The M77RBZ rifle outshot Winchester’s Featherweight and Browning’s A-Bolt II Stainless Stalker—and it cost less.
Despite all the time and money that a sportsman spends gearing up for a big hunting trip, painstakingly planning everything from footwear to first aid, there’s one factor that’s unfailingly unpredictable—the weather. However, when Mother Nature does decide to unleash her fury, the last thing a hunter wants to worry about is the state of his rifle. There’s shelter to be found, fires to be built, or, if conditions haven’t deteriorated too much, game to be bagged.
Fortunately, during the early 1990s, several firearm manufacturers offered a remedy—stainless-steel, corrosion-resistant versions of their best-selling hunting models. Because these stainless models have proven to be among the most popular centerfires on the market, we wanted to see how these rifles performed in a head-to-head match-up. We acquired three stainless-steel .308 bolt-action hunting rifles: The $606 Ruger Model 77RBZ, a $716 Winchester Model 70 Classic Featherweight Stainless, and a Browning A-Bolt II Stainless Stalker, which retails for $787.
To test the products’ field prowess, we accuracy-fired several brands of commercial ammunition through them from a rest, checked their functions for reliability, comparatively assessed their out-of-the-box performance in areas such as trigger-pull quality, carry weight, and other factors, and decided which one we would buy. In our judgment, the Winchester Model 70 and the Ruger Model 77RBZ topped the other stainless .308 in key categories of form and field function.
Here’s how they performed in more detail:
The Ruger Model 77RBZ Mark II is a stainless-steel bolt-action rifle with a laminated hardwood stock. It is available in 10 different calibers, from .223 Rem. to .338 Win. Magnum. Suggested retail price of the .308 model that we tested is $606.
The Winchester Model 70 Classic Featherweight Stainless (CFS) is a stainless-steel bolt-action rifle that features the manufacturer’s updated Pre-’64 action and a walnut stock. The rifle is also chambered for six other calibers, from .22-250 Rem. to .300 Win. Magnum. Our test .308 has a suggested retail price of $716.
The Browning A-Bolt II Stainless Stalker is a stainless-steel bolt-action rifle with a black synthetic stock. It is made in 13 different calibers, from .223 Rem. to .375 H&H.; Suggested retail price of the .308 model is $787.
All of our test guns’ stainless-steel parts, including the trigger guard and magazine assembly, had a lightly brushed satin finish.
The Ruger’s accuracy, in our opinion, was the best of the test. Its smallest five-shot average groups—1.23 inches at 100 yards, using a 3-9X scope on its highest setting—were obtained using Remington Core-Lokt 180-grain pointed soft points. (For more data on the entire test trio, see the accompanying Performance Tables.) The Winchester’s accuracy was satisfactory, and its groups were the most consistent from load to load. The rifle’s best five-shot average groups, 1.35 inches at 100 yards, were also produced with Remington 180-grain soft points. When loaded with Federal Premium 165-grain boat-tail soft points, the Browning produced respectable five-shot groups, averaging 1.38 inches at 100 yards. However, in our opinion, the rifle’s accuracy wasn’t very good in tests with two other loads.
In our analysis, the overall results were favorable; in most cases the rifles met our shooters’ expectations. Occasionally, however, they fell short. We began our testing in this category at the nerve center of the rifle—the trigger.
In our opinion, the movement of Browning’s Stainless Stalker grooved 3/8-inch-wide trigger was the best of this test. Its pull had no slack and released crisply at 33/4 pounds, according to our self-recording trigger gauge. There was a small amount of overtravel.
We discovered slight weaknesses in the other two models, however. Though we found the Ruger’s ungrooved 1/4-inch-wide trigger movement to be clean, it also was the heaviest of the test. According to the trigger gauge, the pull released crisply at 53/4 pounds. There was no slack and a moderate amount of overtravel.
Movement of the Winchester’s grooved 3/8-inch-wide trigger was, in our opinion, average. Its pull had no slack, a clean 51/2-pound release and a small amount of overtravel.
In comparing the guns’ stocks, all our shooters found Winchester’s CFS to be the most handsome. Its one-piece walnut stock featured a satin finish, fancy checkering pattern, and a Schnabel forend. Its cut checkering was sharp and cleanly done. However, it did have a few minor flaws. Though the steel swivel studs were well installed, for example, the right side of the black rubber recoil pad was slightly oversized. There was a small gap between the stock and right front of the receiver, but all else was snugly mated. The barrel didn’t float freely. The base of the trigger guard and magazine well was inset slightly below the surface of the stock.
We also thought the CFS was the most evenly balanced rifle in this test. This afforded a fair degree of muzzle stability and made target acquisition quick. Shouldering was natural, but the recoil pad’s pointed toe tended to snag on heavy clothing. The straight comb allowed a stockweld with a proper view through the 3-9X scope and a good cheek-to-stock fit.