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Hornady's 22 Creedmoor Ultimate Predator Cartridge

Hornady introduced the 22 Creedmoor cartridge in exclusive partnership with Horizon Firearms, and it may be the best long-range, predator cartridge ever.

Hornady's 22 Creedmoor Ultimate Predator Cartridge

Joseph fired these two 22 Creedmoor factory loads in the Vandal rifle. Both achieved sub- half-MOA accuracy in less than ideal weather conditions. 

This is a multi-faceted story, but the crucial elements are that in 2023 Hornady submitted the 22 Creedmoor to SAAMI, legitimizing it. And Horizon Firearms has been the primary driving force behind the cartridge, offering rifles and ammunition for the cartridge for some time now. As the godfather of the 22 Creedmoor, Horizon built a tight relationship with Hornady, and now that the cartridge is going mainstream, Horizon has exclusive distributing privileges for Hornady 22 Creedmoor ammunition. (As the presenting member of SAAMI, Hornady has the obligation for proof and reference ammo for gunmakers.) Horizon manufactures precision rifles chambered in 22 Creedmoor. I’ve been working with the Vandal model, and I’m super impressed with both the rifle and the cartridge. Let’s take a look at each in turn, starting with Horizon’s part in promoting the cartridge and its spectacular Vandal rifle chambered exclusively for the 22 Creedmoor.

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Three factory loads will be available exclusively through Horizon Firearms, but handloading the 22 Creedmoor is not difficult. Data is available from Hodgdon; dies are available from Hornady, Redding, RCBS, and Forster; and there are myriad good projectiles from many major bullet manufacturers.

Horizon Firearms built its first 22 Creedmoor in 2014 and aggressively tested the then-wildcat cartridge. The rifle company got behind the cartridge for the long haul, and reloading dies, Horizon-branded ammo, and the Horizon-owned website 22Creedmoor.com followed. By 2019 Horizon Firearms became synonymous with the 22 Creedmoor. In 2019 and 2020, Peterson Cartridge and Hornady released 22 Creedmoor headstamped brass, solidifying the cartridge’s future viability. In 2021 Texas Ammunition began selling 22 Creedmoor factory-loaded ammo, and in 2023 the cartridge was “made” when Hornady submitted it to SAAMI. As mentioned earlier, Hornady will sell 22 Creedmoor factory-loaded ammo exclusively through Horizon, much the same way that Hornady 6mm GT ammo is sold exclusively through GA Precision. More on 22 Creedmoor development and factory ammo offerings in a bit. Let’s shift gears to the flashy (and awesome) rifle featured in this report. To set the stage, it’s worth noting that Horizon Firearms is owned by Kaspar Outdoors, which also owns Stiller actions, Iota stocks, and Texas Ammo. Why is this important? It means Horizon has primary access to excellent precision actions and carbon-fiber riflestocks.

The Rifle

This custom-level precision rifle retails for $2,499. I have to lead with that, because after unboxing, handling, and shooting it, I figured it would be priced on a par with a top-shelf rifle from Gunwerks, Proof Research, or AllTerra Arms. Vandal and Vandal X (the lightweight version) are two of Horizon’s CORE Series. These rifle models aren’t customizable, but they have all the bells and whistles you could want. Horizon also offers its fully custom SELECT Series rifles, which are proper bespoke firearms. Other CORE Series models are available in a variety of popular precision rifle cartridges, but the Vandal is made only in 22 Creedmoor. Vandal rifles feature 18-inch barrels ideal for suppressing—and those barrels are visually arresting thanks to “pins & needles” fluting. It’s an unconventional and really interesting pattern.

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Horizon Firearms could be considered the godfather of the 22 Creedmoor. The company’s Vandal rifle features a Stiller action, an 18-inch barrel, the Iota EKO carbon-fiber stock, an AICS-style Magpul five-round detachable magazine, and a TriggerTech Primary trigger. It weighs 7.3 pounds.

Vandal barrels don’t just look cool, they’re premium match-grade tubes of 416R stainless steel with a 1:8 twist rate that’s ideal for long, sleek .22-caliber projectiles. Up front, Vandal barrels are cut with 5/8-24 threads, so they’re suppressor-ready and come with a nice knurled thread cap. Vandal carbon-fiber Iota EKO stocks have visual pizzazz equal to the racy-looking barrels. They’re painted with an aggressive texture that’s grip-worthy in mud, blood, and sweaty conditions—and pop with eye-catching red/gray/black graphics. On a more practical note, the carbon Iota EKO stock is configured properly for modern precision-shooting tasks, with a vertical pistol grip shaped just right; a high comb to support a good cheekweld; and a flat-bottomed, hand-filling fore-end to aid accurate shooting whether off sandbags or a quickly improvised field position.

Horizon Firearms Vandal Specs

  • Type: Bolt-action, repeater
  • Caliber: 22 Creedmoor
  • Capacity: 5 rds. 
  • Barrel: 18 in. 
  • Overall Length: 37.5 in. 
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs.
  • Stock: Carbon Fiber
  • Length of Pull: 13.75 in. 
  • Finish: KG Coatings NaNo Series Gun Kote
  • Trigger: 3 lbs. (tested) 
  • Safety: two-position
  • MSRP: $2,499
  • Manufacturer: Horizon Firearms

Each stock is hand laid of carbon fiber and hand-finished, so the pattern and color vary slightly from stock to stock. Barrel and stock are mated with a Stiller action. Custom rifle aficionados know the brand. Stiller has been a household name among precision riflemen for decades. The action is a Remington 700 clone, so it’s compatible with Model 700 triggers, scope mounts, stocks, and other accessories. The bolt is fitted with a Sako-type extractor, and there’s a nice bolt-release button at the left rear of the receiver. Barrels and actions are finished in KG Coatings NaNo Series Gun Kote—an excellent abrasion- and corrosion-resistant finish.

Vandal rifles feed from a single-stack AICS-type Magpul PMAG 5. Horizon’s bottom metal features a nice paddle-shaped mag release just forward of the trigger bow. I haven’t tried other magazines, but presumably most AICS-type mags will fit and function. Horizon fits each Vandal rifle with a TriggerTech Primary trigger. The one on my test rifle is super crisp and weighs exactly 3.0 pounds as shipped. That’s heavier than most competitive shooters like, but it is just right for a predator rifle that may be used in subzero temps. Conveniently, the trigger is user adjustable without taking the action out of the stock. Up top, each Stiller Horizon action is fitted with a full-length 1913-spec Picatinny rail. It makes mounting a scope simple, and it’s optimal if using a relatively heavy precision optic like the Revic Acura RS25i shown in my photograph. If I were setting up the rifle with a lighter scope for backcountry hunting, I’d pull the rail off and mount the scope nice and low to the action in a set of Talley lightweight alloy rings.

The Ammo

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Predictably, the 22 Creedmoor is created by necking down 6.5mm Creedmoor cases to hold 0.224-inch-diameter bullets. The cartridge is spec’d with a relatively fast 1:8 twist to make it compatible with modern long-range bullets. Horizon and Hornady settled on 80-grain bullets as optimal for 22 Creedmoor factory-loaded ammo, pushed to a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,300 fps. Heavier bullets are available and do provide superior aerodynamics, but they are commonly finicky about accuracy. Bullets like Hornady’s 88-grain ELD Match and Sierra’s 90-grain MatchKing are well suited for 22 Creedmoor handloaders who like to tinker and fine-tune their ammo. What drove development of the 22 Creedmoor? Coyote competitions. According to a history of the cartridge posted on 22Creedmoor.com, hunters in Texas’s high-stakes coyote-calling tournaments were searching for a flat-shooting, hard-hitting cartridge with minimal recoil, minimal wind drift, and maximum downrange clobber. The 22 Creedmoor with long, sleek, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets was the answer. Although its 80-grain bullets start slower than 55-grain pills from the .22-250 and .220 Swift, they hold onto speed much better. Past 300 yards or so they’re more effective, and the farther the shot, the greater the advantage. About the only cartridge that comes close to matching the 22 Creedmoor’s performance is the 6mm Creedmoor, and it recoils more and tears up fur worse. Plus, it’s not as laser-flat inside 400 yards. Let’s look at some specific numbers, comparing the 22 Creedmoor’s 80-grain ELD Match bullet (G1 BC of .485) to the .22-250 with a 55-grain V-Max bullet (G1 BC of .255). We’ll use standardized sea-level atmospherics and a 200-yard sight-in distance.

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Hornady’s factory-loaded 22 Creedmoor ammo sports properly headstamped brass and very consistent precision—a hallmark of Hornady Match factory ammo.

A Hornady 80-grain ELD Match bullet launched at 3,285 fps drops 31.1 inches at 500 yards. It drifts 15.4 inches in a 10-mph crosswind. Impact velocity at 500 yards is 2,315 fps, and the energy is 952 ft-lbs. In contrast, the Hornady 55-grain V-Max .22-250 bullet launched at 3,680 fps drops 34.5 inches at 500 yards. It drifts 30.4 inches—double what the 22 Creedmoor bullet drifts. Impact velocity at 500 yards is 1,840 fps, and the energy is just 413 ft-lbs. No wonder the 22 Creedmoor proved to be a game-changer in the coyote-calling competition world. How about farther? The .22-250 load goes transonic at about 825 yards, so that’s as far as we can draw a useful comparison. (The speed of sound is generally accepted as 1,128 fps.) As a triumphant side note, the 22 Creedmoor load stays supersonic all the way to 1,300 yards. At 800 yards, the 22 Creedmoor’s 80-grain ELD Match bullet drops 122 inches and drifts 44.6 inches in that 10-mph crosswind. Impact velocity is 1,817 fps (nearly as much as the .22-250 back at 500 yards), and impact energy is 586 ft-lbs. At that distance, the .22-250’s 55-grain V-Max bullet drops 170 inches and drifts 98.3 inches. Impact velocity is 1,147 fps—less than many popular .22 rimfire loads. Retained energy is a paltry 160 ft-lbs. Out of curiosity, and because I love the 6mm Creedmoor for big predators (although it’s hard on fur), I crunched 800-yard numbers for the 108-grain ELD Match bullet (G1 BC of .536) started at 2,960 fps from the muzzle. That bullet drops 147 inches at 800 yards. Drift in a 10-mph crosswind is 46.3 inches. Impact velocity is 1,693 fps, and impact energy is 687 ft-lbs.

22 Creedmoor Specs

  • Parent Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor
  • Water Capacity: 52.6 grains filled to case mouth (as measured)
  • Overall Case Length: 1.920 in. 
  • Trim-To Case Length: 1.910 in. 
  • Cartridge Overall Length: 2.70 in. 
  • Rifling: 1:7; 1:8; 1:10
  • Primer: Large or Small Rifle (depending on brass)
  • Pressure Limit: 62,000 psi

That’s right, the only factor where the 6mm Creedmoor outperforms the 22 Creedmoor at 800 yards is impact energy. Drop is considerably more, drift is a tad more, and retained velocity is less. Recoil is worse. For comparison, in an 8.0-pound rifle the .22-250 with a 55-grain bullet at 3,680 fps over 38 grains of powder produces 6.1 ft-lbs of recoil energy whereas the 22 Creedmoor with an 80-grain bullet at a velocity of 3,285 fps over 44 grains of powder has 9.24 ft-lbs of recoil, the 6mm Creedmoor with a 108-grain bullet at 3,000 fps over 45 grains of powder has 11.95 ft-lbs of recoil, and the 6.5 Creedmoor with a 140-grain bullet at 2,700 fps over 43 grains of powder has 13.94 ft-lbs of recoil. Now, before I leap joyfully in the air and proclaim the 22 Creedmoor to be the best lightweight centerfire for everything, there are some modifying factors. Primarily, the cartridge is quite overbore. Meaning for its bore diameter it burns way too much propellant to be an efficient cartridge. Unlike its grandfather (the 6.5 Creedmoor), which isn’t overbore at all and is in fact wonderfully balanced and efficient, or its father (the 6mm Creedmoor), which is only nearly overbore and is still efficient enough to serve as a high-volume competition cartridge, the 22 Creedmoor has the potential to be a barrel burner.

This means it’s not ideal for PRS-type competition, where running 200 rounds in fast-paced 10-shot strings in one weekend is the norm. Not that the 22 Creedmoor is a fire-breathing dragon of a cartridge like the 28 Nosler. It won’t likely burn out in 300 to 500 rounds—unless you shoot a lot of fast-paced 10-shot strings. It’s a pity, because I’d love to put the mild-kicking, laser-like 22 Creedmoor to work in PRS shooting. But out of pure respect for the cartridge and what it’s so good for, I’ll confine it to hunting. When fired once or twice at the occasional coyote, Coues deer, or pronghorn, I suspect a 22 Creedmoor barrel would have a very long life—potentially 3,000 rounds or more. Another modifying factor is popular barrel length. As with all cartridges, the 22 Creedmoor loses velocity with every inch chopped off the 24-inch standard barrel length. With that in mind, short barrels are currently so popular Horizon doesn’t even offer Vandal rifles with shorter barrel lengths; all are fitted with 18-inch barrels.

Recommended


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Based on a necked-down 6mm Creedmoor case, the 22 Creedmoor joins other current .22 centerfire cartridges, including (from left) .223 Remington .224 Valkyrie, 22 Nosler, .22-250, 22 Creedmoor, and .220 Swift.

How much does this affect velocity? The test rifle averaged 3,020 fps with Hornady factory ammo and 3,080 with Texas Ammunition loads. If we average the two at 3,050 fps, we can deduce that the 22 Creedmoor loses about 25 fps per inch of barrel. The .22-250, 6mm Creedmoor, .243 Winchester, and every other cartridge in the realm does the same—or worse. Some lose as much as 50 or 60 fps per inch of reduced barrel length. If you want to shoot suppressed with a very short barrel, that’s an acceptable trade-off. At 3,050 fps muzzle velocity, the 22 Creedmoor still stays supersonic to 1,175 yards. At 800 yards, it drops 145 inches, drifts 50.4 inches, and impacts at 1,644 fps and with 480 ft-lbs of energy. Aside from less energy, that’s quite similar to the 6mm Creedmoor with a full-length 24-inch barrel. A final caveat to the 22 Creedmoor is a surprising benefit. It’s apparently a quite capable deer cartridge. Lots of folks shoot 80-grain .243-caliber bullets at deer. A 0.224-inch 80-grain ELD-X bullet has as much energy as a 0.243-inch 80-grain bullet, and it holds that energy farther downrange. Plus, it has a higher sectional density (.228 compared to the .243’s .194), which is a measure of its penetration potential. Now, if Hornady will just make a heavy-for-caliber, aerodynamic, monometal CX bullet for us who love deep-penetrating hunting bullets.

Range Results

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With a Gunwerks 6IX steel suppressor spun onto the Vandal’s muzzle, I shot the two factory loads I was able to source. It was a cold, windy December day. Temps hovered around 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice crystals blew in a constant flurry across the range. Still, the 22 Creedmoor Vandal performed wonderfully. Both loads averaged sub-half-MOA groups. Felt recoil was negligible. The effect of the zippy 80-grain projectiles on downrange steel was more discernible. Only one parameter performed below par. The velocity extreme spreads and standard deviations were a bit wider than I prefer. No doubt this was mostly due to the cold, which often causes gunpowder to be a bit less consistent, and to a lesser extent the short 18-inch barrel. The Vandal rifle operated flawlessly. I walked away from that range session scheming how to scrounge up the funds to buy it. One just doesn’t send back a consistently sub-half-MOA rifle if one can help it.




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