The .204 Ruger

By Chuck Hawks

.204 Ruger
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

Two of our industry's most innovative companies collaborated on the design and introduction of a new caliber, the .204 Ruger. Hornady took primary responsibility for the design and manufacture of the new cartridge and Ruger for the new rifles. Their efforts have been rewarded, as the .204 has become a solid commercial success since its introduction only four years ago.

Hornady factory ballistics for the original 32 grain V-Max bullet in the .204 Ruger claim a MV of 4225 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 1308 ft. lbs. from a 24" test barrel. The velocity and energy figures down range are 3583 fps and 941 ft. lbs. at 100 yards, 3025 fps and 671 ft. lbs. at 200 yards, and 2531 fps and 469 ft. lbs. at 300 yards. Hornady has subsequently added a 40 grain V-Max and a 45 grain Spire Point bullet to its factory loaded ammo offerings. These same bullets are available to reloaders as components.

This is the fastest factory loaded cartridge ever introduced, although the .220 Swift, .223 WSSM and 5.6x57mm can achieve similar velocities with light 40 grain bullets that are comparable to the 32 grain .204 bullet. Hornady claims that their factory loads for the .204 Ruger is very accurate, designed to shoot into 1 MOA.

The trajectory of the 32 grain V-Max bullet, zeroed for a maximum bullet rise of 1.5", should look like this: +0.1" at 50 yards, +1.1" at 100 yards, +1.5" at 150 yards, +1.1" at 200 yards, -0.3" at 250 yards, -2.7" at 300 yards. The maximum point blank range of the .204 Ruger (+/- 1.5") is approximately 277 yards (calculated for a scope mounted 1.5" above the bore).

The .204 case is based on the .222 Remington Magnum and is similar to its parent in most respects. Specifications that will be of interest to reloaders include the .204's actual bullet diameter of .204", cartridge overall length (COL) of 2.28" and its case length of 1.85".

Hornady has indicated that because the .204 is factory loaded with a specially formulated powder that is not commercially available, reloaders will not be able to duplicate the ballistics of the factory load. Here is some reloading data courtesy of the Hodgdon Powder Company:

Starting Load - Hornady 32 grain V-Max bullet, 26.0 grains of H335 powder, MV 3703 fps, 40,600 PSI.
Maximum Load - Hornady 32 grain V-Max bullet, 28.3 grains of H335 powder, MV 4044 fps, 54,800 PSI.

Starting Load - Hornady 40 grain V-Max bullet, 25.0 grains of H335 powder, MV 3508 fps, 47,300 PSI.
Maimum Load - Hornady 40 grain V-Max bullet, 26.8 grains of H335 powder, MV 3738 fps, 56,700 PSI.

These loads used Hornady cases and Federal 205M primers. They were developed in a 24" test barrel.

The .204 Ruger is a carefully designed and well balanced cartridge into which a lot of thought was put. All of the major US ammo manufacturers (Hornady, Remington, Federal and Winchester) now offer .204 factory loads, usually with bullet weights around 32 and 40 grains, and many rifle makers have adopted the cartridge. Its longevity is assured.

Note: A full length article about the .204 Ruger can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.