Best Varmint Rifle Setup

By L.P. Brezny
A look at the best varmint rifle setup and suggestions for predator hunters.

Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Rifle with Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle Riflescope
Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Rifle with Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle Riflescope makes a great varmint rifle setup.
L.P. Brezny
L.P. Brezny

USA –  -( Just this past week I was sitting in a ranch house that was just about in the middle of western South Dakota’s prairie rat hunting grounds talking with two old time ranch cowboys about rifles.

In this case as luck would have it varmint rifles were the specific subject, and as such fit into this review nicely.

Even just thinking about taking on the subject of varmint rifles can end up in the land of the good, the bad, or flat out nasty. In effect, a slippery slope can be encountered with all the different opinions as to what is the best of the best to take into the field against varmints and predators.

While nothing here is set in stone, and with space limited, I will try and round out what I consider a solid varmint rifle based on my own favorite rifle, and the opinions of two old cowboys with about 120 years of experience between them.

Varmint Rifle Ammo

First up in the discussion is cartridge type. It was interesting in that both of the old timers at the ranch that morning agreed that about the king of the coyote killing and rat shooting systems was none other then the 22-250 Remington.

22-250 Remington
22-250 Remington

That was interesting indeed as that was exactly what was hanging in the back window of my pickup.

Out here in the wild west we can still get away with that method of transport.

The 22-250 cartridge was developed as a wildcat in the mid 1930’s and adapted by Remington as a factory round in 1965. When announced by Remington I bought my first 22-250 four months later in a Remington turn bolt BDL, mounting a fixed 10X Herters scope.

As such, this cartridge has always been with me in one rifle or another during my 60 plus years of shooting warm targets. When you don’t have a 22-250 you don’t have a varmint rifle period.

Varmint Rifle Options

While I have owned 22-250’s in everything from Savage Predators, Thompson Centers turn bolts, to Remington VS heavy bench rifles, today I have settled on a late model Winchester Model 70 Feather Weight as my go to truck rifle in this flat shooting ultra high velocity cartridge. Mounting a 4.5X18 Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle and Side-Parallax Adjustment Riflescope, and Trijicon AccuPoint 30mm ExtraHi Alum Rings, my wood stocked ( walnut ) rifle comes in at a bit over 7.3 pounds empty. This makes for a walking varmint rifle that is easy on the body when walking mountainous country, or crossing wide expanses of government “foot traffic” only prairie lands. The Model 70 has great balance when shooting offhand, locks down well on shooting sticks when pushing bullets at long range, and as stocked in walnut feels good to the touch on cold days afield.

Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Rifle
Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Rifle

Even as a pencil pipe rifle ( thin barrel ) the Winchester shoots a bit under sub moa at 100 yards with quality ammo, and a cold to low heat bore. That is a ½ minute of coyote, and very workable on called song dogs to 300 plus yards down range. Rifles as in the Winchester Feather Weight design are numerous and everyone from Savage, Browning, Remington, and CZ by example, offer many lighter weight walking rifle systems that will get the job done.

Varmint Rifle Optics

In optics the 22-250 will not come off as a high recoiling rifle therefor massive bases and rings are not at all required here. I have used the previously indicated bases and rings on my rifle mounting setup with the very light weight aluminum scope tube that even with its sun shade and higher magnification 40 mm objective won’t add much weight to the rifle.

Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle Riflescope :
Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle Riflescope :
Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Varmint Rifle with Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle Riflescope
Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Varmint Rifle with Simmons Varmint Series TruPlex Reticle Riflescope

Scope options need not be pushing heavy target rifle required ranges to 1000 yards, and for the most part I tend to stay inside 400 yards or much less with my rifle, keeping almost half the shots taken well inside 250 to 300 yards.

Optics that fit this need are medium to budget priced, and include Zeiss Terra 3X 4-12X50mm Riflescope w/ Plex Reticle on the upper end of the spectrum ( $400.00 ) , or for a few dollars more the Zeiss RZ 8 Ballistic reticle system. Other options are Leupolds VX-3 CDS Wind-Plex reticle at ( $400.00 ) , or a move to the Bushnell or Weaver lines inside $300.00 and change. Stay at least in the 10X power range of your upper limit magnification, and it’s nice to have mil or moa graduations for longer range shooting.

While I obviously don’t have any massive upper end optic system on my rifle I didn’t say the rifle would not push bullets into the next zip code either.

Currently many different scope manufactures are starting to offer some quality mid range price tag optics ( under $1200, ) being many hunters and long range shooters won’t get out to 1000 plus yards largely due to where they live, but will spend a good deal of time shooting inside the 600 yard mark. I must state that after hunting varmints across most of the known world in one form or another during my life it is obvious that we Americans have the complete luxury of having the most mind blowing options in rifles known on the planet earth. Just think of it and it is on a store shelf or designers desk someplace out there.

Bringing a nice shooting 22-250 turn bolt varmint rifle rig together is a simple task now-a-days.

About the Author L.P. Brezny:

With more than 50 years experience in the field and the testing lab, author L.P. Brezny is one of today’s most recognized shotgun experts and authors. He is a contributor to dozens of firearms publications, such as Wildfowl, Shotgun Sports, and Varmint Hunters, and he is a regular columnist in the Gun Digest annual. Be sure and check out his newest book: Long Range Shooting, Second Edition

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I also like the 220 swift started with it as my first deer hunting gun when I was 12 it was the only other gun my dad had back then that was 60 years ago

Guy Hill

Nice to see everyone south of the border agreeing on the. 22-.250. But unfortunately in Canada unless you started out re loading the . 22-250 is Waaaaay to expensive to shoot here. .223 and. 17’s are generally the choice. .22-.250 starts at 30.00 for 20 and goes as high as 45.00


Pretty sure he’s talking about putting a hole in that gated pipe around 3:10. Can’t tell for sure if he shoots a hole in it or if it’s arterial. Either way, an inconsiderate shot to take. That irrigation pipe isn’t free. Nothing like a leaking water line to piss a farmer off and not get you or the next guy invited back.

Roy C

I’m with Tim, have a pair of Swift’s, a Savage 112BVSS and Ruger 77V. Would not consider anything else. Each time
I pick either of them up, I smile as I read the .220 Swift on the barrel. Like Tim, I ‘baby” my babies at around 3750fps. 22-250?, it is fine but does not stir the passion. Few cartridges are referred to by just a name, the Swift is one that is. Just say the word, everyone knows what you mean.

Tim Petersen

Right on brother. No idea what the comment about the culvert is about.


So what did the farmer who owned the irrigation pipe say about the potential for hitting his equipment. I’d be plenty pissed if I were him.


My first varmint rifle was a .22-250 Remington 700, but I found it too susceptible to wind drift at longer ranges in western CO, where I hunted prairie dogs. I put together my ideal varmint rifle with a Winchester Model 70 action, a Shilen bull barrel chambered for 6mm Remington, and a B&L 6-24X scope. No complaints, regardless of wind or distance!

Tim Petersen

I bought a Savage 77v in 220 Swift back in 1974. It was and still is my favorite varmint gun. I load my own ammo and have no problem keeping 1/2 moa groups going. Although I seldom shoot it faster than 3700 fps it will snap out 4000+ fps with unerring accuracy as well. I put a Burris 4-12 scope on it which I inherited from my Dad. I just can’t imagine a better combination for fun and giggles on the rat, cat and coyote circuit.

Tim Petersen

My bad. I called my 220 a Savage when in reality it is a Ruger 77v. Mind like a steel trap, sprung shut.

George Jorda

Funny, I’very been shooting woodchucks with a Remington 700 in 22-250 for 40 years now, load my own ammo and love the setup. Great cartridge.