Today's article is by a good friend on mine, J, that I've known many years, and one of the few people that I would vouch for like the mafia. He has many skill sets: medical, reloading, hunter, gatherer, backpacker, and survival enthusiast. So, without further ado....
The great little round we’ve all been ignoring, or perhaps didn’t know existed.
In the 1920’s a few fellows a the Springfield armory (the actually Springfield armory not the one your thinking of right now) started messing around with a diminutive little blackpowder cartridge called the 22 Winchester Center Fire or 22 WCF. The Winchester round was an old thin cased, long necked cartridge introduced in 1885 and propelled a 45 grain bullet to around 22 magnum velocities. The wildcatters at the military base started to tinker with the round using modern propellants, bullets, and toying with crimps managed to come up with, what was at the time, the most accurate rifle cartridge ever. They named it the 22 hornet and shenanigans ensued. Fast forward about 10 years and Winchester decided to adopt and standardize the round and so in 1930 Winchester became the first manufacturer to produce 22 hornet cartridges. The little hornet took off and even found itself in military service. Im sure your familiar with some of the survival rifles produced by the United States military like the M6, though it was only one of a few such rifles and all of them came chambered in 22 hornet (among other calibers).
If the hornet was so popular, why have you never heard of it? Thats a solid question. I’ll answer it with another, have you ever heard of the 222 Remington "triple deuce", the 256 Winchester, the 218 Bee, the 25-20 Winchester, the 264 Winchester, the 44-40 Winchester, the 38/44 Smith and Wesson, the 6mm Remington? Like so many other rounds the 22 Hornet has fallen out of favor with shooters for faster, more powerful rounds with better technology behind their design and bullets. The 220 Russian for instance is the son of the 7.62x39, the father of the 22, 6mm, and 6.5mm ppc, and the great grandfather of the 6.5 Grendel, but have you ever heard of it?
Now, down to the real meat and potatoes, why should you care about it? Well, have you ever let the words “I wish there was a reloadable 22 (lr)” slip from your lips? I have good news for you, there is, in a few forms if we’re going to be thorough about it, they all however stem from the 22 hornet. With modern powders like Hodgdon H4895, Alliant 2400, and especially Hodgdon Lil Gun the diminutive hornet is capable of nearly 3200 fps with 35 grain pills, however, loaded with a 60 percent load of H4895 one can expect velocities around 1400 fps from a 45 grain soft point. The nice thing about H4895 is the way that it burns. The powder is fairly slow and uniform when burning so the likelihood of having a charge all light off at once is fairly non existent. This is nice because while Hodgdon only recommends loading a 60% load (for legal reasons, it eliminates the possibility of a double charge) you can go well below that. I have read recipes that allow one to take the hornet down to around 700 fps with a 45 grain bullet. You wanted a reloadable 22lr well boys and girls, there you go.
Time to start getting into the fun part. So you have your 22 hornet, you like it, you’ve shot it and kept your brass (keep your brass, the hornet is not popular and therefor is rather expensive to shoot and buy brass for, it’s worth it though), but your looking for something different. Want more speed? Not a problem, have your chamber reamed to 22k hornet and that same 13.2 (I assume no responsibility for your loads here, load at your own risk and always work your way up) grains of Lil Gun you were using to make 3200 fps now makes 3500 fps. The beauty of Lil gun in the 22k hornet is that you literally cannot load enough of the powder into the case to ever cause a pressure issue, and it allows you to shoot standard 22 hornet rounds in it which eject fire formed to 22 k hornet. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if your looking for something more like a 22lr have a look at 22 Squirrel, its a wildcat load that uses a cut down 22 hornet case to mimic 22lr up to a hot lr load like CCI maxi mag. The nicest thing about the hornet wildcats is they place the shoulder forward and at a much steeper angle. This means that cases stretch significantly less, neck splits become a thing of the past, and cases now last 5+ times longer. In fact, some users of the 22 Squirrel are reporting well over 50 reloads per case and even into the 70s. There is also a cartridge know as 22 CCM (Cooper Centerfire Magnum) and one called the 22 Velodog, however both were flops. The 22 CCM is only the most recent reincarnation of an attempt to size a 22 hornet down to 22 magnum rimfire size and shape and it has never turned out well. The Velodog was produced for cyclists as a means to ward off unfriendly dogs as they peddled by. The Velodog gained some popularity overseas and I believe Fiocci still makes it, they were actually the ones who send Cooper Arms their brass for the CCM.
Personally, I own a CZ 527 in 22 Hornet that has been reamed to K hornet. The cost for the reaming was 70 dollars from the best gunsmith I know (also a hornet fanatic) and the Redding dies were 30 dollars more for the K hornet than for the regular hornet. The CZ has a 1/16 twist (literally my only complaint about this rifle) and it prefers old school, short, fat, flat base bullets in the 35-46 grain range. Most boat tail bullets will not work in the 1/16 twist, save perhaps the 40 grain Hornady Vmax, 39 grain Sierra Blitz King, and the 40 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. Some rifles with shoot them, others will have to stick to Speer 46 grain hornet/ bee bullets, 40 grain spire points, and 35 grain Vmaxes and the like. No mater what bullet your rifle likes you will need to take the time to analyze bullet construction vs intended game. The 35 grain Vmax at 3500fps is literally explosive and terrific for quarry you want gone but don’t intend to eat. A 45 grain spire may provide better penetration when thats needed, I know a man who euthanizes car struck deer and elk with a 45 grain Hornady Bee bullet.
My 22k is my favorite rifle and should I ever have children, a 22k hornet will be their first rifle. The flexibility of the cartridge is ridiculous, it has been called the perfect turkey round in states that allow it, it is a fantastic rifle for dog towns out of 250 or so yards, it is legal to take deer with in some states (and plenty of old timers will attest to its effectiveness), its cheap to reload, its easy on the shoulder, and most importantly in a SHTF scenario, its quiet.
I hope you enjoyed this and found it informative, if nothing else, give the hornet a quick google search, some of you may like what you see.
Whatcha think? Comments are encouraged and appreciated. - K