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Post Info TOPIC: 20 Vartarg or 221 Fireball


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20 Vartarg or 221 Fireball
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I'm thinking about getting a new gun and can't decide between 20vt or 221 fireball. What has your experiences been with either cartridge good or bad. I'm was leaning towards the 20Vt but not real excited about spending $1,500 for a Cooper, when i can buy a CZ 221 for a lot less and probalby do just as well. My shooting will all be 250 yards and less.

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I have both.  The VarTarg is a T/C Encore put together by BullBerry Barrels in Hurricane, Utah.  The .221 is a Cooper, Montana Varminter.  Both are excellent rifles.  I almost exclusively use them to hunt Prarie Dogs in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, etc.  and my shots are typically from close it out to about 250 yards.  I have not tried either at much longer ranges because I have other guns for that.

Both are based upon the .221 Fireball case which is about twice as expensive as standard brass and is sometimes in short supply.  We keep hoping someone besides Remington will start making the brass and drive the price down but so far no luck on that after several years of hoping.  You can make the brass out of a .223, if you want to go through the work and spend about $100-$200 on tools. 

You can form the VarTarg cases by simply running the .221 brass through a FL VarTarg die, load and shoot.  I do that all the time.

The Vartarg requires 20 cal bullets and the bullet selections are limited but increasing with time.  The .221 uses 22 cal bullets and there is a very large variety of them to choose from.  I have standardized on 40 gr  V-Max bullets in both and have been experimenting with Midway and Midsouth hollow points lately, just to save money, and they work fine on Prairie Dogs.  The V-Max bullets seem to always be available.  Best prices I have found are at Mid South Shooters Supply.

I have only used the VarTarg a few times, for a few days,  and think based upon that it is a more practical round for zero out to 250 yards.   The velocity is higher and the trajectory flatter than the 221.    I bought the .221 as one step up from a .22k Hornet and  not as loud etc. as a .223.  I got what I paid for and it is a good gun.  I see the VarTarg as whole different breed of cat.  Again, the main difference is the higher velocity and flatter trajectory for the same weight of bullet.  It is economical to shoot.

You can shoot a heavier bullet out of the .221 if that matters.   I am typically shooting a 40 grain V-Max bullet out of both.  Sometimes I shoot a 45 grain hollow point out of the .221 but they have become more expensive than the 40 gr V-Max which is a better bullet so I will most likely stick to the 40 gr.  I shoot the same weight of bullets in a 204 Ruger which is currently my long range favorite.  I also have a .17 Mach IV, and I routinely shoot PDs at 350 yards with it and will point out it does it all day long.  But with a .20 grain V-Max.  You can definitely watch the impact with the .17 but it simply does not have the energy to blow them up much.  The instant visual gratification is higher with the .221 or VarTarg.  All are very accurate.  My .204 and .17 Mach IV are also Cooper Montana Varminters.   

I would say it is slightly easier to watch the PD blow up with the VarTarg than with the .221, less gun movement on firing, just slightly. 

I shy away from the higher dollar bullets because I shoot so frequently that economizing a little is worth it to me.  I may shoot about 600 rounds in a day.  If I only shot a few shots a day, such as with groundhog hunting back east, I would think differently. 

I would study the trajectories of the various options for loads for both and see it that makes any difference to you.  Note that the higher weight bullets tend to retain more energy at the longer ranges and that may translate into a flatter trajectory at those longer ranges.  

As a third alternative, I would give serious consideration to having a 20 Tactical made up.  The advantages are about 150 fps higher velocity than the VarTarg and the use of .223 brass without having to buy any really expensive special tools to resize the brass.  So you get a little more velocity and lower cost brass, about half the price for brass.  I suggest you buy Todd Kindler's book, the Terrific Twenties for comparative information.  Loaddata.com also has some good data on both.  I have not found much data on loads elsewhere. 

-- Edited by TERMINATORJON on Thursday 8th of April 2010 06:11:35 PM

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Idtrout: There is a CHEAPER option for getting a custom built 20 VarTarg. Please check out the Mark VII Rifle being made by E. R. Shaw at which also has a nice list of calibers available, including the 20 VarTarg and the 221 Fireball. I just ordered another 20 VarTarg from E. R. Shaw last week because it is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE caliber (I already have 2 Coopers in 20 VT, as well as 2 CZ527 Americans and a Remington XP100 in 221 Fireball), AND because E. R. Shaw has a stellar reputation for great work. They use a Savage Model 10/110 action with Accutrigger as the foundation for the Mark VII rifle, then you build it from there as you want it. I ordered mine with a 24" Stainless Steel, bead blasted, #3 contour barrel in 1:12" twist and with an 11 degree target crown. My choice of stocks was the laminated wood in the "pepper" pattern (dark and white alternating laminates) to enhance the dark action and satin finished stainless barrel. The only down side to all this is there is a one year wait from order to completion!! Certainly not for those into instant gratification, but well worth the wait...why??? Because the cost for my order as stated above was $825 for the rifle plus $30 for shipping. If you would like to talk more with me about my experiences with the 20 VT at extreme (400-500 yd) ranges contact me at my personal e-mail address Hope this helps with your dreams.

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Also, if you already have an Encore frame, you can buy a 20 Vartarg barrel from Bullberry for about $500, but again you will have to wait a few months. I waited about six for mine. Seems to me the Vartarg is the way to go.

Also, you may have to shop around for dies. I like Redding and they are hard to find.

Good Luck.

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For 20 VarTarg shooter's information, you can save about $100 over Redding (which are really good dies) by getting a set of Hornady Series IV full length dies in 20 VarTarg from Midsouth for $65.44 (stock # 005-546205 - in stock) or a set of Hornady Custom Grade New Dimension full length resizing dies in 20 VarTarg (probably the same die set, just a fancier name) from Midway for $69.99 (stock # 217103 - in stock). For a neck sizing die I use a Wilson arbor press die make of a 221 Fireball die body with a .226 Redding Titanium-Nitride neck bushing in the die's bushing well covered by a 17 caliber top and de-priming rod. Call Wilson and he can probably make up this die (less bushing) for you. I have 18 to 20 resizing cycles on some of my brass using this method...initial neck resizing-reduction to 20 caliber using the Redding (or a Hornady would work) full length die, then subsequent neck resizing cycles using my modified Wilson die and an arbor press. This Wilson die set-up should also work for the 17 Fireball, you just have to change the neck bushing size. Hope this information helps my 20 VT compadres out there. Maybe someday Lapua will make 20 VT brass as was rumored several years ago when Dakota Arms started chambering their Predator for both 20 VT and 20 Tactical. I have some 20 Tactical brass made by Lapua for Dakota headstamped as 20 TAC - DAKOTA that I got 2 or 3 years ago so it is possible if we all pray hard enough!!! 

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I am just one person but I have been paying attention, within my own limits and resources,  to the situation and benefits of the .20 Vartarg versus the other somewhat recent developments such as the .204, the .221 Fireball, and the .17 Mach IV/ .17 Fireball, in fact I own one of each.  I predict that the .20 Vartarg will become the more popular cartridge and much more common with time because I think it is one heck of a gun for the size and purposes it can be used for.  I am really happy with mine.  If I could only keep one of these guns, it would be the Vartarg. 

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Jon,
I absolutely agree with you. As the 20 VarTarg becomes better known it will rise to the surface because of its efficiency and capabilities, which are astounding for a cartridge its size. I call it MIGHTY MOUSE. It surprises me that Remington chose to bring out the 17 Fireball (which is very similar to the 17 Mach IV originally made by the O'Brien Rifle Co of Las Vegas, NV in the 1960's) instead of a 20 Fireball if they did not want to negotiate licensing the 20 VarTarg name with its developer, Todd Kindler of the Woodchuck Den in Ohio. Todd was also the founding editor of the Small Caliber News when it was a great magazine before Charlie Kokesh (past Dakota Arms CEO that bankrupted Dakota in 2006) took it over and drove it into the ground also. I copied in part of an article from Dakota News that may be of interest to all 20 VarTarg shooters about its rising popularity.

In a recent conversation with Dave Kiff of Pacific Precision, one of our key chamber reamer vendors, I learned something that might be of interest. He told me that the single most-called-for varmint cartridge today is the .20VarTarg. This wonderful cartridge was designed by Todd Kindler, Editor of SmallCaliber News, back in 1995 using the .221 Fireball as the parent case. Precision dies are available from Redding and from The Woodchuck Den at 330.897.0614. Load data is featured prominently in Todd's book, "The Terrific Twenties," also available from TheWoodchuck Den. Loaded ammo is available from Dakota. Muzzle velocity, recoil and noise are even less than the outstanding Tactical 20 based on the .223 case. Dakota has chambered a large number of .20 VarTarg rifles in all three versions of the Predator. All of these rifles will drop five rounds at 100 yards into a ragged hole measuring .20" to .30" from center to center. Some shoot "in the teens." (We should point out that Dakota licensed both the 20 Tactical and the 20 VarTarg from Todd Kindler.).

BTW, the coyote shown in my "avatar" was taken with my Cooper 20 VarTarg (which I'm holding) at over 350 yds with a 40 gr Hornady V-Max bullet over 17.7 gr of H4198 powder, and lit by Federal 205M primers (my standard load).




-- Edited by ae35gunner on Wednesday 14th of April 2010 07:33:42 AM

-- Edited by ae35gunner on Wednesday 14th of April 2010 07:36:30 AM

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The conclusion is that everyone should own at least one .20 Vartarg, just so they do not miss out on all the fun.

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Nice timing guys. I am trying to put a 20 VarTarg together now. Having problems trying to set the headspace on my Savage action. I was not getting any consistency when trying to set the headspace as some cases would close in the action and some would not?? I tried using the full length re-sizer and the brass would not go all the way in, case mouth is too large. I have a .227 bushing, guess I need to get a .226. Getting pretty frustrated trying to solve the mystery. Thanks for the information.

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Sidewinder wrote:

Nice timing guys. I am trying to put a 20 VarTarg together now. Having problems trying to set the headspace on my Savage action. I was not getting any consistency when trying to set the headspace as some cases would close in the action and some would not?? I tried using the full length re-sizer and the brass would not go all the way in, case mouth is too large. I have a .227 bushing, guess I need to get a .226. Getting pretty frustrated trying to solve the mystery. Thanks for the information.

You may need to turn the necks.Knowing the chamber,neck size,the loaded round want's to be .002 less.My 204rugers load at .228,course it is not a match chamber,so tuning is not required.


 



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Sidewinder,
Get in touch with Todd Kindler (he's the developer of the 20 VarTarg) at the Woodchuck Den phone #330-897-0614 and ask him his opinion. I have never had problems with my 2 Cooper 20 VTs, BUT I did have some initial problems with case forming 223 brass for my Cooper in 20 Tactical (also developed by Todd) as it needed it's shoulder bumped back ever so slightly at the neck/shoulder junction to properly seat in the chamber. To do this I set my Rockchucker press up so the shellholder has a slight interference fit with the bottom of the sizing die when the ram is in the fully raised position. To set your press up like this, extend the ram to its fully raised position. Now screw the die into the press until it just contacts the shellholder. Lower the ram, then turn the die approx 1/16th to 1/8th turn more into the press. Again raise the ram to the uppermost position which will lock and align the shellholder parallel with the bottom of the die, then lock the die into place with its lock-ring. This will square the shellholder face with the bottom of the die and provide maximum contact between the cartridge case and the die at the neck to shoulder junction. Also, now when the ram is raised during resizing you will get a bit of resistance with a slight "cam-over" feeling as the ram reaches it's fully extended position. See if this cures your problem. If not, call Todd for his help if you need it. He's a great guy to deal with. Hope this helps.

-- Edited by ae35gunner on Tuesday 20th of April 2010 11:56:01 AM

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Thanks for the suggestions. I use a Forster press that does not use shell holders. I believe I need to use a smaller bushing. I think I can do the same thing with my press though.  My loaded 204 ammo fits into the small hole at the top of my full length Redding re-sizer but my 20 VarTarg brass will not. The barrel maker, Benchmark, said that the chamber would be a tight but not a case neck turning required chamber. I may give Todd a call if the new bushing does not help. Thanks again guys, it is always nice to know that there are other shooters out their willing to help another out. I work at a sporting goods store at the gun counter and help out the reloaders. This is my first custom build so I am a little apprehensive. I have put 2 previous Savage rifle barrels on before, one being a 6mmAI.

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Sidewinder,

You may already know this but, just FYI, you can buy an adapter for your Forster press, the Co-Axial, made by Forster, that will allow you to use standard case holders. About $15. I bought one just for fun and now use it all the time instead of the moving jaw setup. I find changing the jaws for different cartridges to be more of a pain then just changing the case holder. You can also buy a variety of case holders that have different vertical thicknesses which will give you more or less headspace from using the same full length sizing die. Redding makes them. This allows your sizing dies to make firm contact with the ram but have different depths of penetration of the case into the die thus giving a different amount of headspace for the brass based upon the thickness of the case holder you select. The convenience is in simple and exact die set up to control headspace, once you figure out which parts and pieces you want to use. Also, you can buy a body bump die from Redding that will allow you to full length size and bump the shoulder back as much or as little as you want without touching the neck, and then use your regular neck die to size the neck .

Sounds like this may not be an issue with your situation but the information may help someone. I have found out that I can make good use of a body bump die for my .204. My cartridges were too long after 4 uses of the brass and I did not want to full length resize them so I went to the body bump die to minimize working the brass. So far it all works.

Good luck.

-- Edited by TERMINATORJON on Wednesday 21st of April 2010 02:48:32 PM

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Thanks TerminatorJon. OK so now I officially feel better, sort of. This is the first die that I have used that has a bushing. I put the bushing in the die and ran all my brass through it. I used this to try to set the head space while installing the new barrel. While originally responding to the guys trying to help me out I thought that maybe the bushing was marked wrong, so I measured it. Long story short, I realized the bushing was rising inside the die with the case. Guess what, the cases were not re-sized smaller at all. The barrel went on just fine, with the correct case in it. Overjoyed I can now put everything together and shoot my rifle. A little ashamed it took me so long to figure it out. I could not find anything in the paperwork that said how to adjust the die to hold the bushing in place. That is my story and I am sticking with it! Thanks guys for trying to help me. And the voices told me I was doing it right the first time!?!?

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One thing I figured out while fiddling with such issues is that I have a variety of caseholders that I have picked up over the years and I threw them all in one small box. Then I would pull one out and if it fit the cartridge, I would use it. I recently checked to see if they are all the same thickness and got a big surprise. They are not the same. That means if I adjust a die for total sizing depth using one case holder and then a few months later I grab a different thickness case holder, I will not get the same amount of sizing or even of bullet seating depth. One needs to pay attention to these little things. Now I am labeling my loads with which case holder I used when I set up the dies.

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20 VarTarg update. I went to Montana for some prairie dog shooting this summer. I made a 575 yard double and 2 singles in a row! I could not be happier with the 20 VarTarg. I had no idea that it would shoot that well at that range. I thought that it would be a 300 to 400 yard round at best. I am loading up some 39 grain Sierra Bltzkings with 20.4 grains of Ramshot XTerminator powder. This is over the listed 19.8 listed max load. I am getting .201 groups. I could see the hits and misses in the scope so I did not need a spotter to adjust the aiming point.

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Sounds like you have the sweet spot on that 20VarTarg.A, go to gun, now,for sure.

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I was a die hard 204 fan all the way. Now the 20 VarTarg may be edging it's way to the top of the list. You can see the hits better in the VT.

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My friend,Marshall,rebarreled,a .223 LRPV to a 204r with a Douglas 1:9 twist with a Holland muzzle brake.Now he sees every shot.Didn't need to work up a load,as it shot bugs with the ammo he loaded for a factory 204.with same POI.Lucky,for sure.
Be awhile before I get my 20AB back,but all indications are,I'll shoot it most of the time ,to 300yds. 

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I am not familiar with the 20 AB, I take it that it is based off the 218 case. How does it compare with the 20 VarTarg in performance? What grain bullets does it prefer?

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Another simple development by Todd Kindler.Ackley brought out the 17 Ackley Bee,based on the 218 Bee case,in 1954.Being a rimed case ,not many accurate rifles were chambered for it.Kindler expanded the neck(essentially to 20cal)with the same shoulder of 30deg,and in honor of PO Ackley called it the 20Ackley Bee (20AB).Case capacity is about 15+ grains of AA1680 or IMR 4227.My intent is to shoot 32gr Nosler Balistic tips at 3500-3600fps,in a 1:12 twist,25" barrel on my G2 Contender.RCBS dies are available through Kindler (woodchuck Den).I don't need the seating die,and sent my FL sizing die to have it converted to a neck bushing die.RCBS neck was too tight,and needed to be honed anyway.Turned out the fired cases wouldn't go in the die easily,either.The chamber and body of the die were not compadible.A new barrel is being made,and sent to another Smith for chambering,along with the Die and brass.The Bee brass is much thinner than 204 Win brass,and loaded rounds are .2225,vs .228 on the 204ruger.First barrel, neck was .231,and chamber length was .075 over trim length.I asked for .225 neck,and .015 over supplied dummy round,trim length.

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Boy, you are really involved in this project. Does Redding have an S type die for it that you can get any neck tension that you want? Keep us posted on your project.

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A Redding S type die,would have been my first choice,but they don't make one for that cartridge.A 17 AB bushing die would be the easiest to come by,and maybe need to open up the neck,where it meets the shoulder.Like I said,RCBS makes the dies FL only,and too tight a neck (.214).My die is converted to a neck bushing die.

http://www.6mmbr.com/catalog/item/1433308/892435.htm





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