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Megaton 05-16-2010 07:09 AM

Which caliber for varmint hunting?
Going to be purchasing a new rifle in the semi near future, and so the research has begun. This will be varmint hunter as well as a paper puncher. I want it to be fairly flat out to 250-300y, accuracy is obviously very important for a varmint rifle, and being able to subdue a two legged vermin in a potential SHTF would be a huge plus. I have a few ideas, although nothing is set in stone at this point. ;)

Ive narrowed it down to 3 possible calibers. .223 rem, 22-250, and .204 ruger. Im 99% sure I want it to be a bolt gun. Max price for rifle (optics seperate) is in the 5-600 range, although the cheaper the better. I know I can get a savage in that range and am leaning in that direction due to the out of the box accuracy. I personally love the accutrigger on my mkII and it has proved to be quite accurate even with bulk ammo. I will say that my experience is very limited and am definately open to suggestions.

Back to the topic, my thoughts on the listed calibers based on what I have read over the past couple weeks.

.223- Flat out to 200y then the drop starts, still manageable at 300y but more of a challenge. Ammo is cheapest, with factory ammo easy to find at a decent price and cheap to reload, probably cheapest out of the group due to bulk bullets being available as well as bulk once fired brass. For this reason it is also probably the best suited for SHTF, more than capable of handling 2 legged vermin.

22-250- Basically does everything the .223 does, and does it better. More energy, shoots flatter, although brass is more expensive and it does take more powder uses the same bullets as .223 and again bulk bullets are cheap and easy to find. Only bad thing I have read is that it can shoot out a barrel quick, not sure how much of an internet myth this is or if there is some truth to that. Granted I will probably not be shooting thousands of rounds a year, but getting close to 1k in a year give or take is possible.

I was pretty well sold on 22-250, up until I started reading about .204 ruger...

204 ruger- Seems to be about on par energy wise with .223, but shoots flatter than even the 22-250 out to 300y. Ammo cost if reloading is pretty much on par with the 22-250. Less recoil as well. This caliber sounds very promising, however with such a light bullet 32g is it a viable option against two legged varmint for SHTF? I know the energy is pretty even with .223 out to 300y and .223 is certainly capable, but is there more to it than just energy? Upon looking there is a pretty decent selection of bullets available for the caliber. Even up to 55g bullets available. Not sure if that would be the best option but the options are there none the less.

Things I am really not sure about. Popularity of 204 ruger caliber? Is this a caliber that could die out, and I will need to stock up on components to ensure I will be able to feed my rifle? I know .223 is obviously going to be around forever which also means 22-250 will be around so long as you have brass. .204 ruger I really know nothing about.

At this point I am leaning towards the .204 ruger. If it is able to fill the long range SHTF void that I am currently trying to fill then I will be completely sold. If not it could be a deal breaker.

Any thoughts and reccomendations on caliber as well as rifles in the 5-600 range would be greatly appriciated.

c3shooter 05-16-2010 11:35 AM

If I were going to buy another "weasel gun", would be looking really hard at the .204. Have been shooting a .220 Swift for a long time, and it has never let me down on groundhogs or prairie dogs, but am interested in the ballistics on the .204.

Would not plan on a varmint gun as a SHTF gun. No more than I would use a scalpel to cut firewood- just not made for that. The 22-250 is a good round- the writer's at the gun mags fell all over it, but ignored the .220, leaving me wondering who was paying for lunch at the Writer's Guild. You can do a lot worse than the Savage. Be prepared to spend some bucks on glass.

cpttango30 05-16-2010 03:47 PM

The 223 is a great round you will have a hard time burning out a barrel with that cartridge. It is plentiful on store shelves and offers one of the better varmint rounds out there.

The 22-250 is a great varmint round and yes you can shoot out barrels with it if you are not careful. Don't load max loads and don't shoot for long strings. It is a good flat shooting round that will bring death to varmints and yotes out of 500+ yards if you can do your part behind the rifle.

The 204 shoots like a laser beam flat and fast. The biggest draw back is the light 32 or 40gr pills lose speed quick after 300 yards or so. The BC is not that high and I am just not sure it is a viable yote gun passed 300 yards. I have been watching Predator Quest a lot lately and the host Les Johnson uses a Howa Axiom in 204 he sure does get a lot more spinners and runners with that 204 than he ever did with his 22-250.

Ifn it can't drop a yote at 300 it is going to be hard pressed to do much damage to a human target at that range. I have a Remington 700 VLS in 223 that quite frankly I out shoot guys with 22-250, 243, and many other rounds with. I like the fact that recoil is light and I can do what these guys do cheaper and better.

For these reasons I would go with a 223. The 22-250 is a picky round it took 3 of us 6 months to figure out how to get a buddies remmy 700 SPS Varmint in 22-250 to shoot a groups under 1". I would look at a savage with the 1:9" twist as this will allow you to shoot up to 69gr bullets. where the 1:12" may shoot some 62gr bullets.

On bullets for these there is no question in my mind. You are going to pick 1 of 2 bullets. Hornady V-max I run 50gr in my 223 and they will blow gut out the back side of a ground hog out to 300 yards. Another to look at is Sierra's Blitz Kings.

Flint Rock 05-16-2010 04:09 PM

The .223 matches up well against all the calibers you mention, and if you have any concern about SHTF situations then the .223 is the logical choice.

Txhillbilly 05-17-2010 02:53 AM

If you handload and really plan on alot of 2-300yrd or farther shots,I'd say a 220 Swift or 22-250.
If you just want a .224 caliber gun that will shoot at that distance when you need to,and shoot cheaper go 223. I'd go with a 1-8 if you can find it in a bolt action. Tikka has a 1-8 twist,but if you want a varmint barrel,they run about $750.
There's nothing wrong with 1-9 twist,I just prefer a 1-8 for the heavier 68-80gr bullets,and it still shoots the 55-60gr ballistic tips excellent.

jpattersonnh 05-17-2010 03:21 AM

I'll add my 2 cents. My varmint and coyote hunting is limited by certain factors. I did however have an acquaintance in Iowa for a number of years that was at the varmint gig longer than most of use have been alive. Bob Faucett was his name and he was quite the hunter. He bought a .204 CZ 527 the 1st year it came out and never looked back. His best shot on a P-dog was close to 500 yards. Coyotes at 300. I was looking at a new varmint rig a few years ago. I already reload for .223, so the CZ527 .223 was my choice. It was less than the Savage, but had features the Savage did not. Just an outstanding Rifle! It is also CIP chambered, so Mil spec ammo is no issue. The CZ has a 1:9 heavy barrel, even the standard Varminter. I shoot 52 to 63gr bullets in mine. Even the Barnes TSX 53gr is so accurate. Great yote bullet.

2bit 05-19-2010 03:18 PM

I shoot a Remington 700 in .22-250. Laminated stock, heavy barrel, Leupold variable to 14X scope. Have the trigger redone to 2 pounds. The stock factory setting is terrible. Teamed up with Hornady 50 or 55gr V Max and it is absolute death to coyotes out to 300 yards. That is my furthest. Zeroed at +1" at 100yds puts you on at 200 and I believe 4.5 inches low at 300yds. So you just aim at the top of the back and it is dead dog! The rifle is heavy to carry if you do a lot of walking. Bench rest 1" groups should be a piece of cake if you can shoot.

The only drawback is this is going to be over twice your budget. Great combination!

Good luck

UnderFire 05-20-2010 01:42 AM

Don't count out the .243.
The .243 is a smokin' round out to 500 yrds.
Priced cheaper than the .22-250.

2bit 05-20-2010 04:23 AM


While I don't doubt what you posted. I do seriously doubt the ability of the typical hunter to hit a coyote at 500 yards when his heart is pumping. I target shoot fairly commonly at 300 yards and am not shy to say that the 3 inch orange bull gets mighty small out there and somedays just won't sit real still. Put a 15 mph crosswind into the equation and a 55 gr load has 11" of drift!! If somebody can only shoot 2MOA when 'pumped' that is 10" of error!! Combine those two points and that is over 20 inches of not so good shooting at 500 yards. Why waist the bullet and scare off the dogs? Heck it is more fun to sit real still squeak a few more times and watch the yotes come inside 200 yards and not have to go looking for animals you missed or wounded.

One more thing. Bench rst do not qualify as hunting equipment with me.
You want a challenge? Try 120 year old Winchesters with 1100fps, 38-40 loads and open iron sights!
Now that is fair chase and a challenge.

Just my thought

UnderFire 05-20-2010 10:08 AM

2bit, I'm not recommending hunting varmint at 500yrds.It was just a statement. The OP mentioned paper punching also. 300-400yrds is pushing it for a .223, but I'm sure it can be done. Although the OP had narrowed it down to 3 choices, he closes with basically if there is any caliber recommendation to consider "to fill the long range void". I was just adding my 2cent worth...maybe with that and a cup of coffee you'll just get wet. Sorry. I recently shifted from .223 to .243 and I'm having better success against bobcats and coyotes. Also it gives me more range options at the rifle range.

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