5 Top Predator Rifles for 2017


Whitetails may be king with wild turkeys a close second, but the enjoyment of hunting predators should never be understated. Coyotes, foxes, and bobcats are North America’s most abundant terrestrial predators. These species play key roles in the ecosystem, helping to manage rodent populations, scavenging carrion, and preying on larger animals that may be sick or weak. They are cunning and adaptable. They are also a scourge on popular wildlife such as deer fawns and livestock during the berthing season. Predators are the ultimate prey. By hunting them, you’ll be helping the environment and local wildlife, while honing your shooting skills. Typically, just about any setup would get the job the done. After all, we are talking about medium to small game. However, there is such a thing as too much gun.

Hunting varmints not only sharpens your hunting and shooting skills, you’ll be doing other wildlife and livestock a service.

Coyotes, in particular, have undergone significant changes relative to range, behavior and physiology in just a short period of time. Once relegated to the American West, coyotes have expanded their range to include most of the North American continent over the past 100 years or so. Such expansion has been linked to human development and the resultant extirpation of larger predators like gray wolves, black bears and cougars.

Here are five top choices for your next predator gun.

Savage Model 25 Walking Varminter in .17 Hornet

Savage Model 25 Walking Varminter in .17 Hornet
Savage Model 25 Walking Varminter in .17 Hornet

Taking it down a notch from the .22 Hornet, the .17 Hornet pushes a 20-grain Hornady V-Max bullet at a screaming 3,600 fps. Equipped with the Savage Accu-Trigger and a polymer detachable magazine, the Model 25 Walking Varminter is seriously accurate, with non-existent recoil in this caliber. It is perfect for predators and ideal for introducing a new shooter.

Remington Model 700BDL in .22-250 Remington

Remington Model 700BDL in .22-250 Remington
Remington Model 700BDL in .22-250 Remington

The .22-250 grew out of the Wildcat arena and found a home when Remington introduced it in the iconic Remington 700. A Model 700 is a must have for every shooter and you could do a lot worse than the flat-shooting .22-250 cartridge. The Model 700BDL features a quick lock time making the pairing of the 700 and .22-250 a combination worthy of hair-splitting accuracy. Sighted in at 250 yards, you could use a single hold from zero to 400 yards. Look to the 50-, 52- and 55-grain bullets for optimum performance from the 24” barrel.

Ruger Hawkeye Varmint Target in .204 Ruger

Ruger Hawkeye Varmint Target in .204 Ruger
Ruger Hawkeye Varmint Target in .204 Ruger

I have had the opportunity to test several firearms and found a home a home for more than a few. There are only two that keep me up at night wishing I had never sent them back. One is the Ruger Hawkeye. The Varmint Target model has a target-style laminate wood stock, two-stage trigger, integral scope mounts and rings. The 26” target-gray barrel delivers every last bit of velocity from the .204. When I first tested Federal’s TNT Green loads from a Ruger Hawkeye, I dropped to young dogs at 400 yards. That’s stretching the capabilities of the load, but with this combination, you do not have to limit yourself do to the caliber or gun.

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light, in .243 Win.

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light, in .243 Win.
Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light, in .243 Win.

Winchester’s Model 70 is an all time classic. The long storied history places emphasis on the pre ’64 models, but if you’re looking to line song dogs up in your sight, you’d be hard pressed to beat the Coyote Light. Featuring a Bell & Carlson synthetic stock, Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad, MOA trigger, and a 24” fluted barrel, the Model 70 Coyote Light is the stuff that fills a predator’s nightmare.

Chambered in the .243 Winchester, the Model 70 Coyote Light offers an advantage when crosswinds come into play. Bullet weights range from the 55 grains on the light end of the specialty loads through the big game 100- and 105-grain offerings.

Browning A-Bolt II Target/Varmint Suppressor Ready in 6.5 Creedmoor

Browning A-Bolt II Target/Varmint Suppressor Ready
Browning A-Bolt II Target/Varmint Suppressor Ready

For 2017, the 6.5 Creedmoor was certainly the hot caliber. Matched with Browning’s A-Bolt II Target/Varmint Suppressor Ready and you’ll have a predator gun that is more than capable of serving double duty during whitetail season or across the prairies when hunting mule deer.
The Browning A-Bolt II Target/Varmint Suppressor Ready Put is an easy-to-handle 20” barreled package, featuring a synthetic Mossy Oak camo stock. The 60-degree bolt throw makes getting back on target quickly for a follow-up shot or to drop that second coyote that posted up possible.

Anything in the 100-grain range will be an advantage by offering a flatter trajectory and plenty of punch on a wily ‘ol coyote that is too weary for a bonsai run. The barrel is also threaded in case you live in an area where suppressors are legal.

These are just a few of the great new caliber and rifle combinations on the market. Where you hunt, how and your personal shooting abilities will all play a factor in which you choose. You’ll also want to look into other gear such as lights for night hunting, calls, camo, and most importantly, a quality optic.

What is your favorite predator gun? What about caliber? Share your answers in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (22)

  1. I don’t disagree with what noted here, they are all fine varmint calibers and platforms.
    I would add the Savage 93, thumbhole stock, bull barrel .17HMR for nearly any “varmint” within the 100 to 125 yard envelope and the Tikka White Tail in .223 for most things 25yards to 225. Or just get the Tikka Varmiter in any of its available calibers!

    1. I was gonna say, that now that the heavy bullets are available, the 5.56mm is a better round now. I made the mistake of trying to take on a sitting coyote staring at me from about 200 yards using 40 grain prairie dog ammo. He just sat there and stared at me, occasionally itching with his back leg when a bullet would “tickle” him – fortunately a friend of mine came to the rescue with his 22-250 and made quick work of him.

  2. My 20″ Fulton armory with the sightmark photon scope has been deadly on coyotes. And just last month, dropped a 350lb feral boar hog with a shot to the right eye!

  3. Interesting that you would include the Browning A-Bolt II Target/Varmint… to bad it’s been discontinued by Browning.

  4. I recently purchased the Savage 25 in 17 hornet and I love it! Put a bipod up front and having been shooting prairie dogs out at 250+ yards. Even in light to moderate winds, hold off was minimal. Easily shoots 3/4 inch groups at 100 yards. Only downside is that to get 3600 fps, you have to shoot commercial ammo. Hornady uses a proprietary powder. Can only get to around 3100 with reloading. Still love that rifle!

  5. To bad we can’t do this to the Two legged Preditors. Are they not also like the 4 legged ones? I.e. Praying on the weak, defenseless , and adapting to the environment ?

  6. All are fine rifles but I can’t see any reason not to use a semi automatic rifle for predators and varmints. Being able to get that follow-up shot often makes the difference. Too often I’ve see someone hit a coyote in the hind quarter and it crawls into the bushes before he can chamber another round and finish it off. For me, it’s my workhorse, Bushmaster 5.56/.223 with 20″ bull barrel and Nikon P223 3-9 scope.

  7. These are good choices. There’s a new choice, the Rock Island Armory 22TCM bolt action rifle (made by Armscor). Explosive round and deadly accurate. Might even be too much for varmints.

  8. I’m old enough to have seen a lot of “Cartridge(s) of the Year” spasms. I see nothing (except recoil sensitivity in old age) to separate me from my 1971 vintage 700-BDL in .25-06. It does 3-shot groups of 3/4″ at 100 yds off sandbags on the bench with some varieties of Remington factory ammo.

  9. While I am not into varmint hunting… for the squirrels that plague my wife’s potted plants in the backyard…..I do have one observation about the five rifles dealt with in this article. It’s about sights. Now I know it is cool to purchase rifles without metallic sights, because most folks will want to mount some sort of scope or other optical device thereon. That said, however, to me… my personal opinion…..a rifle without front and rear sights just looks naked or incomplete. Besides that I always figure that while I have optics on virtually all of my rifles that I regularly shoot, what would I do if the optics on any of them failed? At least, when a rifle is equipped with metallic sights, when the scope fails, those sights can serve as back-up…..thus the commonly applied descriptor of BUIS…..Back-up Iron Sights. They will always be there when needed, sorta like the handguns I routinely carry…..”Better to have and not need, than to need and not have”.

    1. Amen, Dragon. That’s what I always say. Scopes can fog up. Red Dot batteries can die. They ALL can get knocked off of zero. When you’re out in the woods the weapon is useless without backup iron sights. I’m 67 years old and I still do not limit myself to hunting only freshly mown farm fields. I may not be as fast as I used to be and I certainly don’t have the endurance I used to, but I still climb up and down the hills we have here in western Pennsylvania. And I can honestly say I’ve slipped or fallen with my rifle at least once every time I’ve been out. Crap happens out in the woods. Optics can get damaged. I want backup iron sights on my guns.

    2. Nice to get some positive reinforcement on my old fashioned ways. Like you peteyraymond, I am of somewhat advanced age (76), and I always reflect back to times when my scopes just vacated any semblance of use, and I was glad I had BUIS on my pieces. Thus it is that all of my rifles are equipped with BUIS…..even if I had to install them or have them installed for me.

    3. I have been shooting 51 years now. It bewilders me why manly men like to shoot what they call predators[four legged][coyotes etc].

      Is this similar to I have a lifted truck and am compensating for short comings
      Please enlighten me as to why nature controlling the prairie dog, rabbits rats etc through natures four legged predators “Coyotes'” makes this such a great sport?? In my opinion – Men shoot to protect there young and/or provide for the same.
      Seriously a Coyote scares you??

    4. Well, Shooter, as you will note from my comment that started this thread of discussion, I am not a varmint or predator hunter… for the pesky squirrels that insist on digging in my wife’s potted plants. Fact is, I haven’t really hunted any animals in the past 30 years. My love of firearms is simply that…..I collect them and every now and again, I get a few rounds downrange. I don’t chastise those who do hunt, whatever they may hunt, but for me, the desire just isn’t there anymore.

    5. I thought I could hunt and kill a animal .We had a 1000 acre deer lease in West Texas,never went out there till one year . I went sat in a blind and waited . saw a 12 point Buck with the view of his eyes in my scope and then panning towards his chest for the kill , I froze and pull my rifle up and shot into the air ,as to say “Go In Peace and Live” That’s why I can not kill. oh I’ll except meat from other hunter friends knowing they killed for the meat and not the sport .

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