The .256 Winchester Magnum
By Chuck Hawks
The .256 Magnum is a varmint and predator cartridge introduced by Winchester in 1960. In 1961 Ruger brought out the Hawkeye single shot pistol for the .256 Magnum. The next year (1962) Marlin chambered their Model 62 Levermatic rifle for the new Winchester cartridge. These were the two principle firearms chambered for the .256 Win. Mag.
Winchester offered factory loaded .256 Magnum ammunition (and brass to reloaders) into the beginning of the 1990's. Winchester .256 factory loads used a 60 grain Open Point Expanding bullet at a MV of 2760 fps and ME of 1015 ft. lbs. from a 24 inch rifle barrel. That is about 500 fps faster than Winchester factory loads for the old .25-20 cartridge. At 200 yards the velocity was 1542 fps and the remaining energy was 317 ft. lbs.
From an 8.5 inch pistol barrel the 60 grain .256 Winchester factory load was advertised as having a MV of 2350 fps and ME of 735 fps. This was 250 fps faster and nearly twice as powerful as the .22 Jet, a varmint cartridge for revolvers that was also based on a necked-down .357 Magnum case.
According to data from the fifth edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading handloaders with a .256 rifle can approximately duplicate the Winchester factory load using the Hornady 60 grain Flat Point bullet in front of 15.5 grains of H4227 powder for a MV of 2700 fps. The trajectory of that load looks like this: +2.3 inches at 50 yards, +4.4 inches at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -26.2 inches at 300 yards.
A better option for handloaders would be the 75 grain Hornady V-Max bullet in front of 14.2 grains of H4227 powder for a MV of 2400 fps and ME of 959 ft. lbs. The 200 yard figures are 1855 fps and 573 ft. lbs. The trajectory of that load looks like this: +1.7 inch at 50 yards, +3.2 inches at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -13.3 inches at 300 yards. This is a deadly 200 yard varmint load, but under no circumstances should it be used on deer or any other North American medium size big game animal.
Note: A full length article about the .256 Winchester Mag. can be found on the Handgun Cartridge Page.
Copyright 2004, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.