The Best Predator Hunting Calibers
Mark Kayser examines predator bullets from light to heavy and gives his opinion on what critters they are good for.
MARK KAYSER — AUGUST 19, 2015
As you scan firearm companies online and peruse the predator selections you’ll quickly see that a few calibers have become fan favorites. Even new rifle companies, like Bergara USA, have a preference for popular calibers, even in their custom-built-rifle collection. Wildcat bootleggers may brew more and more satisfying recipes, but the old reliable calibers of yesteryear still hold merit. Here are the pros and cons of some that may be your favorite and some that might spark a argument bigger than those found in the upcoming presidential debates.
.17 HMR, .17 Hornet, .17 WSM …
It’s a speedy caliber variety with the zip to tip over pint-sized varmints and predators in the fox-sized, and below category. The .17 is fun to shoot, but unfortunately the fun stops there. It lacks the punch to consistently be reliable for a true predator pounder.
Once a newcomer, the .204 Ruger is now mainstream. It has it all; speed, trajectory and ample offerings for true varmint and predator hunters. This small powerhouse will handle chores up to the coyote, but don’t pack it on your next wolf hunt. There is one downside to the .204, which unlike most of the calibers to follow, plagues it. Coyotes can run off after being hit with a projectile fired from the .204. It’s not an every-time occurrence, but enough to not give it a five-star rating.
With more platform options than a 2015 Lincoln Navigator, you can find loads and bullets to handle any chore, paper or hide. Hornady (www.hornady.com) alone has more than a dozen different options for ammunition shopping. I see only bonuses here. Lots of choices, ammunition available everywhere and affordability due to its popularity … it’s a top contender for most predator pursuits.
Up until the AR explosion, I’d bet more coyote hunters teamed up with the .22-250 than any other caliber. Why not? It’s speedy at 3,600 fps and beyond. Trajectory is great out to 300 yards and a seasoned shooter can experience perfection to 400 yards and beyond. Lastly, it drops coyotes dead in their tracks and that means no tracking. It’s the king!
The .220 is another popular load that is waning lately with the popularity of the .223. The .220 also is speedy at over 3,500 fps and able to push along a 55-grain projectile with a higher ballistic coefficient than a lighter bullet. With super downrange energy and less drift, it’s definitely a 300-yard and beyond caliber. Is the .220 Swift getting a raw deal?
A bit on the heavy side for fox and varmint targets, the .243 is ideal for coyotes, especially big northern dogs. It will also topple a wolf. This caliber is perfect for youth hunters as a dual-purpose firearm, good for coyotes and deer. Load it with a 55-grain bullet for coyotes and bump it up to a 100-grain version for deer. Save some money from here on up and use this, and the following calibers for dual-purpose hunting.
The new kid on the block, the 6.5 Creedmoor has been accepted readily by law enforcement officers as a credible long-range alternative to traditional calibers. It can speed a 120- to 140-grain bullet along with a high ballistic coefficient and that has earned it respect by 1,000-yard competition shooters. The Creedmoor also doubles for predators and big game with proper ammunition selection.
Sure the .308 is a bit on the overkill side, but with the price of coyote hides still not making news headlines it can serve as a great long-range caliber and a close-range clobber caliber. You can readily find .308 ammunition and with a controlled expansion bullet fur damage can be reduced. Plus you can hunt deer and elk with it making it an all-purpose caliber. There are lots of positives in this caliber selection that handles it all.
There you have it, a lineup of some of predator hunting’s best calibers. What do you think? Is your favorite missing?