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Guns & Gear AR-15 Bolt Action Rifles Predators Rifles

Head-to-Head Review: The Ultimate Predator Rifle

by Keith Wood   |  February 6th, 2014 2

With this rise in popularity of predator hunting across the country, the “Ultimate Predator Rifle” debate has ramped up in hunting camps everywhere. Our office is no different. Here at Petersen’s Hunting we’ve always had a goal of finding the best rifle on the market for coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. In an attempt to end our search, we chose five popular models and subjected them to a realistic battery of objective tests.

There are literally dozens of predator rifles available, so how did we determine which five to test? It had to be a .223 (to keep the playing field level), it had to be under $1,500 (MSRP), and it had to be available at the time of testing. We wanted each gun to represent a category of the market and to be widely known and used by predator experts around the country.

We set several test parameters: length, weight, price, trigger pull, reliability, raw accuracy, and speed of operation. Each rifle was measured and weighed, and triggers were tested five times each with a Lyman Digital Trigger Gauge from Brownells.

The rifles were evaluated for reliability both with live fire and by cycling many rounds through the action. Using the same Leupold VX-3 4.5-14x40mm scope and premium Hornady 55-grain V-Max ammunition from the same lot for each rifle, the rifles were shot from a benchrest at 100 yards to determine mechanical accuracy potential.

Finally, they were fired from the seated position at steel targets positioned at 80, 100, and 150 yards with the close target placed at an oblique angle to provide for a transition. The results of the field course were logged with a timer with both total time and split times (time between shots). While all the rifles did well, as expected, some shined in different categories. Nonetheless, we have our minds made up on the ultimate predator rifle. Now it’s your turn.

  • RAD57

    I found it interesting that the 1:12 twist gets a less than stellar rap even in a predator rifle! Why shoot non-expanding 69 – 80 grain Match bullets that require the faster twist? Just one other thing related to twist rates and bullets, how about the magazines that hold them? Longer bullets can use more space in the magazine to optimize powder capacity and adjusting bullet seating depth for accuracy, but I saw no mention in the article of the maximum Cartridge Combined Overall Length (CCOL) that each rifle’s magazine can hold. It’s too bad that the rifle’s magazine limits the use of heavier bullets before the twist rate can … unless you like loading rounds one at a time in your “Walking Varmint Rifle”!

  • Keith Wood

    RAD, I have not found bullets of less than 80 grains to be an issue in .223 magazines. Factory ammo is loaded to SAAMI specs and, 9 times out of 10, will work fine. If you’re loading cartridges long to try to meet the lands of the rifling, it’s a different story…

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