.220 Swift

Edan with fox and 220 swift01

Like most of the super-fast .22 calibres, the .220 Swift is very accurate, with many believing it to be the most accurate ever invented. I cannot confirm or deny this, but given how well a .22-250 Rem can shoot, I am sure any difference is merely academic. 

“Fastest production cartridge ever made” was the title held by the .220 Swift for more than 65 years. Today it is superseded by the feisty .204 Ruger, although according to Hornady and Federal data, shooting equal 40-grain bullets will still put the older .220 Swift on top by some 350fps. Launching 40-grain Nosler B-Tips, the .220 Swift comes factory loaded at 4,250fps, although I know of handloaders taking it over 4,500fps.

Introduced by Winchester in 1935, offered in the company’s Model 54 bolt-action rifles with the 6mm Lee Navy as a parent case, the concept came from Grosvenor Wotkyns two years earlier, when he necked down the .250-3000 Savage case to produce a high-velocity light calibre.

The name is somewhat misleading, as it shoots the same .224 diameter bullets loaded in the .22-250 Rem, making available a wide range of weights to the hand loader. However, as with the .22-250 Rem, a standard factory twist rate of 1 in 14in lends itself to the lower end of the weight spectrum, placing it firmly as a varminting calibre. Until relatively recently, laws in England and Wales prohibited the use of small .22 calibres on deer, but given the opening up on muntjac and Chinese water deer, the .220 Swift may well find an increasingly diverse use.

The key here is using suitable bullets, as many factory loads were originally designed for rapid expansion with very thin jackets. Even so, reliability on larger game can be erratic due to the variable bullet integrity of small calibres at such high velocities. They do not tolerate hitting any substantial bone structures, calling for careful shots, and is the primary reason for its restriction to smaller species. Furthermore, the meat damage when shooting small deer is colossal even when only hitting ribs, giving unsatisfactory results if you want to fill your freezer. I see the .220 Swift as a varmint calibre first and foremost, while also providing the capability for other small game species. Be in no doubt though, its killing ability within these categories is quite exceptional.graph4

Like most of the super-fast .22 calibres, the .220 Swift is very accurate, with many believing it to be the most accurate ever invented. I cannot confirm or deny this, but given how well a .22-250 Rem can shoot, I am sure any difference is merely academic.

The point blank range is quite incredible. Zeroed at 250 yards, it will put the 40-grain bullet 1.5in high at 150 yards and -1.5in at 275 yards, shooting well inside a clay pigeon sized target. At 300 yards the drop is just 3.2in. The graph shows a clear trajectory advantage over other available factory rounds. The comparison puts the ME of the Swift third in line with 498ft/lb at 400 yards, marginally behind the heavier .22-250 Rem (although in the same bullet weight it will surpass it).

It is interesting to note that the .243 Win 55-grain delivers some 200ft/lb more at 400 yards, although this is with 15 grains more weight. However, according to factory data, with 55 grains apiece the .243 would still be delivering around 100ft/lb more.

If you own a .22-250 Rem, I wouldn’t be quick to replace it with the .220 Swift, as the price you pay for the extra performance can be very short barrel life. Moreover, I am becoming increasingly aware that the .243 Win shooting a 55-grain bullet is an amazing little combination, albeit with a fair amount of recoil.  BP

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