prairie dog rifle, what would you go with?

Discussion in 'Small Stuff--22s, 20s, and 17s' started by Buzzsaw, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. bloc

    bloc

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    Well, you can pick up a 204 Savage FV for $356 at Cabelas: https://tinyurl.com/y8cjsqhd

    I have the FCV (which differs only wrt its box magazine and higher price) and it is a tack driver (yesterday I shot a 5 shot group that measured .291 at 100 yards with Sierra 39 grain BKs @3800 [BC G1=.287]).

    I did pitch the original stock for a $170 Choate, but that's the only mod I made and it really wasn't all that necessary.

    Alas, you will need a good scope . . . I regard my rifle so highly that I put a Nightforce SHV 5-20 on it. (The scope and mount I bought cost roughly twice what I paid for my rifle. But it's worth it to me.)
     
  2. Tommie

    Tommie Gold $$ Contributor

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    Once I “discovered” the 20 caliber, my 22’s began collecting dust.
     
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  3. 284winner

    284winner Gold $$ Contributor

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    I get the 20 caliber hype. Screaming fast, accurate and very explosive...but at a price. Anything as light at the bullets pushed thru a 20 caliber rifle, there's a price to be paid. That price is that wind is very much your enemy. Even with 224 caliber bullets, wind is very bad on accuracy. The exception is that with the 224 bullets, very high BC numbers are offered in many due to the weight caliber combo. Ya the .287 bc in the 39 grain 20 caliber is impressive yet still vulnerable to slight wind at ranges beyond 300 yards. Practically speaking, there's a fine line in the small caliber bullets when it comes to wind and accuracy. We all have our preferred varmint cartridge whether it's because of accuracy, speed or explosive properties. They all have these traits however not all have them at equal ranges. That's really where we have to decide which works best for a desired situation. I prefer a 223 with the 53 Vmax out to decent ranges (300-500 yards). The 22-250 and Ackley version both using 75-80 grain bullets provide that next range level that's hard to beat (500-800 yards) in even some wind. Without wind 1000+ yards is very practical with it. I'm certain the 20 caliber offers an in between somewhere in there but like I said, we all have our preferences. I've yet to jump into the 20 caliber game with a few 224 cartridge options sitting in my safe. One day I'm sure I will bring home a .204 and experience what those already have here that I read often. For now, I'm pretty happy with the 40-80 grain 224 option.
     
  4. B23

    B23 Gold $$ Contributor

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    The 55gr 20cal Bergers help even things against the 22-250's w/75's but you need something like a 20-250 in order to shoot those Berger 55's because anything smaller can't really launch them fast enough to compete.
     
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  5. bloc

    bloc

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    I unequivocally and totally agree with everything you say. And I have two 223s that I use with 40 grain bullets (my Stevens likes the 40 VMax, my LRPV likes the 40 Nosler BT).

    But I'm not as good a shot as you appear to be, so my chances of consistently hitting any prairie dog-sized animal much beyond, say, 350 yards is pretty iffy no matter what caliber/bullet combination I might use, even if the wind were steady or non-existent.

    But I have been able to hit ground squirrels out at about 350 yards with some regularity in some pretty gusty conditions using the 39 grain Sierras @3800 fps. I'm pretty satisfied with that, given that ground squirrels are rather smaller than PDs.

    I just wish I was a better rifleman! I mean, hitting PD sized targets at 800 yards in windy conditions just blows me away and I'm pea green envious at the level of your shooting skills.
     
  6. ckaberna

    ckaberna Gold $$ Contributor

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    20SCC, VT on steroids
     
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  7. Damon555

    Damon555

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    It's not nearly as difficult as you think. Experience has taught me over the years that when I go on my prairie dog excursions I need at least two rifles.....well three if you count the one my son shoots.....Bare bones we shoot 204 Ruger, which is my sons rifle, a 223 AI which is my main rifle....those two rifles are darn good inside 400 yards when the wind isn't blowing. But having been blown all over the prairie the third rifle that makes the trip is a 6mm of some sort. The 204 and 223 aren't even in the same league as my 6XC when the wind picks up.

    Last summer it was pretty darn windy most of the trip. Shot up all my 6XC ammo and put a pretty good dent in the 204 and 223AI ammo....I didn't expect to need the 6mm much but with switchy 15-20 mph crosswinds the smaller calibers were a joke. Don't limit yourself.....take one (cheaper) rifle to shoot the majority of the time and take something with a little more punch just in case you need to fight the elements.
     
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  8. 284winner

    284winner Gold $$ Contributor

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    I don't think I ever mentioned I could hit a prairie dog at 800 yards in wind with any kind of consistency using the little 224 bullet regardless of weight. First, how much wind is important. Second, accuracy means the most. Without a doubt, you can hit a prairie dog at 800 yards in ideal conditions with a .5 moa or better rifle, many times even with a .75 moa rifle. What most will not do is hit them when wind is present especially inconsistent gusting winds. Out west sustained winds are common and reading it and shooting in it is predictable. It can be conquered. It's the gusting unpredictable wind that is tough. I shoot ground hogs and in ground hog country, winds are most often or many times non existent allowing shots beyond 1000 yards very doable. Connecting with them is regular providing again your rifle is accurate. Out to 300-450/500 the 53 Vmax gets it done with ease. Not explosive at longer ranges but hits are simple. 250-300 is normally best for bullet fragmentation and explosive hits, at least with the .223. Ground hogs and prairie dogs are entirely different targets. I find myself walking in my bullets to the prairie dogs due to wind more than precisely hitting them with one shot. For that reason I stopped taking my ARs on dog shooting trips. Only in the early morning calm can we regularly score on 500-800 yard dogs with the .224s. When wind gets going, the 6.5, 7 and 30s come out for those half mile and beyond shots. Still hitting them in winds isn't easy with the big boys. BTW...Don't be envious of my shooting skills. There are many times more skillful shooters here that you will learn and become educated from. Continue to learn from these guys and listen to what they say when it comes to LR shooting at tiny objects. I'm still learning everyday and listen to them each time I read in this forum. Most have forgotten what I will ever know. I know my way around an alfalfa field shooting Ghogs out there a ways but my skill set isn't the level of many gentlemen here on this site. I hope to get there one day and sure enjoy the ride everyday I can get out and put there advice on the ground. Good luck, you too will become what you envy. Just takes time behind your favorite gun.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
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  9. planewrench

    planewrench

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    I've been shooting prairie dogs in Western Colorado for twenty years. Started out with a .22. Next was a CZ in .17 HMR. Then I built a Remmy 700 in .223. Heavy barrel, big heavy laminated stock and a big scope. The whole outfit runs about fifteen pounds. Very accurate with hand loads using 40 grain VMax or Varmageddon bullets not too far off from 4000fps. Even with this outfit, the gun jumps enough that I need a spotter to clue me in on what happened when the bullet hit the dog. Newest, and most fun, acquisition is a CZ .17 Hornet Varmint. Took a glass bedding job and tinkering to make it shoot really well, along with time at the range developing good hand loads. Varmaggedon 20's and AA2200 are giving very good accuracy. Neither of these guns would be best for super long range, but as mentioned above, most shots aren't much past 300 yards. I have had hits way out there with both guns, but the opportunities dont arise too often. Very happy with these guns and they both can shoot factory ammo.
    A .204 Ruger would be an excellent choice. If you're going to do a LOT of shooting with a .220 swift, .22-250, or a 6mm you will tire from the blast and recoil quickly and you also won't witness much of the down-range result. Barrel life is a consideration too.

    If your 223 has a decent scope and is accurate, it will serve you well.

    George, NRA Lifer, FFL/ Gunsmith since 1971
     
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  10. L.Sherm

    L.Sherm Silver $$ Contributor

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    Less barrel heat and able to see your hits in the scope makes 17 and 20 cal stuff appealing without brakes
     
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  11. bloc

    bloc

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    I've always wanted to go on a ground hog shoot,, but have never had the chance. I was able hit a yellow-bellied marmot at ~225 yards (which I understand to be a variety of g.hog) while shooting ground squirrels. After having viewed Beldings GSs for hours through my scope, that marmot was huge (same for a jack rabbit I shot at on another trip, [also] ~225 yards ). I got the marmot with my post 64 Mod .225 Win. using 40 grain Berger bullets.

    Most of my shots at GSs are, I guess, between 100 - 250 yards though I have hit them out to 350 or so. Where I shoot ground squirrels, the weather can and does change quickly and I, like you, find myself having to "walk" bullets onto my targets at longer distances irrespective of the rifle I'm shooting and the weather conditions.

    IMO, almost by definition, when I get to the point where I "walk" my bullets onto the target, the BC, caliber, velocity or any other aspect of my rig becomes far less important: at this point, it's all trial-and-error.

    I will admit that in the very rare occasions when I've hit a Beldings beyond ~350 yards, I whoop with joy even though I regard all such hits as being pure luck!

    Planewrench (above) makes the point that even heavy .223s can jump enough to make it difficult to see all your bullet splashes. I've found that to be the case with my .223 LRPV which must weigh, with scope, just at 14 lbs.

    When I shoot my .204, I have a much easier time seeing bullet splash when I miss and chunkage when I connect.
     
  12. 284winner

    284winner Gold $$ Contributor

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    Shooting ground hogs to me is very much like hunting. I sit and glass for my game. May be an hour or 15 minutes between shots but it's glassing and spotting your target. Then the shot is like shooting at a deer. You get one shot. Yes, a ground hog IS much larger than a prairie dog or ground squirrel but so is a deer. Deer are again several times larger than a ground hog but the vitals on a deer are about the same as a ground hog. When you can connect and kill a ground hog with one shot out to and beyond at 1000 yards plus, I'd say your deer rifle is ready to kill a deer at various ranges. I use my deer rifles for ground hogs for that very reason. Same load I will hunt deer with. Learning it very intimately thought the seasons leading up to deer season. It's kind of a no brainier for me. I still use the smallish 22, 24 calibers for ground hogs as well but mostly my 260, 6.5-284 and 284 for ground hogs. If you can get very proficient with the .224 guns, the step up, will make them chip shots.
     
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  13. ND shooter

    ND shooter

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  14. drover

    drover

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    Gentlemen.

    I am not posting this to start a spitting contest but I am going to suggest that if you are shooting 14 - 15 lb rifles and you are not seeing your hits/misses then you need to work on your set-up/ follow through and gun-handling technique.
    With the minimal recoil of the 223 and 40 gr bullets you should be seeing practically everything that occurs unless you are jerking the trigger, moving your head, closing your eyes or flinching. Yes it possible for people to flinch shooting a light caliber, heavy rifle - but more often it is poor gun-handling/technique. My favorite walking varminter only weighs 8 # and I see the hits/misses with it.

    I have shot competition and literally thousands of PD's and Ground Squirrels over the decades and have observed many shooters, both competition and varmint shooters, I am always at amazed how few shooters do follow through correctly. In most cases they never realize what they are doing wrong unless someone points it out to them.

    p.s. - I am sure that someone will eventually post that the 204 recoils less than the 223 and they can see there hits better - Ain't happening. The 204 with 40 gr bullets recoils virtually identically to the 223 with 40 gr bullets because the powder charges are near identical and the bullet weight is identical.
    It is possible to have a slight reduction in recoil by going to the 32 gr bullets in the 204 but even then it is only about a half-ft lb less.


    Here is the data for a 8# 223 with a 40 gr bullet
    Recoil

    Input Data

    Charge Weight:
    27.0 gr


    Muzzle Velocity:
    3750.0 ft/s


    Firearm Weight:
    8.0 lb


    Bullet Weight:
    40.0 gr

    Output Data


    Recoil Velocity:
    4.9 ft/s


    Recoil Energy:
    3.0 ft•lbs

    Recoil Impulse:
    1.2 lb•s


    09-Dec-18 15:34, JBM/jbmrecoil-5.1.cgi


    Here is the data for a 14# 223 with a 40 gr bullet

    recoil data - 14 # rifle

    Recoil

    Input Data

    Charge Weight:
    27.0 gr


    Muzzle Velocity:
    3750.0 ft/s


    Firearm Weight:
    14.0 lb


    Bullet Weight:
    40.0 gr


    Output Data

    Recoil Velocity:
    2.8 ft/s


    Recoil Energy:
    1.7 ft•lbs


    Recoil Impulse:
    1.2 lb•s
     
  15. 284winner

    284winner Gold $$ Contributor

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    Very good information. Thanks for the work up.
     
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  16. steve123

    steve123

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    I think part of why people can't see their hits is because they use frail portable benchrest tables.

    Last week I was trying to spot for a friend shooting his 17hmr on steel at 160Y. I had the spotting scope on 20x and the vibration of the rifle going off made the table vibrate enough that I couldn't see where in the dirt he was missing. This is a wide table made for up to four people side by side.

    Prone off a bipod or a benchrest set up is the opposite of course and my favorite way to shoot if I can get away with it. My full body weight is keeping the rifle from pushing me back and self spotting is easy. This is where loading the bipod and squaring up to the rifle pays high dividends!!! If done correctly the rifle goes forward into the same picture in the FOV of the scope after the shot in time to see what is happening in real time.

    When shooting off a bench the recoil force pushes back against only 50% of your body weight and the rifle is upset more.

    Ultimately if you have a muzzle brake on even a low recoiling cartridge the rifle upset is greatly reduced which makes self spotting all that much easier.

    The latest example I can share is comparing my old 6x47L heavy barrel with brake and my new unbraked 6mmBR which weighs a pound lighter, both using the same 105 grain bullet on the same action and chassis. The 6x47l was much "much easier" to self spot with.
     
  17. Kevin Taylor

    Kevin Taylor

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    I need to mention a heavy caliber. 257 Roberts.
     
  18. moorepower

    moorepower

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    The only guns that I shoot where I can see the impact are a Savage 40 in 22H and a Ruger 77/22/17HH with a .920 straight tube and you have to hold hard with both to see it. If shot from a bipod, I am not sure you would see anything. FYI if the wind is not blowing too hard both are fantastic in a dogtown.
     
  19. bloc

    bloc

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    About not being able to spot bullet strikes. Speaking only for myself, I think there are several variables operating that challenge me, and their effects are cumulative IMO.

    1) Poor shooting practices. For myself, at least wrt flinching or othrwise reacting to noise or recoil, I don’t think that’s a big issue. I can put three .338 Win Mags into 1.25 inches or less at 100 yards without any problem. My best 3 shot group was a .225 Hornady @ 2800+ fps into 0.6 in. (Admittedly, my 5 shot groups are usually betwen 1.5 and 2.5 inches at the same distance.)

    2) Wobbly bench. That probably contributes to my not being able to see some of my bullet strikes.

    3) Bipod. On our club’s rock-solid, massive concrete benches, my bipod does jump slightly when I shoot my .223 (and .204). I can (and do) dampen that by placing a scrap of pile rug beneath the feet of my bipod, and the nature of the target’s bullseye is easy to discern. My eye never leaves it because it is designed to be seen.

    4) Nature of target, distance and what I’ll call “magnified recoil jump.”

    In spite of what Wikipedia says is the size of the adult Beldings ground squirrel (~9.1 in to 11.8 in, head to base of tail) the ones I shoot at seldom achieve 8 inches. I’d guess most are from 6.5 to 7.5 inches. Many are smaller, younger animals, and many times you can’t see the entire animal, or it’s lying horizontally (making accurate ranging even more critical). Plus, all of them are designed NOT to be seen when in their normal habitat.

    Scope “jump” is just like MOA: 1 inch at 100 yards is 4 inches at 400 yards, so at longer distances your eye is briefly removed from your target more than at closer ranges. True, the jump happens quickly and I can recover quickly. But by the time my eye is settled, the bullet has done what it was going to do (hit or miss). Even slight scope jump is, to me, a distraction that often challenges to see where my bullet splashes.

    5) Terrain. Most of the alfalfa fields I shoot are pretty much featureless. That is to say that there are usually a myriad of tufts of plants and open dirt spaces arranged haphazardly — there are no obvious landmarks next to my beautifully camoflaged target. It’s hard for me to come back to the exact same point I shot at. (If the land is dusty I can often see the “puff.” But if the bullet enters one of those tufts of alfalfa, I have no way of seeing its strike.)

    Of course, sometimes when I connect, I get lavish chunkage . . . that’s hard not to see. But if I shoot at a squirrel partially hidden by a tuft of alfalfa, I may or may not see a hit or bullet splash.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
  20. planewrench

    planewrench

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    Hi Drover, won't argue physics with you, but I will give you a run-down of my setup. When in the field the .223 and the .17 hornet are both shot off the hood of my old Jeep Cherokee with either a front and rear bag or a bipod and a rear bag. I made a little fence that drops down into the slot between the hood and fender to stabilize the rear bag. Prior to taking the shot, the rear bag is fiddled into position to make the gun STABLE. The spotter gets his elbows off the hood and the rear bag gets tinkered with until the target is dead nuts on...no jitters...no shakes...no temors. The butt is snug in my shoulder pocket, my left hand is on the grip (lefty), right hand in front of the rear bag. I take a breath and slowly begin the one pound trigger press and Bang! The gun fires (and jumps), dog expires, and I will sometimes witness vertically flying bits.
    Watch a couple videos of .223 varmint guns being fired from the bench and you will see the muzzle jump.
    Okay, here's my redneck math. If the muzzle jumps just 1/32"(.0026 feet) and you multiply that number by the distance to the target, say 300 yards (900 feet) that's 2.34 feet... I think. Anyone want to correct me on that, be my guest.
    The point is, if I were making all those mistakes, I'd be afraid of shooting my car or my buddy or myself... just kidding. I am not smart enough to do anything special.. just a very steady rest, a careful and deliberate trigger press and the bullet (mostly) strikes the target, but I don't see it happen because the gun rises. No flinch!
    Hits are visible with the .17 Hornet.

    George, NRA Lifer, FFL/Gunsmith since 1971
     

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