Top 5 Predator Hunting Ammunition Options

Whether you are honing your shooting skills in real-time or doing a needed service on the homestead, we are going to hunt animals we can’t or don’t eat, like varmints and predators. Just about any combination of gun and ammo will work for these tasks. Still, depending on your environment and end goal, the soft-point hunting loads and full metal jacket target ammunition you might load in your general-purpose rifle might work against you.

Varmints and predators are usually smaller and harder to hit than your typical big game. When hunting these types of animals, faster and flatter shooting rounds are ideal, and a slow-expanding deep penetrating round is either unnecessary or counterproductive, producing slower kills and tearing up hides you might want to cash in. Whether you are a dedicated predator hunter or need to do more with your everyday rifle, it is worth knowing your options. Here are five predator hunting loads you should know about:

CCI Stinger

Most of the ammunition listed here is available in most centerfire calibers, from .22 Hornet to .30-06 and beyond. But an honorable mention will go to a rimfire load: the .22 Long Rifle CCI Stinger.

cci stinger ammunition
The CCI Stinger is a dedicated varmint load that debuted back in the 1970s. It is still the best of its kind.

A rifle chambered in .22 might not be the best choice for predator hunting, but it is a very common choice and one that can work well on smaller targets, too. There are several types of hypervelocity hollow-point ammunition for the little .22 LR cartridge, but the original CCI Stinger remains the best. It consists of a 32-grain copper-plated lead hollow-point loaded in a nickel case that is a bit longer and holds more powder than standard .22 LR cases. It won’t work in firearms with match chambers, but it does yield very high velocities of over 1,400 feet per second and a flat trajectory compared to other .22 LR ammunition. Rapid expansion and moderate penetration are hallmarks of this round when fired from a rifle barrel. When you need to do more with less, the CCI Stinger can get the job done.

Hornady Superformance

Hornady has been putting out factory ammunition with handloader’s accuracy since 1949. If you are in need of ammunition for predator hunting, Hornady likely has a solution. The Hornady Superformance line is one of them. Hornady’s proprietary Superformance powders are loaded into cartridges with projectiles that are of a lighter-grain weight. This combination produces ammunition that is 100-200 feet per second faster than conventional ammunition.

hornady superformance ammunition
The Hornady Superformance’s exact bullet features vary according to the caliber. The light V-Max and NTX rounds in smaller calibers are explosive in power when pushed to over 3000 feet per second.

To top it all off, the Superperformance line comes with a few excellent projectile types. The Superformance line covers calibers from .17 Hornet to the .444 Marlin. The smaller-bore loads use Hornady V-Max and NTX projectiles. These feature a thin copper jacket and a polymer tip that contributes to rapid bullet expansion and fragmentation on impact. As the caliber goes up, so too does the toughness of the projectile. The .300 Blackout and other mid-range cartridges use an SST or CX bullet with a thicker copper jacket while retaining the polymer tip for the best aerodynamics. The largest calibers use a round-nosed soft-point Interlock bullet that delivers more controlled expansion and deeper penetration than one would expect from a big game hunting load.

Hornady Varmint Express

Most predator loads use a light-for-caliber bullet. But if you use it in a rifle sighted in for a different grain weight of ammunition, there could be a significant shift in point of impact. The Hornady Varmint Express gives the part-time predator hunter standard grain-weight bullets without sacrificing the thumb on the target. The Varmint Express load relies on the venerable aforementioned Hornady V-Max bullet that opens up and upsets well even at the lower velocities of standard grain-weight ammunition.

hornady varmint express
The Hornady Varmint Express uses trusty standard-weight V-Max projectiles. This line also includes rimfire rounds like the .17 HMR and .22 Magnum, which are among the most accurate rimfire rounds out there.

The Varmint Express load is chiefly available in smaller rifle rounds like .22 Hornet, .223 Remington, and .243 Winchester but is available in a light-for-caliber 95-grain round in 6.5 Creedmoor. Interestingly, the line also includes two rimfire options in .17 HMR and .22 Magnum.

Barnes VOR-TX

Like the Hornady company, Barnes started out of a need for better bullet designs than what existed. Fred Barnes started the company in the 1930s and entire ammunition lines started in the 1970s. Barnes produces excellent match and hunting ammunition. They were even among the first to introduce all-copper projectiles to the commercial market.

barnes vor-tx ammunition box
The Barnes Vor-TX is an excellent option if lead poisoning is a concern. Its all-copper construction is nontoxic and provides controlled penetration.

The Barnes VOR-TX is just such an all-copper round available in popular calibers from .223 Remington to .45-70 Government. The all-copper TTSX boattail bullet gives you a longer ballistic coefficient that slices through the atmosphere to its target with less drop, and it does so without the added density of a lead core bullet. On impact, these copper hollow-point rounds expand uniformly in tissue, though they lack the fragmentation of a copper-jacketed lead round. If you want to split the difference between predator hunting and a good hunting load on medium-sized game, the Barnes VOR-TX load is worth a look.

Nosler Varmageddon

Founded after Barnes and just a year before Hornady in 1948 with the same end goal, Nosler manufactures match-grade ammunition and has even designed its own cartridges, like the .28 Nosler. Their Varmageddon ammunition spells doom for varmints and smaller predators.

nosler varmageddon ammunition
Nosler’s Varmageddon ammunition covers a wide range of cartridges from the .17 Hornet to .308 Winchester.

The Varmageddon line revolves around the FB Tipped projectile, which features a black hard polymer tip and a special composition of lead core and copper jacket. In smaller calibers, a similar hollow-point projectile is used. These aerodynamic rounds yield excellent accuracy and are generally available in bullet weights that are close to standard grain weights. In a crowded field, the Varmageddon has the distinction of being chambered in common calibers like .223 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester, as well as one of the few for dedicated varmint rounds like .17 Remington and .204 Ruger.

v max 5.7
I am partial to any Hornady V-Max, but there is no automatically wrong answer to the predator solution.

Top 5 Predator Loads: Which Is Your Pick?

In a given year, I can be found chasing squirrels and rabbits in the deer woods. But every time I am out, I am called upon to shoot varmints and predators at my local range far more often. The CCI Stinger is my personal favorite when I can keep my shots within one hundred yards. But when a .22 rifle will not suffice, I keep a rifle loaded with Hornady Varmint Express loads close at hand. These rounds shoot accurately and to the point of aim of my standard target loads. The V-Max round is one not to scoff with, even when fired out of a handgun barrel. These are my personal choices, but the best solution is to try multiple to see what your rifle likes best. None of these options will likely disappoint.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

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