Winchester Coyote Lite
- By Pete Moore
- 255 Comments
- Last updated: 27/01/2017
I have owned a Winchester Model 70 for around 10 years, great rifle, but as a make not that popular in the UK as other comparable US brands. I’m not really sure why as it has all the parentage, ability and history of the Remington 700! Given the basic hunting rifle, one of the better options has always been the Coyote, which showed a medium weight laminate stock and med/heavy stainless barrel. The fortunes of the Model 70 have fluctuated over the last few years and at one point it was going to be removed from their product line, as was the Model 94 lever-action. However, the Model 70 is firmly back on the roster in ten options and what I have here is perhaps one of the better across the course choices – the Coyote Light.
Though following the original Coyote in style things have changed considerably; gone is the wood laminate stock to be replaced with a Bell & Carlson carbon fibre/fiberglass composite design complete with inner, aluminium bedding block. The butt is sporter-style with a decent recoil pad, but the forend is more varmint/target with a wide flat shape complete with finger boards and ventilation slots. Nice are the twin, QD sling studs up front, which allows two bipod positions, the rear of which should offer greater stability when shooting in this way. The 24” stainless barrel is now fluted and shows a medium/heavy profile and is free-floated.
In the hands it strikes a good balance between weight and handling at 44” and 7lbs 8oz (un-scoped), yes heavier than a standard hunter but calibre options offers a lot of versatility. The test gun was in 243 Win, but also available are 22-250 Rem, 308 Win and 270, 7mm, 300 and 325 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM). I’m not a fan of 243 but for the Brit shooter it makes a lot of sense in the Coyote Light as it offers both fox and deer capabilities.
The Model 70’s, Mauser 98-type action (external extractor and controlled round feed) remains as does the 3-position safety catch – forward FIRE, middle SAFE with bolt operation and rear SAFE bolt locked rear right of the shroud. The magazine is a floor plate type that loads through the top and unloads through the bottom with a capacity of five but only three in the WSMs due to the much wider cartridge case used, which is based on the old 404 Jeffery head.
The trigger is pretty good too breaking at around 4 lbs. For me I’d like it lighter but from the box more than acceptable with a crisp release. With its black receiver, stainless barrel and black/grey stock the Light is a good looking rifle. From the box it came with 1” bases, though Winchester say that it doesn’t. I would imagine that these have been added by the UK distributors, though it does not come threaded, which would have been a plus point.
On top I fitted the new Premier Optics 3-15x50 Hunter scope in Nightforce 30mm rings, with the obligatory Harris BRS bipod up front. Ammunition went to Winchester’s 55 and 95-grain ballistic silver tip (BST) and their new 100-grain Power Max Bonded protected hollow point (PHP). Shooting was off a range bag at 100-yards and typical of most 243s the Coyote Light showed a slight preference for lighter bullets. The 55 BSTs were grouping at around ¾” with the 95s and 100 PHP hitting around the inch.
Out of interest I also tried some Norma 75-grain V-MAX and these shot a best of ½”, so it’s just a matter of trying different weights etc. to see what suits. Many 243 Win users seem to prefer to go with this mid-weight choice across the board for both foxes and deer. Personally I prefer to go light for foxes 55-65-grain ballistic tips and heavy for deer 95-100-grain soft tip. Whatever you decide upon the good aspects of the Coyote Light are it’s medium/heavy build, which is still easy to carry for hunting, it’s good accuracy potential and the 24” barrel that’s going to get the most out of the calibre. Certainly in 243 Winchester as I have found it to be a very velocity-sensitive cartridge in sub-22” tubes, so much so that some loads will not make the large deer legal lower energy limit of 1700 ft/lbs.
Pros and Cons
Those looking for a pure, lightweight hunting rifle might find the Coyote Light a tad too long and heavy. However, for those wanting something that they can potentially shoot varmints with, take deer and even go longer ranges for target work then this is very much it. Winchester does not offer a long action version in this model, nor does it and unwisely in my opinion offer a 223 Remington option. Likewise something in 6.5mm such as 260 Rem would give a 243-like ability in what I feel is a better calibre!
Given your needs picking the right calibre is essential. This is why 243 Winchester makes a lot of sense as an across the board performer, certainly for the UK. However, as a pure varmint cartridge with the potential of small deer (muntjac and Chinese water deer) the 22-250 Rem is another great choice. At the higher end I’d go for 7mm WSM as bullet choice is good as are the ballistics for bigger animals and longer range use.