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Old June 14, 2018, 08:20 PM   #1
Sevens
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Experience with .204 Ruger/varmint hunting?

Folks, long time TFL junkie needs all your help, experience, thoughts, ideas, concerns, success stories and failures. If you have hunted with .204 Ruger or one of your good buddies does, I'd love to learn from you.

Me? Handgun guy. I merely dabble in rifles. I'm no rifleman and I'm not a hunter. Always an admirer of hunting but I'm not a hunter. Even still, I go on an annual prairie dog hunt out in the great open west and I love it. This will be my 5th year at it and I've done well with a Howa 1500 .223 with a 24" heavy varmint barrel. My handloads are the 50gr Hornady V-Max that runs around 3,200 fps at the muzzle.

Lately I've been thinking that I should evolve... and .204 Ruger is what I'm thinking. The only "advantage" or upgrade that I seek is this grand idea that with the smaller cartridge, I'll be able to keep a constant picture in sight through my scope and witness the hit -- which I cannot do currently.

If you have experience (or thoughts) on the .204 Ruger, from a bolt gun, for prairie dogs from 100 to 400 yards, I want to hear EVERYTHING. From the gun brand/model to the glass to the actual bullet weight and brand you like.

Is this a worthy upgrade? I'd be giving up a lot to get there. I'd be giving up mountains of brass supply, a rig and a load that I know works... all for the thrill of something "NEW!" and the dream of being able to watch my hits as they happen.
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Old June 14, 2018, 09:18 PM   #2
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No 204 Ruger experience here, sorry. But, i do shoot P-Dogs all the time with my suppressed 17HMR.

Watching the hit is GREAT. Plus i have the advantage of seeing the miss and correcting for wind as needed.
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Old June 14, 2018, 09:52 PM   #3
Sevens
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At 100-400? Or less?

As I'm far more an enthusiast handloader than a hunter, I won't ever go to a rimfire for this task but thanks, still love all the discussion.
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Old June 14, 2018, 09:55 PM   #4
taylorce1
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I have the .204 Ruger and it's perfect for what you're wanting. However, adding a brake or a suppressor to your .223 will do the same thing. It's never a bad idea to have a second or fourth rifle to shoot while letting the others cool down in a dog town.

Since you handload you might look at a .20 Practical.
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Old June 14, 2018, 10:16 PM   #5
dwwhite
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I had one for a few years right after the caliber debuted. Mine was a Howa 1500, albeit with a sporter barrel.

My experiences...
Accuracy was phenomenal, but only with 32 grain bullets and only for about 15 shots. Barrel fouling was awful in that particular rifle and I could never get the 40 grain soft points to group.

It was noticeably quieter than a similar .223, making it much more pleasant to shoot.

Terminal effects were incredible on small game/varmints. Numerous raccoons, armadillos and feral cats were all DRT

Wind drift was a real problem past 200 yards.

Ultimately, I came to the recognition that all of my varmint hunting took place at 25-50 yards in the dark, and I just didn't need a rifle like the .204. I have since reverted to a .22 and a .32-20.

Far be it from me to dissuade you from buying a new rifle, but I think I might stick with your .223. I didn't find the .204 to perform as advertised past 200y. Load up some 64-77 grain bullets for your rifle and i think you'll find it shoots more predictably at the mid ranges.

Edited to add...
My reccomendations fly in the face of your desire to see hits. Less recoil is a distinct advantage of the .204, esp with the 32 grain loads. A cheap experiment would be to add lead shot to the stock of your Howa to boost the weight and see if that helps.
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Old June 14, 2018, 10:41 PM   #6
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My buddy has a savage 12fv in 204 with a vortex 4-16 scope. I shot the rifle, for the first time a few months ago, he was having trouble grouping his hand loads. I told him he was rushing and needed to get off the gun and relax. He persisted and shot 1.5" groups. Finally he asks, "will you shoot this thing?" Sure. I sat behind the rifle for the first time ever. Put the cross hairs ob the 3/4" black dot at 100 yards and proceeded to shoot a .24X sized group. I stood up and calmy said "I told ya to relax. Im currently saving up for the same rifle.
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Old June 15, 2018, 07:27 AM   #7
fourbore
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The 204 is very popular around here. In full disclosure I got a slow twist "true varmint" rifle in 223. The great thing with the 204 is there is no rambo ammo and no fast twist guns. You buy a 204 and you know you are getting a true varmint rifle. You dont see buyers all upset and confused over what twist to buy.

The real question is will the scope stay on target? That I dont know. Obviously the scope magnification will be a really big factor on that. At 4x sure, even the 223 will do that for you. At 24x, I doubt it with either in a normal weight gun. The 204 is not that big a step down. But I dont know. Someone already mention the 17 rim fire magnum, but that will not have the range you are used to or need. The 17 Hornet is a lot lighter round.

Maybe chainsaw can comment on how the gun jumped with 16x magnification. The other direction is to make the gun heavier. I do not think your Howa is all that heavy. Normally I prefer lighter. A laminated wood stock could get you a couple more pounds. Add a bipod. I know savage makes some heavy guns. More of a gamble, but; again chainsaw tested a good one.

I just did a re-read and see the OP is hand loading. It would be an easy matter to load up some 223 with the equal weigh bullets as the 204. That little experiment will allow him to observe the recoil. That would be an interesting data point.

Last edited by fourbore; June 15, 2018 at 07:33 AM.
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Old June 15, 2018, 07:47 AM   #8
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As to the recoil it is very skight in the rifle I shot, still apparent but certainly minimal. I was able to watch all of the impacts on that target and after that we moved to the steel plates at 410 yards and were able to watch traces to impact. 204 shoots soft, lots of manufactures are threading barrels these days, add a mild brake, a suppressor or a couple pounds to a rifle and you'll have no issue seeing impacts. Heck there are ARs made in 204, you don't get much more soft shooting than that.
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Old June 15, 2018, 08:18 AM   #9
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I have two 204 Rugers, a Ruger #1 and a RAP. I've killed tons of PDs, foxes and Coyotes and never found it lacking. I've used the 32 and 40 gr pills and found for distance the 40 grs are much better. But even the 32 gr bullets are devistating on coyotes.

With practice its not unreasonable to get 400 plus yard kills.

There isnt much muzzle jump with this round but still I put a muzzle brake on my 204 RAP, it doesnt move so you see all the action when you shoot.

I have 3 ARs in 223 and 3 Bolt guns in 223, I dont think they are as much fun as the little 204 for varmints.

The RAP is accutually my wife's rifle, Careful with wives, they get hooked they'll keep you chained to the reloading bench.
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Old June 15, 2018, 08:45 AM   #10
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Have run the gauntlet on PD rifles over a 25/30 year period of time. Have used a 22 lr a 22 mag, 240 ruger ,221 fireball 3 223s 3 223 AIs, 2 22-250 and a 220 swift. The 204, as stated grouped 32gr vmax the best and was as good at 400 as any of the others. Had a straight leupold 12x p0wer with a CPC crosshairs on it. Did all that was asked of it ALL the time.

As you stated the 221 fireball and the 204 both allowed sight of hits on target.

As also stated, at least 2 rifles are an advantage in PD shooting.
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Old June 15, 2018, 05:33 PM   #11
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Well, I definitely hear the suggestions for multiple guns for prairie dogs. That isn't ever going to happen and I'll explain why, but it opens an interesting side-discussion: -WHERE- pray tell are you setting up?! I have heard (read, actually) about such places in the past. Maybe somewhere, sometime again in the future. But WHERE have you found dog town so active that you can not only make use of multiple guns, but one that doesn't shut down after so much shooting and racket?

There's two of us and we typically set up maybe 75-150 yards apart and stare at the same town. Eventually they close up shop and we pack back up and we hike to the next town. We have all the gear we can handle and a typical day sees us on foot two miles in and unfortunately, we don't have air support and extraction so it's two miles out also... at least we haul less ammo and less water on the hike out.

Thus multiple guns isn't happening and I've never personally witnessed the joy of a dog town where we could ever set up shop and shoot all day -AND- make use of multiple guns?!

Like I said, I have read about it but those places must be trade secrets or privately owned land. Oh yes, I would LOVE to get an invite. (I'm top tier in gun safety and the opposite of a slob hunter, I always haul out more than I hauled in.)
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Old June 15, 2018, 05:45 PM   #12
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Where I hunt, there always exists the potential for wind to just ruin the day. When it gets over 30mph, we can't do squat. As I said in the OP, I'm a handgun junkie and I only dabble in rifles. I'm certain that I don't have the skills that you guys have behind a rifle. I can clean up when these little guys present themselves in the sun on a calm day out to 300 or maybe 325, and only when I can range them properly.

When it gets windy, I'm out of the game. And if the much lighter .204 pills won't handle even a little wind, that's a serious issue for me. I have found that my 50gr V-Max imparts chaotic hell on these guys when I'm on target, there is zero suffering.

Please keep these posts coming, I'm loving the experiences.

Oh, and PM me if you want me to help clear your land! My buddy is just as safety conscious as me but he's a BETTER rifleman.
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Old June 15, 2018, 06:32 PM   #13
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It sounds like you should consider a trailer and ATV.
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Old June 15, 2018, 10:56 PM   #14
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I've been in dog towns so active that you can't shoot fast enough. The trick to active towns are to be there in the spring when the pups are out. They're a much smaller target but they are stupid and they don't go down when the shooting starts. As the towns get shot later into summer and fall the more wary the pasture poodles get and your shooting tempo goes down.

The .204 40 grain V-Max bullet will do better in the wind vs. Your current .224 50 grain V-Max. The .204 bullet has better BC and will leave the barrel 500+ fps faster on average than your .223. So that means less correction for wind and elevation at the ranges you shoot.
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Old June 16, 2018, 01:12 AM   #15
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My Savage 12FV in .204 is far and away the most accurate rifle I own. So much so that it's almost too easy at any range below 150yds but the explosiveness of closer hits is entertaining enough to help. Once made a triple hit on ground squirrels at about 140...I had waited for a pair to line up for a double and after making the shot I walked up and found a third one stone dead directly behind the pair, with very little apparent damage compared to the other two. Probably just caught a fragment. Anyway it's a lot of fun and it's been a couple years since I took it out.

I shoot almost exclusively 39/40 gr bullets and while I haven't shot it much past 350, I find wind dope to be about 60% of what I'm used to with .223. In fact after not shooting it for a while I often overcorrect the wind at first. Maybe the 32s get blown around a lot more, don't really shoot those.
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Old June 16, 2018, 12:41 PM   #16
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My current rifle chambered in .204 Ruger is a Ruger Hawkeye Predator. It has maybe 3000 rounds thru the tube and is very enjoyable and accurate. When it was new, Reloader 10X behind 39 gr. Sierra BK's was deadly to over 400 yards. RL 10X is a fouler deluxe so after a few hundred rounds Hodgdon Benchmark became my favorite propellant. Clean, meters easily, and was just as accurate as RL 10X.

After about 13-1400 rounds, the groups opened up with the frequent flyer. After trying the often suggested thorough copper removal using Sweets till the patches no longer showed copper, it still dissapointed. I had a box of 24 gr. Hornady NTX and surprisingly the gun would again group great. I guess the lighter bullet must withstand the throat damage, but whatever, it shoots 3/8" groups when clean. I shot prairie rats yesterday with it and when the breeze allowed it is still a great shooter. But the wind is definatly a potential nemesis. With the 39 grain pills it was as good at wind bucking as my 22-250.

The carbon fouling issue became a nonissue after switching to Benchmark. If I get a new barrel or new rifle in .204 Ruger the velocity will be reduced to extend barrel life. I was running the 39 gr. at 3750 IIRC. Velocity is overblown in my opinion. Yesterday I was also using my 22-250 with 53 gr. Vmax at 3330 fps. The rifle is a Savage 12 with a Criterion 26" barrel in 9 twist. The rifle weight is 10.6 pounds. I could watch the bullet strike. And with a scope that is reliably consistent for elevation adjustments velocity becomes less profitable.

204 Ruger was my favorite cartridge till I reduced the 22-250. Still a strong second.
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Old June 16, 2018, 06:46 PM   #17
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I shoot a Remington 700 VLS in .204 Ruger. My scope is an older Redfield 6400 20x target scope. I do reload. Benchmark 26.5 gr – 2.250 COAL – Sierra 32 gr Blitzking. This gun is a dream. Accuracy beyond my wildest expectations. As far as a report on what it will do to a prairie dog I would not know. I am strictly a target shooter.
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Old June 16, 2018, 11:06 PM   #18
Brian Pfleuger
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I have hunted with a .204Ruger since the year it came out. In fact, I waited for the rifle to be available. 2004 as I recall? I'm not sure anymore.

Anyway, mine is a Ruger M77 MkII. Originally, it was topped with a very cheap Tasco 10-50 scope that actually served me well for a number of years. It was virtually unusable above ~30x, even in the brightest of bright sun, but it held zero for years. When it died inexplicably, I replaced it with a Mueller Eradicator, that the gun still wears.

For the first several years, I exclusively used Hornady V-Max factory ammo in either 32 or 40gr. I had heard reports of the 40s not stabilizing well, but they were very accurate for me. I saw no difference between them at all. Sometime around... 2011 maybe... I started reloading. I've used those same 32 and 40gr V-Max as well as 32gr Nosler. I have pushed the 32gr over 4,300fps, using care and data from QuickLoad, always with Benchmark.

The gun is remarkably accurate. It routinely shoots 1/4-1/2" 3 shot groups at 100 and I have shot 3" groups at 425.

I have killed.... untold hundreds... of woodchucks with that gun. I never kept a total count but there were years over 75 and some approaching 100.

Those woodchucks were killed from literally muzzle blast range out to 369 yards.

I found that very close shots (under 40 yards) and long shots (beyond ~275) almost never create an exit wound. Shots in between are massively destructive, with woodchucks sometimes nearly blown in half. Damage is similar, but slightly less than a .22-250. (Which my uncle carried on the same hunts and killed as many 'chucks as I did)

I lost a total of 2 (yes, two) woodchucks that were known to be hit but made it back to their holes. The VAST majority, I mean V-A-S-T majority never MOVE.

I have sung it's praises here on the forum many times. The pic through the scope attached here is a (dead) woodchuck hit at 342 yards, and the reticle is in the actual aim spot. It's sighted in 1.5" high at 100.





As an example, this woodchucks was shot at 40 yards, off-hand, shooting left hand because the sun was too bright from the right side Note the complete lack of an exit, or even blood. It looked to be scared to death, but never moved after the shot.

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Old June 17, 2018, 03:47 AM   #19
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I'd thought about the .204, but already had a .22-250, which was a very good varmint cartridge, but more wind-sensitive than I liked, especially in the springtime, when chucks were plentiful and active.

I thought of rechambering my rifle to .22-250 Improved and should have done it, but the rifle shot so well, I didn't want to screw it up. Eventually, I got a 6mm Rem and that was all I'd hoped for, except it was a Rem 700 Varmint that had a heavy barrel and it was a bear to carry around big fields all day, so got rid of it and went back to the .22-250. I'd like to see the .22-250 Improved to be a factory option. It's a great round that cures the case-stretching problem that plagues the .22-250 Rem and gives a ballistic boost that makes it nearly as good as the .220 Swift without being as hard on barrels and utilizing short actions. They could even re-name it to something like .22-250 Jeezum.
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Old Yesterday, 07:14 PM   #20
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Well, never say never but Powder Valley advertised a 10% sale on the Z-Max bullets and I ordered 1,500 more of them. That pretty much covers me to the year 2021 so I think I'll keep working with .223 for a bit. At least until I get antsy for a new toy.

Still love to hear more about what is working for you guys, so keep the replies coming!
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Old Yesterday, 07:47 PM   #21
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204

Grand little round.

You just got to love the velocity attained, especially with the 32gr bullets.

I use a Contender with a 21-inch barrel and a 4-18x Redfeild scope. Nothing survives within 200 yards and the hits are instant kills.

At 100 yds, a 5-shot group is covered by a dime all the time.

Enjoy.
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