by John Haviland - Thursday, June 2, 2011
With a little creative hand-loading, shooters and hunters can turn the .22-.250 Rem. into the most versatile of all the .22-cal. center-fire cartridges. A hunter out for coyotes or marmots can load his .22-.250 Rem. to be fast, flat and accurate. All that sizzle, though, is wasted when pursuing small game, such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels. As such, the .22-.250 Rem. can be loaded to duplicate the .223 Rem., or further reduced in velocity to the level of the .22 Hornet or the .22 WMR.
Propellant selection is key to achieving this range of velocities while maintaining good accuracy. For a slower velocity in the .22-.250 Rem., select a faster-burning propellant, as the accompanying the table reflects on the different types used in my Cooper Firearms Model 22 chambered in .22-.250 Rem.
Nigh Onto The Swift
The .22-.250’s velocity approaches that of the legendary .220 Swift. Sierra Bullets’ reloading manual lists 3,900 fps as the top velocity attainable with 55-grain bullets in the Swift; the highest velocity from the .22-.250 Rem. with its 55-grain BlitzKing bullet—using 38.0 grains of N550—is 3,700 fps. That load chronographed 3,454 fps from a 24-inch barrel.
The fastest velocity listed on the Hodgdon Powder website is 3,786 fps with 55-grain bullets teamed with 39.0 grains of IMR 4007 SSC. I tried 38.5 grains of IMR 4007 SSC with the Sierra 55-grain bullet, and it averaged 3,481 fps.
My records show the highest velocity achieved with 55-grain bullets in the .22-.250 Rem. was 3,668 fps using Norma Oryx bullets and 37.0 grains of Reloder 15. The Sierra 55-grain BlitzKing bullets were close behind at 3,610 fps with 34.0 grains of IMR 3031. In a 24-inch barrel, the average velocity of the load was 3,654 fps, and it exhibited outstanding accuracy. However, that speed fails to equal the highest velocity at which 55-grain bullets leave the 26-inch barrel of my Winchester Model 70 Varmint .220 Swift, which is 3,730 fps. But, with both rifles zeroed 1-inch high at 100 yards, the Swift drops a scant half-inch less at 300 yards and 1-inch less at 400 yards compared to the .22-.250 Rem.
The .22-.250’s zip is unnecessary for shooting from kneeling and sitting positions to hit a tiny target such as a ground squirrel out to 200 yards. For those distances, the bullet speeds generated by a .223 Rem. or .22 Hornet are plenty.
Duplicating the .223 Rem. is easy in the .22-.250 Rem. A minimum charge of the same propellant used for high-end loads in the .22-.250 Rem. matches the .223’s maximum velocities. For instance, in the .22-.250 Rem., 33.0 grains of Hodgdon Varget propels a 55-grain bullet to 3,273 fps, and 32.5 grains of IMR 4064 produces 3,187 fps. Or you can switch to a faster-burning propellant. Instead of Ramshot Big Game for peak velocities in the .22-.250 Rem., using a minimum charge of relatively faster-burning Ramshot TAC replicates the top speed of 50-grain bullets in the .223 Rem.
To further reduce the velocity of .22-.250 Rem. loads Speer Bullets’ “Reloading Manual No. 14” lists IMR SR4759 and the “Lyman 48th Edition Reloading Handbook” suggests IMR SR4759 and Accurate 5744 as propellant options. Accurate 5744 is the propellant Remington uses in its low-velocity, Managed-Recoil center-fire loads. With 17.0 grains of 5744 and a 40-grain bullet the .22-.250 Rem. fairly well imitates the .22 WMR. Extreme spread of velocity was somewhat high at 81 fps for 10 shots, but accuracy was still great.
H4198 is another good propellant for decreased-velocity loads. Loaded with 25.0 grains of H4198 and a 40-grain bullet, the .22-.250 Rem. mimics the .22 Hornet. That light propellant charge fills about two-thirds of .22-.250’s case, yet extreme spread was only 31 fps for 10 shots.
It is prudent to note that these reduced-velocity loads somewhat shorten cases at the shoulder. When measured by a Hornady Lock-N-Load Headspace Gauge, cases fired with reduced loads shortened 0.002 inches at the shoulder. Cases fired with maximum loads expanded 0.002 to 0.003 inches.
Some claim this reduction at the shoulder is caused by the blow of the firing pin. But what happens is reduced-velocity loads develop enough pressure to expand the thin case walls (and shorten the case) but not enough to swell the shoulder. Sizing the cases returns them nearly to their original dimension, but not quite. So keeping reduced-load cases segregated is a good idea.
At longer distances you need the .22-.250’s speed and accuracy. Since I purchased my Cooper rifle, Hodgdon Benchmark propellant and Nosler 55-grain Ballistic Tip bullets are my go-to choices. That load provides fairly long case life.
After firing cases about 12 times, a few in a box of 50 will split around the web. Such case life is the result of minimal sizing on the web after they have expanded on firing. One way to accomplish this is to position a full-length sizing die up a few turns from touching the shell holder. That setting sizes only the neck and ever so slightly narrows the case body. Every time a case is fired, though, it springs back a bit less at the shoulder. After firing neck-sized cases three times or so, chambering them requires some pressure on the bolt handle, and bullets fly wide of the group.
Partial full-length sizing provides a glove-fit every time. To set a sizing die to partial full-length size, I use a Hornady Lock-N-Load Headspace Gauge to measure how much sizing is required to set back the shoulders of fired cases 0.002 inches and then lock the die ring.
The .22-.250 Rem. is indeed versatile. With its wide variety of loads, the cartridge can cover any and all shooting situations from long-range varmints to casual plinking. But let me close by stating that this is not a suggestion for anyone to buy and shoot only one rifle.
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