The process of writing Part I reinforced my view of the Model 77 Hawkeye and corrected a good number of misperceptions I had in regard to the 204 Ruger. I suppose I should have known better, even based on previous 17 and 22 caliber experience. So a high power varmint scope went on and some basic handloading tools and components were purchased with positive anticipation.
A low cost reload and shooter…
The 204 Ruger is an inexpensive cartridge to reload, more so because we already had tooling in house to reload the 222 and 223 Remington which use both the same press and trimmer shell holders.
A set of Hornady Custom Grade New Dimension dies were $34, I needed a new 0.204″ trimmer pilot $5 for my RCBS trimmer, new Remington brass was $26/100, and reference Nosler and Barnes bullets were $17 and $19 per hundred, respectively. In terms of smokeless powder consumption… there are about 250 rounds of 204 Ruger to a pound of powder. Throwing in some primers and assuming at least five uses of the brass, 20 rounds of ammo with premium components runs about $7.
As noted in Part I, the 204 Ruger inherits its 58,740 PSI Maximum Average Pressure from its 222 Remington Magnum Parent which, surprisingly, makes it a relatively moderate cartridge and easy on barrels. Varmint hunting is synonymous with lots of shots fired, so being easy on equipment and inexpensive to reload are admirable qualities of this cartridge.
Sometimes good data is hard to find…
One of the benefits of picking up reloading of a cartridge that has been out there for a while is access to mainstream handload data that, no doubt, would have been generated. The 204 Ruger is a bit of an exception. I used Hornady# 8, the online addendum to Barnes #4 and Nosler #6 online data as the basis for working up my own handloads and found I had to do some powder juggling to get the best results.
|Barnes #20426||26||2.260||IMR 3031||24.5||4186||1012||1.1|
|Barnes #20426||26||2.260||RS TAC||29.5||4163||1001||0.7|
|Hornady #22004||32||2.245||IMR 4198||24.0||3982||1127||0.9|
|Hornady #22004||32||2.245||RS TAC||28.5||3957||1113||0.9|
|Nosler #35216||32||2.245||RS TAC||28.5||3951||1083||0.4|
|Nosler #35216||32||2.245||Win 748||29.0||3999||1137||0.9|
|Hornady #22006||40||2.245||Win 748||28.0||3791||1276||1.2|
|Hornady #22008||45||2.245||IMR 4895||27.0||3594||1291||0.5|
|Hornady #22008||45||2.245||Win 748||27.0||3612||1304||1.2|
|All primers CCI BR-4 – Small Rifle Bench Rest|
I am not sure if the generally excellent accuracy is the result of good handloads, or the virtual absence of recoil which made the M77 easy to shoot. I know the gun was put together well or it wouldn’t have produced these results. Initially, I thought the 45 grain Hornady would be the accuracy problem, anticipating the length would push the twist rate limitations, but I think this applied more to the 40 Grain Hornady V-Max, which is actually a longer bullet than the 45 grain. I’ll also plead insufficient data to arrive at a well thought out performance conclusion.
There is a real application here; long reach, hard hitting, low report, no recoil. The Model 77 Hawkeye is not a featherweight rifle, but it is a really lightweight varmint rifle. Compared to my heavy barrel Swift, this is a rifle that I don’t mind carrying with me for a day’s outing.
The 204 Ruger is a compact and economic round that seems to hit as hard as the light weight bullet 223 Remington loads and maybe shoots a little flatter and, in my own experience, it is a lot more accurate. Nice good, good combination.