Ammo & Gear Reviews

The .22 Hornet

The same year, a Number 956 lightweight bolt action (4 pounds, 14 ounces) “especially made for the new ‘Hornet’ cartridge,” priced out at $18.50, with .22 Hornet ammunition costing $3.35 per 100 rounds with 45-grain bullet. So the Hornet was well represented in 1932. By 1939, the Stoeger catalog boasted the Model 70 Winchester in .22 Hornet for $61.25. I was surprised to see the sought-after Super Grade Model 70 also in .22 Hornet for $84.85.

The military recognized the Hornet in its M4 Survival Rifle at about 4 pounds with telescoping stock, an H&R development based on the Model 265. There was also the M6 Scout Aircrew Survival Weapon issued by the USAF as an over/under .22 Hornet/410 shotgun combo. Ponder a few Hornet rifles and handguns: Anschutz Model 1432D Classic and 1730, the questionable Herter’s Model Plinker Rifle, Krico 300, Walther 4120 KKJ-HO, Sako L46, Brno ZBK-110, Ruger 77/22H, Kimber 84, Winchesters (Model 43 on beefed-up Model 69 action, the 54 and the 70), Savage Model 25 plus 40 and 24-F, Ballard 1885, Browning Low Wall and A-Bolt, New England Handi-Rifle, CZs, T/C Contender Carbine and the Cooper Model 21. Let’s also look at some handguns: Thompson/Center and Anschutz pistols, Taurus DA Raging Hornet 8-shot, double-action revolver and MRI’s SA BFR 6-shot single-action. This list is far from inclusive.

Handloading

The thin-walled Hornet case presented no handloading problem following one collapsed neck, suggesting the following regimen:

1. Fully chamfer case mouth;

2. Lube case;

3. Extend de-capping pin well beyond base of FL die;

4. Install resizing die off of ram head;

5. De-prime case with extended de-capping pin;

6.  Removed de-capping pin assembly entirely;

7. Screw Fl resizing die to full contact with ram head

8. Full-length resize case

9. Prime with standard small rifle primer ( I use my faithful RCBS hand priming tool. )

10. Install charge with a tap of funnel to settle powder ( 13-grain Lil’ Gun fills the case

11. Seat bullet

The result is a zero case loss, with perfect chamber fit. I found the Frankford Arsenal Powder Funnel from Battenfeld Technologies with its specific No. 22 funnel nozzle ideal for installing powder. Case length is controlled with an RCBS trim die. Something to keep in mind is the Savage magazine demands deep seating of high-profile bullets.

I made no attempt to turn the .22 Hornet into anything but the Hornet in deference to recoil too gentle to knock a hibernating anopheles mosquito off of the barrel. Handloaded versatility ran from low-velocity plinking and small game to wild turkey to javelina (and yes, even deer for the expert hunter) with bullets ranging from 30- to 55-grain weight.

Two powders — Hodgdon’s Lil’ Gun for superb balance between velocity, pressure, and good case life (such as 13 grains pushing a 45-grain bullet at 2,878 fps at 31,000 CUP), and Red Dot for cast-bullet plinking, small game and mountain birds — is all you’ll need

The range of performance in my loads ran from a 50-grain Barnes TTSXFB at 2,832 fps with a full cargo of Lil’ Gun, to a 55-grain 1:20 tin/lead cast from Lyman mold 225415 sized .225″, Lee Liquid Alox, Herter’s gas check at 1,300-plus fps with only 2 grains of Red Dot. There are many other powders useful in the Hornet: Green Dot, Unique, H-110, SR7625, IMR-4227, N-110, AA1680 and W296, but Lil’ Gun is ideal.

A vast array of projectiles serves the Hornet. There are highly frangible bullets as well as missiles of substantial construction. Barnes, as a single example, has a 36-grain Varmint Grenade for bust-up, but also a 50-grain X-style for penetration. Although heavier bullets can be launched from the little Hornet case with respect to rate of twist, I stopped at 55 grains, which stabilized a bullet cast from 1:16 mix in the Lyman Ideal rifle at 100 yards, which is as far as I tested.

For small game and furbearers, there are full metal jackets (where allowed by law), such as the fine Sierra 55-grain GameKing boattail. Sierra even offers a .223 45-grain Hornet bullet suited for some older rifles. Target-type bullets also prevail. The Ideal rifle achieved 25¢-piece groups at 50 yards using Sierra’s 52-grain match bullet… and with Yr. Obt. Svt. (me!) at the trigger. Many 1-holers occurred with the scoped Savage. The only 10-shot group fired fell below an inch, center to center.

Speer’s TNT 50-grain .224 bullet pushed by 13-grain Lil’ Gun retains sufficient pasta, even at 300 yards, to make Rancher Harry happy with a reduction of livestock-tripping prairie dog holes. The Speer 40-grain Spire Point is another interesting Hornet bullet, along with Speer’s 50-grain Spitzer. Winchester has a FMJ boattail at 55 grains, a 55-grain Pointed Soft Point, a 50-grain Pointed Soft Point in spire-point design with considerable shank, plus 34- and 40-grain bullets.

Remington’s 55-grain Pointed Soft Point has a cannelure, as does the company’s 55-grain FMJ. Hornady’s V-Max 55-grain Moly bullet, 35-grain NTX, and 50-grain V-Max are fine choices. Nosler comes in with 35-, 40-, 50- and 52-grain Solid Base Ballistic Tips, plus a 50-grain CT ballistic Silvertip and 52-grain Custom Competition HPBT.

Factory Ammo

Plentiful factory ammo also validates the present status of this old-timer. Nosler offers its fine Custom, with 35-grain bullet (which the Ideal loved). There’s Prvi Partizan with a 45-grain Hornet bullet, Sellier and Bellot carrying a 45-grain special Hornet bullet and Hornady ammo with a screaming 35-grain V-Max ready for handy business in the varmint field. But there’s much more. Norma offers ammo with 2.9-gram bullet (44.7 grains), RWS touts a 3-gram bullet (46 grains) and Winchester’s standard Hornet factory load did very well in both rifles with its 45-grain bullet in Super-X softpoint.

Federal’s 45-grain Hornet load scoots the 45-grain bullet from the muzzle at 2,690 fps, while Remington’s Hornet load offers the same performance with a 45-grain softpoint bullet and splendid accuracy. Sectional density and ballistic coefficient are anemic in .22-caliber bullets. However at only .142 sectional density for a 50-grain Spitzer with a “C” of merely .175, these bullets do what they were designed for.

The Hornet is efficient too, with an anthill of powder producing a mountain of results. Lyman mold 225438, .225″ diameter, 44-grain gas check, provided 159 bullets for 1 pound of lead. I inherited a supply of galena some time ago, making my bullets very cheap indeed. Purchased lead is still a bargain. I found Pb at 55 pounds for $85. Primers go for about 2.5¢ a shot. My Red Dot load of only 2 grains for low-velocity loads yields 3,500 shots per pound. Even my King Kong Hornet load with 50-grain bullet and 13 grains of Lil’ Gun for coyotes, badgers, fox, bobcats and other furbearers (with proper license), up to javelina and even deer, is comparatively cheap. Wild turkeys are table-bound with cast-lead bullets and a pinch of powder for 2,000 fps.

Range?

I was in for a surprise. Having been stung by the Hornet, I had to have two more rifles. I bought a Savage Model 25 LV laminated thumbhole stock, with a 24″ barrel, AccuTrigger, and added a Bushnell Legend 4.5-14x30mm scope. Jack the rabbit at 300 yards is in the bag with a 35-grain bullet starting at over 3,000 fps and this rifle’s 1/2″-MOA accuracy.

A third jewel in the .22 Hornet crown is on order: a CZ Model 527 I will double-scope when it arrives. A Bushnell Banner straight 4X with Circle-X reticule will match the lines of this handsome rifle, perfect for mountain birds and small game. A Brunton Eterna 3-9X with BDC reticule will handle the varmints. Javelina and wild turkey: either scope will do. I label 50 yards an average shot on the pseudo pig. Called-in wild turkeys vary from the hot tom throwing caution to the wind to that cautious bird lingering at the century mark. Sighted to strike 2″ high at 100 yards, a 50-grain bullet starting at 2,700 to 2,800 fps drops about 2″ at 200 yards.

A word on the K-Hornet, one of the first blown-out, fire-formed cartridges. There is no doubt Lysle Kilbourn’s invention will better the standard Hornet velocity-wise. But having solid information on a K-Hornet owned by my friend Colonel Russell Harriger, the facts are in. Accuracy did not improve in the colonel’s custom rifle over previous standard Hornet loads, and velocity across the board added about 100 fps bullet-for-bullet.