Review: The 22 Creedmoor on Coyotes

Hornady’s taking a long range shot at outgunning the .22 Swift. Based off the 6.5 Creedmoor case and that new family of centerfire cartridges, the 22 Creedmoor, while still in the development stage in terms of factory offerings, is turning some heads.

Review: The 22 Creedmoor on Coyotes

Terry Fauth (left) and Jim Smith called and dropped this coyote at 1,017 yards with Smith's custom 22 Creedmoor during bullet testing in central South Dakota. (Photo: L.P. Brezny)

Hornady’s taking a long range shot at outgunning the .22 Swift. Based off the 6.5 Creedmoor case and that new family of centerfire cartridges, the 22 Creedmoor, while still in the development stage in terms of factory offerings, is turning some heads. This new round is getting the attention of predator and varmint hunters, because it tends to send the mail well down range with accuracy that is nothing less than outstanding.  

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this is going to be  the start of something big in the ammunition development industry. When taking a look at this new cartridge, it’s dead simple to handload and tends to outstretch the .22 Swift when ballistic comparisons are made. This takes place not with the Swift’s lightweight 55-grain bullets, but heavy weights that run into the 75- and 80-plus grain weights.

For example, shooting the 22 Creedmoor with a moderate handload and Hornady’s 75-grain ELD, the bullet leaves the pipe at 3,200 fps — and that is not on the hot side for this cartridge. Move up two more grains or powder, the velocity steps up to 3,400 fps and downrange it tends to fight wind like very few other bullets. Hang time from muzzle to target is very short. At 3,200 fps, the bullet requires 0.736 seconds in hang time to go 500 yards; moving out to 1,000 yards takes 2.002 seconds.

Recoil developed by the 22 Creedmoor is negligible. As the trigger breaks, targets explode (observed against prairie dogs under ballistics testing as applied to his article). While there are variations in the level of bullet performance depending on elevation and other related atmospheric conditions, the bottom line is this new cartridge is in the class of very fast movers down range. 

When Can I Get It?

Why then is the new cartridge not being offered in a factory loaded round yet?

This hot rod of a .22-caliber barn burner is a tough nut to crack in terms of exactly what is the best barrel twist to use and where shooter requirements stand in the realm of bullet weights and design. By that I mean everyone has their own idea of the best bullets to use in terms of design and grain weight. Because of the velocity, lightweight bullets tend to lose their jackets when sent down the pipe of a 22 Creedmoor, and the rifle seems to take a liking to heavier pills. 

To my way of thinking, and also that of my associates who are worldwide-known custom gunsmiths, the consensus seems to be, "Why worry about light bullets in this cartridge when heavier bullets meet every possible need downrange regardless of the distance encountered?"

With the idea of staying with heavy bullets of 70 to 88 grains or even more, the 1:7-inch twist rate is a natural regardless of weather, altitude or other related conditions that change bullet performance and seems like a reasonable approach to the new round. With that information, the rifles I’ve used all had 1:7-inch twists and, with 75-grain Hornady ELD bullets, they all performed like super hybrid long range gunning systems.

The only changes I’ve encountered in handloading for this cartridge was with my second test rifle — a scratch-build custom from Satterlee Arms in Deadwood, South Dakota. It carried a special short chamber and, by the direction of Satterlee himself, I was told I could increase my power charge by two grains as the barrel is designed to take some added pressure.

22 Creedmoor On Fur

Hunting central South Dakota with my guides and mate Jim Smith and crew, a prime example of a 22 Creedmoor was taken afield after a summer of commutative target shooting indicated that the rifle was a sub-one half MOA shooter clearly capable of reaching out into the next zip code when sending bullets at song dogs that roamed the wide rolling prairies and deep cuts along the river bottoms.

Hornady's taking  a long-range shot at outgunning the .22 Swift with its blistering 22 Creedmoor bullets, with the 75-grain ELD handloads leaving the pipe at 3,200 fps. Add two grains of powder and velocity increases to 3,400 fps. (Photo: L.P. Brezny)
Hornady's taking a long-range shot at outgunning the .22 Swift with its blistering 22 Creedmoor bullets, with the 75-grain ELD handloads leaving the pipe at 3,200 fps. Add two grains of powder and velocity increases to 3,400 fps. (Photo: L.P. Brezny)

As built by LRI, Long Rifles, Inc. out of Sturgis, S.D., the rifle is a turn-bolt tack driver set up very much like most upper grade long range rifles we see as custom-built field tools. Its owner and shooter, Jim Smith, knew the rifle like the back of his hand, and when the War of the Dogs started, it showed in spades.

Smith’s pet load for taking long range coyotes was a bit different from the 75-grain Hornady ELD handloads I had developed for my test rifles. His load consists of an 80-grain Berger VLD at a muzzle velocity of 3,450 fps. The bullet carries a ballistic coefficient of .444 and stays very active well beyond 1,000 yards. Smith also made use of a factory load offered by Copper Creek Cartridge. Those loads also used the 80-grain Berger VLDs and are somewhat of a copy of Smith’s handload. In terms of accuracy, it was common to shoot 0.44-inch groups at 100 yards with Smith’s custom rifle and either handload as well as the Copper Creek factory offering.

The 22 Creedmoor is basically a factory-developed wildcat round by Hornady. Hornady offers the bullets, cases and dies. At the time of this writing, there isn’t a factory rifle in the new hot rod super .22, but hang on as I believe that is just around the corner. I suspect the rifle will be a target-grade turn-bolt with the chamber set back a bit for tight chambering of a bore rider with cut rifling.

Hunting the White River country in central South Dakota presents its own set of problems in terms of locating coyotes that are in gunning range. There, the landscape is wide and rolling with cuts as deep as several hundred feet that divide whole sections of soft, smooth hillsides that quickly turn into deep draws that almost require ropes and repelling techniques when retrieving a kill that has been made toward the bottom. Enter the 22 Creedmoor as an AT&T long distance fur harvesting system.

On To the Field Research

On the first day of what I call a research and informational hunt, we went afield with the rifle. Smith selected a very open section of rolling hills to make the first call. There were four of us in our hunting party, so we split up and covered two sides of a long draw that seemed custom-made for a called song dog. The long draw allowed incoming dogs to enter from either side, as we were using crosswind calling techniques.

My partner, Terry Fauth, the game keeper in the area for an outfit that raises ringneck roosters among other things, and I set up to cover about 500 yards of the shallow valley floor. Smith, along with Lakota guide Big John Willcuts, locked down their bipods on a ridgeline about 600 yards off to our right. Everyone was shooting full suppressors so we could visually track the bullets in flight down range through our scopes.  

In a matter of a few minutes a pair of coyotes appeared on the ridge line about 1 1/2 miles out and almost directly aligned with our gun barrels. On the fresh snow, it was easy to observe them zig zagging along, but always heading at an angle toward Smith’s call. When they hit a certain point, both dogs dropped out of sight.

Soon after that there was a soft but distinct snapping sound in the dead still morning air of a suppressed shot. It wasn’t a bang or even a pop, but a soft snap like a stick breaking far away. That was followed by a strange movement of air that tracked through the cold very far off, then stopped abruptly with a thud-like sound. All at once there was the crack of a fast-moving bullet almost crossing straight down the draw we were covering. The target was moving away at an angle, and the bullets were now angling toward the air space we were covering. 

When we met up with them, Smith and Willcuts were stacking extra gear and getting ready to start a march across some deep snow uphill to retrieve the coyote and assess bullet damage. At the kill site, Smith found a stone-dead male coyote shot straight through the head. Ranging back to me at the calling stand, the range finder returned 1,017 yards. 

Conclusion

This new cartridge is just a step away from a wildcat round. Testing my two rifles here at Ballistics Research & Development I am nothing but impressed. The Satterlee Arms builds are ultra-high-performance rifles. I was recently advised that the first Savage 110s in 224 Valkyrie are almost at my door, so I can see a day when we will have a factory-built option in the 22 Creedmoor.

It took three years to see the first factory offered turn-bolt Valkyrie. The 22 Creedmoor round is just too darn good to pass up, and yes, I see the same pattern in future factory rifles developing.

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