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The New Winchester VarmintX

June 17, 2013
By Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Varmint and predator hunting serves several purposes. For big game hunters, it's a great way to keep shooting skills honed between seasons. For farmers, it is a way to minimize damage to livestock and crops. For state game management agencies, varmint and predator populations can easily get out of control if left unchecked. For the varmint and predator hunter, it can be relaxing, exciting, challenging and frustrating.

Varmints and predators can vary from state to state. Depending on your state, common varmints and predators include groundhogs, coyotes and prairie dogs. Shots of 150 to 250 yards are common with 300, 400 and 500 yard shots possible, depending on the target. Shooting at these ranges will be challenging. The rifle, typically from .17 to .25 calibers, must be accurate. The scope needs suitable magnification and good optic characteristics. The cartridge has to be flat shooting with a bullet that expands quickly. In the spring of this year, Winchester introduced VarmintX cartridges specifically to meet the cartridge needs of varmint and predator hunters.

The VarmintX is available in .204 Ruger (32 gr), .22-250 Remington (55 gr), .223 Remington (40 and 55 gr) and .243 Winchester (58 gr). The bullet used in the VarmintX is ballistic artwork. Lead is used for the core giving it good down range ballistics and expansion characteristics. The jacket is made with brass. Upon impact, the jacket sidewalls are engineered for fast fragmentation. The gray polymer tip is designed to maximize down range ballistics plus cause the jacket and lead core to expand rapidly upon impact. There is another safety benefit the impact characteristics of the VarmintX bullet make it unlikely to have problems with ricochets.

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To test the VarmintX, 5 shots were fired to check muzzle velocity and initial point of impact at 100 yards. After minor scope adjustments, 10 3-shot groups were fired with each cartridge. The VarmintX in .223 with a 55 gr. bullet was shot from a Savage Model 25 Varminter; VarmintX in .243 with a 58 gr. bullet was shot from a Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Stainless.

.223 VarmintX (55 gr.) Results:

This cartridge had an average muzzle velocity of 3171 fps and a variance of only 30 fps from the fastest to the slowest. That is impressive.

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Winchester VarmintX 223

The initial 5-shot group was about 1" high at 100 yards. Since the Model 25 was sighted in last year to hit 2" high at 100 yards with a lighter bullet, this was expected. Of the 10 3-shot groups, the largest was 1 1/8" and the smallest was .5". Groups of .7" to .8" seemed to be the norm.

.243 VarmintX (58 gr.) Results:

The average muzzle velocity for the first 5 shots was an impressive 3687 fps and had a variance of 79 fps from the fastest to the slowest. Even though not quite as consistent as the .223 muzzle velocities, it more than compensated when it came to accuracy in my Weatherby.

The Vanguard Series 2 was sighted in to hit 1" high at 100 yards using a 95 gr. bullet for deer season last fall. As expected, the VarmintX was hitting about 1" higher. The accuracy was almost unbelievable. The initial 5-shot group was only .8". Of the 10 3-shot groups, the largest was .8" and the smallest was an incredible .3". The Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 and Winchester VarmintX .243 make an awesome combination. I can't wait to help the local farmer who has been having some groundhog problems.

Serious shooters will tell you that getting the right combination of a rifle and a cartridge will go a long way in determining accuracy. That is why shooters who hand load will develop their own 'recipe' for reloading in order to maximize accuracy. If you use factory ammunition for hunting varmints and predators, definitely try a box of Winchester's new VarmintX.



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