The 204 Ruger is a varmint's worst nightmare.
When it comes to pests like coyotes and prairie dogs, you want a cartridge that has a flat trajectory and blistering speeds with minimal recoil to help you take these wary animals out at long-range distances. There's been plenty of rifle cartridges released for this purpose over the years. However, one of the most interesting and fastest is the 204 Ruger.
Still a relative newcomer in the world of firearms, the 204 Ruger is a centerfire rifle alternative to guns chambered in calibers like the rimfire .17 HMR or the centerfire .223 Remington. The exception is the 204 Ruger offers much faster factory loads, and ammo accessibility is surprising. It's available almost everywhere, even during the current ammunition shortages.
Today we'll look at this unique and extremely fast cartridge in depth. We'll also highlight some of the rifles for shooters to consider if they are in the market for one of the best varmint hunting options on the market today.
204 Ruger, the Cartridge
As we already mentioned, this wildcat round is still relatively new. It was developed by Ruger and Hornady in 2004. They made this new caliber by necking down a .222 Remington Magnum to create a new 5mm round. It's worth noting that the 204 wasn't exactly something shooters had been asking for, but it didn't take long to generate a lot of buzz once word of its ballistics was released, because this round is a screamer!
First, let's look at the 32-grain Hornady V-Max Superformance. The round is reaching 4,225 fps of muzzle velocity and delivering 1,268-foot pounds of energy. At 100 yards, it's still doing 3,645 fps and delivering 944 foot pounds of energy. It's also an incredibly flat cartridge. Hornady says it has zero drop at 200 yards. The 300- and 400-yard muzzle velocities are 2,683 fps and 2,272 fps respectively.
If you drop down to a slightly smaller bullet, the incredible ballistic coefficient of this round becomes even more evident. The Hornady Superformance 24-grain NTX factory loads are doing about 4,400 fps at the muzzle with just over 1,000 pounds of energy. That slows to 3,668 fps at 100 yards and 2,502 fps at 300 yards.
Remington makes a polymer tip 32-grain bullet in their AccuTip line that's doing 4,225 fps at the muzzle and 3,645 fps at 100 yards. There is a slightly larger 40-grain bullet in the Nosler Ballistic Tip line that's still reaching 3,625 fps at the muzzle and 3,176 fps at 100 yards. Nosler makes several variants including a 32-grain boat tail Spitzer varmint bullet and a 32-graint flat base tipped bullet aptly named "Varmageddon" that's doing 4,000 fps at the muzzle.
Of course, this round has also proven extremely popular for reloading enthusiasts too. Bullets are readily available from all the major manufacturers for those looking to squeeze a little extra power from handloads. Most manufacturers like Nosler and Remington also offer bulk kits of brass for those who like to reload in quantity. It really doesn't matter if you choose factory loads or handloads, this is usually a round where you're not going to need to worry about accessibility to more ammo.
Aside from the speeds, the other thing the 204 Ruger has going for it is the recoil. There's practically none. In fact, you'll hear most shooters say the recoil even outperforms the iconic 22-250 Remington, which is impressive. This helps make the 204 Ruger ideal for younger shooters to learn the basics, and for quicker follow-up shots, especially if you've got a whole group of coyotes in your sights. Now, let's look at some of the rifles on the market chambered for this round.
Ruger American Rifle Predator
We might as well start this list with the company that helped develop the round in the first place. The American Rifle is an extremely affordable bolt action varmint gun. This one has a 22-inch barrel length with a 1:12 twist rate. The barrel has a matte black finish and is made from alloy steel. The synthetic stock drops the weight down to a light 6.6 pounds and it has a 10-round capacity so you can take out multiple coyotes or prairie dogs before reloading. Ruger also gave this rifle their Marksman adjustable trigger system so you can set the pull weight anywhere from three to five pounds depending on preference.
Savage Arms 110 Predator
The buttery-smooth action of the Savage Model 110 is legendary in hunting circles. The 110 Predator was built specifically with varmints in mind. It has a 24-inch carbon steel barrel with a 1:12 twist rate. It's a little on the heavy side at 8.69 pounds, but that's going to make it extremely stable and accurate for those long-range shots at coyotes. The other nice thing about the Savage is the AccuFit system which lets you adjust both the comb height and the length of pull yourself, with no tools or expensive gunsmith needed. Even the trigger is adjustable thanks to the AccuTrigger system, allowing you to finally own a dedicate varmint rifle that feels like a custom gun, even if it is not priced like one.
Kimber 84M Varmint
While the Kimber name may be better associated with handguns, they make a fine hunting rifle in the 84M. It has a 24-inch stainless steel barrel with a satin finish and a 1:12 twist rate. It's also fluted to help cut down on the weight, which comes in just over seven pounds. This rifle has a great classic look thanks to the grade A Walnut wooden stock that has an oil finish. The trigger can be adjusted between 3-3.5 pounds. This rifle cycles efficiently thanks to a Muser-type claw extractor. Kimber builds their rifles with match grade components, so you can expect sub-MOA accuracy from this rifle.
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