My old buddy Richard Mann recently wrote an article profiling “10 Great Coyote Cartridges.” He should have just cut to the chase and picked the best coyote cartridge of all time — the 22-250 Ackley Improved.
- 22-250 Ackley Improved has an ideal balance between recoil, MV, long range reach, terminal performance, and potential pelt damage.
- Standard 22-250 Remington chambers can easily be reamed open to fit the Ackley version.
- Factory 22-250 Remington ammo can be safely fired in properly head-spaced Ackley chambers.
- Standard 22-250 Remington is an inexpensive option nearly as good.
If you were tracking with me up until that Ackley Improved part, fear not. You’re thinking of the good old 22-250 Remington, which is the world’s second best coyote cartridge. It’s the parent for the Ackley, which is merely the late P.O. Ackley’s improved version of the standard 22-250 Remington case with its walls straightened and its 28-degree shoulder pushed out to 40-degrees. The result is a slightly larger case that harbors enough additional powder to add 100 to 200 fps to most bullets. That’s 500 fps faster than the 223 Remington and about equal to the 220 Swift without its stretching issues.
Stretching the Best Coyote Cartridge
If I’m losing you again with that stretching reference, you’re probably not a handloader, so I’ll elaborate. When brass cartridges are fired, the heated brass tends to flow toward the neck. The handloader’s resizing operation then pulls the brass forward, stretching the neck until it becomes too long to safely fit in the chamber. The neck must be trimmed on a small lathe, not every handloader’s favorite task. The more tapered and sloping the cartridge case (like the Swift or the 22-250 Remington) and the hotter the load, the more it stretches. The straighter walls and sharper shoulder of the Ackley Improved 22-250 minimize this. And that’s one of the best reasons to shoot the 22-250 Ackley instead of the standard 22-250 Remington. You can handload it for superior performance and get longer case life with fewer trimmings.
So, if you’re still with me, either the factory 22-250 Remington or the Ackley version could become your best coyote cartridge. You have to be a handloader or buy custom loaded ammo to take advantage of the Ackley. Standard 22-250 Rem. factory ammo produces about 3,600 to 3,650 fps with a 55-grain bullet in a 22” barrel. Handloaders sometimes safely boost this to 3,700 fps in a 24” or 26” barrel. They can load the Ackley Improved case to hit 3,850 fps with the same bullet.
How To Make the Best Coyote Cartridge Brass
But where do you find 22-250 Ackley Improved cases? You fire form them by shooting standard 22-250 Remington loads in a 22-250 Ackley chamber. Most brass has enough elasticity to expand to fit the new chamber. So it’s a simple process. But first you have to ream the 22-250 chamber to the Ackley Improved dimensions with the same headspace as the original. Any gunsmith should be able to do that. If you go through the trouble, do it with a fast twist barrel so your hot, new, best coyote cartridge ever can stabilize the latest long, high B.C. bullets from 70- to 80-grains or so. A 1-8″ twist should stabilize VLD bullets up to about 82-grains. You’ll probably need 1-7″ to keep Nosler’s new 85-grain RDF and Berger’s 90-grain VLD bullets spinning perfectly.
Where to Find Rifles Chambered for the Best Coyote Cartridge Ever
Years ago I had Holland Guns build me a 1-8″ twist 22-250 Ackley Improved on a Remington M700 action. I’ve not yet tried 80-grain or heavier bullets in it, probably because it parks 75-grain Swift Sciroccos, 75-grain Hornady A-Max, 75-grain Berger VLD Match Targets bullets sub-MOA all day every day and those have all the wind defying B.C. I need. Holland rifles are built tight and right. Mine even shoots 43-grain Speer TNT hollow points sub-MOA, so forget all that nonsense about “over-stabilization.” That’s like being overly pregnant or overly dead. You might spin a light, ultra-thin-skinned varmint bullet so fast that it spins apart in mid air, but you’re not getting the world’s best coyote cartridge to shoot uber-frangible 40-grain Hornet bullets through it.
Few factory rifles in 22-250 Rem. come with fast twist barrels. Savage offers its Model 12BVSS with a 1-9 twist, which should work for bullets up to 70-grains, perhaps 75-grains. Nosler does a 1-9 in some of its M48 rifles. Ruger’s American Rifle Predator comes in 1-10 twist. Snoop around and you might find a factory rifle or semi-custom in 22-250 Rem. or even Ackley with the fast twist barrel you want, but don’t hold your breath while you do or you’ll turn blue. Instead, check out Shaw Barrels in Pennsylvania. Shaw sells “drop-in” barrels with twists as fast as 1-6.5 already chambered for the 22-250 Ackley. They’ll even mount the barrel to your rifle.
Or Settle for the Second Best Coyote Cartridge — It’s Easier
If all this sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, fear not. You can just buy a standard factory rifle chambered for the standard 22-250 Remington. You’ll then have the second best coyote cartridge ever, but neither you nor the coyotes will notice because most of your shots are going to come inside of 300 yards anyway. That’s just the reality of coyote hunting.
As experienced shooters know, a 100 to 200 fps increase in MV is nice, but it isn’t enough speed gain to impress a coyote one way or the other. It impresses shooters only when targets are waaay out there and the drop/drift variables begin to add up. These trajectory tables from the Hornady on-line ballistic calculator tell the tale. Since most readers will be shooting factory 22-250 Remington ammo in rifles chambered for it, we’ll stick with a 55-grain bullet and use the 3,650 fps MV for it and the top end 3,800 fps for the handloaded AI versions. Same bullet in both fired under identical conditions, of course, and both set for maximum point blank range that keeps mid-range trajectory at 2 inches above line-of-sight. That’s not so much that you’ll shoot over the back of a coyote’s roughly nine-inch tall chest with a dead center hold, yet it will extend maximum range to 300 yards.
Let’s Go to the Trajectory Tables!
Notice in the Trajectory column that the 22-250 AI bullet drops almost an inch less than the same bullet at factory 22-250 Remington speed at 300 yards. That’s not much, but the AI might help you collect a few coyotes that might otherwise escape with a brisket haircut. The two-inch advantage at 400 yards can help even more, and the six-inch difference at 600 yards starts to look truly significant but… if you know your trajectory curve and have the scope dope to deal with it, you’re golden. Impact energy is so close that it should make no difference in terminal performance.
What about wind deflection? The AI enjoys just a half-inch advantage at 300 yards. It isn’t until 700 yards that any significant advantage appears — and it’s just 3.5 inches. I don’t know about you, but I rarely see coyotes 700 yards away let alone shoot at them at that distance. More than half the fun of coyote hunting is calling them close, which is often 12 gauge range, but usually between 100 and 200 yards. The cautious ones sometimes hold up at 300 yards. So take all that into account when agonizing over whether to stick with your factory 22-250 or customize to an AI version. Really, all this preoccupation with heavy, long, high B.C., bullets is a bit unnecessary for successful coyote hunting, but it is fascinating. If precision shooting beyond 300 yards intrigues you, you’ll definitely benefit from a fast twist 22-250, standard or Ackley, both of which will outshoot the new 22 Valkyrie and 22 Nosler. They just won’t do it an an AR-15 platform. But if you’re rocking a bolt-action rifle, your 22-250 Ackley Improved will open some eyes. And close more.
A Simple Coyote Taking Tool
But that’s getting a bit esoteric for a simple coyote harvesting machine. If your main interest is collecting a stack of those lush, beautiful coyote pelts, the 22-250 Rem. will more than suffice and the ballistic tables above illustrate why. A decent 55-grain varmint bullet like the Nosler Ballistic Tip, Hornady V-Max, Sierra BlitzKing, Berger FB Target, Speer TNT, or Barnes TTSX shoot flat enough that, with a zero 1.5 inches high at 100 yards, you should be ready to quickly sight on a coyote’s center chest and calmly (well, maybe not so calmly the first few dozen times) press the trigger on any coyote out to 300 yards. Break out your skinning knife ‘cause that bullet is landing in the boiler room. Most coyotes thus hit flop dead right there or expire after a short dash because that 55-grain metal pill at 2,500 fps or faster disrupts the hydro system maximally — and often without exiting.
By now plenty of you are ready to slap me upside the head and extoll the superior virtues of your 243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, 6mm Creedmoor, 25-06 Remington, 257 Wby., 17 Remington or even your big 300 Win. Mag. Yes, those all work and work well on coyotes. So do lots of others like the 223 Rem. And I’ve used most of them plus the excellent 204 Ruger, but I keep landing back at 22-250 Remington as the ideal compromise. It has just the right combination of reach, wind drift resistance, recoil, and accuracy. In short, the 22-250 Remington has balance. The perfect coyote-getting balance. And the Ackley version is just a tad better. It’s the best coyote cartridge.
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