The .204 Ruger is one of the fastest varmint rounds ever developed with a maximum achieved velocity of 4225 fps, higher than other similar calibers the .204 Ruger is one of the best cartridges for taking down small game. While not the most popular varmint rounds developed, it manages to do this while creating more velocity with less powder, heat, and recoil than other, larger cartridges. With a number of chambered firearms and excellent accuracy the .204 Ruger just might be the best possible varmint round for hunters and target shooters alike.
.204 Ruger, A Joint Effort
Not satisfied with the current offerings that were on the market at the time Ruger and Hornady came together to create a new round aimed at varmint hunters and target shooters alike. Seeking to create a more efficient sub-caliber round the two major companies started with the .222 Remington Magnum cartridge and necked down the case to .204 inches or 5mm. Additionally the shoulder of the case was moved forward and the angle was increased to 30 degrees. This allowed them to use the 5% increased case volume over the 5.56mm to push the light rounds down range at blistering speeds. The initial factory loadings from Hornady allowed Ruger and Hornady to claim the crown of the “fastest sub caliber round” on the market when it was developed in 2004.
Hornady utilized a specialized powder that burned faster than other powders by using a de-coppering agent to prevent fouling in the barrel and chamber. This unique powder, called SMP746, was developed by Primex and unfortunately remains a proprietary product that is not available to the general public. These factory loadings managed to reach 4225 fps with this specialized powder. However other loadings, including hand loadings have been able to reach just under 4200 fps.
A Number of Advantages
Including having a much faster velocity than most of its direct competition, the .204 Ruger also boasts other advantages as well. First off these velocities are achieved with less powder than the .22-250 Remington which boasts similar velocities. Less powder and lighter bullets equal less felt recoil for the shooter. Additionally, the .204 Ruger boasts excellent accuracy as well. Early reviewers of the round were achieving 1/2 MOA groups at 100 yards. This accuracy is not surprising as the .222 Remington, one of the other cartridges in the family was one of the best bench rest shooting rounds for many years, and the .204 Ruger was an incremental improvement on this cartridge. This round is also incredibly flat shooting without any substantial drop off until about 500 yards. Finally this round has an efficient ballistic coefficient of 0.192, making it an excellent choice for its targeted market.
Varmint hunters found that they could accurately take down small game from 300 to 400 yards. For target shooters all of the features, light recoil, flat trajectory, and high velocity all equal the perfect round for bench rest shooting or similar competitions.
With the support of both a major firearms manufacturer and a major ammunition manufacturer the .204 Ruger became an incredibly popular alternative chambering for many varmint and target rifles. After Ruger’s initial offerings many other manufacturers began to chamber their guns in this new caliber. Ruger currently offers the Ruger American Rifle and the Ruger Hawkeye in their standard, varmint target, and predator models in .204 Ruger. Additionally the CZ 527 American is also chambered in .204 Ruger as well as many AR-15 Models such as the LR-204 from DPMS .
Handloads and Factory Ammo
Those looking for factory loadings will find that the .204 Ruger is easy to find with Hornady, Winchester, and many others offering various loadings of .204 Ruger ranging from 32 to 45 grains. Much of this ammo utilizes ballistic tips intended for taking down small game with Hornady’s offerings using their V-Max ballistic tip bullets.
Handloaders will also find a plethora of available components as well. Dies from Lee and others are easy to find, with bullets and brass easy to find as well. Load data can be found from a number of sources such as Nosler, giving reloaders excellent load data and a place to start from when formulating their own loadings.
King of the (Prairie Dog) Hill
The .204 Ruger is probably one of the best varmint rounds out there right now. Fast, flat shooting, with excellent accuracy the .204 Ruger makes more sense than other competing cartridges right now. And with the number of available firearms from bolt actions to semi-auto AR-15’s the .204 Ruger is an excellent choice for target and varmint shooting alike.