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Barnes Varmint Grenades
Testing Bullets in Several Calibers
John Haviland

The full lineup of tested Varmint Grenade bullets: (1) .204 Ruger, 26 grains, (2) .221 Fireball, 36 grains, (3) .223 Remington, 30 grains, (4) .223 Remington, 36 grains, (5) .223 Remington, 50 grains, (6) .22-250 Remington, 36 grains, (7) .22-250 Remington, 50 grains, (8) .243 Winchester, 62 grains and (9) .243 WSSM, 62 grains.

Back in 2007 Barnes Bullets introduced its Varmint Grenade (VG) bullets made with a copper/tin powdered metal core surrounded by a gilding metal jacket. VGs were mainly intended for shooting in areas that require lead-free bullets. However, because they shoot so accurately and instantly fragment on contact, the bullets have become popular everywhere game from ground squirrels to coyotes are hunted.

VGs are traditionally shaped with a flat base and hollow tip. The bullets are made in .20, .22 and .24 caliber. Even with their flat base, the bullets are relatively long for their weight because of their copper/tin core. The length of the .20-caliber, 26-grain VG measures, .636 inch. In contrast, Berger .20-caliber, 30-grain Flat Base bullets measure .539 inch in length and 35-grain FB Varmint bullets are .606 inch. VG 36-grain, .22-caliber bullets measure .697 inch in length. In comparison, Nosler 40-grain HP FB Varmageddon bullets are similar in shape and measure .560 inch in length. All VGs except the 50-grain, .22-caliber version stabilize in standard rifling twists.

The ballistic coefficient (BC) of VG bullets is comparable to lead-core bullets of similar weight and shape. The .22-caliber, 36-grain bullet has a .149 BC. In comparison, Nosler Varmageddon 40-grain flatbase hollowpoint bullets have a .158 BC. The .24-caliber, 62-grain VG has a .199 BC while Sierra 60-grain flatbase hollowpoint bullets have a BC of .182.

Lots of handloading data for VG bullets is available from several sources. The Barnes Reloading Manual Number 4 lists some handloading data for VG bullets. The barnesbullets.com website contains handloading data for the .204 Ruger, most commercial .22-caliber cartridges from the .22 Hornet to the .223 Winchester Super Short Magnum and .24-caliber cartridges including the .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, .243 WSSM and .240 Weatherby Magnum. The Hodgdon 2019 Annual Manual and hodgdonreloading.com include VG loading data for most of those cartridges and the .218 Bee, .22 Nosler and 6mm BR. I relied on all that data to load bullets in the .204 Ruger, .221 Fireball, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington and .243 Winchester.

Other than in this magazine, handloaders don’t hear much about the .204 Ruger these days. The .223 Remington, with its vast array of bullets, has fairly-well eclipsed the .204 in popularity. Still, the .204 turned in impressive velocities with 26-grain VG bullets. Benchmark propellant fired bullets at 4,153 fps from the 26-inch barrel of a Remington Model 700 Varmint rifle. Ramshot X-Terminator was close behind with an average velocity of 4,100 fps. Extreme velocity spread with both propellants was close to 30 fps. LT-32 pushed four VGs with a velocity variation of barely 5 fps. The fifth round, though, went wild with a velocity 170 fps higher. The bullet from that cartridge landed an inch outside an otherwise tight group. X-Terminator was the clear choice in the .204. Erin Nelson, who owns the .204 Ruger rifle and did the shooting, said the .61-inch group with VGs and X-Terminator was the tightest group his rifle has ever produced.

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Rifle Special Edition Varmint Fall 2019

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