I hadn’t heard the .22-243 caliber wildcat cartridge even mentioned since I left college years ago and sold my first real predator/varmint rifle in .22-243 caliber. In the few years I had this deadly accurate, flat shooting custom built rifle I had burned out the barrel from the thousands of hot reloads I’d put through it shooting prairie dogs, jackrabbits, fox and coyotes and finally replaced it with a lightweight, pre-64 Model 70 Winchester .220 Swift.
I was surprised when, during a phone conversation, noted predator hunter, world champion predator caller and TV host, Al Morris, stated that the .22-243 was gaining popularity among the predator contest callers. I guess I was just ahead of my time reloading and shooting this deadly effective caliber more than 50 years ago.
According to Big Al, there is a definite movement within the ranks of contest predator callers toward larger, flat shooting calibers — up to and including the .300 Winchester Magnum, calibers that will reach out and flatten predators at previously unthought-of ranges.
Much of this change is being perpetuated by the popularity of long range shooting in general and made feasible by the superb quality of today’s predator shooting gear, from super accurate range finders to rifle scopes that take the guesswork out of long range shooting and do everything but pull the trigger. When this precision shooting equipment is combined with the phenomenal quality of reloading tools and components —especially bullets that are ballistically designed for superior trajectory and long-range accuracy — never thought possible a few years ago, it’s little wonder that many modern-day predator hunters, pros and neophytes alike, are avidly in search of the perfect predator caliber to increase their success.
Today, Al’s favorite predator rifles are .243 caliber. Surprisingly, he gets great results using Hornady’s 58 grain V-Max bullet in his AR-10 and his ultra accurate, Ruger precision rifle at velocities approaching 4,000 fps. Both of these .243’s also handle the Hornady 95 grain V-Max equally well for larger critters.
Al isn’t alone in his choice to use the .243 for predators. A friend, who is a wolf control specialist in the upper Great Lakes Region, uses a .243 loaded with the 100-grain bullet for all predators roaming his neck of the woods. His hunting grounds is where wolves are raising havoc with wildlife and livestock alike due to their protected status perpetuated by the warm fuzzy critter protectionist’s efforts to keep them under the endangered species protection. He started out with the .22-250 and found it adequate for most of his control work but the .243 gives him more knock-down and stay-down energy at the longer distances. Nothing aggravates him more than a predator that has any chance of leaving the scene of a collision with a bullet — and wolves are tough!
Byron South, another well known full time animal damage control specialist, call manufacturer (The Bullet HP caller) and TV host started out with a .223 and has probably killed more predators and hogs with that caliber, in a variety of rifles, than most hunters will see in a lifetime of predator hunting.
However, because he does a lot of feral hog control work, he has started to rely more on the 6.8 SPC cartridges in several of his AR platform, suppressor and night scope rigged rifles. The 6.8 (Special Purpose Cartridge) is a relatively recent Remington short action cartridge designed in conjunction with the military to possibly replace the 5.56 caliber, providing more accuracy and muzzle energy at longer ranges and designed specifically for short action compatibility. His favorite all-round-bullet is a 90 grain bullet followed closely by the 120 version for serious hog control.
Gary Roberson, owner of Burnham Bros. (www.burnhambrothers.com,) and host of Carnivore TV, is an old school predator shooter. His two favorite predator cartridges have remained the same over the years and will probably remain the same for the foreseeable future. He uses a .223 for his predator-calling ventures in areas with heavy cover and short to medium range visibility. But he switches to the .22-250 in more open country for longer shots. He believes these two accurate calibers fulfill his needs perfectly and sees no need to change.
A number of predator hunters I’ve talked with who are primarily fur-oriented predator hunters and callers opt for smaller cartridges such as the .17 Remington Fireball and .204 Ruger developed by Ruger and Hornady. There is no doubt these cartridges excel in “up close and personal” predator encounters at close quarters where minimum pelt damage is a major factor.
There obviously is not a perfect predator caliber that will cope with all the idiosyncrasies of predator hunters, hunting conditions and the foibles of the critters they contend with. However, the chance of finding a rifle in the caliber that puts the odds in your favor has never been better.