January 04, 2011
By Joseph von Benedikt
Nosler Custom's new .204 load performs spectacularly in the field and will likely out-shoot your favorite handloads.
Not long ago I had the opportunity to hunt varmints with a new top-shelf .204 Ruger load from Nosler Custom and Norma. A combination of Nosler's Ballistic Tip bullet, Hodgdon's excellent powder and Norma's ultra-consistent cases, the load groups wonderfully and gives spectacular downrange performance.
Marketed through the Nosler Custom shop, the load coughs out a 40-grain Ballistic Tip at a shade over 3,600 fps. And did I say it grouped wonderfully?
In Wyoming, after a small tornado routed us from our hunting grounds, I found my way to the shooting bench back at headquarters and shot a series of groups. Even though I neglected to clean the rifle first, shots clustered like amorous flies. The average of four three-shot groups--fired without allowing the barrel to cool--came in at .39-inch. No fliers, no mulligans--even though it was spitting rain and the cardboard target backing was shivering slightly in the breeze.
I was on a prairie dog hunt, courtesy of Richard Folsland of Black Hills Shooter's Supply, which imports and distributes Norma ammunition. Cooper Firearms supplied several of its beautiful Model 21 single-shot bolt-action varmint rifles, which were topped with Leupold optics.
Over the course of two days I put close to 500 rounds through the Cooper's barrel, and as a testimony to both the rifle and the quality of the ammo, at no time did I need to clean the rifle due to loss of accuracy. I cleaned it every 50 rounds out of pure conscience; I had no intention to burn out the barrel of such a fine rifle.
I found the load devastating on rodents out to 250 yards. Beyond that it was certainly lethal but no longer induced quite the aerial acrobatics that a closer hit did. It also bucked the wind well--not quite like a 6mm or perhaps some of the high-speed heavier .22 caliber loads, but well enough.
Varminting is traditionally a hand-loader's sport. Much factory ammunition doesn't measure up accuracy-wise. But for shooters who don't have the time to load large quantities of ammo in today's fast-paced world, try Nosler Custom's .204 load. I'll wager it'll outshoot your handloads.