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The 204 Ruger Brings It

Watch for the 204 Ruger to continue its rise in popularity.

Over the years Ruger has cast around for a truly popular cartridge design to bear its name without much luck.

Currently their big bore offerings like the 375 Ruger are gaining ground, but others like their line of compact magnums and the poor 480 Ruger never had many adherents. So far, in terms of popularity, Ruger’s biggest hit has been the diminutive 204 Ruger.

While the 204 is by no means the first twenty caliber cartridge ever designed, it does have the distinction of being the first twenty to be a factory cartridge, and something like that alone is usually enough to garner some interest from the American shooting public.

When first introduced, the 204 caused a real stir amongst gun writers and varmint hunters and is looked upon to this day as an excellent addition to any varmint hunting battery.

At first blush the 204 Ruger appears to be nothing more than a necked down 223 Remington. While this would have probably made for a fine cartridge, Ruger wanted something that would maximize performance while still allowing for the use of actions built to accept the 223.

This lead to Ruger necking down the old 222 Remington Magnum, a cartridge long since supplanted by the 223 and which offered increased powder capacity and startlingly fast muzzle velocities with lighter .204 caliber bullets.

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Like any small caliber cartridge the 204 doesn’t offer much in terms of bullet weight range, roughly 24-45 grains, but what can be done with these bullets is impressive.

A 24 grain bullet can be launched from the 204 at 4500 fps, and the 45 grain bullet can be pushed up to 3600 fps. This makes the 204 one of the flattest-shooting factory cartridges in the world, while still producing recoil that goes almost unnoticed by the average shooter.

A cartridge like the 204 has many virtues, namely long barrel life, high velocity and low felt recoil. When it first came on the scene a lot of folks raved that it was the first really high velocity round that allowed the shooter to watch bullet impacts in the scope.

While all these attributes are nice to have in a round, I’ve always felt that the real superiority of the 204 comes in the form of lessened wind drift.

There are plenty of 17 caliber rounds out there that can match or exceed the 204 in terms of velocity and the 22 caliber cartridges are surely cheaper to shoot, but the 204 offers a fine compromise between these two.

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With slightly heavier bullets than a 17, the 204 performs better in the real world, where the wind is almost always gusting around in prairie dog towns of the Great Plains and into the Rockies. With a 204 Ruger, a shooter can have their cake and eat it too in terms of smoking-fast velocity and reduced wind drift.

Ruger’s most popular round to date is well liked by varmint hunters, for good reason, and will continue to be a favorite as the years go by.

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The 204 Ruger Brings It