June 13, 2014
By Joseph von Benedikt & David Faubion
I won't go as far as to belittle the, uh, little .17 Winchester Super Magnum. It's a unique cartridge that does what no rimfire has done before. It's the fastest rimfire ever designed and actually performs spectacularly - for a rimfire.
What I will do is ask, why? The great charm about rimfires is that they're versatile and inexpensive to shoot. The .17 WSM, superb distance performer that it is, is neither. While it's capable of perforating a prairie dog farther away than "common" rounds, such as the .22 Magnum, most savvy shooters have transitioned to centerfires when distances stretch that far. And up close the .17 WSM is actually going too fast: Squirrels and cottontails suffering a body shot from it leave the hunter with little but fluff.
By stew-pot decree, any rimfire not well suited for small-game hunting is, well, not really a rimfire. It's an outcast. What some folks charitably term a "niche" cartridge.
Contrast that with the .22 Magnum. While it's not as aerodynamic as its .17-caliber sibling, it hits authoritatively within the rimfire's realm - inside of 150 yards or so. For small-game hunting, full-metal-jacket projectiles minimize meat damage; likewise valuable pelts about to be separated from their host furbearer. Butchers effectively use a .22 Mag pellet between the eyes on even the biggest steer.
Government trappers prefer it for killing troublesome mountain lions - cats die in the tree instead of being knocked out, hurt and fighting mad, into their pack of valuable dogs.
And, finally, even homeowners have viable ammunition choices engineered specifically for self-defense to choose from. If that's not versatility, what is? - Joeseph von Benedikt
Hunters need just two rimfire cartridges for small game: a .22 LR if they want to eat it and a .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) if they wish to kill it. The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) splits the difference between the two, crushing them both in all the categories that don't matter.
The .22 WMR fires a projectile too fast for use on tablefare, such as squirrel or rabbits. What's more, the bullets are ballistically inefficient at longer range. See for yourself. With only a 5 mph breeze, Hornady's .22 WMR 30-grain V-MAX drifts 6.9 inches and strikes with 94 ft.-lbs. of energy at 150 yards. At that same range, Winchester's .17 WSM 20-grain load drifts only 2 inches and carries an impressive 230 ft.-lbs. of energy. At 200 yards, where the .22 WMR is running on fumes, the .17 WSM is still scooting right along and carries twice the energy of the .17 HMR, itself a long-range rimfire.
What about bullet weight and penetration, two attributes the .22 WMR does possess? They simply don't matter on game that can fit inside your mother's purse. What about coyotes? Skip both and use a centerfire.
However, if you must use a rimfire on predators, opt for the 25-grain .17 WSM load. Using its superior velocity, the .17 can and will knock down any coyote within 150 yards as long as you hit your mark. You'll be surprised at the long-range killing power of this little thumper, and you'll save a few bucks in the process.
Speed kills, and the .17 WSM slaughters the .22 WMR in velocity, trajectory, wind drift, and retained energy. Its rimfire lethality is far superior to anything stamped ".22 WMR." - D. Faubion
8. .22 Hornet
There's nothing sexy about the velocity numbers of the .22 Hornet, but it's about perfect for predators at under 200 yards. The mild-mannered hornet doesn't pound the shooter's eardrums with muzzle blast, and its unlikely to do much pelt damage. With maximum handloads, the Hornet is capable of nearly 2,800 fps with a 45-grain bullet, which will stop any coyote, bobcat, or fox that walks the planet.
9. .45 Colt
I love to hunt with a six-gun
and I'm also likely to have one on my hip when I'm out working in the woods during the off-season. The .45 Colt is my favorite handgun hunting cartridge and has probably been used for more opportunity shots at predators than any other handgun cartridge in existence due to its near universal use on the American frontier. Big, slow bullets won't win any long range matches, but they'll get the job done with little fur damage at the right distances.
3. .220 Swift
If it's velocity you're looking for, the .220 Swift is the way to go, though trying to push bullets over 4,000 fps is probably what gave the cartridge a somewhat undeserved reputation as a barrel-burner. 50-grain bullets at around 3,800 fps are mild and accurate in the Swift and will take all nine of a cat's lives in an instant. Super flat trajectories make the Swift a point and shoot proposition at anything but the furthest shots at predators.
10. .30-06 Springfield
Sometimes the best predator cartridge is the one that you happen to be carrying when you spot one — if it's while you're out hunting big game, that rifle may very well be chambered in .30-06. I shot my first coyote with a .30-06 while deer hunting in Florida years ago. We weren't even sure there were coyotes in the area until I saw one enter the food plot at dusk. 150-grain bullets aren't ideal if you're trying to sell hides, but that coyote didn't eat another quail.
7. .243 Winchester
The .243 was designed to bridge the gap between a big game cartridge and a varmint round that puts predators square in the middle of its useful spectrum. Though it's generally used as a deer and antelope round these days, it does a nice job on predators if longer shots are necessary. Though probably overkill for foxes and smaller bobcats, the .243 is ideal for big coyotes in wide-open spaces with lots of wind.
6. 6mm Remington
Anything that can be said about the .243 can be said about Big Green's
6mm. Though never the commercial success of the .243, the 6mm will do anything the .243 will do. The 6mm Remington pushes the predator-slaying 70-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip
at 3,600 or so fps, which drops less than 15 inches at 400 yards. You certainly don't need this much power for 30- to 50-pound animals, but it doesn't hurt to have it — unless you're the coyote, and then it only hurts for a second.
4. .204 Ruger
Though designed with varmints like prairie dogs in mind, I wouldn't hesitate to hunt predators with the .204. Hornady's 45-grain Superformance
load has a muzzle velocity of 3,900 fps and is still moving at over 3,700 fps out at 300 yards. Like the Hornet, bolt-actions built for the .204 can be made light and handy, which is ideal for all day walks in search of predators.
2. .22-250 Remington
If I were going to build a bolt gun specifically to hunt predators, you'd have to convince me not to chamber it in .22-250. With 55-grain bullets moving 300 to 400 fps faster out of the .22-250 than the .223 Remington, there's some serious power at your disposal. If you're a serious rifle nut and handloader, the .22-250 Ackely Improved version will buy you another 100 to 150 fps of velocity with 55-grain bullets. The best part about the .22-250 is that even though it pushes bullets with impressive speed, recoil is still minimal when compared to any big game cartridge.
1. .223 Remington
The AR has emerged as one of the best predator hunting rifles available. When we tested a spectrum of predator rifles for a recent issue of Petersen's Hunting
, the Rock River Arms Fred Eichler reigned supreme. Besides being a great cartridge, the .223's greatest asset may be that it is the primary chambering of most predator-appropriate Modern Sporting Rifles.
With fast-twist barrels such as the 1:8-inch twist on the Eichler, hunters can use bullets across the weight spectrum, from the fast 40-grainers to the high-BC 77-grain match grade bullets. Brass and bullets are cheap and, politically motivated shortages aside, widely available. The .223 is also available in the broadest spectrum of factory rifles imaginable, so you don't have to worry about not finding a factory gun that suits your needs.
5. 12 Gauge
Not all predators are shot at long range, and when shots are close and fast, there's nothing better than a scattergun. Plenty of hardcore predator hunters take both a rifle and a shotgun afield so they're ready for any scenario. It's not uncommon to find a bobcat or a coyote stalking your turkey decoy and a heavy turkey load will usually end the fight quickly.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.