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.
- The Kimber is the best-finished and sweetest-handling rifle in our test. This rifle is slim, trim, and lightweight, and the rugged Kevlar synthetic stock design is excellent. The fit and finish of both the metal to metal and metal to stock are superb, and the pillar- and glass- bedded synthetic stock and stainless-steel construction make it ideal for harsh weather conditions. It has a very good, and very repeatable, trigger pull, and the accuracy was excellent. For a “walking varminter,” it would be hard to beat this little Kimber. It handles like a wand and points like a dream. Not surprisingly, it is the most expensive bolt-action rifle in our test. There always has to be a downside.