Who doesn’t love a fast .22 centrefire? I remember how impressed I was with my .22-250 Rem all those years ago. It was just so easy to shoot – like a laser beam I could reach out and touch my quarry with. Even today, that rifle has a special place in the gun cabinet.
In the grand scheme of things, though, the .22-250 is a moderate round. Push it up a notch further and we find those who clamour for the famed .220 Swift. It is not a cartridge I have ever owned, but there is something almost mythical about it. It was introduced by Winchester back in 1935 where it was offered in their Model 54 bolt-action rifles. The original concept came from Grosvenor Wotkyns two years earlier, when he necked down the .250-3000 Savage case to produce a high velocity light calibre. This is also where the .22-250 Rem started life, hence the ‘250’ used in naming.
When Winchester looked into standardising a calibre encompassing this ethos, they instead chose the 6mm Lee Navy as a parent case. It is speculated Winchester had a stockpile of this brass, which was fast becoming obsolete after it fell out of favour with the US military. Dating back to 1895, this semi-rimmed case provided the newly named .220 Swift with greater case capacity than the yet-to-be-launched .22-250 Rem.
Though it enjoyed the being the fastest factory-loaded .22 centrefire for decades, it lost its crown to the .204 Ruger in its lighter loadings. Once we push to 40 grains and above, the Swift still offers as much speed as anyone could need, pushing it out in excess of 4200fps.
Even more recent than the Ruger, we have previously covered the .22 Nosler, which had been specifically designed with the AR .223 Rem platform in mind. Of course it had applications for those hunters shooting bolt- action rifles as well – especially those wedded to the .223 Rem. The Nosler offers something in the realm of 30 per cent more energy and 300fps more muzzle velocity than the beloved foxing calibre, which puts it in the realms of the .22-250 but in a more compact cartridge from a shorter action. It still hasn’t arrived on UK shores but it may just make an impact where others have failed.
For all the survivors, there will be many more cartridges that fade into history, and the small centrefires offer some of the most interesting of all. Many are far ahead of their time.
One rather obscure design was the G&H .22-3000 from Griffin and Howe. I have to admit to knowing little of this cartridge, brought to my attention by friend and fellow rifle journalist Phil Massaro from the USA. Not much information is readily available on it, but it was said to be developed by Harvey Donaldson with the correct head-stamped cases produced by Winchester. The case was based on a necked-down .25-20 Winchester single shot, and achieved velocities of over 2700fps from a 50-grain projectile. Not exactly a winner by today’s standards, but it shows the beginnings of early .22 centrefire cartridges.
Then we have cartridges like the .22 Super Jet from the early 1960s. Developed by gun writer Dan Cotterman, it was essentially a .357 Magnum necked down to .224. I don’t know of any commercial application, but it outperformed comparable off-the-shelf .22 centrefires, achieving muzzle velocities in excess of 3300fps with a 45-grain load. Then we have the .22 Waldog, .219 Donaldson Wasp and .22-303, all of which have long since seen their day. The Ackley version of the Wasp was a stonker, achieving and MV of almost 3800fps with a 45-grain projectile all the way back in 1938.
Sometimes I wish I had more time to resurrect some of these old cartridges to show them light once more. Maybe one day.