The Ruger 99/44 Deerfield Carbine
By Carl Swanson
During the Minnesota deer season of 2000, I got a 40 yard shot at a nice 8 point buck in some moderately heavy brush. The brush deflected the first shot. The deer jumped into a small clearing 50 yards away, not knowing where I was. When I worked the bolt action the deer knew right where I was and fled before I could shoot. I resolved to use a semi-auto for deer hunting the following year.
In October of 2001 I purchased a Ruger 99/44 Deerfield Carbine, chambered for the .44 Magnum. I had never hunted with a pistol cartridge before. I chose the Speer 270 grain Gold Dot factory load because I felt it offered the best potential for the cartridge in the deer hunting application I intended. It offers a combination of sectional density and velocity that seemed to maximize the cartridge's performance capabilities.
Upon opening the Ruger Deerfield shipping container, I was impressed with the protection offered by its construction and the placement of the firearm therein. There were three minor cosmetic flaws on the firearm; a light spot in the bluing on the receiver (small, about 1 cm squared), a small tool mark in the stock, and a less than perfectly contoured forearm nose under the barrel in front of the barrel band. I did not consider any of these cause for a return.
The Deerfield Carbine is based on the Ranch Rifle design but uses a four round rotary magazine instead of the staggered box magazine of the Ranch rifle and Mini-14 rifles. The reason for this special magazine is the .44 Magnum's rimmed case. The basic specifications of the Ruger Deerfield carbine, taken from the 2003 Strum, Ruger catalog, read as follows.
Caliber: .44 Remington Magnum; Finish: Blued; Stock: hardwood; Sight: gold bead front, adjustable aperture rear; Barrel length: 18.5"; Overall length: 36.875"; Weight: 6.25 lbs.; Price: $675.
I chose to use a Burris 2 1/2 power Widefield scope. Mounting the scope in the Ruger rings required the use of the shims provided with the Ruger rings. No problems once the scope was installed.
There is a little scope protector cover provided with the rifle. It is leather and fits around the scope at the position of the turrets. I never needed this with the little Burris scope.
Shooting the firearm at the range for the first time I discovered three things. One, this rifle had a surprisingly decent trigger for a semi-auto hunting rifle. Two, it was a surprisingly accurate .44 magnum rifle at 100 yards. And three, it would quickly shoot its barrel band loose if the screw holding it in place was not tightened such that the sling swivel would not turn.
I subsequently discovered that, after about 30-40 shots, all of the screws securing the rifle in the stock would shoot loose and the point of aim would change about 2-3 inches at 100 yards. No problem, I applied nail polish indexing marks to the screws, and checking these after about 30 shots with tightening as required kept everything on the same point of impact.
One last note: the magazine must be carefully inserted into the magazine well to insure that it does not fall out. Awareness of the magazine latch position is of great importance here. Once the magazine is locked in place there is no problem.
The hasty bench groups run 2.0 to 2.5 inches at 100 yards. Offhand, the rifle holds in a 4 inch circle as long as I can at 100 yards. Also, my rifle shoots 240 grain Remington loads only 2 inches away from the Speer 270 grain Gold Dots at 100 yards. I have fired over 500 rounds through this rifle with no malfunction of any kind.
Removing and replacing the scope never moved the point of impact more than an inch in any direction. As for the aperture sights furnished with the rifle, these are excellent. They offer good target acquisition and quick pointing.
In the field, the rifle carries and handles very well. It shoulders quickly and points true for offhand shooting. As a still hunter, I do most of my shooting from that position. The Deerfield is a little barrel light, as one finds with any short barreled rifle in the offhand position, and after a little exertion it may take a few breaths for the barrel to quit moving around.
My summary of good, bad, and odd points.
Good: Accuracy, dependability and handling. Also, the ability to provide a very good scope or peep sighting platform and the ability to switch between the two as required while maintaining the rifle's effectiveness.
Bad: The Deerfield's screws loosen after a few shots.
Odd: The need for the scope protector.
Overall, I would recommend this rifle to anyone wanting a small, light semi-auto rifle for hunting CXP2 class game at woods ranges. The Deerfield offers reliability, low recoil, and the ability to use the firearm's factory sights or a scope interchangeably and effectively.
Copyright 2004 by Carl Swanson. All rights reserved.