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The New Horizon Firearms' Vandal: Ultimate .22 Creedmoor Rifle?

The Horizon Firearms Vandal Rifle is built purposefully around the new .22 Creedmoor cartridge and is feature-packed for long-range shooting and predator hunting.

The New Horizon Firearms' Vandal: Ultimate .22 Creedmoor Rifle?

There are lots of copycats in the firearms world. When a new idea emerges, other makers are quick to jump on the bandwagon. But what about when a company is the bandwagon, the one driving innovative new product development? I’m not talking about one of the giants, either, I am talking about a relatively small company that is not necessarily a household name. Texas-based Horizon Firearms is a growing force in the rifle and cartridge world—one that is pushing the bounds of performance in both rifles and ammunition. This company not only pioneered the development the new .22 Creedmoor cartridge, but it also built a heck of a rifle around it in the bolt-action Vandal. Derrick Ratliff, Horizon’s founder, grew up on a working farm and ranch in North Texas, so solving problems is in his DNA. When he got the idea for an outdoor television show, he started one from scratch and made it a success. Likewise, when he wanted better-performing rifles, he began building his own. Finally, when he found all the available predator cartridges lacking, he sat down and developed what may be the best one yet. Time after time, his desire to build a better mousetrap has paid off.

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The Vandal’s action is a Stiller, which Horizon owns, and it is precision built on the Reming- ton 700 footprint from 416R steel. It feeds from a five-round mag.

Before we talk about the Horizon Firearms Vandal, I think it is important to dig into the development of the .22 Creedmoor. I know what you’re thinking: There are so many cartridges available nowadays, why do we need another? In this case, it was developed to fill a specific real-world need. “We were in a predator contest, and I shot a coyote with a .22-250, and it ran off,” Ratliff said. “We lost like $3,000, and my buddy still gives me heck about it.” Ratliff returned home from that tournament and decided, “I’m gonna shoot big bullets, super-fast.” That quest led him down the road to a faster .22 centerfire shooting long, heavy bullets with high ballistic coefficients. He had a few must-have criteria. The cartridge had to fit into a short action in order to facilitate fast reloads, and it had to have a BC close to .500 and a velocity north of 3,000 fps. “We were messing around with a .22-243, but it never really fed all that well,” he said. He liked the terminal performance of that wildcat, but the feeding had to be more reliable. Ratliff had been an early adopter of the 6.5 Creedmoor as a deer hunting cartridge and surmised that case might be the answer to the question. “We had plenty of brass, so we just necked one down and had a reamer made,” he said. In early 2014, he and his team built a handful of the first .22 Creedmoor rifles and knew right away it would be a success.

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The new .22 Creedmoor (l.)—shown next to a 6.5—can handle long, high-BC bullets. With an 80-grain bullet it has a muzzle velocity of 3,300 fps from a 24-inch barrel.

With an 80-grain bullet and a muzzle velocity of 3,300 fps from a 24-inch barrel, the .22 Creedmoor combines a flat trajectory, minimal wind drift and incredibly light recoil. Thanks to the long, high-BC bullets, the .22 Creedmoor drops 12 feet less than the .220 Swift at 1,000 yards. It’s 600 fps faster than the .22-250 and equals the wind drift performance of its 6.5mm parent cartridge. Ratliff’s field testing established that not only is the .22 Creedmoor ideally suited for predators, it is a viable medium game cartridge as well. Ratliff has taken whitetail deer, mule deer, aoudad and other game animals of comparable size with the round. This terminal capability will only be enhanced by the release of Hornady’s Precision Hunter load using the tougher ELD-X bullet. I’m planning to experiment with monolithic bullets on deer with this cartridge since, in my experience, they perform very well on game when pushed to high speeds.

Motivated by its success afield, Horizon partnered with Hornady to legitimize the .22 Creedmoor, which, after years of testing and development, resulted in Hornady presenting the cartridge to SAAMI for approval in June 2023. Approval came in August. Given Ratliff’s role in the development of the .22 Creedmoor, it was only natural Horizon Firearms would embrace the cartridge in its custom rifle line. Horizon Firearms began in 2012 when Ratliff and his brother began building one-of-a-kind custom rifles in his garage. The business grew, first to a 3,000-square-foot shop and finally into its current form, which is a 30,000-square-foot facility with 35 employees. As the company expanded, it brought more and more processes in-house. Horizon purchased Stiller, which meant the company could now make its own actions. It also makes stocks and other components. At this point, the only major components that come from third parties are the barrel blanks and triggers. Horizon still builds one-of-a-kind customs, but most of its rifles are part of the Core Series of pre-configured models. The Vandal fits within the Core portfolio.

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The 18-inch threaded barrel is machined with a unique “pins and needles” pattern, giving the rifle a distinctive look.

With the rifle business growing and the cartridge finding its legs, Ratliff decided to go all-in. “We make our own actions, we make our own stocks, and we make our own guns,” he said. “We decided to make an entire series of guns that are just in .22 Creedmoor and get it in a price point where we can make it popular.” The result was the Vandal, built to be the ideal platform for maximizing the .22 Creedmoor. The rifle begins with the Horizon Stiller action. Made in-house, the Stiller is a two-lug, round-bodied action built on a Remington 700 footprint. Available in either right- or left-handed configurations, these actions are machined from 416R to close tolerances. The action pairs an M16-style extractor with a plunger-type ejector. The bolt is forged from a single piece of steel and spiral fluted. The bolt handle is threaded and fitted with a knurled, oversize bolt knob for fast cycling in the field. The recoil lug is triple-pinned and sandwiched between the action face and barrel shank. The bolt stop sits at the nine o’clock position on the action.

A medium-heavy premium 416R stainless steel barrel is used for the Vandal, finished at a compact 18 inches. This shorter barrel reduces velocity in favor of portability and suppressor compatibility. The barrel is threaded 5/8x24 at the muzzle and, with a suppressor installed, the overall length of the rifle is still manageable in the real world. When a suppressor is not in use, the shooter can install the included knurled thread protector. The barrel is machined with what Horizon calls a “pins and needles” pattern. This unique, diamond-cut configuration takes fluting to the next level. It cuts a fractional amount of weight and provides a bit more surface area for heat dissipation but, let’s face it, it mainly just looks cool. The barrel’s rifling twist is 1:8, optimized for the .22 Creedmoor. The barrel, like the action, is coated with KG Gun Kote, a quality Texas-made product.

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Iota Outdoors Nomad ZL scope rings have an integrated bubble level and a ZeroLight for making scope adjustments in the dark.

Like the action, Horizon produces the bottom metal in house. One of the practical benefits of a detachable magazine of this style is it places cartridges directly in line with the chamber, which is conducive to reliable feeding. The molded polymer magazine holds five rounds. The magazine release is an ambidextrous paddle-style that can be depressed on either side of the trigger guard. A TriggerTech single-stage trigger is used, and the one on my test sample broke at 2.75 pounds with no creep. The trigger pull weight can be adjusted using a single hex screw without disassembling the rifle. The stock is produced by Iota Outdoors, another company within the Horizon umbrella. The tactical-style fiberglass stock features a vertical grip and a beavertail fore-end, ideal for prone or improvised rested positions. The stock is painted in a black, double gray and red camouflage pattern that also serves as a textured non-slip surface. Three sling swivel studs are installed, so mounting both a bipod and a sling is simple and straightforward. A LimbSaver recoil pad completes the package.

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With a SilencerCo suppressor mounted, recoil was virtually nil, which surely helped Wood notch this 400-yard group.

The action was equipped with a Picatinny rail and Iota Nomad ZL scope rings. These rings, which are machined from 6065-T6 aluminum, are an innovation in themselves. Not only do these lightweight rings securely mount an optic, they also feature an anti-cant bubble level that is integral to the top rear ring. But wait, there’s more! Chasing predators can be a low-light affair, so a tiny LED lamp is integrated into the ring as well. This patented ZeroLight illuminates the turrets so the shooter can dial correctly in any lighting condition. I’ve always been a fan of fast .22s, and I was excited to give the .22 Creedmoor a try. There are times when I have to coax a test rifle into shooting well by fiddling with rest position, fore-end pressure and the like. This was not one of those occasions. Within the first three rounds, I knew this rifle was going to exceed my expectations. The Vandal zeroed quickly, and the first two three-shot groups at 100 yards, shot with Texas Ammunition’s 80-grain ELD Match load, each measured just 0.16 inch.

This sister company to Horizon uses Peterson brass and Hornady bullets to produce factory ammunition with performance that would be tough to match with handloads. I got a bit sloppy on the third shot string, bringing the average up to 0.24 inch. The Hornady factory ammo shot well also, averaging right at 0.5 inch. Both loads met the company’s 0.5 m.o.a. accuracy guarantee. With the formal accuracy testing completed, it was time to have some fun. I mounted a SilencerCo Omega suppressor, which shifted the point of impact by approximately two inches vertically at 100 yards. This rifle begged to shoot farther, so I guessed on the dope and held on a 400-yard steel target. Though the shifting winds strung the group horizontally, the vertical dispersion was easily under an inch. Toward the end of the day, I was zeroing a few other hunting rifles at 200 yards, and I pulled the Vandal back out of its case. The light was fading so I was only able to get off two shots before my middle-aged eyes lost the reticle. The wind had calmed to nearly zero, and those two shots almost touched. I was sold.

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A few days after the range workout, my nine-year-old son, James, used the rifle to take a whitetail doe during Alabama’s youth deer season. The performance was devastating. With deer-appropriate factory loads entering the market, the low recoil of the .22 Creedmoor might make it a great tool for such a purpose. I didn’t look at the price tag before range testing this rifle and, after shooting it, assumed it would land around the $4,000 to $5,000 mark. I was shocked when I discovered that the suggested retail price for the Vandal is $2,222. I have a well-equipped machine shop and regularly build my own rifles, but I couldn’t build a rifle with comparable components for that price. I recognize that two grand is not within everyone’s budget but, for what it is and how it performs, the Vandal is a screaming deal.

Horizon Firearms Vandal Specs

  • Type: Bolt-action, centerfire
  • Caliber: .22 Creedmoor
  • Capacity: 5+1 rds. 
  • Barrel: 18 in.; 1:8-in. twist, threaded 5/8x24
  • Overall Length: 37.25 in. 
  • Weight: 7 lbs., 5 oz. 
  • Finish: KG Gun Kote
  • Stock: Iota Outdoors synthetic
  • Sights: None; Picatinny rail
  • Safety: receiver-mounted, two-position
  • Trigger: Single-stage, 2.75 lbs. (tested) 
  • Price: $2,222
  • Manufacturer: Horizon Firearms



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