I have the M77 with tang safety in .243 and love it. Oh man the meat that thing has put into the freezer! I love the position of the safety in relation to my thumb while carrying. I also have a Hawkeye in 7mm-08...awesome rifle as well although the 3 position safety on the side took some getting used to.
I bought one new in 1976;it is a 257 roberts with a tang safety. that year they stamped the barrels with the Words "Made in the 200th year of American Freedom". the wood stock is beautiful.
I've killed 4 deer with it and greatly like the cartridge for deer/varmint. Because of it ability to shoot 120 grain slugs it is superior to the 243/244 cartridges for big game. Before buying this gun I shot a pre-64 M70 in roberts.
UNFORTUNATELY my 257 tang safety rifle is just not very accurate. It never shoots under a 2.5-3 inch groups. I've been reloading for 50 years and can't get it to shoot anything well. Tried all the Ruger stock bedding tricks (shims, etc there are lots of these on the internet). It is same with factory ammo. A 3 inch groups will kill deer all day long, but I love accurcy. I haven't dumped it because of the stamp and that I bought this rifle for my son who was born a week earlier.
Back in the day of the tang M77, Ruger did not make their own barrels, but bought them from suppliers. so the quality varied and was never great. After having gotten the reputation as inaccurate rifles, Ruger took control of the qualtiy of the barrels. After the tang safety, MK2. I suspect that was the reason for much of the change, to escape such a bad reputation.
Based upon many years with a 257 Roberts Ruger M77 tang safety (that looks beautiful), I'd not recommend buying one.
I also like the tang safety. But if you can get a Mk2 or a Hawkeye in 257 Roberts, I'd say get it.
My grandfather had a M77 mk2 for years. His was a 7mm RM though. His gun shot great. Not bench rest accurate, but plenty good to hunt with out to 300 yards or so.
When I go to look for another rifle I think I will check into them first. I like traditional blued steel and walnut. The bluing on his gun was perfect, and the walnut stock was really nice. Not fancy, but nice.
Why gun manufacturers insist on putting black plastic on the ends of stocks is beyond me. What ever happened to the 700 ADL with wood stock? Friend of mine got one about 18 years ago, and I like that rifle.
I've sold the M77 models for years. I've always felt that the fit and finish of this Ruger was above average. A very attractive "over the counter" rifle. They are a decent shooting rifle out of the box. They don't have the reputation of the Remington 700 or Savage 110 accuracy, but they are at least "hunting accurate" if not even better.
I've always wanted the M77 with the mannlicher stock in 7 x 57 Walters or .257 Roberts..
I don't have an older tang safety, but I do have a new ultra light in .257 that will shot sub MOA all day long. Great gun and great caliber IMHO! I would only go with .257 if you plan to reload though, as factory ammo is hard to find and usually pretty expensive.
My dad bought me a tang safety 30-06 in 1982.He gave it to me on Thanksgiving day as an early Christmas present so I would be able to use it for deer season. He had already mounted and bore sighted a 2x7 Browning scope on it and loaded up 4 different loads he wanted to try in it to swee what would shoot the best.So after turkey dinner was over we went out to the shooting bench in the backyard.The best we could do was about a 3.5"group. He said no way are you hunting with that thing shooting like that,so we'll put it away and mess with it after hunting season is over.So here I was, a 13 year old kid with a brand new gun and couldn't use it.Talk about being disappointed.Anyway after hunting season was over,he got it out and took it apart.He said there was a bunch of pressure points between the stock and the barrel. I don't remember exactly what he did, but I do know its glass bedded.As a bonus,while he had it tore apart he inlaid ebony and ivory diamonds in the stock,just like his Weatherby has(which is also now mine). When it was all said and done,he was able to cover 3 shots with a nickel at 100 yards. (Sorry for being kinda long winded)
I have a 77RLI in .257 Roberts with the tang saftey that was reamed out to an AO Improved. Factory ammo is fire formed in it and with the 100 grn. reloads it's 3/4 of an inch at 100 yards. My neice used it to take her first deer last year. The .257 Roberts is a fantastic 200 yard deer rifle when loaded with 100 grn bullets. Factory stuff is all 117 or 120 grain stuff. Get the trigger adjusted by a competent gunsmith. Most 77's I came across had a trigger that was akin to my Red Label O/U. The trigger is the most important part on a rifle when it comes to accuracy.