Outside, the first winter snowfall is happening as I write this, and it coincides with the time of year when the pelt of furbearers, especially coyotes, turns prime. Of course, I've been prepping my rifles and fussing with handloads for a long time, getting ready for predator hunting season. All that work got me thinking about the cartridges those rifles are chambered for and which ones I reach for most often. Of course, there's a .223 in the rack that sees regular use, but the king of my coyote rifles and many other hunters is a trusty .22-250.
More: 22-250 at 1200 Yards
With a blueprinted Remington 700 action, a Shilen barrel, and an HNT-26 Chassis, topped off with a Leupold 4.5-14X scope, it's a serious coyote slayer. Although this is a thoroughly modern rifle, the cartridge certainly isn't. Based on the .250-3000 Savage cartridge, the .22-250 was first developed in the mid-1930s. It was used as a wildcat for many years before Remington saw its potential and legitimized it in 1965 as a factory offering.
The .22-250 cartridge remains the undisputed king of the world's coyote calibers.
The cartridge's success is rightfully attributed to the fact it's a well-balanced .22 caliber centerfire. More powerful than the .223 Remington but less so than the speedier .220 Swift, it strikes a balance that has cemented its success. While it's too much gun for a long day in a prairie dog patch, it hits the sweet spot for coyote hunters who generally shoot less volume but want to touch fur with authority out to 500 yards.
PROBLEMS WITH THE 22-250
However, since it's a cartridge designed almost a century ago, it's not without problems. Chief among these is the large amount of body taper the case exhibits. This can lead to a short case life for handloaders, as the case is prone to excessive stretching. A few cycles of too much stretching and resizing will inevitably result in case head separation. It also makes magazine design and reliable feeding an issue as the cartridges stack in an arc instead of a straight line. In fact, the 22-250 rifle I have now resulted from giving up on another rifle of a different brand that I could never get to feed reliably from the factory magazine.
Ten stacked .22-250 cartridges (left) compared to the .223, vividly demonstrate the tapered case of the cartridge and the challenge in getting it to feed reliably from a magazine.
Additionally, industry standards for the .22-250 call for barrels with a relatively slow twist, typically 1-in-12 or 1-in-14 inches. Barrels like that mean it can't take advantage of modern, long, sleek bullets with high ballistic coefficients. My custom rifle, in contrast, has a 1-in-9-inch twist, and it'll handle bullets up to about 70 grains nicely. There's enough powder capacity in the case that it's possible for custom builders to go with an even faster twist and use bullets up to 90 grains. However, most factory magazines need to be longer to handle cartridges with bullets this long.
While we can't do much to change the body shape of the .22-250, handloaders can mitigate the case stretching by minimally resizing the case, particularly by being careful to set the shoulder back only as much as absolutely necessary to get reliable function. Having experienced case head separation in a 22-250, I've found Forster's Datum Dial measurement system helpful in minimizing case stretch during the resizing operation.
The solution to the magazine issue is found in MDT's new magazine, designed specifically for the .22-250 cartridge. Built on the AICS pattern and with a capacity of ten cartridges, it's an elegant solution for anyone contemplating a custom rifle in this chambering. Until it became available, I've been using MDT magazines designed for the .308 Winchester, and they have always worked reliably, particularly if downloaded to seven or eight cartridges. However, having the right tool for the job, which in this case holds a full ten rounds, functions flawlessly, and has plenty of room for seating long bullets, is a much better option. If you run a .22-250 as a predator rifle, it's worth getting these dedicated magazines to bring out your rifle's full potential.
MDT's new .22-250 magazine has plenty of room for seating long bullets.
THE FUTURE OF THE 22-250
Over the years, there have been a lot of challengers to the .22-250's position as the King of the Coyote calibers, including the .224 Valkyrie and the .22 Nosler. None have even made a dent in its popularity, though. I see Hornady is giving it a try now, as they've just announced the .22 ARC cartridge for 2024. They promise .22-250-like performance, even from an AR-15. Will it finally kick the King off his throne? Maybe, but it'll take a few years before we know. David Henry discusses this new cartridge in more detail here.
While we wait to see if the .22-250 will be ousted, rifles in this chambering capable of utilizing AICS pattern magazines have become significantly more capable, suggesting the King will now be even harder to dethrone.
CALIBER RESOURCES FROM MDT
- Analysis: 6.5x47 and 6x47 Lapua
- Analysis: 22 ARC
- The Carbon Ring
- A Look at Reduced Loads
- Analysis: .277 Sig Fury - Inside MDT
- Is the 308 Winchester Still Relevant?
- Analysis: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Why All The Hate For The 30-06
- Loading 6MM ARC And .223 REMINGTON with A Dillon Progressive Press
- Hornady 6MM ARC For Competition
- Analysis: 6MM BR NORMA
- Fire Forming and Loading 223 AI
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Al Voth calls himself a "student of the gun." Retired from a 35-year career in law enforcement, including nine years on an Emergency Response Team, he now works as an editor, freelance writer, and photographer, in addition to keeping active as a consultant in the field he most recently left behind—forensic firearm examination. He is a court-qualified expert in that forensic discipline, having worked in that capacity in three countries. These days, when he's not working, you'll likely find him hunting varmints and predators (the 4-legged variety).