Little Bullets & Big Results, Hunting With .22 Creedmoor

by Vern Evans

Eighty-grain target bullets and South Texas Whitetails. I bet you think they don’t mix. But they do. Don’t worry, I felt the same when I got the initial debrief. We would be hunting in Texas with a .22 Creedmoor and 80-grain bullets. Not having tons of experience with this new round from Hornady, I didn’t know what to expect, but I can tell you I didn’t expect this. But let’s not get too far ahead of our selves.

Texas Hunting With the .22 Creedmoor

I arrived in San Antonio and met Ryan Damman, an engineer with Hornady. After grabbing our bags and getting a rental car, it was time for an hour-and-forty-five-minute drive to Agartia Ranch to meet up with Derrick Ratliff and Trouper Krueger of Horizon Firearms. They’d be our more than willing hosts and guides for the next few days on the more than 4,200 acres that Agarita Rach has to offer.

It’s always weird to show up on a hunt without my own rifle. I’m a shooter first, and hunter somewhere lower on the ladder. So, if I’m going to be using someone else’s rifle, that usually sparks up a small flurry of anxiety because I like things to be just so when I’m on the rifle. You are probably the same way. But, there was no need to worry in this case ’cause the boys of Horizon Firearms, now owners of Stiller Actions, are shooter-boys too and came with a rifle all set up for this southpaw shooter— left-handed action and all!

Not only did they have some serious rifles, complete set ups from their company, they had proper optics, bipods, and tripods with Arca rails too. In short, they had all the goods, and left nothing to be desired. I couldn’t have set the rifle up better myself, proving that they are true professionals at what they do.

The Goods

Horizon Firearms is focused. Quality hunting rifles that you’d want to own and use. Quality hunting rifles that you can afford. You can build a complete custom rifle from scratch, a process that begins with filling out paperwork, including a pre-consultation survey then a phone or in-person conversation to nail down exactly what you want. Of course this rifle will be as expensive as you make it. On the other hand, you can grab up one of their production custom rifles and be in the field in a more reasonable manner; happy nonetheless.

I was greeted with a Vandal X, one of their CORE series rifles. These rifles feature Stiller actions, and Iota stocks, along with barrels from one of their trusted suppliers. This rifle had everything I could ask for in a hunter. Weighing in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces sans the optic, the Vandal X is plenty lightweight. It was a dang good looking rifle with their Horizon three-flute, two-twist barrel and Iota EKO X stock. The premium 416 R SS barrel was only 18 inches in length, keeping this rifle manageable in the blinds or while exiting the truck for hasty shots. As mentioned, it had a left-handed action, with Horizon’s own bottom metal and detachable magazine. 

Before heading out we spent time on their long range dialing in the rifles. We’d be shooting Hornady’s 80-grain ELD M .22 Creedmoor ammunition. What you may not realize is that Derrick Ratliff developed the 22 Creed, starting on it some 10 years ago. It wasn’t until fairly recently that he partnered with Hornady to make it a SAAMI spec, over-the-counter offering.

Flat-Flying Cartridge

I was amazed at just how flat this cartridge shoots. We started at 500 yards to check dope and quickly ran the rifles out to 900 yards without issue. The Garmin Xero had them flying at nearly 3,100 fps out of the short barrels. Coupled with the Thunderbeast suppressor and overall lightweight, this package provided a great shooting experience. It’s not everyday you get to shoot a deer with such a light rifle and such little recoil. This was going to be interesting.

The deer on Agarita Ranch are wild and the entire habitat is well maintained. Every morning started early, out to the blinds to see what we could find. Corn was brought out to keep the bucks interested. We were looking for specifics though. The second morning started out foggy and damp, not to mention very cool, although I was told it was unseasonably warm and wet for that time of year. Of course.

As day broke the view cleared up a bit and several doe wandered about. I’d brought along the new GPO Rangeguide 8×32. The GPO are lightning-fast rangers, and they did well even in the misty conditions. The doe had made it to 42 yards, and while I could take a doe, I decided to wait to do that later. Not long after, a couple of bucks wandered in; one in particular caught our eyes. A nice-bodied 5-6-year-old sporting ten points. We watched him closely, mentally begging him to come closer. 

In the Crosshairs

Derrick was in the blind with me and the hushed whispers picked up a bit when we first saw the buck. He started out at 175 yards, and we waited to see if he’d wander in a bit closer. He did. The last range was 120 yards, and I decided to put the .22 Creedmoor to the test. A couple of younger bucks wandered in as well, one at about 50 yards. He stood squarely in the way of the buck I wanted, and we wondered if he might completely block our shot. He eventually gave us enough room. I started my breathing and Derrick whispered, “are you on that back deer?” I confirmed. “Take him,” he said. A slight pause ensued, then Thunderbeast hissed and the rifle slightly bucked. I watched the entire show through the Nightforce SHV—the 80 grainer, blazing down the lane into the buck. A good shot. 

The buck crouched and started a hurried run down the lane avoiding the brush then at the last minute darted to the right, vanishing into the Texas vegetation. After what seemed like forever we exited the blind and quickly found the blood trail. With the soft Texas dirt, we could fairly easily detect where the buck went and 60 yards into the brush we found him. The little bullet had a big impact. Chalk another up for the .22 Creedmoor.

More Time Afield With .22 Creedmoor

I would go on to shoot a Javelina as well. We spotted a group of them 120 yards down a lane. I have javelina in my backyard but I had to go to Texas to shoot one. Man, do they stink. Still, the .22 Creedmoor was doing the job with relative ease and I was impressed by its performance.

Back at the lodge we ate like true kings, more food than I could muster an appetite for most of the time and three times a day got to be too much for this hunter. The spreads were amazing and they even prepared a little bit of javelina, shot by another hunter, for us to try. I hard passed on it, but I hear it was seasoned right.

Horizon Firearms and Hornady have a hit combination. Hunting rifles that shoot like target rifles, and are well-featured for reasonable prices. You really do need to check them out to believe it. Coupled with the .22 Creedmoor cartridge that is now being produced in mass by Hornady, it’s a solid combination with many uses. I could tell you stories of them taking elk with the .22 Creedmoor, but I’m sure most of you would just get upset and not believe me anyway. Keep an eye on this cartridge.

Horizon Firearms Vandal X Specs

  • Type: Bolt-Action Repeater
  • Action: Horizon Stiller 
  • Caliber: .22 Creedmoor
  • Weight: 6 pounds, 14 ounces
  • Length: 36 inches
  • Barrel: 18-inch 416R SS
  • Stock: Carbon Iota EKO
  • Trigger: Trigger Tech
  • Bottom Metal: Horizon
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • MSRP: $2,499

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