Varmint shooting according to Quarterbore

In my discussion here I will emphasize groundhog hunting, as that's what I do. The ballistics, and other effects are based on my first hand experience over many years of killing chucks! As I see it, varmint hunting falls into two basic categories. There are the smaller varmint calibers and the long-range varmint calibers. I will try to discuss my experiences with both. First, let me emphasize this experience is not intended to endorse this type of shooting at other game. My personal opinion of groundhogs, developed from years living on the farm, is that they are nothing more than over sized rats that destroy crops and equipment. If I cripple or wound one, while not my goal, is fine by me given my low opinion of the species. I would never try what I discuss here on a species that I felt differently about!


The smaller varmint calibers, say 222, 223, and 22-250 are very effective up to short to medium ranges. A 222 is effective to about 200 - 300 yards, a 223 to 300 to 350, and the 22-250 to about 400. You can try further, but unless it's a really calm day, the lighter bullets at slower velocities just don't like to spend that much time going in a straight line! Even the 220 swift, which is an extremely flat shooter, has problems at long ranges because the light bullet just doesn't have the mass to maintain energy and prevent wind drift.

I have a Remington 700 BDL/VLS in 223, but I consider it to be a short-range weapon for shots inside 300 yards. If there is even the slightest wind, hitting a groundhog can get really tough at ranges as close as 250 yards. Let me emphasize that even if you are really good at reading wind direction and speed, the wind will not be consistent across a field and hence it is almost impossible to predict how the bullet will actually act when shooting longer distances (250 or more yards)! Even on calm days, your trajectory that depends on the distance you are shooting, your bullet, land topography (uphill, downhill, etc.) and the actual velocity out of your gun. These facts combine to make real world shooting calculations extremely difficult!


Cartridges which fit this billing include the 6-284, 6-06, 240 Weaterby, 25-06, 257 Weaterby, and others wildcats too numerous to list. These calibers share the trait of having bullets with extremely high ballistic coefficients and adequate powder charges to really push the bullet. The 243, 244 (6mm), and 257 Roberts share the same bullets but lack the high velocities for this specialized niche.

I use a 25-06, which is particularly fond of 85 gr. Nosler ballistic tips. With this combination, I can literally splatter a chuck at 400 plus yards. The furthest I can claim to date was 525 yards, although I have to admit it took three attempts to connect! Shooting at these ranges require very accurate range determination and knowledge of you gun's ballistics with a particular load. The 6mm bore and 257 Weatherby also share his type of performance. I know of guys with 6-284 (284 win. Necked down to 6mm) 6-06 (30-06 necked down to 6mm), 240 Weatherby, and 257 Weatherby. These four are all pretty similar to each other with wild results at long ranges! These three are even flatter shooting than the 25-06, but the Weatherby brass is expensive and you will have to build a 6-284 or 6-06. I consider the 25-06 to be an economical alternative, although I have a deep respect for any of them especially the 6-284, which is by far the most accurate varmint cartridge that fits this billing.

The 243 and 6mm Remington are also good rounds, but they don't compare to the others I've mentioned for real reach out and splatter them results! The reason is simply energy and wind bucking ability. The 243 and 6mm with their slower velocity lack some of the wind bucking ability of the hotter cartridges. If you are serious about long ranges, I recommend the serious varmint cartridges as listed.

*** Summary ***

In the real world, distances of 400 yards almost always have slight wind currents that can really make it tough! I've tried the long shots with a 223, but the lightweight .22 bullets just don't like the wind, even a slight wind! It's the wind (even heat waves) that makes the bigger varmint calibers excel for long-range work! The smaller calibers are ideal if you are going to be doing a lot of shooting. They are much quieter, have less recoil, and are less expensive to reload. The quiet part is the reason I bought my 223, as there are times that I donít need to shoot the long distances. Also, with a 223 I have been able to shoot several chucks in the same field before they figure out that I'm back!

Hence the question is, are you looking for the ultimate long-range varmint rifle, or a varmint rifle. There are advantages to both, as I have tried to describe, and that is why I have guns that fill both categories. Finally, a larger rifle is a quite capable deer and antelope sized game rifle. The practice at groundhogs will enable you to become experienced with the same gun you will use in the fall hunting big game.

Note, I never practice what I preach about groundhogs on bigger game! Big game deserves more respect than a cropland-destroying rat of oversized proportions! (PS I know a groundhog is a squirrel, but they don't!)

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