Derrick Ratliff, founder of Horizon Firearms
and the original pioneer of the 22 Creedmoor
, began the journey with the wildcat cartridge in 2013. Derrick grew up predator hunting with his dad in North Texas, spending hours calling and spotlighting on his family ranch. In the early 2010’s, predator hunting competitions were becoming increasingly popular – especially the West Texas Big Bobcat contest which offered sizable payouts to the winners. For many Texans, before these bigger competitions, your “coyote gun” was really your “truck gun,” which was often a beat up 22-250 with an inexpensive scope. Competitive hunting really inspired a greater willingness to invest more for better long-range accuracy.
When shooting the 22-250 into the wind or at any meaningful distance, the drift and drop of the bullet will create wider groups that sometimes lead to a miss when hunting. Coyote hunting can best be described as trying to shoot an animal the size of a two liter bottle turned horizontal, while on the run, at an unknown distance, and before they see or smell you – basically, a flat shooting rifle is crucial. In a tournament setting, time becomes another issue because competitors have only 23 hours of hunting time to collect as many predators as possible. With the smaller bullets in the 22-250 (typically a 55 grain), a hit on a coyote often results in a hit and run. You hit; they run.
Varmint hunters attempted to resolve these issues by testing a variety of calibers with the goal to find a round that shot very flat and very fast while delivering high impact energy so that even a marginal shot at an unknown distance would still anchor a coyote. Increasingly, hunters incorporated 22 TTHA or the 25.06. However, these too had their limitations. Since both were long action cartridges, they were not as quick to operate for follow up shots and the air to powder volume ratio in the cartridge was inefficient. Derrick’s initial attempt at a solution was to wildcat the 22-243 cartridge, which already had a solid following in Wyoming and many other western states. With the heaviest .22 caliber bullet at the time (typically a 75 grain), a hunter could take advantage of the higher ballistic coefficient numbers and thus have lower wind drift. The heavier bullet also delivered more energy at distance, and with the larger case, traveled at a considerably higher speed. Derrick built a handful of these rifles, and while they performed well in most applications, the round was difficult to feed into the rifle correctly, especially in the AR-10 platform.
By 2013, the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor really gained momentum. Derrick and the team at Horizon Firearms became early adopters of the Creedmoor because of the efficiency of the case design and the ease of feeding the cartridge in the various rifle platforms. So with some help from his friend Hazer Bulkley, who had been the pioneer of the 22-243, and a little nudge from a fellow predator hunter/customer named David Stroud, Derrick began developing a load for the 22 Creedmoor, necking down the 6.5 cartridge to hold a .22 caliber projectile. Derrick contracted Pacific Tool and Gauge to make the company’s first reamer, and he built the first Horizon Firearms 22 Creedmoor rifles in early 2014.
Because the 22 Creedmoor lives right on the edge of what is possible according to the laws of physics, the results were intriguing. With any bullet, there is a maximum allowable RPM before the bullet will break apart when shot. On the other hand, too low of an RPM will create a lack of stability which could result in suppressor baffle strikes or degraded ballistic coefficients and radial dispersion. Most bullet manufactures want the RPM to be around 300,000 with stability numbers of 1.5 at 0 ℉ and 0 feet of elevation. The 22 Creedmoor narrowly meets both criteria with 1:8 twist barrels and projectiles ranging from 75- to 80-grain. Even at this twist rate, the stability numbers are right on the fringe, which means that any bigger case with more powder could spin apart the bullet. The 22 Creedmoor happens to be the right sized case based on current bullet constraints to efficiently achieve both the RPM and stabilization numbers required.
When compared to other similar calibers, the benefit to the hunter is quantifiable – the 22 Creedmoor is unlike any other 22 caliber rifle. Unlike the 22-250 AI, the 22 Creedmoor does not require fire-forming brass. Unlike the long-action 22 TTHA and 25.06, the 22 Creedmoor is built on a short action resulting in a shorter bolt throw, faster follow up shots, and offers a powder capacity advantage. Unlike the 220 Swift, the 22 Creedmoor has almost 1,000 ft-lbs of delivered energy at 500 yards with 5-10 inches less wind drift. Unlike larger caliber rifles often used for hunting mid-sized game, the recoil on the 22 Creedmoor is insignificant making it versatile and fun to shoot for youth, women and older hunters alike while maintaining enough delivered energy at distance to ethically harvest an animal.
It’s no wonder why the 22 Creedmoor has become the most popular wildcat round in America over the last decade.
Since the first 22 Creedmoor build in early 2014, the 22 Creedmoor has been consistently one of the top two Horizon Firearms calibers sold. However, ammo availability was always an issue. Customers of Horizon Firearms saw the benefit of the caliber, but were often uncomfortable reloading their own ammo. Derrick and the Horizon team reloaded and sold countless rounds of 22 Creedmoor ammo but the increasing popularity of the round – from both Horizon customers and others – made it hard to keep up.
In order to meet increasing demand, in 2019, Derrick worked closely with Peterson Cartridge to develop 22 Creemoor head-stamped brass. In early 2020, Derrick and Peterson Cartridge worked together to produce wildcat ammo under the Horizon Firearms brand, and then later with sister company Texas Ammunition under its BALLISTX line beginning in 2021.
The development of this cartridge is ongoing and we’re excited to see what 2023 has in store for the 22 Creedmoor in regards to product offerings and availability.