The .204 Ruger is a favourite on prarie dogs in the USA.

Rating the .204 Ruger

L - R .22-250, .223, .204 Ruger, .220 Swift
L – R .204 Ruger, .223, .22-250, .220 Swift

Q: I’m in the market for a new varmint rifle and cartridge and have just about decided on the .204 Ruger. How would you rate it against the .17 Remington and .220 Swift, with regard to velocity and hitting power? What’s your favourite load for the .204 Ruger?

Daniel Fahey

.204 bullet range
.204 bullet range

A: In terms of velocity the .204 Ruger is not the fastest commercially loaded round; that honour goes to Remington’s 20gn V-Max loading of its .17 Remington; in second place is Federal’s 40gn loading of the .220 Swift.

Both boast a velocity of 4250fps against 4225fps for Hornady’s 32gn loading of the .204 Ruger.

Hornady factory loads for the .204 Ruger list a 32gn V-Max at 4225fps and 40gn V-Max at 3900fps.

My .204 was based on the Remington 700 action fitted with a Maddco barrel and it was the most accurate rifle I’ve ever owned, shooting sub-half minute five-shot groups. I used the 40gn V-Max exclusively as it holds up better over the long haul, lies closer to the wind and shows the explosive effect a varmint hunter can see through the scope due to the .204’s virtually non-existent recoil.

Residual velocity exceeding 2500fps out to about 325yd makes the .204 easy to hit with.

My pet load was 29gn of W-748 behind the 40gn V-Max for 3930fps with normal pressure. W-748 has been discontinued. The closest I got to it was with 27gn of BM8208 for 3835fps with the 40gn V-Max.

For a simonpure varmint rifle I prefer the .204 Ruger over any other cartridge I’ve ever tried.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.


  1. Greetings, and thanks for your question and answer posts. I just found this website and have devoured as much of it in 2 hours of one sitting as I could. In the above picture of the 4 cartridges, something looked odd so I looked more closely and found it. It appears that there was a “non-proclaimed” contest in catching the faux-pas in labeling the 4 cartridges. Sneaky authors.
    Here is my attempt. By process of elimination: The 2 on the right have larger bases than the 2 on left, so neither of them can be .204 Ruger (which shares base diameter with .223 Rem.) The 2 on left have the smaller base diameters (Bingo!), but the left most one also has a smaller diameter bullet, taller shoulders, and slightly longer O.A.L., hence must be the .204 Ruger. I recognize the body shape of the .223 (from which I make my .20 Practical ammo) and the 22-250 (my first center fire rifle cartridge). I already knew that the 220 Swift is the largest/longest cartridge of the group.
    There, how did I do? 😉

      1. Lol, I am not butt-hurt in any way. It was merely a fun exercise, partly to see if I could write what I saw in an easy way to understand. I should have finished up with my left-to-right order summary. Oh, well, carry on. 😉