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It appears this part of the Varmint Den Board has been dead since I posted the pictures of my albino prairie dog mount back in early October 2018 so I'll try to bring it to life with a story about my 20 VarTarg rifle build and my latest prairie dog shoot.

The last prairie dog shoot I was out on was back on August 21, 2018, and I was suffering withdrawal symptoms from not feeding my NEED to shoot prairie dogs!!! I had been watching the weather forecast for a long time, looking for a day when the temperature would be in the 20s or 30s and the wind would be down below 10 mph so I could venture out and give my new 20 VarTarg rifle a try at dispatching prairie dogs. Well, that day came last Tuesday, November 13. I had to take care of some chores around home, but when 1:00 p.m. arrived I gathered up my gear, put it in my pickup and was headed out of town at 1:18 p.m. The wind was a bit brisker than the forecaster had promised; blowing 8 to 15 mph, but it wouldn’t be the first time I shot when the wind was blowing!!! The temperature was 39º when I parked my pickup on the north end of the dog town and did get up to 41º for the high temp. It was VERY muddy out in the dog town which made walking on hillsides very treacherous!!! It was so muddy that lying prone to shoot was not even a consideration. I used my Caldwell DeadShot FieldPod and a little three-legged stool to stay up out of the mud.

I arrived at the prairie dog town I was going to shoot on and dispatched the first prairie dog my 20 VT had ever been aimed at. It was a 75-yard shot and I got to hear the WHACK sound my new prairie dog rifle makes. It is definitely a different WHACK than that made by my .17 Remington, my .204 Rugers and my .22-250. Some of you have been wondering about this new 20 VT build of mine, so I’ll lay it out in this post

I have had a Savage Target action was in my arsenal for a number of years, but it had a .204 Ruger barrel on it. It is a right bolt/left port single shot. I decided to use that action on which I would build my 20 VarTarg on. Back in 2015 when X-Caliber started making barrels one of the varmint boards worked out a group buy on those barrels and I ordered two 27" stainless steel three-groove 1 in 11" twist .204 caliber barrels so I could have them finished at 26" if I desired. I had X-Caliber Barrel & Mfg. contour the barrels so they start out at approximately 1.250" at the breech, go straight for 3" and then there’s a straight taper down to the muzzle for a .800" finished muzzle. I had my gunsmith finish the barrel at 24", cut 5/16" flutes on the barrel, and thread it on the muzzle for my suppressor and the barrel is still a heavy load!!! Here’s a look at the rifle.


My gunsmith finished chambering my barrel and had the rifle ready to pick up on August 27, 2018. Two of the powders mentioned frequently for use in the 20 VarTarg were H4198 and AA2200. I tried to find those two powders but there didn’t seem to be any around this part of North Dakota. I finally found the H4198 in Bismarck, ND in June and found the AA2200 at a little gun shop in Bismarck, ND around the middle of September. I was also busy buying brass and dies (very expensive dies) for this project. At one time I bought 500 brand new Lake City 5.56 casings and a friend of mine was willing to form them to 20 VarTarg specs for me. When I read about all the work required to form them, I decided to buy Lapua 221 Fireball brass. The 500 Lapua 221 Fireball casings cost around $350 with shipping and the 500 Lake City brass casings cost $152. That caused a bit of sticker shock, but the forming process, at least for me, has been very easy. The friend who volunteered to form the Lake City brass for me has a Neil Jones forming die with all the nice bushings he loaned to me so the forming process has been going GREAT for me. Very few shoulder folds and I get nicely formed brass before doing the fire forming. The formed casings shoot about the same accuracy as the fire formed brass. By October 20, 2018, I had 400 of the 500 casings formed and had used 119 of them for testing loads. I wound up getting shoulder folds in 4 of the 500 casings, one of those is severe enough so I won’t load it, and the other three have been fired one time, but retired from service. As of now, I have used fired 227 of my 221 Fireball Lapua casings formed to 20VT. I have 72 formed casings loaded and waiting to be fired for the first time and another 200 casings waiting to be loaded and fired.

The bullets I have tried are the 32 gr. V-Max, 32 gr. Sierra BK, 32 gr. Nosler Varmegeddon, and the 39 gr. Sierra BK. I have some 40 gr. V-Max that I use in one of my .204 Rugers and a bunch of 40 gr. Nosler BTs that I used in my old Savage 12VLP with good accuracy. Here’s a scan of the target from the load I wound up using for my first prairie dog outing.


Here’s a look at the rifle and some of the casings I have worked with.


So, back to the prairie dog shoot. There were lots of prairie dogs up out of their dens, but they were very wary. I had a few of them stay up out of their dens at distances of 25 to 75 yards and they paid with their lives. Most of my shots were in the 100 to 191 yard range. Here’s the view from one of my victims looking back to where I parked my pickup across the snowy PD town. As I mentioned earlier, it was very muddy and the wheels of my little Schwinn cart picked up lots of mud and snow and needed to be scraped off before I lifted the cart into the back of my pickup.


Here’s a look at the last prairie dog I shot near the end of the day. The wind had died down and this fat little fellow was on the side of his mound and standing on all four legs with his back to me and I ranged him at 191 yards. The Caldwell DeadShot FieldPod is fairly steady for up to 150 yard shots, but for anything over that I’d rather be lying prone. Anyway, I got steadied up and squeezed off the shot and could hear that familiar WHACK sound and saw him slump down. I walked over to him and saw a very tiny red spot on the top of his rear end where the bullet entered and when I turned him over I could see that the bullet exited his chest.


I only took 18 shots and killed 17 prairie dogs. I hate to admit it, but the one shot I missed was under 25 yards!!! My excuse is that I was standing, trying to rest my rifle against the side of a steel fence post and I knew I was wiggling all over the place and just plain blew the shot!!! I’m embarrassed!!! I apologize for not taking any photos of blossoming plants, but I never saw one. I do, however, have the infamous “Hero Photo” for your viewing pleasure.


Our deer gun hunting season in North Dakota started on Friday, November 9, 2018, at noon. Deer hunters are required to wear a certain number of square inches of Hunter Orange clothing on their upper torso and a Hunter Orange hat of some kind. While I wasn’t out hunting deer, I felt it necessary to wear this garb to prevent some weirdo from shooting at me thinking I was a deer! The red tint to the photo is caused by the color coming from the red sunset. I hope you enjoyed the write-up about my new 20 VarTarg and the photos and story about my latest prairie dog shooting adventure. I know I enjoyed the hunt, but I paid the price because my back is very sore now. I’m scheduled to have a spinal cord stimulator installed on my backbone on January 9, 2019, for a 5-day test run to see if it is something I want to have installed permanently. This device intercepts pain sensed by the nerves before the signal gets to the brain. Sounds like science fiction, but I’m hoping and praying that it will work for me.
 

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Thank You for the report, I enjoyed reading it and you have a very accurate and nice looking rifle there.
 

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Nice write up and hope you enjoy the 20V.

Any reason you chose the Vartag over the Practical?? Some casual reading indicates the Practical brass is fairly easy to make, but I'm still considering my options, etc.
 

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Sweeeet rig you have there!

I've shot PDs on snow many times. If NOTHING ELSE doing so will force one to make the first shot count: PDs on snow/winter is totally different than shooting pups in the spring. (They only come up for a quick breath of fresh air. First provocation of danger, and into their dens they go - to have a cup of hot chocolate and warm their toes by the fire, no doubt! :rolleyes::D)
 

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Nice set up and write up. I did a 20VT along with a 20tac to take along this past summer but I don't think I drug the 20vt out. I shot a lot of 204 and .223 and the 20 tac.

I do love shooting the 20VT as well as my 221FB. I ended up buying formed LC brass from Sleeping Giant brass for I think $40 per 100 for both the 20VT and FB. Hopefully I get to put them to use this coming summer as I have al my ammo loaded already.
They were pretty quick on shipping and there were plenty of extras tossed in which helped since I buggered a few starting out.
 

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I always enjoy your adventures. Keep on taking the time to bring us along.
A friend of a friend has gone to the VT for sheer powder economy. He does 10-15k rds per year.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
George Foster--Thanks for the nice comments on my rifle and the hunt. This new 20VT is a fairly heavy rifle to carry around, but I am more than happy to put up with the weight because it is an extremely accurate rifle.

Paul Workman--Thanks for the kind words about my new build. It took me a long time to give into all the 20VT club members, but I'm glad I finally built one. Even though I have a suppressor on the rifle, the PDs didn't stay up very long after the sound of the WHACK when the bullet pulverized the prairie dog I shot at. It will be interesting to see if that changes next spring and summer. Of course there will be lots of young, dumb prairie dogs around then.

Shane G.--I don't know how you managed to resist shooting that 20VT last summer!!! When I get a new rig, I put the old favorites aside and shoot the new toy right away. You'll have lots of fun with the 20VT next summer!

45TAJ--
A friend of a friend has gone to the VT for sheer powder economy. He does 10-15k rds per year.
I'm voting for the 20VT for powder economy too, but I sure don't go through 10-15k rounds per year like your friend's friend.

Maggieze--Glad to hear you liked the story and the new rifle I had built. I'm sure I'll get lots of enjoyment out of it next summer.

jimp--I chose the 20 VarTarg over the 20 Practical because I believe the dozens of 20VT users that say the 20VT uses quite a bit less powder per shot than the 20 Practical and less powder has meant less heat and longer barrel life. Less powder per cartridge also mean it is more economical to shoot the 20VT as opposed to the 20 Practical. I could have used brass other than the Lapua 221 Fireball brass, but I have used Lapua brass for some other rifles and have been very impressed with the quality.

I'm not saying other brass couldn't have been used, but I felt like the money spent on the Lapua brass was a good investment in my shooting pleasure.
With the Lapua brass and the Neil Jones forming die the task of forming the casings to 20VT was simple and quick. I get a lot of enjoyment out of doing the forming myself. It was something that gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment when I completed the forming process. The forming wasn't totally complete, though, until I fired the casings in my rifle. Fortunately, these fire forming shots were very accurate and that was another plus for me. Personally, I would recommend you go with a 20VT instead of the 20 Practical.
 

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It's great to see you still out there after the prairie dogs. It's tough to keep your interest with aches and pains interfering with your fun.
Nice rifle....I have given up on several of mine because they are too heavy for me to carry.
Good Luck with the pain management device.
 

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Thanks for the info on how you arrived at your decision on which version to go with.
 

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Excellent write-up and pictures, as usual. I’m glad you didn’t forget the hero picture:D

The VarTarg is my favorite PD caliber. Looks like you have a great gun and load. I’m using the 32gr Vmax also. It makes a very distinct “whomp” went it connects.

Thanks for the write-up and taking us along with you.
 
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