By Marcus O’Dean
I have only really had one rush of blood to the head where I have become enthused enough to invest in one esoteric chambering, the .17 Hornady Hornet, which is a special-purpose, miniature delight. Now I went through a long period where I invested a lot of time in developing effective, accurate loads for all my rifles for hunting and target and have slowly come round to a revelation that ADI’s AR 2208 (or Varget as it’s marketed in the US) is my most used and possibly my most versatile powder.
While I maintain small stocks of AR2205, AR2207, AR 2206H, Benchmark 2, Trailboss, Reloder 22, AR2209, AR2213SC, L’il Gun, Win748 and Win760, the only ones I purchase in 4kg quantities are AR2208
Why is AR 2208 so good for me? Let me start with military chamberings that work well for hunting:
.223 Remington. Although I found stellar accuracy for just plain group shooting with AR2206H with 55gn bullets, I found I could get nearly the same accuracy, better velocity and more tractability from AR 2208. With 55grainers in a 24 inch barrel, I realise just on 3200fps with a mild charge of 26.5 grains and with 69gn bullets, 25 grains is, in practical terms, interchangeable with a 23gn BM2 load for accuracy, velocity and POI.
.308 Winchester. I have used everything from 130gn Remington PSPs (48.5gns) for 300m MoA accuracy, through 150-155gn loads for fullbore and hunting with 46.5gns and 175gn bullets pushed along by a mild 43 grain charge. All comfortably shoot sub-MoA for five shots in a variety of rifles I have owned and give great field performance.
.270 Winchester. While the primary load for my short-barreled custom is a 130gn Sierra or Speer soft-point with AR2209, I have now tapered back to 90 and 110gn loads in Speer Varminter and Barnes TSX bullets and loads of 55gn and 50gn respectively of AR2208 do the business beautifully. The bullets scream out at varminting speeds and wallop fallow, pigs and goats for significantly less recoil in my 5-pound “Little Hercules”..
.30-06 Springfield. My particular “ought-six” does not like slow powders. It gives nasty muzzle blast, especially with Re 22 and to a lesser extent AR2209 with my favourite weight 165gn Speer, Sierra and Barnes 168gn loads, so suffering a moderate velocity loss using 50-51 grains of AR2208, the rifle and user seem much happier.
.303 British. For absolutely hair-splitting high velocity target loads to shoot out to 1000 yards, 46.5gns of AR2209 in a cavernous Remington case cannot be beaten with a 174gn Sierra Match King. For a workaday load with 174s for service shooting, 38-40 grains of AR2208 goes well, but with 123-125gn bullets it really shines. With 123gn Hornady SPs, 45gns has given me 1-inch three shot groups at 200 metres – twice – with iron sights. Behind the Lapua 124gn FMJ, an extra grain is needed to wring 1.5MoA very usable service rifle accuracy at a flat-shooting 2900fps MV and mild recoil. For hunting vermin, that Hornady 123gn load is also absolutely poison.
For my own pedestrian, standard rifles that just keep delivering in the situations I find myself in, if only AR2208 was available, I wouldn’t be slashing my wrists.
PS These loads all work well in my rifles, so the standard caution applies. Start 2-3 grains lower and work up.