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July 11th, 2021

Sunday Gunday: Multi-State Varmint Adventures with Bill White

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
This photograph and all images for this story are by Bill White, aka “CT10Ring” in our Forum.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 RugerAccurateShooter Forum member Bill White (aka “CT10Ring”) is not your typical member. For 37 years, Bill worked in NYC as a studio photographer specializing in still lifes and products. A neighbor visiting Bill’s home in Connecticut with a .270 Sako inspired Bill to revive his interest (obsession?) with shooting after a 25-year drought. And he owns a few Sakos now! With his gun hobby renewed, for many years Bill drove to the Western USA to shoot long range steel and a LOT of prairie dogs in season. He loved the life of the varminter, so it made sense for him to move West after retiring. He choose Idaho as his new home.

From his Idaho base, Bill enjoys long-range target shooting. But his favorite gun pastime has been varmint hunting in nearby states — the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. Bill found prairie dog shooting rewarding and mapped out a western circuit route of ranches and National Grasslands in SD, ND, MT, and WY. Every year he loads up his truck and hits the road, often doing a grand circle route, visiting prairie dog havens in multiple states. In this article we feature photos from Bill’s annual “grand circle” varmint safari.

For his many cartridge types, Bill learned about reloading methods, loads, and vendors (and more) primarily from AccurateShooter.com. We start today’s story with the biggest caliber rifle he shoots regularly, his 6.5-284 Winchester. Bill favors this rig for his long-range steel shooting. He also uses it for prairie dog shooting, but only “sparingly”, because he wants to preserve barrel life, and he has many other dedicated varmint rigs.

6.5-284 for Long Range Steel Targets (and Sometimes Varmints)

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

In his home state of Idaho, Bill likes to shoot steel at long range. For distance work, Bill favors his McMillan-stocked 6.5-284 Win. This rifle was crafted in 2012 by Bob Green of York, PA, using a 1:8″-twist 28″ Krieger HV barrel (.298″ neck). The trued Rem 700 action was purchased from Long Rifles in Sturgis, SD. Bill did the Cerakote and bedded the action. For his 6.5-284, Bill loads 139gr Lapua Scenars, H4831sc powder and BR2 primers. He shoots both steel and varmints with this rifle, but the varmint work is limited because the 6.5-284 cartridge tends to be a barrel burner. The photo below from an Idaho range was taken near a 500-yard target, looking back at the firing line.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

In the Varmint Fields — Traveling Light

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Once situated, Bill (shown above) prefers to walk to Prairie Dog towns with a shooting mat, two bipod-equipped rifles slung up, rear bag, water, and his trusty Leica 10X42 GeoVid binoculars. While he has used a portable bench, he prefers to shoot from bipod, firing down from a mound if possible. This allows him to set up a line-of-fire that minimizes cross-wind effects. Bill notes: “While I often start early, end-of-day shooting has worked worked well for me. A setting sun shows targets better, the wind is usually down, and it’s not so hot. Often you can spot the bullet trace and that’s fun.”

Eight Great Varmint Cartridge Types — .204, .224, .243 Calibers

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Here is one of Bill Reid’s 6mmBR (6BR) rigs. Like his Sako 6 PPC, this is exceptionally accurate.

Bill has a large rifle collection, most of which see duty in the varmint fields of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Here are his key “take-aways” for his eight favorite varmint chamberings: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem, .22-250, .22 BR, .22-243, 6 PPC, 6mmBR, and 6-6.5×47 Lapua (aka 6×47).

.204 Ruger — This delivers great velocity with the little .20-caliber bullets, with mild recoil. The .204 Ruger easily reaches out to 400 yards, but heavier winds do move the tiny bullet around. Tremendous splat factor under 250 yards. I use Sierra 39gr bullets with IMR 8208 XBR in a Sako 75. Even now, .204 Ruger ammo is relatively easy to find.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

.223 Remington — Probably the most popular centerfire rifle round in the USA, the .223 Rem offers inexpensive brass, and is a great choice for AR-15 owners. If you run short on ammo, you can find it nearly everywhere. I often bring one AR-15 and one .223 Rem bolt gun on varmint safaris. My Rem 700 5R 1:9″-twist barrel likes 53gr V-Max bullets.

.22 BR — My .22 BR is my first choice for most prairie dog missions. Accuracy is superb with necked-down 6mmBR Lapua brass — quarter-MOA and blazing fast. With the right twist rate, this chambering can shoot anything from 40gr FB bullets to 80gr VLDs. Load development is easy. Below is my .22 BR ammo for another varmint trip. I use 55gr Sierra BlitzKings with Varget in my 1:12″-twist Shilen-barreled rifle. 60gr Bergers are very accurate with a fairly flat trajectory for useful distances.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

.22-250 Rem — A classic varmint cartridge, the .22-250 with 50gr V-Maxs delivers spectacular hits. If three P-Dogs happen to be lined up, I’ve witnessed one .22-250 shot take ‘em all out with a triple hit. I currently have five .22-250-chambered rifles: 3 Sako 75s, one Rem 700, and a single shot Nesika that shoots tiny groups. I favor the very deadly Berger 52gr Varmint HP. Making a custom .22-250? With a 1:8″-twist barrel you can use the full weight range of .22-cal bullets, while spinning the lighter bullets fast for “red mist” effect. Remember this cartridge can be a barrel burner. Don’t shoot too many rounds too quickly.

.22-243 Win — This wildcat is even more potent than the .22-250, delivering devastating results on P-Dogs. Run a .243 Win case slowly through a full-length .22-243 die, with plenty of lube to form the brass. I start with Lapua .243 Win brass. There can be some issues necking-down the brass. Watch for donuts forming at the neck-shoulder junction. I bought my .22-243 rifle not sure how it would perform. But now I love shooting it. My .22-243 delivers half-MOA groups with 41.0 grains RL-22 and Hornady 75gr Amax bullets. With those 75-grainers, it’s great in the wind and good to 600 yards easily.

6 PPC — You may consider the 6 PPC a benchrest competition cartridge only, requiring fire-forming. However I have an original Sako 75 single-shot 6 PPC rifle that I load with Sako-headstamp 6 PPC brass (see below) so no fire-forming is required. This Sako 75 came with a test target that measured 0.113″! With my 6 PPC Sako, I found that 58gr V-Maxs, pushed by Vihtavuori N133, are potent out to 300 yards.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6PPC 6 PPC Sako 75 Ruger

6mmBR — The 6mmBR Norma (6BR) offers a nearly unbeatable combination of accuracy, efficiency, and tunability. With the 6BR and a fast twist barrel, you can shoot everything from 40gr flat-base bullets to the latest 105-110gr match bullets. I load Lapua brass, Vihtavuori N135, and Hornady 58, 65, and 75gr bullets for my Krieger 1:14″-twist HV barrel. While this cartridge is capable of long-range accuracy, I usually limit my 6BR shots to 350-400 yards.

6-6.5×47 Lapua — In this story’s lead photo is my 6-6.5×47 Lapua varmint rifle, with Surgeon action and Manners stock. I Cerakoted the barreled action and then bedded the action. Shown below is 6-6.5×47 ammo I loaded for recent testing. Note how I separated different bullets and powder loads into multiple, labeled bags. Hodgdon H4350 is a great choice for this cartridge — 39 grains H4350 with 105gr Amax was the winner here, but 88gr Bergers also shot well. This cartridge has tremendous “critter dismantling” abilities out to 600-700 yards.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Six Tips for Novice Long Range Varmint Hunters

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

1. Take twice as much ammo you think you may need. The fields could be particularly rich, or, because of wind or other variables, you may have far more misses than expected.

2. When possible, set up with the wind at your back (or, alternatively, directly ahead). This will minimize the effect of cross-winds. Set up a stake with a ribbon to show wind direction.

3. Bring at least two rifles. Ideally one would be a low-recoil rifle with cheaper components for the closer shots. Then bring a rifle with higher-BC bullets for longer shots where wind is a bigger factor.

4. Check the weather before you head out. Prairie dogs like sunshine and calm conditions. If a cloudy, very blustery day is predicted, considering staying in town and cleaning the rifles.

5. Bring plenty of water on a trip. An adult male should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water (or other liquid) every day — more if it’s very hot or you are sweating a lot.

6. Preferably always hunt with a companion. If you do go out solo, have a Garmin inReach SatComm/GPS for emergencies if there is no cell coverage in your location.

Veteran Varmint Hunter Shares his Secrets

Where to Find Abundant Prairie Dogs — Generally, black-tailed P-Dogs are found in the Western high desert, in the same states/areas where cattle are raised. You’ll find good hunting in Montana, North and South Dakota, Colorado, and Wyoming. There are good hunting grounds on private ranches, BLM tracts, and U.S. National Grasslands. To find specific locations, I’d suggest calling the USFS, BLM, and State Fish & Game. Some have lists of ranches that allow P-Dog shooting. Give the agencies a call before your trip and then check in with ranchers. IMPORTANT: You need a current hunting license in some states.

How to Connect with Ranch Owners– A good varmint adventure can begin with a local connection. Stop into the local Ag/feed store and the town breakfast spot. I bet you’ll find some retired ranchers having coffee together who may direct you to a place that needs rodents thinned out. Let’s say you’re in Roundup, Montana. Stop by a local store and ask what ranchers allow PD shooting. Keep in mind that ranchers may be wary of allowing a total stranger to sling lead on their place. Show respect and if you had a good experience, send a thank-you note. A guided shoot is worth considering — the outfitter will know where the P-Dogs are and he has arrangements with landowners. He may even supply benches. I’ve taken two guided trips, with excellent results, one near Sturgis, SD, and the other on Sioux tribal land near Rosebud, SD.

Getting Set Up — I start early in the a.m. to mitigate mirage. Plus there is usually less wind at that hour. I prefer to drive to within half mile or so of a PD town, then walk and shoot prone. Most shooters like to set up a rotating bench on a knoll. This is a tried-and-true way to shoot long distances accurately, especially if you are on top of a hill and can shoot 360 degrees. I once shot from a rotating bench, but I prefer walking now. Some country is quite stunning and that’s half the fun — being out in nature. But yes there are negatives to shooting prone — ground hazards and tall grass can impede your vision.

Equipment for a Serious P-Dog Safari — In the field, I normally carry two rifles with Harris 9-13″ bipods, backpack, a rolled-up shooting mat, at least two liters of water, food, ammo, two rear bags, and binoculars. A good laser rangefinder comes in handy. If you prefer shooting from a bench you may want to have a front rest and a spotting scope. Many guys will shoot prone from the bed of a truck. That gets you off the ground without the need to haul around a heavy bench. But some locations restrict vehicles. Before a P-Dog trip, I make a detailed pack list and check off as I load my truck and camper. I would suggest bringing waterproof rubber or muck boots. June in South Dakota can be cold and wet, and the mud there is not to be believed. Don’t attempt to drive off road in it!

It’s good insurance to bring an extra 5 gallons of fuel for your vehicle in a jerry can and 2 gallons of H20. There may be NO shade for miles and dehydration is a real possibility. Having a couple heavy duty tarps will provide a sun shade and cover your gear in a rainstorm. I bring a 16″ X 20″ plywood target backer, a stand, and paper targets. This allows me to check zero on each rifle before I head out to the Dog Town.

Western Varmint Country Vistas

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Taking Photos on Shooting Adventures

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 RugerBill knows a thing or two about taking pictures, having been a professional photographer in NYC for many decades. He uses modern digital cameras for both his outdoor and indoor work. Most photos in this story were taken with a Canon EOS 5DSR MKIV. We asked Bill for some tips on taking good photos. Here are his FIVE Top Tips for Photography:

1. Take photos in the early a.m. and later p.m. when the light has definition. Mid-day results will not be so nice.
2. Use the highest-resolution camera available that fits your budget. Yes lens quality, focus, and exposure controls make a big difference.
3. When feasible, shoot using a manual setting with the lens wide open (for shallow focus). Set the focus on the most important object/subject in the frame.
4. Photoshop is useful, especially when RAW images need to be corrected to show the scene more faithfully, or enhance it.
5. After you take a picture, before you post it on social media, learn to crop the image, straighten the horizon, and do other basic fixes. This can make a big difference.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting 1 Comment »
June 29th, 2021

Varmint Safari Notebook — Tips for a Summer P-Dog Adventure

CFE 223 Powder Varmint Bullet Prairie dog
This custom war wagon hauls varmint hunters around the Longmeadow Game Resort in Colorado.

Will you be heading to the varmint fields this summer? Proper planning is key to a safe, satisfying, and productive varmint holiday. Of course you’ll be busy reloading, but you should make a check-list of all the gear and supplies you need. Bring a variety of rifles if possible — you’ll need to switch off as one barrel gets hot, and the chambering that works best for your close shots may not be ideal for those longer shots out past 400 yards. Here are some tips from our Forum members that can help you shoot more effectively, and avoid problems on your varmint hunt. Here’s one key tip: at your shooting station, put a strip of surveyor’s tape on a tall stake to show the wind direction. Then shoot in the direction the wind blows. This will minimize the effect of cross-winds.

Savage LR Precision Varminter

Varmint Safari Planning, Equipment, and Shooting Advice

From PatchHound: “The gear you bring will make or break a trip out to Prairie Dog land. A lot has to do with where you going and how far you are from [civilization]. For starters, bring lots of water. It will be hot in Wyoming in a few more weeks but it don’t hurt to bring warm clothes in case it snows. It’s best to wear leather boots unless you’re real good at dodging cactus while walking around. Good sunscreen [and a wide-brimmed hat] will save the day too. [What you need to bring] really depends on whether you’re shooting on some friendly ranch or 100 miles in the middle of [a wilderness area]. Good survival gear is a good thing to have for the latter!”

Savage LR Precision Varminter
This photo is from a Dan Eigen TV Show video featuring a P-Dog hunt.

From Stoner25mkiv: “I’d suggest an adjustable bipod if you are going to do any walking. A laser rangefinder is a huge asset. Have a fanny pack or backpack for extra ammo, water, bore-snake, etc. when you go on your walkabouts. We also take a couple pivoting benches, heavy movers’ pad/blanket, sandbags (Uncle Bud’s Bulls Bag) for shooting from near the vehicle. Boonie hat for blocking the sun, sun glasses, sunscreen. High leather boots.

Uncle Bud's Bulls Bag

Anyway, on to the rifles…consider bringing a 17 HMR, .223 Ackley bolt gun, .223 Ackley AR, and a 243 WSSM. Some years the 17 HMR isn’t removed from its case. We had a couple windless days and the 17 was lots of fun. I’d walk into the dogtown and then lay down and wait. After five minutes or so I’d have dogs within easy rimfire range, and out to as far as I’d care to stretch the rimfire. 275 yards was about it.”

From CTShooter: “The .204 [Ruger] is a laser beam and good to 400 yards easy. Forget the rimfire! Do you have a portable bench that pivots? Bring bipod, binocs. Bring a LOT of water. I have a milspec sniper shooter’s mat/drag bag with shoulder straps. It is good to carry everything when you want to wander off and shoot prone with bipod. Here’s a view through my 6BR in ND.”

varmint hunting prairie dog dakota dogtown

From RJinTexas: “In most of the locations that we’ll be shooting we’ll usually set up a minimum of 200 yards from the edge of a major dog town. We’ll start by working over the close-in dogs and shooting our way out, some of these towns may run in excess of 500/600 yards deep. I believe that a rimfire will put you at a distinct disadvantage. The only rimfire that will somewhat work is the 17 HMR and you can reload for your 204s for close to the cost of HMR ammo and you’ll be less apt to be under-gunned. Your 204 will work well out to 300/400 yards unless the wind is blowing hard. We classify a 10-mph crosswind as a very calm day and what makes it a little more challenging is that it is usually also gusting.”

From Wes (P1ZombieKiller): “[For my first PD trip] there are so many things I was not ready for. The one thing that I did bring (that no one told me about) was a canopy. I’m glad I did. Even though the weather was [near perfect], I know that sun can humble you real fast. With my pop-up canopy, I could shoot all day without getting killed by the sun. You had to tie the canopy down real well or the wind would blow it across the pasture.

We sat on shooting benches that pivot 360°, and are fast and easy to set up. Most all shots were 175-250 yards. I just felt comfortable at that range. It was more fun for me to be able to film the hits, and the camcorder I was using just did not get good video past 350 yards. The digital zoom distorted the image too much. I knew I would only get this one chance to film my first P-dog outing, and I wanted to get it on film for [posterity].”

Bring Multiple Rifles on Your Varmint Adventures

On our P-Dog adventures, we like to have multiple rifles — a .17 HMR for close work, then maybe a .20 Practical AR for 150-250 yards, then a larger caliber such as 6BRA, 6 Dasher or 6XC for those long shots. The classic 22-250 is also a wickedly effective varmint cartridge.

Prairie dog adventure varmint hunting

.20 Practical (20-223 Rem) AR-Platform Varminter
Here is a .20 Practical built by Robert Whitley. Whitley’s Ultimate Prairie Dog Rifle (PDR) features a 24″ Bartlein 11-twist cut-rifled barrel, DPMS side-charging upper, and a Jewell trigger. It is chambered in 20 Practical, a cartridge popularized by Warren “Fireball” Brookman.

varmint hunting prairie dog dakota dogtown

This .20 Practical cartridge is simply the .223 Remington necked down to .204. You can use your existing .223 Rem brass — no special case-forming required! The 20 Practical is accurate, flat-shooting, and has almost no recoil. The advantage over the standard .223 Remington is that, grain for grain, the bullets have a higher BC and travel at a higher velocity for more dramatic effect on a small varmint. The ultra-low recoil allows you to easily see your hits, even without a muzzle brake. The 20 Practical, launching 40-grainers at about 3750 fps, shoots flatter than a .223 Rem with 55gr hollowpoints.

.17 HMR Savage A17 Varmint Rifle
We also like to have a Rimfire for the closer shots, inside 150 yards. The .17 HMR or .17 WSM are good choices. With a rimfire you save on ammo costs and you don’t waste precious centerfire barrel life.

This video shows a successful Prairie Dog hunt with a .17 HMR. Watch and you’ll see hits out to 160 yards (00:50), proving the effective range of the 17 HMR cartridge. The host is shooting a Savage A17 semi-auto 17 HMR rifle in a Boyds laminated stock.

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May 22nd, 2020

Hunting Prairie Dogs in South Dakota — Varminting Video

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

South Dakota Varmint Hunting SafariNever had a chance to hunt prairie dogs in the American west? Then check out this video. Dan Eigen, host of the We Love It Outdoors Television series, ventured to South Dakota for some varmint hunting. Dan teamed up with Varmint Hunter Association President Jeff Rheborg to patrol some South Dakota Dogtowns where things get serious. In the video, you’ll see p-dog hits at distances from 70 yards to roughly 450 yards. The hunters were shooting from portable, wood-topped swivel rests, using AR-platform rifles on X-type sandbag rest. (Rifle zeroing session is shown at the 5:30+ mark.)

Multiple cameras were employed so you can see both the shooter’s POV and close-ups of the prairie dogs downrange. Watch the shooters having fun with a prairie dog cut-out and some Tannerite at the 9:00-minute mark. This guys are having a grand old time sending critters to Prairie Dog Heaven — we think you’ll enjoy the video.

Prairie Dog Hunting Starts at 2:20 Time-Mark in Video:

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

NOTE: This video actually covers three sequences: 1) Three-gun training; 2) Prairie Dog Hunting; and 3) Coyote Hunting. The Prairie Dog segment runs from 2:20 to 15:15. If you wish, you can slide the controls forward or back to watch the other segments.

Video found by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink - Videos, Hunting/Varminting 4 Comments »
February 8th, 2019

Friday Feature — .204 Ruger Cooper Model 21 Montana Varminter

While many of our readers are caught in the wicked cold-spell hitting the North Central states, take heart — spring is right around the corner. That means folks will be getting ready for varmint safaris. Here’s a story that may help you choose a cartridge for your next varmint rifle.

For many years, Ken Lunde journeyed to South Dakota to visit with his father, and do a little varmint hunting. This article features Ken’s Cooper Model 21 Montana Varminter chambered in .204 Ruger. During past varminting holidays in South Dakota, Ken had a chance to try the speedy .204 against his “old reliable” .223. He came to favor the .204 for its accuracy, flat trajectory, and superior performance in the wind. Ken told us: “I love my .223, but the .204 has the edge for Dog-Town duty.”

The Cooper Montana Varminter in .204 Ruger

by Ken Lunde

Photos Copyright © Ken Lunde, All Rights Reserved

I’ve been a big fan of Cooper Arms rifles ever since my dad introduced them to me a few years ago. I prefer Cooper Arms rifles over others because they perform as they should out-of-the-box, and have outstanding workmanship and beauty. You get form and function. You don’t need to choose one over the other. For the price one pays, Cooper Arms rifles are a great bargain. I mount a quality scope, usually a higher-end Leupold with a 40mm objective, go through barrel break-in, and they always perform extraordinarily well. I should state that all of my rifle shooting is geared towards hunting. In other words, any shooting I do on paper is treated as preparation for using the same rifle for hunting, whether it’s for varmints such as prairie dogs, or for larger game.

Cooper Montana Varminter 204 Ruger

Cooper Varmint Rifles–Components and Variations
The featured rifle is a Cooper Arms M21 Montana Varminter (aka “MTV”) chambered in .204 Ruger. It has a 24″ varmint-taper stainless steel barrel with a 1 in 12-inch twist. This twist rate seems to be typical of .204 Ruger barrels from other manufacturers. The stock is AA+ grade Claro Walnut, and has the varmint fore-end, “Buick” vents, and steel grip cap that are standard on the Montana Varminter configuration. Among Cooper’s three wood-stocked varmint rifle configurations — Varminter, Montana Varminter, and Varmint Extreme — I prefer the Montana Varminter as it seems to be the best balance of value versus features. Plus, I like the “Buick” vents. They’re very pleasing, at least to my eyes. Maybe that’s why I own seven of them, in M21 and M22 actions, and in a variety of calibers. [Editor: Ken’s father has a near-identical .204 Ruger Cooper, with consecutive serial number.]

For this rifle, I decided to mount a Leupold VX-III 6.5-20×40 LR scope with the Varmint Hunter reticle. The rifle came with Leupold STD bases in Matte finish, and I used Leupold 30mm STD rings in Medium height and Matte finish. I took the time to align the bottom rings on the bases, and properly lapped them. Other than mounting the scope, no custom work was done, because none was necessary. The trigger is superb out-of-the-box, which is typical of Cooper rifles.

Ruger 204 Cooper varminter varmint rifle gun load reloading South Dakota

Load Development and Accuracy
Cooper Montana Varminter 204 RugerI first tried factory ammo, loaded with Hornady 32gr and 40gr V-Max. The 32gr load shot the best—five-shot groups were slightly larger than a half-inch at 100 yards. My dad heard that Alliant Reloder 10X was a good powder for this cartridge, and he worked up a load using the Sierra 32gr BlitzKing bullet. He found that 26.5 grains was the right amount for his rifle. Considering that my rifle was probably made on the same day, having a consecutive serial number, I decided to try my dad’s load, along with a half-grain up and down, meaning 26, 26.5, and 27 grains of powder. I, too, found that my rifle prefers 26.5 grains of RL 10X. With this load, I’ve been able to shoot consistent quarter-inch, five-shot groups at 100 yards. Cartridge OAL is 2.353″, or 1.990″ measured from the ogive.

I am using Winchester brass, Federal 205M primers, Alliant Reloder 10X powder, and Sierra 32gr BlitzKing bullets. I use Forster dies, and load with a Forster Co-Axial single-stage press. Here are two typical targets. As you can see, this .204 can shoot.

Cooper Montana Varminter 204 Ruger

Cartridge Smack-Down — .204 Ruger vs. .223 Remington

Ken made these comments when he first tested his .204 Ruger vs. his trusty (and very accurate) .223 Remington: “I brought along two rifles. The first was my ‘proven’ varmint rifle, the one chambered in .223 Rem. It has stunning wood, and clearly escaped the factory with AAA grade Claro Walnut. That rifle also shoots consistent five-shot, quarter-inch groups at 100 yards. For the .223, my preferred load uses Winchester brass, Federal 205M primers, Hornady 40gr V-Max bullets (non-moly), and 26.2gr of Vihtavuori N133 powder.

I found that I very much enjoyed shooting the .204 Ruger rifle, which explains why I used only the .204 Ruger during the second trip, although I also brought along the .223. Why did I favor the .204? Well, those little 32gr bullets really zing out of the barrel, with a very flat trajectory, like a .22-250. And, to my surprise, they buck the wind very well, perhaps even better than .223. While I am no ballistics expert, I think that this may be due to its high velocity, clearly over 4,000 fps.”

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June 10th, 2017

Dakota Dogs — Prairie Dog Hunt with Dan Eigen in South Dakota

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

South Dakota Varmint Hunting SafariNever had a chance to hunt prairie dogs in the American west? Then check out this video. Dan Eigen (aka “Walleye Dan”), host of the We Love It Outdoors Television series, head to South Dakota for some varmint hunting. Dan teams up with Varmint Hunter Association President Jeff Rheborg to patrol some South Dakota Dogtowns where things get serious. In the video, you’ll see p-dog hits at distances from 70 yards to roughly 450 yards. The hunters were shooting from portable, wood-topped swivel rests, using AR-platform rifles on X-type sandbag rest. (Rifle zeroing session is shown at the 5:30+ mark.)

Multiple cameras were employed so you can see both the shooter’s POV and close-ups of the prairie dogs downrange. Watch the shooters having fun with a prairie dog cut-out and some Tannerite at the 9:00-minute mark. This guys are having a grand old time sending critters to Prairie Dog Heaven — we think you’ll enjoy the video.

Prairie Dog Hunting Starts at 2:00 Time-Mark in Video:

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

NOTE: This video actually covers three sequences: 1) Three-gun training; 2) Prairie Dog Hunting; and 3) Coyote Hunting. We’ve embedded the video so it plays back the Prairie Dog segment from 2:00 to 15:15. If you wish, you can slide the controls forward or back to watch the other segments.

Video found by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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May 11th, 2017

New $600 Competition Primer Seater from Primal Rights

Primal Rights Competition Primer Seater System Rifleshooter.com gear review

Seating primers is kind of a “dark art”. Many top shooters prefer to seat “by feel” using a hand tool. Others prefer bench-mounted tools that offer higher work-flow rates — with a good bench tool you can prime more cases in a given amount of time, plus it’s easier on the hands.

There have been many bench-mounted priming options — Forster has a tool, as does RCBS, and Lee. But there is a new player in the game — Primal Rights of South Dakota. And Primal Rights’ new Competition Primer Seater (CPS) may be the most precise bench priming tool yet offered to the public. It is certainly the most expensive. This patented tool costs $600.00! But the CPS delivers something special — superb, repeatable depth control, along with the ability to prime 1000 cases per hour. For some reloaders, that precision + productivity will justify the high price.

Primal Rights Competition Primer Seater System Rifleshooter.com gear review

The Primal Rights CPS is built like a Swiss watch — the machining is beautiful. It also uses some unique internal engineering to achieve a superb “feel” when priming. Unlike some other tools, it is also very easy to adjust — simply turn a wheel to adjust seating depth. You can see this in the photos — the word “Deeper” with the directional arrow.

Operation of Competition Primer System Shown in Video:

Key Features of the Primal Rights CPS, as stated by the manufacturer:

Speed with Precision: Some priming tools are very fast. Others are very precise. The CPS is the only priming tool to combine both features into a single unit. You can achieve seating depths accurate to within a thousandth of an inch, all while priming at a comfortable rate of over 20 cases per minute. At that pace you can easily prime over a thousand cases per hour.

Precision Primer Seating Depth Control: The CPS has a revolutionary adjustable shell holder system which allows you to raise and lower your case in relation to the priming rod. You can seat the primer deeper or shallower in .001″ increments. The adjustment mechanism has tactile and audible clicks to ensure you stay on your desired seating depth. One click = One thousandth of an inch adjustment.

Integrated Shuttle Feeding System: The CPS uses a manually-operated shuttle system to slide primers from the primer tube into position over the primer rod. This ensures that any jams or misaligned primers are easily and safely discovered by the operator.

Check Out Competition Primer Seater Gear Review on Rifleshooter.com
Our friend Bill at RifleShooter.com has just released a detailed review of Primal Rights’ bench-mounted priming tool. He was very impressed with the Primal Rights CPS, finding that it was fast to use yet very precise, with great feel: “The CPS uses a rotational drive system to seat primers. Unlike the lever systems you’ll normally encounter, this allows you better feel as the primer seats. The CPS is expensive. However, it is a solid tool. Amortize it over the time you’ll be reloading and it’ll be worth every cent. If you load a lot of precision ammunition and have the budget to support it, take a look at the CPS. I found it is a game changer. I wish I had one twenty years ago!” READ REVIEW.

Primal Rights Competition Primer Seater System Rifleshooter.com gear review

» Read Competition Primer Seater Review on Rifleshooter.com

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Reloading 18 Comments »
May 5th, 2016

Prairie Dog Safari in South Dakota with Dan Eigen

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

South Dakota Varmint Hunting SafariNever had a chance to hunt prairie dogs in the American west? Then check out this video. Dan Eigen (aka “Walleye Dan”), host of the We Love It Outdoors Television series, head to South Dakota for some varmint hunting. Dan teams up with Varmint Hunter Association President Jeff Rheborg to patrol some South Dakota Dogtowns where things get serious. In the video, you’ll see p-dog hits at distances from 70 yards to roughly 450 yards. The hunters were shooting from portable, wood-topped swivel rests, using AR-platform rifles on X-type sandbag rest. (Rifle zeroing session is shown at the 5:30+ mark.)

Multiple cameras were employed so you can see both the shooter’s POV and close-ups of the prairie dogs downrange. Watch the shooters having fun with a prairie dog cut-out and some Tannerite at the 9:00-minute mark. This guys are having a grand old time sending critters to Prairie Dog Heaven — we think you’ll enjoy the video.

Prairie Dog Hunting Starts at 2:00 Time-Mark in Video:

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

South Dakota Varmint Hunting Safari

NOTE: This video actually covers three sequences: 1) Three-gun training; 2) Prairie Dog Hunting; and 3) Coyote Hunting. We’ve embedded the video so it plays back the Prairie Dog segment from 2:00 to 15:15. If you wish, you can slide the controls forward or back to watch the other segments.

Video found by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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June 23rd, 2013

Texas and S. Dakota Governors Go East to Recruit Gun Makers

NSSF Rick Perry ConnecticutGov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota visited Connecticut last week. The two Governors hoped to recruit manufacturers to re-locate operations to their more business-friendly states. Connecticut firearms makers are high on the list of businesses both Perry and Daugaard seek to bring to their respective states. Gov. Perry wants Connecticut gunmakers to relocate to the Lone Star State, while Gov. Daugaard hopes South Dakota can attract these enterprises.

Larry Keane, Senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, provides a perspective on the recruiting effort. Keane suggests that economic growth in Connecticut is being stymied by official state policies. And Connecticut is no friend of the gun business, though firearms production has been one of Connecticut’s few growth industries in recent years:

The economic report card for the State of Connecticut is in and the results are not good.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that Connecticut was last in the nation in economic growth in 2012, the only state where the combined value of goods and services produced (GDP) was lower than in 2011. In fact, total state GDP fell a quarter of a billion dollars last year, the same amount it fell in 2011.

On the heels of that report, the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut released the results of a survey that revealed Connecticut manufacturers predict a bleak outlook for the state’s economy and the health of their industries. The survey reported that a majority of the state’s manufacturers have been recruited to expand or relocate to another state and that they would consider doing so, most citing “government attitude” as the reason.

Connecticut’s firearms and components manufacturers have been the rare exception to the state’s dismal economic performance in recent years. Colt, Mossberg, Stag Arms, Ammunition Storage Components, to name four such companies, have added hundreds of jobs in recent years and, as a result, have contributed more in local and state taxes, even as other industries have cut back and moved facilities and jobs out of state.

We see a direct connection between the state’s nation-trailing GDP performance and the attitude of state government…. Gov. Perry understands all this. So he is coming to Connecticut. So too, is South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who next week will also be recruiting these same manufacturers for his state. — Commentary by Larry Keane

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August 16th, 2012

Take a ‘Virtual Tour’ of VHA Range and Clubhouse

The Varmint Hunters Association (VHA) has a very cool feature on its VHA website — a virtual tour of the VHA 600-Yard Range and Clubhouse in Pierre, South Dakota. Special panorama software stiches together dozens of images, allowing you to “walk through” the range, from the Clubhouse lawn down to the 300-yard line. You can “pan” and “zoom” from any location, or you can use the quick-navigation menu to visit the Lobby, Gift Shop, Clubhouse lawn, 100-yard mark, or 300-yard mark. This fun virtual tour is truly the next best thing to being there. It would be great if similar virtual tours were available for other popular ranges such as Camp Perry (OH), Raton (NM), Deep Creek (MT), Sacramento Valley (CA), and Williamsport (PA).

CLICK HERE to Launch VHA Virtual Tour

Varmint Hunter Association virtual Tour

After a few seconds, the virtual tour will start rotating (it can make you a bit dizzy). To stop movement, left-click with your mouse anywhere in the view-frame, or hit the “auto-rotate” control in the lower left (globe icon). Use the right/left arrows to move horizontally. Use the up/down arrows to tilt your view vertically — but be careful — hold the up-arrow a bit too long and you’ll be seeing nothing but blue sky. There are also plus/minus zoom controls. When the orange navigation box disappears, you’ll find the directional controls in the lower RIGHT hand corner. You can also restore the orange control box by clicking the left-most “Navigation Info” icon in the lower LEFT.

Note: If you want to visit the VHA range in person, during summer months it is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 5:00 pm, and by appointment on weekends.

Varmint Hunter Association virtual Tour
Varmint Hunter Association virtual Tour

Varmint Hunter MagazineFREE Digital Editions of Varmint Hunter Magazine
While you’re visiting the VHA website, you can also read the FREE Spring 2012 and Summer 2012 digital Editions of Varmint Hunter Magazine. Both the Spring 2012 and Summer 2012 issues contain dozens of informative articles about precision shooting and hunting. Even if you’re not a varmint hunter, you’ll learn something new about shooting in these magazines. CLICK HERE to read FREE Varmint Hunter Magazine Digital Editions.

Story Tip by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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May 7th, 2012

Varmint Hunters Association Cancels 2012 VHA Jamboree

VHA Jamboree 2012The Varmint Hunters Association (VHA) announced last week that the 2012 VHA Jamboree and competition would be cancelled for 2012. The Jamboree has now been cancelled two years in a row. Last year the Jamboree was called off because of extreme flooding in South Dakota.

This year, according to VHA President Jeff Rheborg, the Jamboree has been cancelled for financial reasons. In addition, “all shooting events will be suspended for the 2012 shooting year at the VHA range”. On Friday, May 4th, Jeff issued this statement:

RE: 2012 Shooting Events

I hope this letter finds you enjoying the spring weather many are having. With much regret, all shooting events will be suspended for the 2012 shooting year at the VHA Range. With the uncontrollable events of last year and the financial loss we incurred, we feel the overall cost of repairing, maintaining and preparing for these events is not financially viable for this year. The foundation of VHA is stable; we feel it necessary to protect it in this uncertain economy. If you were registered for the 2011 Jamboree your refund will be forthcoming.

We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. Thank you for your continued support!

Jeff Rheborg

VHA Jamboree 2012

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June 18th, 2011

VHA Cancels Annual Jamboree Due to Missouri River Flooding

The Varmint Hunters Association has officially cancelled the 2011 VHA Jamboree, originally scheduled for July 25-29, 2011 in Pierre, South Dakota. The 2011 Jamboree was cancelled due to flooding in the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas — a major problem that may not be resolved until August. Unfortunately, previously paid 2011 Jamboree registration fees are non-refundable, but 2011 paid-up registrants will get a credit for the 2012 event. In a statement issued last week, Jeff Rheborg (VHA CEO-Club President) explained why the VHA determined to cancel the Jamboree this year:

To all VHA Members and Supporters:

With a heavy mind and heart we regret to inform you that we will not be hosting the 2011 Annual Jamboree. Some of you may already know and some might not have yet heard; the communities of Pierre and Fort Pierre are currently undergoing a flood. Each city has a levee system running parallel to the Missouri River, with some even running through the middle of town. Water currently being released from Lake Oahe is at 150,000 cubic feet per second. It is projected to stay at that level through mid August. To make it easier to visualize… if you were eating supper at the Pizza Ranch and looking out the window, if the levee was not there, all you would see is water. It is that high.

We did not reach this decision lightly. We took into account information we have received from local, state and national authorities as well as a long list of variables such as: electricity availability, water lines that may be affected, and the hundreds of evacuees that are being housed in area hotels. While we value the opportunity our annual Jamboree has to bring in visitors and thus revenue for area businesses in a time of need, we also cannot guarantee the ability of those businesses, such as downstream campgrounds, (which are all currently under water), restaurants and hotels to be able to accommodate people. We can tell you with great assurance; we will not put the safety of our members and their families at risk on the basis of “the levee should hold.”

As in years past our policy has been Jamboree registrations are non-refundable. Due to the current circumstances, which we have no control over, all participants who have already signed up for Jamboree 2011 will be given credit for Jamboree 2012. Credit is for Jamboree use only and cannot be transferred to another event or applied towards membership dues.

Thanks again for your continued support throughout the years. Plans are already being made for Jamboree 2012.

Jeff Rheborg, CEO, Varmint Hunters Assn.

Story tip by EdLongrange. We welcome submissions from readers.
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March 4th, 2011

The People Who Make Black Hills Ammo — Video Profile

Black Hills AmmunitionBlack Hills Ammunition has released a video showing the production process at Black Hills’ ammo plant in Rapid City, South Dakota. As you’d expect there is footage showing the assembly-line, with massive machines churning out loaded cases (look for the bullet seating machine). But this video has a second, softer side — it also focuses on the human factor at the Black Hills facility.

Black Hills President Jeff Hoffman narrates the video, which profiles some of the key production staff at Black Hills. There’s AJ the ‘gearhead’, who supervises the production process, making sure all the machinery is running optimally. When AJ’s not at the plant, he’s tinkering with his hot rods. Then there’s JB, the loading machine operator, who arrives each day at the crack of dawn and can’t wait to get to his machine. And there’s Laverne, who, for 22 years, has been Black Hills’ ace ammo inspector. The video provides an insight into the human side of the production process. We think you’ll enjoy watching.

YouTube Preview Image
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July 18th, 2010

VHA Jamboree Is Coming Soon — July 26 – 30, in South Dakota

The 2010 Varmint Hunters Association Jamboree will be held July 26 – 30th, in Pierre, South Dakota. This 5-day event features a 2-Day Shootout, 3-Man Team Competition, and 3-Gun Match with prizes valued at over $4900. Classes for the Shootout are: Field Stock, Stock, Modified, Limited Open, and Unlimited Open. CLICK HERE for complete Shootout Rules.

Varmint Hunters Association

In conjunction with the Jamboree, the South Dakota state 600-yard IBS Benchrest match will be held on Friday, the 30th. During the course of the week, other fun matches will be held, including a 600-Yard Groundhog Shoot, a 100-Yard Youth Shoot, and a .22 LR rimfire fun shoot.

The Jamboree is a family event with fun shoots Monday through Friday. There will be live and silent auctions, symposiums, special Ladies’ Events, regularly nightly speakers or entertainment, and a big Jamboree Banquet at the Ramkota Lodge on Friday. For more information, visit www.Varminthunter.org/jamboree.html, or call VHA members services, 1-800-528-4868.

CLICK HERE FOR VHA Shootout and Jamboree SCHEDULE of EVENTS.

Advanced registration is $35.00, while registration during the Jamboree costs $40.00. A Shootout ticket alone is $25.00, while a Banquet ticket costs $25.00. You must be a member of the V.H.A. and registered for the Jamboree in order to compete in the Shootout.

Permalink Competition, Hunting/Varminting, News No Comments »
September 18th, 2009

IBS 600-Yard Nationals in Pierre, SD — Hall, Davis, & Schatz Battle

Sam Hall did it again. The 2008 IBS National Champion and 2008 Shooter of the Year captured his second straight National Championship, winning the 2-Gun Grand Agg shooting a standard 6BR in both Light Gun (LG) and Heavy Gun (HG) classes. It was an impressive victory in challenging conditions at the Varmint Hunter Assn. (VHA) range in Pierre, South Dakota. But this was a very close match. Mike Davis, runner-up in the Grand Agg, tied Sam in 2-Gun points, but Sam was awarded the title based on 2-Gun Small Group tie-breaker. Richard Schatz was just one point behind Sam and Mike. All three men shot superbly and any of the three could have won it all. Davis won the HG Overall Agg (with Hall second), while Schatz won the LG Overall Agg, with Hall again placing second. Both Davis and Schatz shot 6BR Improved cartridges in both LG and HG — Davis shooting the 30°-shoulder BRX, while Schatz campaigned a 40° Dasher. Rodney Wagner (6BRX) and John Griswold (6 Dasher) tied with 27 points in the 2-Gun overall, with Wagner earning 4th place overall on the tie-breaker.

Horrendous Conditions on Friday — Many DQs
Sam Hall said the conditions on Friday were “horrendous” with 25 to 35-mph gusts. Conditions were among the worst ever seen by the VHA rangemasters, and a third of HG competitors (17 of 48) DQ’d because the wind blew shots off paper. Luckily, conditions moderated for the Saturday relays, with mild 10 mph winds. Regulars at the VHA range said Saturday’s conditions were “about as good at it gets in Pierre.”

Sam Hall IBS 600 yard champion Sam Hall IBS 600 yard champion

Complete Results are posted under Long Range Match Results on the IBS Website.

Equipment — Still dominated by 6BR and 6BR Improved
A quick look at the equipment lists for both LG and HG classes showed the 6mm as the preferred caliber, with a 6mm Dasher or 6mm BRX the most popular cartridge (though Hall won it all with his standard 6BR). Despite the windy conditions, the mid-sized cases such as the 6-6.5×47 Lapua couldn’t outshoot their smaller brothers. Notably, Sam Hall used a plain vanilla 6BR to win LG Agg with a 2.852″. Shooting a 6BRX, Mike Davis won HG Agg with a 2.492″, with Hall’s 6BR only .054″ behind.

LG Equipment List
IBS 600-yard Benchrest

HG Equipment List
IBS 600-yard Benchrest

Calibers: 17 of the top 20 in LG shot 6mms, mostly Dashers (but Hall won LG with a standard 6BR). There was one .22 and two 6.5s. In HG it was pretty much the same story, 16 of 20 using 6mms, with a couple 6.5s, a .308 Baer and a 30 BooBoo (not “39” as stated in equipment list).

Barrels: Sam Hall won LG Group Agg with a Broughton button-rifled barrel, but otherwise cut-rifled barrels from Brux, Krieger, and Bartlein dominated the Top 20 in both classes. In HG, Mike Davis shot a Brux to finish #1. NOTE: Sam Hall had a Lilja barrel on his second-place, 28-lb Heavy Gun, not a Brux as shown on the official equipment list.

Bullets: Sam Hall used Spencers in LG, and Steve Shelp shot BIBs in his 30 BooBoo Heavy Gun. Otherwise it was “all yellow box”, with Berger filling the Top 10 equipment rankings for both LG and HG. It’s fair to say Berger Bullets dominated the match.

Powder/Primers: Alliant Reloder 15 and CCI 450s (usually pushing Berger 6mm bullets) composed the preferred combo in both LG and HG. Sam Hall did use CCI BR4s, however. Rodney Wagner was the only Dasher shooter to use Hodgdon Varget, but he finished fourth overall in the 2-Gun Aggregate.

Optics: While ace shooters Sam Hall and Mike Davis both used Leupold Competition Scopes in both LG and HG classes, Nightforce scopes, (mostly 12-42 BR models) dominated the Equipment Top 20 lists. To our surprise, there were only a couple March Scopes in the Equipment Top 20 in HG, and just one in LG.

Stocks: Shehane (D & B Supply) stocks were used by 8 of the Top 10-ranked LG Shooters, and 5 of the Top 10 in HG rankings. The Trackers, both ST 1000 and MBR Tracker, remain hard to beat. We did see some “true maxies” in this match.

IBS 600-yard Championship

Hall Reveals Shooting Secrets in Home-Made Video
If you’re interested in 600-yard competition, or just want to shoot more accurately and consistently from the bench, you should watch a video Sam Hall put together last year. Because of wind noise, the audio is pretty bad at first, but be patient. Sam delivers some invaluable advice in the video. His tips on body positioning, gun-handling, and follow-through can earn you some points in your next match.

YouTube Preview Image
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July 5th, 2009

Mark Your Calendar for the VHA Varmint Jamboree

The Varmint Hunters Association Jamboree is set for later this month, July 27 – 31, in Pierre, South Dakota. This 5-day event features a 2-Day Shootout, 3-Man Team Competition, and 3-Gun Match with prizes valued at over $4900. Classes for the Shootout are: Stock, Modified, Limited Open, and Unlimited Open. CLICK HERE for complete Shootout Rules.

Varmint Hunters Association

This is a family event with fun shoots Monday through Friday. There will be live and silent auctions, symposiums, special Ladies’ Events, regularly nightly speakers or entertainment, and a big Jamboree Banquet at the Ramkota Lounge on Friday. For more information, visit www.Varminthunter.org/jamboree.html, or call VHA members services, 1-800-528-4868.

Pre-registration costs $30.00, while registration during Jamboree cost $40.00. A Shootout ticket alone is $25.00, while a Banquet ticket costs $25.00. You must be a member of the V.H.A. and registered for the Jamboree in order to compete in the Shootout.

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