Best .223 Ammo for Coyote Hunting to Bring Them Down Fast

There are multiple arguments about the best coyote ammo, but hunters agree on the need to drop them fast.

The most effective .223 ammo for coyotes is Hornady Superformance Varmint 53 Grain V-MAX. It combines the highest ballistic coefficient with great accuracy, the highest velocity, and the least damage to the pelt. There are other options for barrels with fast twist rates and that are more affordable.

Barrel twist rate, shot distance, and affordability will dictate your most likely best performers. Take the best options, and find the most accurate one for your rifle. Read on!

The Most Popular .223 Ammo for Coyote Hunting

By far, the most popular choice for varmint and small predator hunting is Hornady’s 53 grain and 55 grain V-MAX bullets. 71 percent of skilled hunters polled preferred this round after first trying multiple other options.

I personally asked over 500 coyote hunters about their favorite .223 round and why they choose it. The two most popular are Hornady’s 55 grain Varmint Express, and Hornady’s Superformance 53 grain. Most agreed that the Superformance is superior, but many opted for the Varmint Express due to price.

Hornady’s Superformance Varmint is the king of popular coyote ammo for the .223. I find it stunning to get this much following behind anything! Here’s what they had to Say:

  • The 53-grain V-MAX combines both reliable accuracy and the explosive nature desired for a dedicated lightweight coyote round.
  • It’s the best pelt-saving option for the .223.
  • It’s a great compromise between velocity and high ballistic coefficient.

The words “explosive” and “dependable” were common descriptions attributed to this round. One hunter told me “I’ll not leave home without it. Real-world, unbiased reports from hunters continue to choose this over any other.

Hornady’s V-MAX bullet is a polymer tipped, copper-jacketed bullet with a swaged lead core. It’s a boattail design (slightly skinnier at the rear) and has a solid, flat but thin base. It also has a higher ballistic coefficient than most, which is the measurement of a straight-shooting bullet.

The Most Accurate .223 Coyote Ammo

 Now let’s go over accuracy. You can’t get what you can’t hit. Accuracy is the most important part of the equation.

Hornady is well-known for making highly consistent, precision-made bullets. Their bullets are some of the more preferred for hand loaders requiring the utmost performance in cutting bullseyes and slaying canines. Hornady’s Superformance ammo is loaded under match-grade quality control.

Nosler is also a leading manufacturer of precision ammo. both companies have excellent attention to detail and quality control in the manufacturing process. Either company is an excellent bet for quality ammo.

They are super consistent in brass thickness, case length, seating depth, and powder charge. If the bullets agree with your rifle, more on that next, you can expect well under MOA (about an inch) groupings at 100 yards. That is what skilled shooters expect to find downrange.

The bullets do need to agree with your rifle. Minute differences in the chamber, throat, and barrel of your rifle will tend to favor one specific ammo over others, sometimes for no apparent reason. You need to choose the most likely accurate bullets, then try them and find the best performer for your rifle.

The best options to choose from tend to consistently be Hornady and Nosler, but don’t be afraid to try something else, sometimes that gives surprising results too. Let the rifle tell you what it likes best. Nosler does tend to over-penetrate a bit more, ruining more pelts than Hornady’s ammo.

So, what sort of accuracy do you need to hit a coyote? A rule of thumb is if you can hit a quarter (1 inch) at 100 yards, while seated at a shooting bench, you should do alright in hunting conditions. It’s important to remember that hunting conditions always reduce a shooter’s precision a bit.

The target area on a coyote is roughly the size of a softball. If you can hit a quarter on the bench, you should be able to drop a coyote in the field.

Best .223 Ammo by Barrel Twist Rate

The twist rate largely determines the best weight range of bullets you use. At .223 velocities, there’s little concern about too much twist rate, just be sure to have enough. Here’s approximately what to expect at .223 velocities.

  • 1 in 14 twist: bullets under 55 grain
  • 1 in 12 twist: bullets up to 55 grain
  • 1 in 10 twist: bullets up to 65 grain
  • 1 in 9 twist: bullets up to 68 grain
  • 1 in 8 twist: bullets up to 70 grain
  • 1 in 7 twist: bullets 55 grain and up

If you are looking at more affordable options, use this as a guide. I recommend Hornady Frontier 55 grain Spire Point. It’s a cheap, functional choice. It just tears up the hide a bit more.

Best Coyote Ammo to Save the Hides.

Coyote hides sell for around $20 plus or minus depending on the quality, and the current fur market. If they are torn up from a large exit wound, they are considered unsellable on the market. To “Save the Hide”, you want to make a small entrance hole and no exit.

That’s where lightweight, fast-moving bullets come in. Modern varmint and coyote hunting bullets are designed to quite literally explode reasonable hunting distances. They usually penetrate about 4 inches into a coyote. Not passing through but destroying the chest cavity.

There are lighter bullets with higher velocities, like Hornady’s lead-free 35 grain NTX, but these have lower ballistic coefficients. There is also a number offered in the 40 grain range. They start out blazing fast, with an impressively flat trajectory, but are tossed around by the wind and ineffective past 150 yards.

Best .223 Ammo for Coyotes Past 200 Yards

At 200 yards, things are starting to change for the lighter rounds, under 50 grains. Even if they are still going fast, they give to the wind too much. Heavier bullets in the same caliber tend to be less affected by the wind. That’s where the ballistic coefficient comes into play.

Once again, the general consensus is that the 53 grain Hornady round is the proven top-performer. At 250 yards, it has less wind drift and therefore kills more coyotes than lighter bullets. There is still plenty of killing power left at 250 yards to roll over a coyote and stop it in its tracks.

If you do want to shoot coyotes much further than 250 yards, I’m gonna recommend a different bullet. Something in the 65-80 grain range. Realize that these bullets will buck the wind better, but will not perform like the Hornady V-MAX and will give you pass through.

You will make hits but may not recover the animal.  That’s more for damage control; just getting rid of them. 

For shots over 250 yards, it’s really best to use either a faster caliber like the 22-250 or a heavier caliber like the .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor to be sure the bullet isn’t blown off course.

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2 Comments

  1. I was thinking of trying the 36 gr barnes varmint grenades for coyotes. Do you think they might be to light? I have plenty if the 55gr vmax if they don’t work but the varmint grenades looks attractive for within 200 yards. My main thought in this is for hunting on some plains where there are houses nearish by.

    1. Jordan Buck says:

      As long as you read the wind well and know your wind drift, the 36 grain will do fine to 200n yards. You can check out various ballistic calculators online to find your wind drift at varying wind speeds.