centerfires are legal. With a Predator chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, a hunter would have a rifle capable of taking care of all varmints and most big game. And like with all the other Ruger Hawkeye rifles I’ve tested, if there’s any missing going on, the gun won’t be to blame.
Load: Federal Premium Nosler Ballistic Tip
- Bullet Weight 55 grs.
- Muzzle Velocity 3,227 fps
- Average Group 1.19”
Load: Nosler Flat-Base Tipped Varmageddon
- Bullet Weight 55 grs.
- Muzzle Velocity 3,105 fps
- Average Group 0.70”
Load: SIG Sauer Varmint & Predator
- Bullet Weight 40 grs.
- Muzzle Velocity 3,565 fps
- Average Group 0.98”
Muzzle velocity is the average of 10 consecutive shots fired through a Caldwell G2 chronograph at 10 feet. Accuracy is the result of three consecutive, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 100 yards.