Premier Predator Package: Nosler Varmageddon Review
April 02, 2013
In Revelation 16:14-16, the term "Armageddon" is used to describe the site of an epic battle, the climactic and decisive confrontation between the forces of good and evil. In contemporary culture, the term has evolved to represent the "end of days," in various contexts.
In a very clever word play, the folks at Nosler have coined the term, "Varmageddon," to encompass the concept of a varmint's "end of days." Actually, the origin of the word "Varmageddon" is quite interesting. Nosler had a contest open to all employees, who proposed names for the new line. And, believe it or not, two employees independently came up with the name Varmageddon; both were awarded nice prizes from the company.
Nolser didn't stop short when developing the products, either. The Varmageddon line includes all of the items needed to ensure success. In addition to a tricked-out "modern sporting rifle," factory ammo and component bullets are offered so that budding combatants are aptly armed against any "evil" varmints they might encounter. And there's also a Leupold Varmageddon riflescope to complete the package. The whole shebang provides the varmint shooter with an efficient and effective shooting synergy.
Here's the low down on how this system performs in the field and on the range.
Nosler teamed up with noted AR builder Noveske Rifleworks to produce a highly specialized and effective tool for the "varmint wars" that is meant to be at home in vast prairie dog towns or when calling up coyotes. At its base is a forged lower with a mil-spec receiver extension, a Geissele SD-E trigger, a Magpul MOE grip and a Magpul PRS stock that's adjustable for both length of pull and comb height.
The Vltor MUR upper features an antirotation interface in the free-floated, 13.5-inch handguard, which has the NSR KeyMod system. This lightweight handguard is less than 1.5 inches wide and has M-1913 slots along its top for the addition of lasers, lights, and whatnot. An intermediate gas system is attached to a low-profile gas block that is pinned to the barrel, and a full-length rail rests atop the 13.5-inch handguard so that mounting short- or long-eye relief scopes is no problem. The rifle comes with top-notch Back Up Iron Sights from Troy Industries, and a BCMGUNFIGHTER charging handle makes operation easier.
The heart of the rifle is an 18-inch, stainless-steel barrel with 1:8 twist, allowing it to handle bullets as heavy as 80 grains with no loss in accuracy, which my range tests confirmed. The chamber is pure 5.56mm and has an extended feedramp. The muzzle is threaded ½-28 in case you want to add a compensator, flashhider, or suppressor. A thread-protecting cap is provided. Finally, a Harris bipod and 20- and 30-round Magpul magazines (one each) are included. All that is packed in a handsome soft case.
The rifle is available separately or as a package with a specially designed Leupold VX-3 4.5-14X 50mm scope. The elevation turret has Leupold's CDS (Custom Dial System) calibrated to match Nosler's Varmageddon .223 Remington ammo with 55-grain bullet at a nominal 2,900 fps. The scope is affixed by a Leupold Mark 2 IMS (Integral Mounting System) mount that solves two typical mounting problems at once. It attaches easily anywhere along the flat-top receiver and allows considerable adjustment for eye relief. It also positions the scope high enough for a proper cheekweld with the straight AR stock.
The Component Bullets
The Varmageddon component bullets are pretty snazzy, too, and were developed to meet specific objectives. They had to be accurate, but they also had to instantly disintegrate on a prairie dog or rocky hillside. Plus, they had to withstand the terrific RPMs generated by the combination of a fast twist and high velocity.
The new bullets passed muster and are available now in .17, .20, .22, and 6mm calibers. They are basically a cup-and-core design, and they feature a 2.5 percent antimony-lead alloy core and a gilding metal jacket that's ultrathin at the nose but which tapers ever so slightly toward the base. Significantly, they are very flatbased, which in my opinion enhances accuracy.
Two point styles are offered. The hollowpoint looks for all the world like a custom-made benchrest bullet. The polymer-tipped design has what Nosler calls a "Metallic Black Tip." The "metallic flecks" in the tip are actually just bits of colored polymer, but they look cool. Both point styles have a fairly large nose cavity that initiates expansion.
Last July I attended the first annual Varmageddon prairie dog shoot in Montana and subsequently received the rifle that I used in the field for more testing at home. I also received several representative calibers and weights of Varmageddon bullets that I loaded in typical varmint calibers. The results are listed in the accompanying chart. All shot pretty darn well in the sampling of rifles I had on hand. In fact, no load averaged over an inch. Note that these loads were just plucked almost at random from my load data books and are not "worked up" in the traditional sense.
For the Nosler/Noveske AR, I paired the 55-grain MBT and HP bullets in Nosler Custom cases with Hodgdon's CFE 223 powder. Velocities easily broke 2,900 fps and were neck and neck in terms of accuracy at 0.57 and 0.59 inches, respectively. Significantly heavier bullets (from 65 to 80 grains) shot equally as well as the standard 55-grainers due to the fast-twist barrel.
The .204 Ruger is another favorite of varmint shooters, and my Weatherby Vanguard doted on the tiny but effective 20-grain bullets. It really didn't care which style it was fed. Both clocked over 4,000 fps. As expected, the .222 and .22-250 Remingtons digested the sample loads with great precision.
Some may question the utility of a 55-grain bullet in the .243 since it is pretty much the standard weight in the .223, but there are probably at least a dozen people who don't have a .223 and do have a .243. For these few but proud folks, this pill is for you. Loaded atop 46.0 grains of BL-C(2), it screamed out of my Browning A-Bolt at 3,717 fps and plunked into tidy 0.58-inch groups. Mission accomplished.
Just as I was wrapping up this report, I received a brand-new, hot-off-the-line Ruger Model 77/17 in the new .17 Hornet, so I scurried off to the loading room and loaded two combinations with the BMT and HP bullets. It was a trifle windy on that range day, which spread the groups laterally a bit (the benchresters call such groups "a weather report"). Nevertheless, all loads but one registered over 3,500 fps over my Oehler M-35P chronograph and punched small (if horizontal) groups well under an inch. Further testing is definitely in order.
Also available are Nosler Custom cartridge cases in several chamberings that are about as ready to load as you can get. These cases are weight-sorted, full-length sized, and have the mouths chamfered and the flash holes deburred.
The Factory Ammo
For those who don't handload, Varmageddon bullets are also available in factory loads, five of which I shot in my test guns. The velocities of these factory loads were typical for the test guns, and accuracy made this dedicated handloader jealous.
The Varmageddon .223 ammo was loaded with the 55-grain MBT bullet, and it registered 2,802 fps and averaged about 0.5 inch. In addition to the .223, I shot the other factory loads in .204, .222, .22-250, and .243, and all produced good groups at respectable velocities. All of the Varmageddon factory loads registered a little less than the listed velocities except the grand, old .222 Remington. It was also the most accurate load tested, averaging 0.30 inch.
All in all, I fired 10 .223 factory loads in the Varmageddon rifle with bullets ranging from 35 to 69 grains, all at a measured 100 yards. All averaged under an inch. The heaviest .223 factory load tested was Federal's match load with the 69-grain Sierra, and the rifle's 1:8-twist barrel punched tiny, ragged holes that averaged 0.35 inch. And there was not a single hiccup in the course of firing hundreds of test rounds.
Since I don't relish gun cleaning any more than the next guy, I am delighted to report that the Noveske barrel was as accurate dirty as it was clean, and it took a minimum of solvent and patches to get it squeaky clean.
My experience in the field and on the range with the Varmageddon rifle, scope, ammo, and bullets was pretty impressive. It's a goal-oriented system that offers a lot of solutions in a convenient package to the dedicated varmint shooter.