Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 5: Varmint Cartridges
Varmint cartridges, as a set, reveal interesting, and to us somewhat unexpected conclusions. The 22 Hornet seems to become progressively less available, and is now in low and spotty availability (low= less than 11 total SKUs between 2 online retailers; spotty= less than 3 SKUs in at least one online retailer out of the two we used in our surveys). The 220 Swift is also in low and spotty availability, and its high price does not augur well for the future - it appears that it has definitely lost its race with the 22-250. The 222 Remington has moderate, but spotty, availability. Surprisingly, it is equal in price to the 223, but, based on availability, we would strongly recommend the 223 against the 222.
The 22-250 shows, as expected, great vigor, being the second most popular varmint cartridge (if you exclude the low end of the medium game cartridges, such as the 243), but with significantly high round cost. The 204 Ruger has surprisingly good availability for a fairly recent cartridge, although its price is still high at $19/ box. Both rounds show enough availability to recommend themselves for special uses. However, as general purpose varmint cartridges, on the basis of price and availability, they cannot compare to the 223.
The 223 shows remarkably well in our cost and availability surveys. It surprised us by edging the 22LR in overall availability, 248 to 201 - we were expecting the opposite. It surprised us again as being the 5th most cost effective round overall, after the rimfire cartridges and the 7.62.39. It is intrinsically a much more accurate round than the 7.62x39, with better range as well, and it is very well suited to a mixed use as varmint cartridge and affordable centerfire trainer. It is our #1 choice as general purpose varmint cartridge and as centerfire trainer.
- Best varmint cartridge: 223 Remington/ 5.56x45mm NATO
- Also recommended: 22-250, 204 Ruger
Next we review medium game cartridges... So come back soon!