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Gun Glossary - Letter V
Index of Firearm & Gun Terminology

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Letter - V Page Updated: 09 March 2003

VARMINT: Any species of wildlife which is considered detrimental to humans and should be reduced in number or destroyed. Varmint is a corruption of the word vermin. Animals classified as varmints that are not specifically protected by state or federal laws may normally be shot at any time. In some states, varmint animals can be hunted 365-days a year and in some places can be hunted 24-hours a day.  Something non -typical of the seasonal and daylight to dusk restrictions imposed for "game animals" in America.

As with anything involving shooting and hunting, one must check with the local governing authorities. In most states this is the State Fish & Game / State Wildlife Agency. Different environmental situations and public sentiments lead to varying state and federal laws. Species considered varmints in one area or state may be protected in another. For example, the mountain lion is protected in California, but is still classified as a varmint in some cattle-raising western states. In some states a "Hunting" license may not be required to shoot varmints and in others, especially under the modern "Hunter Education & Safety" provisions, the varmint hunter may need a Hunters Safety Certification Class and a Non-Game License.

Varmint hunting requires the maximum in long-range accuracy and flatness of trajectory and, for many areas, where close proximity to inhabited areas, minimum report and muzzle blast. Bullet design and construction explosive expansion on impact with the target is also considered essential. Such projectiles not only have high lethality, resulting in a humane kill, but also reduce the probability of ricochet (post impact deflection) to a minimum.

These characteristics are combined best in high velocity .22 caliber cartridges ranging from the .222 Remington with its 50-grain bullet at 3,100 feet-per-second, to the .220 Swift and .22/250 with 50-55 grain bullets IN THE 3,700-4,000 feet-per-second range. Bullets are lightly constructed, superbly accurate, ricochets are very rare, and expansion on target is astounding. Some of the best developments in reloading and wildcat loads result from the almost fanatical approach to long rang accuracy with very fast, flat shooting varmint guns.

The .308 and other 30 caliber cartridges are also popular both for larger varmints and for use at longer range in high wind conditions.  Some of these guns have been marketed as "Predator Class" varmint guns. This is made more relevant as some lighter .22 calibers do not perform well in significant winds, being deflected too much for consistent shooting beyond 250-300 yards on  windy days. For such conditions and for ultra-long ranges the 6mm/.243 class of cartridges typified by the .243 Winchester and 6mm Remington with thin-jacketed 80-90-grain bullets at 3,400-3,600 feet-per-second are better choices.

VARMINT GUN: A firearm, typically a rifle, that is designed, engineered and employed in the taking of varmint animals. The term is also used coequally to indicate a general purpose "Rat Shooting" side arm or general purpose hand gun, shotgun or rifle that would be kept around the farmstead or home to "shoot varmints".  In modern times the same principle in term is often used to describe a general purpose self-defense gun kept on hand to shoot 2-legged varmints. We can thank modern TV and in particular the TV show "Beverly Hillbillies" with making the term "Varmint" part of the modern vernacular.

VARMINT RIFLE: Since varmints are generally small-ranging from the fist-sized striped gophers of the northwestern plains up through prairie dogs, woodchucks, and the larger rock chuck and coyote-an extremely high degree of accuracy is required in both rifle and cartridge. When one considers that these small varmints are often in open country at ranges exceeding 200 yards, accuracy of less than one minute of angle (MOA) or better is considered essential for typical varminting. Meaning a gun & ammunition combination capable of 2-inch groups of 200 yards, 3-inch groups at 300 yards, etc. This degree of accuracy is usually best obtained with rigid bolt actions and relatively heavy, stiff barrels. It also requires, at least to a moderate degree, hand turning the rifle to suit the particular load. Since varmints are normally shot from a rest of some sort, a thick, heavy target-style stock dimensioned generally for the prone position, is best.

VARMINT SHOOTING: First-shot hits at extended ranges necessitate as flat a trajectory as possible to offset poor range estimation. Flat trajectory means using relatively light small-caliber bullets driven at the highest practical velocity-and this high velocity also helps nullify the effect of the strong winds so often encountered in good varmint-shooting country.

All things considered, modern high-velocity cartridges in the .22-to-.243-(6mm) range are the most effective. The .222, .223, and .222 Remington Magnum are generally considered best on even the smallest varmints, out to 200-250 yards, and to even greater ranges on the larger species, providing no great amount of wind is present.

Given longer ranges and windy conditions, the higher-velocity .22ís, such as the .22/250 and .220 Swift, are better choices with their heavier bullets and higher velocities. At extreme ranges and severe wind conditions, the 6mm class, such as the .243 Winchester and 6mm Remington, are superior and will permit sure kills out to 400 yards or more.

A more recent development, the .25-06 Remington, is said by many to be superior to the venerable 6mms. but some think it is excessively large, powerful, and noisy, for varmint use. In any event, the 6mm has been in the field for many years, is used world-wide and has consistently proved capable of making consistent kills at 400 to 500 yards under fairly acceptable conditions.

If I were to select a varmint battery, it would consist first of a short-action bolt rifle with a stiff, heavy 20-inch barrel chambered for the .223 Remington, supplemented by a long-range rifle of similar configuration but with a 26-inch barrel and chambered for the .243 Winchester / 6mm Remington. Weight would run about 7 pounds on the first rifle and 9 on the second. I have chosen the Remington Model 700 LTR Light Tactical Rifle for the Short Barreled .223 caliber (It also serves as a great urban tactical sniper rifle and is a fun shooter.) and a new Weatherby Super Varmint Master SVM chambered in .243 for the second.

The 243 is a classic 6mm cartridge necked down from a 308 case, was introduced in 1955 by Winchester. The versatility and accuracy of the 243 soon elevated it to levels of popularity not to be exceeded by any other round in its class. Much of the original acclaim about the all-around capabilities of the 243 can be credited to the late Warren Page.

Warren Page is the author of: "Accurate Rifle".

ISBN: 1886681066 - Paperback - List Price: $17.95
Publisher: Claymore Publishing Corporation - Published Date: 01/01/1997
ISBN: 188668104X - Hardcover - List Price: $24.95
Publisher: Claymore Publishing Corporation - Published Date: 01/01/1997

Hornady says: The potent 6mm cartridge is suitable for game ranging from prairie dogs to deer. Hornady offers many explosive varmint bullets for all phases of varminting: the 58 grain V-MAX, the 70 grain Spire Point and SX Spire Point, the 75 grain Hollow Point, and the 87 grain Spire Point. The 70 grain SX Spire Point has a very thin jacket and may disintegrate in flight with velocities in excess of 3400 fps. The new 58 grain V-MAX has a unique jacket construction that will hold the bullet together at speeds of 3800 fps.

VELOCITY: The speed of a projectile expressed as distance per unit of time.  Usually measured in feet per second (fps) at a given range.

VENTILATED RIB: A specialized barrel rib with cutouts that help to dissipate heat from the barrel and cut down heat shimmer along the sighting plane.  2.  A sighting plane affixed along the length of a shotgun barrel with gaps or slots milled for cooling and lightweight handling.

VERNIER CALIPER: A slide-type graduated instrument used to measure overall cartridge and case lengths precisely.

VERTEX: In artillery and naval gunfire support, the highest point in the trajectory of a projectile.

VERY PISTOL: A Flare Pistol.  Typically 37mm capable of shooting a flare or signal rocket about 500 feet into the air.  Used as a signaling device by seamen and the military.

VISIBILITY RANGE: The horizontal distance (in kilometers or miles) at which a large dark object can just be seen against the horizon sky in daylight. 

VETERAN: Of or relating to former members of the armed forces or a person who has served in the armed forces.

Note: In the United States, during the civil war, soldiers who had served through one term of enlistment and had reenlisted were specifically designated veterans. In modern times a soldier is not considered a veteran until his service is ended.

VETERANS DAY:  Veterans Day is dedicated to remembering the service and sacrifices that U.S. military service members have made for their country, including the 25 million living veterans in this country. This legal federal holiday is observed on November 11. It is set on this date for the armistice in "The Great War" now know as World War I, which was scheduled to begin on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For the History of Veterans Day - Click Here.

VULCAN: An Army air defense artillery gun which provides low-altitude air defense and has a direct fire capability against surface targets. The gun is a 6-barreled, air-cooled, 20-mm rotary-fired weapon. 

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