More often than not, the .22-250 Remington is associated with coyote hunting. The best .22-250 rifle in 2020 will be more than just a coyote gun though, and while it’s perfect for that particular application, the best .22-250 Remington rifles are more than a single note performer. The flat shooting trajectory and the lightning fast velocity of the .22-250 cartridge makes it a powerhouse when varmint shooting from groundhogs to coyotes (and even bigger).
More than that, the .22-250 cartridge was the premier bench rest shooting caliber for many years until the 6mm PPC unseated it, but that cartridge is only barely better at bench rest shooting than the .22-250, and even then, it’s only for specific applications. The truth is, the .22-250 is a versatile cartridge, much more so than the 6mm PPC or other competitors.
What’s more - the .22-250 is a legendary caliber for other reasons too, as it was part of the evolution of the cartridges that eventually resulted in one of the most storied and common rifle rounds in the history of the world. It just so happens to be the one which the United States Armed Forces use as their general rifle round: the 5.56x45mm and the .223 Remington (generally seen as interchangeable – though that isn’t the whole story).
There is an important note regarding the 5.56x45 and the .223 Remington later in this article that may help you decide on a gun for purchase in this market segment. Otherwise, this is an article made to help you determine what is the best .22-250 rifle for you whether you plan on hunting coyotes or prairie dogs, or whether you plan to just shoot targets that are made of paper.
Best .22-250 Rifles in 2020
Ruger - M77 Mark II Target
Unreservedly, one could easily make the argument that this rifle, when you combine the value, the workmanship and the heritage, is the best .22-250 rifle on the market. Now some qualifiers: it’s not the cheapest, it’s not the most accurate and it’s not the most expensive, but it is one of the best balanced performing rifles in the caliber if you can justify the 9 lbs. 6 ounce weight of the rifle. It’s obviously not that lightweight either.
But that’s why this rifle is so good – it’s made to perform in any scenario where the .22-250 is chosen and it’s built like a brick house.
The Ruger M77 is, in full transparency, not quite the marvel of engineering and fit and finish that it once was from factory, but they are still making an exceptional gun with the M77 Mark II. The rifle offers a target inspired barrel and crown, as well as the incredibly heavy contour of the barrel and action. This is a beautiful, functional gun that punches well above its weight class on price.
- For the features it’s well priced
- Exceptionally accurate
- Proven design
- Weather resistant
- Still expensive for some
Browning - X-Bolt White Gold Medallion
If you can justify the price, then you can rest assured this is perhaps the best .22-250 varmint rifle on the market, or at least very near the top.
It’s 35% lighter than most of the bigger guns; it offers sub ½ minute of angle accuracy capability out of a factory gun with the right loads (and they can be selected factory loads, not even just with handloads). It offers the fastest bolt throw and the finest workmanship of all the mainstream production .22-250’s.
It’s stunningly good looking and has a heritage that cannot be dismissed, as well as one of the nicest triggers on the market. It’s safe and easy to handle. Yes - it is capable out past 500 yards with the right optic and the right loads.
It has a stainless steel barrel, and heavily lacquered stock that is very weather resistant if treated properly, and therefore ticks all the boxes for a top tier varmint rifle.
- Handsomely appointed and finished
- Short bolt throw for faster operation in the field or at the range
- Great trigger and design
- Lightweight for a varmint gun
- Very expensive comparatively
Remington 700 ADL Varmint Bolt-Action Rifle
Not necessarily a bargain, but also not an expensive rifle, especially considering the high-quality manufacturing and the legendary heritage of this rifle. It represents a relative bargain compared to many of the newer bolt actions and even compared to the semi-autos on the market. The way this gun shoots, this is a nice price of entry for those looking at getting into true varmint and coyote hunting.
Compared to a bolt action rifle, you’re not going to get the same accuracy out of a mainstream AR rifle, no matter what DEVIL_DOG666 said on your favorite “sniper” forum.
The Remington 700 ADL is safe, easy to understand and well-built.
- Good Value
- Easy to use
- Nice Stock and good craftsmanship for the money
- Heavy/stiff (in a good way), but not as heavy (in a bad way) as some on the list
- Not as well appointed as it once was
Savage 12 BTCSS Varmint Series
A massive, heavy 26-inch barrel that offers exceptional velocity and accuracy at incredibly long distances adorns this already very good-looking varmint rifle. The trigger gives you a distinct advantage in shots where you need every advantage you can get. The set trigger style from the Accu-trigger offers clean crisp, fast trigger breaks.
A thumbhole stock that is nicely finished and doesn’t give an awkward hand hold makes this a unique looking rifle compared to the others on the list.
Savage is making very high-end guns now, and this is a flagship varmint specific gun. It’s perfect for long range coyote and varmint work, as well as the occasional range trip to prove its sub ½ MOA accuracy capability.
- The heaviest gun on this list
- Arguably the best trigger on this list
- Very accurate and made specifically for shooting past 450 yards
- The heaviest gun on this list
Savage Axis XP
The camouflage may seem a bit gimmicky, but for the newbie to the varmint scene this is a legitimately good bargain that will get you in the game for less money than just about anything else. Note: it’s not built quite as well or for the same extreme distances as the others, but this is an exceptional 100-400-yard gun (with capabilities past 500 yards given the right understanding and loads), without hesitation.
- Bargain pricing
- Included scope and mounts/rings/bore sighting
- Not as accurate or finely appointed as some of the other rifles on this list
Ruger - American Rifle
A very straightforward and capable 400-yard (it can go further with experience, the proper loads and good optics) rifle. This is a bargain basement price for a gun that will easily serve you well for many years. The brand knows what they are doing with this cartridge and the reviews on this gun are excellent. Note: it is not built for the same extreme distances as some of the guns on this list, but it is no slouch.
- Well made, but not made to the same top end specs as some of the guns on this list
Kimber Varmint Bolt-Action Rifles
Not built to the same finish standards as the Browning listed earlier in this list, but built exceptionally well, and built for more accuracy at longer distances with the heavy barrel and the trigger work and chamber tolerances. This is a direct competitor to the Browning in this market segment and it performs incredibly well.
- Hand finished, tight tolerances and match grade everything
- Sub MOA guarantee
- Not as heavy as some on this list but still as accurate, generally
This is the only semi-auto on the list, and it’s nicely built with a great platform and good attention to detail and fit and finish. It’s not quite what the traditionalists would cite as a quintessential .22-250, but it does perform admirably. The cartridge outdoes everything about its cousin the .223/5.56 in the widespread AR platform, for general coyote and varmint work at long distances.
- Semi-auto for fast follow up shots
- Familiar platform (AR-10)
- 8 shots
- Expensive and not as accurate as some on this list
Shooting Coyotes and Varmints
Some coyotes are all fur. The more you shoot, the more you realize that. It’s important then, that you have a dead on accurate rifle when trying to shoot them at long distances. The competitor cartridges to the .22-250 can’t hold a candle to the cartridge in wind, or over multiple wind changes or past 350 yards. It stops being competitive after about 250 yards, really (see below for more information).
Since the conversation almost always goes this way: a bolt action .22-250 isn’t going to have the same barrel life as a 5.56x45 or a .223, in fact most .22-250’s or similar calibers in a bolt action will last you about 4-5k before you start seeing barrel degradation. But that conversation is a moot point for a hunting gun. You’re not likely to ever shoot even 2,000 rounds out of a .22-250 or any bolt action for that matter, it’s simply not the type of gun that sees that kind of volume, so that argument while semi-valid, because a replacement barrel for an AR is so cheap, doesn’t factor here.
Varmint are vastly a tiny bunch of animals. Do you want to be missing them? If not, then get a gun that can shoot a bullet that doesn’t die in the crosswinds of a large prairie. You want to hit what you aim at, to conserve ammunition and to have a more enjoyable time. Once you’ve picked a reliable optic for your rifle and dialed it in, it should be all hits, every time you pull the trigger. Such is the case with a .22-250 against all types of varmint.
That’s more than most rifles/calibers can say.
Why the .22-250 makes sense despite increased price of entry
Yes, the .22-250 cartridge is more expensive than some competitor rounds, that is true. It’s also a lot more cartridge. And it’s still available wherever you shop for ammunition. Try to say that during an ammo shortage, concerning the .223 Remington cartridge.
Yes, you can build a nice gun or buy a nice gun in a competitor caliber for cheaper than you can buy a factory new .22-250, in some cases. But as you’ll see, there are a bunch of exceptions to this rule, and we have several bargain basement priced rifles on this list. Some of these guns are ridiculously cheap, considering the type of accuracy you can get with factory loads.
Try hitting a coyote at 400 yards with a factory loaded .223 Remington or a 5.56x45 cartridge, we won’t hold our breath. Unless you are dialed in and can make great scope adjustments at distance, you’re going to lose that coyote. “Spray and pray” never had a more accurate scenario it could be attached to. That same shot is routine with a .22-250 Remington out of any factory gun, with any factory round. It’s just good at what it does. It’s a single shot hunting or target gun - every single time, you’re going to hit where you were aiming.
If you need a gun that is capable every single time you shoot it past 250 yards, this is the gun, and this is the caliber for hunting game up to 125-175 lbs. (An important note: this caliber is more than capable of taking larger game, but there is a large variance of state/local regulations that specifies which cartridges can take which animals; there is also an ethics code that speaks to being humane when hunting, and we use that body weight range to give you a picture of the sweet spot for the .22-250 – not to define its extreme capability parameters).
If you need it out to 250 yards
There is no mistaking the value that a round that shoots as flat and as accurately and as fast as the .22-250 shoots, retains. But there is a factor that will compel some shooters in a different direction. It’s best to get it out on the table early on, as it’s the elephant in the room. The .22-250 is expensive when compared to a .223 Remington and the capabilities of the .223 Remington are substantially similar to the .22-250 in the first 250 yards.
If you need this kind of performance out to about 250 yards, the .223 and specifically the AR-15 platform, will almost overwhelmingly suit you better, even for the main purposes in hunting that the .22-250 offers. If you plan on using it only out to that range or just a shade beyond it, get a .223/5.56 rifle, and if you prefer to have more versatility, get it on the AR platform.
But if you need a legitimate long-range gun that shoots a projectile that can shed wind and remain flat and do it with devastating terminal ballistics on animals up to 125 pounds or so, the .22-250 is your gun. It is a legitimate 500 yard gun, even in the variance of wind direction over the prairies and the meadows. For coyote out past 300 yards, you don’t want a gun that drops 5 and a quarter inches more than a .22-250 at 300 yards, when you can have the elite performance of the .22-250.
Why would anyone use a bolt action still?
The bolt action has been the hunting firearm of choice for well more than 100 years. It’s accurate, simple to operate, offers great power and good velocity (longer barrel) as well as an enhanced sight plane and smooth operation. This isn’t a serious question really, except that in recent years, semi-autos, mostly based off the AR-15 platform have become legitimate choices for hunting of all types.
Here’s why the bolt action still makes sense for hunting; and why the bolt action still makes the most sense as the best .22-250 rifle for coyotes.
The speed at which you need to fire in most varmint and coyote hunting situations is not particularly high if you’re shooting at range. The sound that carries in the wind will not reach your target with the same impact at 500 yards, as it would at 150 yards. You have less chance of scaring off a coyote at long distance than you do when it’s closer. By the way, the bolt action, in trained hands can be cycled incredibly fast, and by the time most shooters are back on target with an AR or similar, you can be with a bolt action too.
In a moment of need, you won’t forget how to use it. The bolt action is easy to learn, easy to shoot and easy to love. If you don’t shoot 5k+ rounds out of it and shoot out the barrel, you’re going to be able to pass it on to the next generation of shooters.
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Out final thoughts
You saw us include a semi-auto rifle in the mix of the best .22-250 rifle list we made, but that’s not the whole story. The .223 and 5.56 cannot compete with the .22-250 for long range windy conditions, or for when you must hit something with a single shot, no matter if their barrels last longer and cost less to retrofit. The .22-250 is a specimen that is built for a particular task and at that, it cannot be beat. What is that you ask?
Simply put: when you need to hit a 3-5-inch target at 500 yards in heavy winds; with 2-3 separate crosswinds, and you need to make sure the thing on the end of the point of impact is dead, for small and intermediate game, you cannot beat the .22-250 Remington. No one who has ever shot a varmint with a .22-250 will ever say otherwise, and why would you listen to an “expert” who hasn’t shot with a gun they already are discounting.
If you want what a .22-250 does best, get a .22-250.
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