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Perfect Predator Package? Nosler Varmageddon AR Review

by Craig Boddington   |  March 18th, 2013 4


It was well past dark when I got back to the house. I’d called carefully and plaintively, even working a section of rimrock up on a ridge where I’d never before set foot. Nothing came in, so I guess the word was out. My coyotes—of which I have too many—were in their dens quivering, because they knew the end was near. Hey, we’ve all seen the ads, and they’re clever. If I were a coyote, I’d be afraid. Very afraid. Because I was carrying Nosler’s Varmageddon AR and ready for all the shots that were never presented.

There’s nothing new about a really accurate AR. It’s a proven action, and if you mate it with a good barrel and feed it well, you can have “varmint level” accuracy. Since 1948, when John Nosler created the Partition bullet, the company that bears his name has been known primarily as a bullet manufacturer. However, there’s nothing new about Nosler rifles; the company has been offering limited-run semi-custom bolt actions for several years now. There’s nothing new about loaded Nosler ammunition either; the Nosler Custom line has been in production for some time.

Oregonians Against Varmints
However respected Nosler’s products might be, the company hasn’t been known for extra-accurate varmint loads with explosive expansion, or ARs, or optics, for that matter. Until Varmageddon. This may spell the end for many varmints, but for Nosler it’s the culmination of a unique partnership between three Oregon companies.

The ammo part of the equation was easy. Nosler simply expanded this technology into a new line of Varmageddon bullets, both hollowpoint and polymer-tipped and loaded ammo as well. In bullets, the line includes .172 (20-grain), .204 (32-grain), .224 (40- and 55-grain) and .243 (55-grain).

In loaded ammunition, initial Varmageddon offerings include .17 Remington, .204 Ruger, .221 Remington Fireball (40-grain), .222 Remington (40-grain), .223 Remington (55-grain), .22-250 Remington (55-grain) and .243 Winchester (55-grain). Varmageddon ammo employs the same meticulous case preparation as Nosler’s Custom line—case-length inspected, necks chamfered and trued, flash holes inspected. From what I’ve seen, it’s all good, but we’ll stick with the 55-grain .223 Remington load because it’s part of the basis for the Varmageddon triumvirate of ammo, rifle and scope.

As a company, Nosler is no stranger to the AR frame. After all, the company offers bullets, loaded ammo and a reloading manual that includes data for a number of cartridges intended primarily for the AR platform. But making an AR from scratch is something else again, so Nosler turned to Noveske Rifleworks. Nosler is located in Bend, Ore., just west of the center of the state. I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that Noveske is just a couple hours southwest in Grants Pass.

This whole thing reeks of an Oregon conspiracy against varmints. Especially when you consider that there are more than 80 firms large and small making rifles on AR platforms throughout the country and Nosler could have partnered with any of them. So there may be some hint of parochialism in the choice, but there’s more to it than that. Noveske is known as a maker of top-quality, super-accurate ARs, and you really can’t blame Nosler for partnering with a neighbor.

The rifle is “Varmageddon by Nosler.” Noveske’s name is all over the rifle, so there’s no subterfuge. Although it’s built to Nosler’s specifications, I suspect the charge to Noveske was fairly simple: “Build the ultimate varmint package on the AR frame, and make sure it delivers the accuracy varmint hunters expect.”

Varmageddon the rifle is complete as sold, including two Magpul magazines (20- and 30-round), Troy folding iron sights and a Varmageddon-logo soft case. With an MSRP of $2,295, it qualifies as a high-end AR—not the highest, but a long way from the lowest. I admit to being skeptical at first, but after spending some quality time with the Varmageddon I think it’s a lot of gun for the money. Because it’s intended and designed as a varmint rifle, a scope is an essential part of the equation. But which one?

The Third Element
Nosler made the choice easy. From centrally located Bend, they went southwest to find an AR manufacturer. For optics they went northwest, to Beaverton, Ore., home of Leupold. Undoubtedly eager to be part of this Oregon-based varmint conspiracy, Leupold quickly came on board with a Varmageddon edition of its Vari-X III 4.5-14x50mm. Ever since it was introduced, the Leupold 4.5-14X has been one of my favorites. I hunt in the West, and because of heat waves and mirage it isn’t often than I can actually use much more power than 14X.

Then there’s the question of the .223 cartridge. It’s a wonderful varmint load, but it isn’t the fastest .22 centerfire, and it doesn’t carry as well as larger calibers with heavier bullets. So while it’s great under most conditions, it isn’t an extreme-range round. Magnification to 14X does everything most of us need a .223 to do, and the lower settings are just fine for stalking or predator calling in close cover.

The 4.5-14X with a light-gathering 50mm objective is thus a good match for an accurate .223 varminter—but there’s more. Leupold’s Varmageddon scope has the external-adjustment CDS turret calibrated to (you guessed it) Nosler’s 55-grain polymer-tipped Varmageddon load. Sight in at 100 yards and you can dial the turret to 500 yards—pretty much the limit of the .223’s effectiveness. The obvious marketing intent was to combine rifle/scope/ammo under the Varmageddon trademark, which is a catchy idea. The “complete” Varmageddon package includes the Leupold scope and mounts at an MSRP of $3,195. Admittedly, this is getting up there in dollars. In addition to the scope and Leupold Mk2 mount, the package includes Harris bipod, sling, KeyMod swivel stud and a couple boxes of 55-grain Varmageddon ammo to get started with. So if you take a deep breath and think about it, the package price isn’t too bad.

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