The fact that lots of people use rimfires for coyotes doesn’t make them ideal for the job. No matter how you slice it, coyotes are a bit on the large side for these rounds. Sure, some dogs only weigh about 20 pounds, but in the East, they can push the 50-pound mark.
Still, many hunters do not have a dedicated centerfire coyote rifle, and so when it comes time to go ‘yote hunting, they grab their trusty rimfire. And it will do the job. I can personally attest to that many times over. But if you are going to use a rimfire for coyotes, it is critical that you pick the right load.
For coyotes, you want a bullet that will penetrate deep and expand, to damage as much tissue as possible. This is especially true for the .22 LR. With the .22 Magnum, .17 HMR, and Winchester’s .17 Super Magnum, you can opt for a more explosive bullet because the higher velocities will translate to more tissue damage. Here are five of the best coyote loads for these four rimfires.
1. CCI Velocitor .22 LR
This is one of the fastest and hardest-hitting 40-grain loads available for the .22 Long Rifle. It will expand to 0.31 inch and penetrate to more than 14 inches in 10-percent ordnance gelatin. It qualifies as an all-round .22 Long Rifle load but is a bit more expensive than standard fodder. It shoots reasonably flat, can be used for just about any small-game application, and is arguably the best coyote load for the .22 Long Rifle. It has also proven to deliver very good precision out of a wide range of firearms, which makes it suitable for head shots on coyotes. And it’s very pelt-friendly.
2. Browning BPR 40-grain JHP .22 Magnum
Surprisingly, one of the best coyote loads for the .22 Magnum is the common 40-grain hollow point. Most every manufacture offers this load, and they all perform very similarly; pick the one that shoots best in your rifle. With a muzzle velocity around 2000 fps, you can expect to see expansion/deformation of about 1.6 times the original bullet diameter, with a total penetration depth in the neighborhood of a foot or more. These bullets tend to act much like high-end controlled-expansion bullets out of centerfire cartridges.
3. CCI 40-grain Game Point .22 Magnum
With a muzzle velocity of more than 2000 fps, this is the deepest penetrating, widest expanding .22 Magnum load on the market. Recovered bullets will crowd the half-inch mark, and you’ll have to dig deep to get them out; they can penetrate as much as 18-inches. In fact, given the combination of wide expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration, this may be the best rimfire coyote-killing load regardless of the cartridge. At 100 yards, it hits like a .22-250 hits at 350 yards.
4. CCI 20-grain Game Point .17 HMR
This load for the .17 HMR is as close as you will get to .22 Magnum performance. It will expand to slightly more than 3/10ths of an inch and push to about 10 inches, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Wound cavities will be shallower but wider than those from a .22 Magnum due to the higher velocity, which is almost 2500 fps at the muzzle, and it will shoot flatter, too. For coyotes, large or small, this is likely the best all round .17 HMR load on the market.
5. Winchester 25-grain PolyTip .17 Super Magnum
Although this load is substantially slower than the 20-grain offering, it delivers the same energy and will penetrate about twice as deep. With a muzzle velocity of around 2500 fps, you can expect about 7 to 10 inches of penetration with some fragmentation that will enhance tissue damage. The downside to this cartridge is cost, as it’s a bit more expensive to shoot than the .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, or .17 HMR. But you’re interested in tackling coyotes with a .17 Win. Super Mag, this loading is clearly the best option.