The 22 Center Fires by Bob Shell

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1 The 22 Center Fires by Bob Shell A 22 Hornet rifle is both inexpensive and pleasant to shoot. The 22 s probably didn t come into general use until some people had free time on their hands. Most people who owned firearms used them for big game hunting or in the case of the shotgun small game or birds. Most folks didn t have a lot of time to hunt varmints and the 22 calibers aren t generally suitable for big game hunting. The 1920 s and 30 s was the golden age of 22 development. Rifles and bullets started to get better and the powders were also improving. Precision Barrels were also improving making minute of angle accuracy more realistic. Many of the popular 22 caliber center fires were developed during that period. Loading the 22 center fires is pretty much like loading other calibers. They are not forgiving if cases are too long or necks too thick. Those two situations can jump pressure up to a dangerous amount in no time. Accuracy will also be adversely affected by those case conditions. For best accuracy use cases of the same make and lot number if possible. Unlike larger calibers there isn t a lot of room to work in the chambers and small things affect accuracy more so then larger calibers. Other smaller calibers also have the same issues especially the 17 calibers. Powder charges can be critical especially in the smaller Hornet type of cases. One grain too much can be a 10 % over load where upon a larger caliber 1 grain wouldn t make much of a difference in most cases. For instance a one grain over load in the 220 Swift would be a 2 to 3 % over load and probably wouldn t do worse then show mild pressure signs. That s not to say that I recommend overloading any caliber because there are too many variables and anything can happen. Another item to remember is that most bullet companies make some of their 22 bullets with extra thin jackets. They are meant for the smaller 22s to give explosive results at lower velocities usually under 3500 feet per second. They work as designed but will disintegrate in mid air if shot in a or 220 Swift at maximum velocities. I have observed this phenomenon as well as vapor trails on several occasions doing experiments. The 22 Hornet is the smallest and one of the earliest 22s developed. It came from the 22 WCF which was a black powder number dating from the nineteenth century. Winchester introduced the ammo in 1930 after several well known experimenters of the 1920s experimented and developed it. That was about 2 years before factory rifles were offered. It has been chambered in a verity of rifles from single shots to drillings made in Germany. Thompson Center has also chambered their Contender in this caliber. Various revolvers have seen this chambering including Taurus with good results. Today there are various rifles still offered in this mild chambering. Personally I have owned several rifles and a Thompson Center pistol in this chambering. I have shot a drilling in this caliber that also had 16 gauge barrels above it. A joy would be a 5-6 lb rifle with scope that was accurate. One of the advantages of the Hornet is its mild report. Many people associate noise with danger so a Hornet won t alarm them as much as a Swift. Never mind the fallacy of that contention that s the

2 way people think. Anyway in a rifle with a scope it is capable of dispatching pasture poodles out to 150 to 175 yards with reliability. Anything much further you start running into trajectory problems and possible wind problems. It is happiest with bullets in the 35 to 45 grain range. Anything much heavier tends to start with lower velocities hence it is less effective. Accuracy for most rifles is around an inch at 100 yards. Sometimes you can do better but it isn t as accurate as some of the other 22 rifles. Since the effective range is what it is that is no problem. My Contender is one of the first ones made and sports a 9 barrel. Velocities are 3 to 400 feet per second slower then a rifle with the same load but that is to be expected. Accuracy with the pistol is about the same as the rifle but with quite a bit more noise. For the reloader there is a decent selection of bullets starting with the Nosler 35 grain Ballistic Tip. At 3000 feet per second it would make a nice round. I have used the 40 grain Speer bullet to good effect in both rifle and handgun. At 2800 feet per second it opens up nicely and is accurate in any rifle or pistol I have shot it in. The 45 grain Remington hollow point is ok but anything heavier doesn t open up a rapidly especially at longer ranges. Brass and ammo are still available at most gun stores or in catalogs. Like most calibers it can be loaded down or used with a cast bullet. It is a real fun gun and hopefully it will be around for a long time. 5 X Red Dot 40 grain Speer mag load 10.5 X grain Speer 2779 rifle favorite load 10.5 X grain Speer contender accurate 8.5 X grain Speer 2174 drilling 9.5 X grain Speer 2486 drilling 9.5 X grain Rem HP 2391 drilling 11 X grain Remington 2657 drilling 9 X grain Remington 2638 H & R Handi 9 X grain Remington 2369 TC pistol 9.5 X grain Rem HP 2549 H & R Handi 9.5 X grain Rem HP 2231 TC pistol 10 X grain FMJ 2175 H & R Handi 10 X grain FMJ 1833 TC Pistol The 22 K-Hornet came out in 1940 developed by Lysle Kilbourn. It gives about 200 feet per second more then its parent due to increased powder capacity of around 9%. That translates into another 25 to 50 yards more effective range. In a good rifle it is capable of good accuracy and has some advantages if you want a good wildcat. Brass is formed merely by fireforming the Hornet round into it. It will do its best work with the same bullets as the Hornet X H grain 3200 Hornady Manual 11.5 X H grain 2900 Sierra Manual 11.3 X H grain 2800 Sierra Manual 10.6 X grain 2600 Sierra Manual The 218 Bee is another smaller 22 that Winchester brought out in It was introduced in the model 43 bolt action and the model 65 lever guns by Winchester. Marlin and Browning also chambered rifles for it at one time. Taures at present chambers a revolver for the Bee with a 10 barrel. In power it s between the Hornet and the 219 Zipper. The case is based on the Winchester round necked down. While it is measurably more powerful then the 22 or 22-K Hornet

3 it is still one of the milder rounds and would be considered safe in fairly populated areas. In an accurate rifle it would be good out to 200 or so yards on a groundhog. Having shot quite a few groundhogs I find that a bullet has to be well placed and open up to be effective. Like the Hornet rounds the SX type of bullets will give the best results on varmints. Another plus in using the more fragile bullets is the reduced chance of ricochets is suburban areas. So the effective range is based on a bullet opening up reliably and anchoring the critter. Make no mistake about it whistle pigs are tough to anchor unless hit well with a good bullet. Like any other animal they deserve a humane death. As a note they are good eating if properly cooked X grain 2900 Sierra Manual 13 X grain 2800 Sierra Manual 15 X grain 2600 Sierra Manual 11.8 X grain 2500 Hornady Manual 14 X grain 2600 Sierra Manual The 219 Zipper had a moderate following for a few years that was brought out by Winchester for their model 64. It was chambered in the Marlin lever action rifles as well. That handicapped it in two areas. First because of the tubular magazine spitzer bullets were eliminated and since it was in lever guns accuracy wasn t what it could be in a bolt action or single shot gun. In a bolt gun accuracy would be on par with other 22 caliber offerings. Ammo is no longer loaded for it but a reloader is in luck. The case can be made from a or case. I have used both with good success but it s a bit labor intensive. You can neck down and shorten the case to obtain ammo. It is very important to either ream the neck or outside turn it in order to make it thin enough to chamber easily. Failure to do that can result in difficult chambering or a blown up gun. The 22 caliber rifles are more finicky about long and thick necks then larger ones. The 45 grain Remington hollow point is a good choice for this gun. I have loaded that bullet and the users report good results on varmints. 28 X grain 3500 Sierra Manual 28.1 X BLC#2 50 grain 3400 Hornady Manual 30.2 X grain 3500 Hornady Manual 30.2 X grain 3500 Hornady Manual The 221 Fireball evolved from the 222 Remington case. It is chambered in the Remington XP 100 as well as couple of rifles. That started a new era in handgun hunting. With its 10 barrel it gave good accuracy and velocity for hunting varmints. Ammo is available to an extent and cases are available to the handloader. In a rifle it is somewhat quiet making it suitable for more populated areas. Always keep in mind to use SX type of bullets and watch where you shoot. Most farmers will let you hunt groundhogs on their property if you ask and are polite and careful. If you treat the farmer right you may have a place to hunt small game or deer during hunting season. In the growing population of the eastern U.S. that is especially important X grain 2800 Hornady Manual 18.7 X RL#7 45 grain 3100 Sierra Manual 20.2 X H grain 3000 Sierra Manual 23 X BLC#2 50 grain 2700 Hornady Manual

4 The 222 Remington came out in 1950 and was an original design not based on any other cartridge case. Right away it established itself as one of the most accurate cartridges to come out. For many years it was the bench rest king until the advent of the 22 and 6 mm PPC in I believe it still holds a record or two and still gives a good account of itself. I personally have shot groups of.05 with it and I am no bench rest competitor by any means. I had the opportunity to shoot a custom rifle with a Hart barrel and 2 oz trigger to produce those groups. The hardest part was getting used to that trigger. A fly wouldn t have a prayer at 100 yards and not much of one at 200 yards. I have owned a Savage 340 and a Remington 722 in that caliber. My brother had one in the Remington Model 788 which may be one of the best bargains ever offered in a rifle. All three were capable of groups of ½ to 1 at 100 yards depending on gun and load. Groundhogs are in serious jeopardy within 250 yards when we were on the prowl. If you want to propel a 50 grain slug at 3200 feet per second then I can t think of a better vehicle to do it in. They are pleasant to shoot as well as being fairly quiet. The 55 grain slug is ok also but I prefer the 50. The hollow points designed for varmint shooting also work well in the triple deuce. The SX type of bullets works very well in this caliber. More then a few groundhogs and crows have met their demise my 222s. 22 X Le Del 50 grain Speer 3347 good load 20 X IMR grain Speer 3171 favorite load 20.5 X RL#7 50 grain Speer 3181 consistent 3.5 X grain cast 1551 accurate 10 X Unique 40 grain Speer 2676 Hornet load 24.7 X AA grain Sierra 2855 AR 15 super accurate The 223 is based on the 222 case stretched and the neck shortened. It can beat the 222 by about 200 feet per second with the same weight bullets. That will give you 25 or so yards effective range on a varmint. It is presently our military round so its success is assured for many years to come. In target rifles with a fast twist it can shoot heavy bullets accurately and give good long range performance. I have a friend who has a target version on the AR 15 and regularly shoots woodchucks at over 300 yards with it. He uses 68 grain slugs to accomplish this. His groups regularly run under ½ at 100 yards. I owned a Remington 722 that was bored from a 222 to the 223 and it accounted for a few groundhogs. Accuracy was generally ¾ at 100 yards with a 55 grain Hornady bullet. At present I have a Rossi single shot that shows good accuracy potential and am setting it up for coyote hunting. 23 X Le Del 50 grain Sierra 3100 ok 22 X IMR grain Sierra 3224 accurate 25 X IMR grain Hornady 3048 mild Wolf Factory 55 grain AR barrel 2757 slow 27 X grain Hornady AR ok 27 X grain Hornady Rossi consistent The 222 magnum is a slightly longer version of the 223. It was brought out in 1957 as an experimental military round. While it wasn t adopted Remington saw its potential as a varmint round and brought it out in It will produce 50 to 100 feet per second more then the 223 given all circumstances are the same. Like most of the 22s it has excellent accuracy potential in a bolt action rifle. The 223 killed it off and it is seldom encountered these days. It is however a good

5 varmint round and if you have a rifle brass is still available. Do not shoot the 223 in it as the case length is a bit short and can produce excess headspace. 23 X H grain 3400 Hornady Manual 28 X grain 3400 Sierra Manual 27 X grain 3300 Sierra Manual 26 X grain 3200 Sierra Manual 26 X grain 3100 Hornady Manual The 224 Weatherby magnum is unique in that it s the only twenty two that has a belt. Weatherby introduced it in 1963 in a scaled down Mark V action. Like most of their rifles at the time it had a long throat and was a good looking rifle. That with out much doubt did not help much in the accuracy department as the bullet had to travel some distance before contacting the rifling. In a properly chambered rifle it will deliver accuracy comparable to other twenty two center fires in its class. My experiences with the free bore show that accuracy does indeed lack compared to conventional rifles. The belt serves no useful purpose while making it very difficult to make 224 s out of any other case. It is a good long range caliber but Weatherby has discontinued it in favor of the superior X H grain 3800 Hornady Manual 33 X grain 3800 Sierra Manual 33.4 X grain 3700 Sierra Manual 31.7 X N grain 3600 Sierra Manual 38.6 X grain 3700 Hornady Manual The 225 Winchester is another capable round that was made to replace the 220 Swift introduced in 1964 in the revamped Winchester Model 70. Since the new model 70 was so decried by many compared to the original it probably hurt the 225 s popularity. Actually the new model 70 was a good rifle though it didn t look that good. It was safe and strong and easier to manufacture which kept the price down. I have one made in the late 60 s in the 300 Winchester Magnum and it shoots like a house afire and has bagged game for me. I have never had any problems with it though it s definitely not one of my better looking firearms. The fact that the came out around the same period didn t help it much either. While it is no longer chambered in commercial rifles brass is still available. Power wise it is very similar to the 224 Weatherby there by making it a good long range round. If you run into a good rifle and the price is right by all means buy it you won t be sorry. Brass is still available though loaded ammo may be scarce. It is semi rimmed and setting the die to headspace on the shoulder instead of the rim may enhance accuracy and case life X H grain 3600 Hornady Manual 32.4 X grain 3600 Sierra Manual 33.3 X grain 3600 Sierra Manual 38 X grain Sierra 3590 accurate 37.6 X grain 3400 Hornady Manual The may very well be the best all around twenty two center fire available. There may be disagreement but it has everything going for it. Remington introduced it in 1965 as a factory

6 cartridge in their model 700. Just about every rifle maker offers it in various models. It was a wildcat in various forms for about 30 years before that. Why it took so long to get introduced in a factory chambering is beyond me considering its performance. It is fast, versatile and easy to get guns and ammo. It is capable of dispatching woodchucks at 400 yards and producing ½ groups. I also have found that it can be loaded down to 22 Hornet velocities without much trouble. In a fast twist barrel it will shoot the heavier bullets such as the 70 grain about 2 to 300 feet per second faster then the 223. If you insist on using a twenty two for deer this set up may be your best choice. I have owned 2 Remington 700 rifles in this caliber and shot various other rifles in this caliber. All shot better then I could especially the ADL. The 700 BDL shot better after I glass bedded the action and free floated the barrel. Prior to that every time the weather changed so did the point of impact which drove me crazy. My favorite bullet is a 50 grain Speer but the 55 grain slugs also do good work for me. In fact I shot the barrel out in the BDL rifle after countless thousands of rounds. Many a pasture poodle met his maker with those two rifles. More then a few crows also found the 50 grain Speer to be effective even at 300 yards. If I had to choose one twenty two center fire rifle for myself the would be it without much thought. Brass and ammo are easy to get while bullet selection is great. As with most of the 22 s soft point bullets work better then most hollow points which seem to work better for target shooting. The hollow points that are made for varmint shooting do work well for that purpose. 5 X Red Dot 40 grain Speer 1483 lite load 10 X Unique 40 grain Speer 2328 nice load 12 X Unique 40 grain Speer 2603 Hornet Load 14 X Unique 40 grain Speer 2858 accurate 20 X Blue Dot 52 grain Sierra 3132 good load 39.3 X H grain Sierra 3612 ok 35 X IMR grain Sierra bt 3646 very accurate 20 X Blue Dot 50 grain Speer load 36 X IMR grain Speer 3711 good load 37 X IMR grain Speer 3766 favorite load Remington 55 grain factory 3460 high es 12 X Unique 55 grain Speer fmj 2261 accurate 44 X Superperformance 55 grain milt 3763 consistent 44 X Superperformance 55 grain Sierra HP BT 3933 great load 44 X Superperformance 55 grain Sierra SP BT 3813 good load 35 X IMR grain Sierra 3685 accurate 41.5 X grain Sierra 3598 accurate 41.5 X grain Sierra 3601 mag primer 33 X RL#11 55 grain Sierra 3555 ok 8 X grain cast 1844 accurate 7 X grain cast 1629 ok 16 X Blue Dot 63 grain Sierra 2530 small game 42.5 X Superperformance 63 grain Sierra 3777 ok Of the common 22 rifles the 220 Swift has the fastest factory ammo. It was brought out in 1935 for their model 54 and later introduced in the model 70. They have a reputation for barrel burning but I found that if you loaded it down just a tad and let the barrel cool between shots the barrel will last a long time. Good cleaning habits also help with accuracy and barrel life. Also if you use ball powder it may help a bit as ball has a cooler burning temperature. Excess heat is the barrels worst enemy so

7 do not shoot long shot strings. Anyway I have a Ruger model 77 that has given long service using the above methods. I have shot groundhogs in excess of 400 yards with it and that bullet gets there NOW! The limiting factor as far as ranges go with the twenty twos is wind rather then trajectory or accuracy. With my favorite load a 55 grain Sierra boat tail a group of ½ or so at 100 yards is common and expected. I can sit at the corner of a field and watch all of it as it has a Harris bi pod attached to it. Brass and ammo are still available and Ruger and Remington among others make rifles for it. At one time Weatherby offered a 220 Rocket which was an improved version of the Swift though in truth it probably didn t add much to the velocity and didn t last long. As with many improved cartridges it had little to offer over the standard version. 5 X Red Dot 40 grain Speer 1445 accurate 42 X H grain Sierra 3842 accurate 42 X grain Sierra 3869 favorite load 43 X H grain Sierra 3443 low velocity 38 X IMR grain Sierra 3753 good load 42 X grain Nosler 3590 ok 43 X IMR grain Nosler 3747 max The 223 WSM came out a couple of years ago as one on the short fat cases that are the current rage of the day. From what I see it basically duplicates the 220 Swift in a shorter fatter case. I don t see any real advantage unless you want to have something new which is of course ok. In the two rifles and ammo of comparable specs there wouldn t be a spits worth of difference between the newer 223 WSM and the Swift. Anyway it is a good long range varmint cartridge worthy of consideration if you are looking for a new rifle. A friend of mine has one and reports excellent accuracy of around 3/8 groups with most of his loads. Here are a couple of his loads that he likes X RL grain Nosler 3726 accurate 45 X XMR grain Sierra 3789 accurate While the 22 Savage Hi-Power is a 22 caliber that uses a 227 or 228 diameter bullet generally weighing 70 grains. It was brought out in 1915 by Charles Newton. Perhaps it was meant for a combination varmint and deer gun but in the Savage 99 it wasn t accurate enough for varmints at long range or powerful enough for deer. It was based on a Winchester case necked down and some ammo is still available today. I tried to use cases but the dies didn t size it enough to chamber. A friend of mine who collect Savage model 99 rifles has a few in this caliber. He took some 303 Savage cases and used them. That was after he ground down the back of the case. Since 303 cases are rather pricey I will stick to the cases or the factory fodder. He also stated that 224 diameter bullets work ok and give decent accuracy in most guns. My chamber is somewhat oversize which is fairly normal according to him. My cases show a bulge after firing but sizing brings them back to normal though I imagine case life will be shortened. Sellier & Belliot makes ammo for it as well as Norma. The gun was chambered in various guns in Europe such as doubles and drillings. It is know as the 5.6 X 52 there.

8 7 X Unique 55 grain 1709 high es 7 X Trail Boss 55 grain 1355 poor load 24 X RL # 7 55 grain 3275 consistent 23.5 X RL # 7 60 grain 3144 good load 25 X IMR grain Sellier & Belliot 70 grain 2765 consistent There are other 22 s out there but they aren t common and don t fit into this article. Some are improved versions such as the 219 Donaldson Wasp which had a good reputation for accuracy and was used in matches prior to the introduction of the 222 Remington. There have been 22s based on larger cases even up to the case. There is a reason that they aren t seen much. They are so overbore that velocity doesn t increase and you burn a lot more powder. Accuracy probably suffers as well and a 22 centerfire that isn t accurate is useless. Copyright 2011 by Bob Shell. All rights reserved

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