Thomas Tabor liked this test Ruger so much he bought it
As the name would seem to imply Ruger’s Guide Gun was developed specifically to possess the traits hunting guides are frequently looking for in their rifles and as a result, much emphasis was placed on the Guide Gun’s ability to be fast-handling and quick to point, important characteristics if the animal you’re pursuing has a desire to eat, maul, gore or stomp you. But while these traits are certainly valuable ones to consider when hunting dangerous game, they’re often equally important when it comes to many other hunting and shooting scenarios.
Outwardly this firearm reminds me somewhat of a jungle carbine-style rifle, possibly one of the old Lee-Enfields from the WWII and Vietnam eras but I assure you the similarities end right there. At the heart of the Guide Gun is Ruger’s time-proven Model 77 Hawkeye action and building on that solid foundation, engineers incorporated a wide variety of innovative advancements to enhance its field ruggedness and make it more versatile.
Designed to withstand anything nature can throw its way, the Guide Gun comes in an all-stainless steel construction with Ruger’s Hawkeye grey matte finish and a Green Mountain laminated stock. The test rifle is chambered in the fairly new and impressive .375 Ruger calibre but is also available in .30-06, .338 Win Mag and .416 Ruger. Previously there was a chambering in .300 Win Mag along with a few other less mainstream choices but those offerings have apparently been dropped from the Guide Gun line.
The .375 Ruger is an impressive round capable of stopping almost any beast you can mention and when sighted-in to impact 2.4” (61mm) high at 100yds you can expect its big 300-grain bullet to be down only 10.8” (27cm) at 300yds. In that case the bullet would launch from the muzzle at about 2660fps to produce a whopping 4713 ft/lbs of energy and if choosing a slightly lighter bullet the 270-grain performs even better ballistically. Typically that bullet would exit the muzzle at about 2840fps and produce about 4835 ft/lbs of energy and with the moderately high sighting of 1.8” (46mm) high at 100yds you could expect your bullet to be down only about 8” (20cm) at 300yds. Ballistically both these loads outshine the old-time favourite .375 H&H Magnum and do so from a cartridge case about the same length as the standard ’06.
Another favourable and versatile feature of the Guide Gun is its Gunsite Scout-style stock which allows you to easily vary length of pull from 12½” to 14” (32-36cm) by removing or adding any combination of the supplied three 13mm spacers between the recoil pad and buttstock. The rifle also comes equipped with Ruger’s LC6 trigger, a non-rotating Mauser-type controlled round feed extractor, three-position safety, cold hammer-forged barrel, quick-pointing express-style sights, swivel studs with both a barrel-band mounted stud and fore-end stock stud, a set of 1” scope rings and integral scope-mounting base.
Many shooters today prefer the benefits associated with having their rifle equipped with a muzzle brake which results in reducing both felt recoil and muzzle jump, yet the downside to these devices is increased muzzle blast which in some instances can be quite uncomfortable for both the shooter and anyone nearby. So in some situations it may be desirable to temporarily remove the brake from the end of the barrel, though doing this generally results in changing the barrel’s harmonics which in turn can influence the bullet’s impact point.
The ingenious and unique approach Ruger has taken in their muzzle brake system essentially eliminates the need to re-zero the gun each time the brake is removed and reinstalled, this design including an alternate counterweight replacement for the muzzle brake. In this case if the shooter chooses to remove the brake, it’s unscrewed and the counterweight screwed into its place and in doing so the barrel harmonic movements are said to remain the same with no change in bullet impact point.
Being somewhat sceptical by nature I wondered if Ruger’s claims were accurate so conducted my own testing with the muzzle brake fitted and then replaced by the counterweight. The results can be seen in the accompanying photo so readers can make up their own mind if the very slight deviation between the two 100yd groups is of concern or not, though I feel the difference is so minimal it would go unnoticed in almost all field conditions. Ruger even provides another option if you prefer to disregard both muzzle brake and counterweight and that’s a simple threaded cap which matches perfectly the contour of the barrel and is intended to protect the threads from potential damage.
The test rifle arrived with its trigger set at what I thought was a very favourable average pull weight of 4½lbs (five-pull average) and spread weight just shy of 12oz, so I mounted a Leupold Vari-X II 3-9x40mm scope and was keen to see how it would perform at the range. Once I had the scope zeroed and began shooting for accuracy I was quickly impressed by the performance of the trigger which I found to be crisp, void of excessive creep and generally silky-smooth in its movements.
Because I was sending quite a few rounds down I decided to shoot off the bench using a Caldwell Lead Sled with an estimated 25-30lbs of additional weight added which certainly helped soften felt recoil and encouraged a higher degree of steadiness. Firing factory-loaded Hornady 270-grain SP-RP cartridges I registered what I felt were pretty good three-shot groups at 100yds, consistently measuring around 1” (25mm) with the smallest being a perfectly-shaped ⅞” (22mm).
Once satisfied with accuracy of the 270-grain load I moved to factory-loaded 300-grain Hornady DGS SPF ammo and like many rifles I found this one seemed to prefer one load over another, in this case that preference was clearly for the lighter 270-grain. Even though the 300-grain loads shot what I felt were acceptable groups for a fairly large bore rifle, those produced by the 270-grain loads were overall tighter and more consistent. While those earlier rounds routinely produced cloverleaf three-shot 100yd groups in the 1” and below category, the 300-grain cartridges only seemed capable of groups about 2” (51mm).
No doubt handloaders could improve on accuracy while having access to a much broader selection of bullet styles and weights, though I was happy with performance of the 270-grain loads due to the fact that bullet weight gave the best overall ballistic performance of the two factory rounds. In addition to better accuracy, trajectory was flatter and retained energy was even higher at extended range.
The way I see it
Overall I was impressed by the Ruger Guide Gun, its durable construction certainly capable of resisting whatever the weather and hunting conditions may throw its way. For a calibre bordering on big bore status the .375 Ruger shot very accurately and I found the trigger movements much to my liking with the factory-set pull weight of 4½lbs ideal for a hunting rifle and the spread between weights of pull not as great as many other triggers I’ve tested.
Its fast-handling capabilities and potential for lethal knockdown power would in my estimation make the Guide Gun in .375 Ruger a great choice for any sizeable trophy animal and to my mind, a large part of what makes this rifle something special is its flexibility. The ability to easily adjust length of pull and remove the muzzle brake without changing impact point are very worthwhile attributes.
As a gun writer I test lots of rifles which are usually sent on loan from manufacturers and in most cases after testing they’re packaged up and shipped back, though in this case rather than returning the Guide Gun to Ruger I wrote a cheque for its purchase. I believe the versatility and other attributes built into this rifle are just what I’ve been looking for and as such it has become part of my collection. Just don’t tell my wife who for some reason thinks I’ve enough firearms!
Model: Guide Gun
Calibre: .375 Ruger
Overall Length: Adjustable from 103-108cm
Sights: Safari-style iron
Stock: Green Mountain laminated
Magazine: Box-type, three cartridges in all calibres (.30-06 holds four)
Price: About $1999