The 5.6x57R and 5.6x57 RWS

By Chuck Hawks

The 5.6x57 and 5.6x57R were introduced in 1964 by the technicians at RWS of Germany specifically for use on Roe buck and chamois (about 50 pound live weight). They exceed the minimum German government energy standards for legal use on such game.

There are not very many .22 caliber cartridges designed specifically for use on even the smallest species of medium game, so the 5.6x57 is unusual in that regard. It is also unusual in that there are adapters to let 5.6x57 rifles shoot .22 LR and .22 WMR practice ammunition. Apparently this is a popular concept in Europe. For this reason the 5.6x57 case was designed with a thick wall neck, and for use with fairly high pressure (near maximum) loads--a point for the reloader to remember.

The 5.6x57 case has a lot of capacity for a .22, more than a .220 Swift or any other .22 with which I am familiar, and about on a par with the 6mm Remington. The 5.6x57R uses a rimmed (flanged) case of identical capacity and capability. The 5.6x57 and 5.6x57R use standard 5.56mm (.224") diameter bullets.

RWS offers factory loads for the 5.6x57 and 5.6x57R using 74 grain Cone Point bullets (SD .211). This is an expanding game bullet, not a frangible varmint bullet. RWS also loads a similar FMJ bullet designed for use on foxes and other fur bearing animals. I do not know if thes bullets are available to European handloaders. Hirtenberger (Austria), Nammo Laupa (Finland), Norma (Sweden), and Sellier & Bellot (CZ) do not appear to offer 5.6x57 factory loads. So for an understanding of the capabilities of the 5.6x57 we will have to rely on the RWS factory load.

The 5.6x57 and 5.6x57R will drive a bullet of any given weight about 100 fps faster than the .220 Swift, which makes them the most powerful .22 caliber factory produced cartridges with which I am familiar. The big RWS cartridges are at their best with slow burning powders and the heaviest bullets available. For reloaders this generally means bullets weighing 60-63 grains and 68-70 grains.

The RWS factory loads for the 5.6x57 and 5.6x57R start the 74 grain Cone Point bullet at a MV of 1040 meters/second (3380 fps) and a MV of 2600 Joule. The RWS ballistics table suggests that 215 meters is the optimum zero range for these loads, and shows the following trajectory: +3.5 cm at 100 meters, -1.5 cm at 200 meters, and -16 cm at 300 meters.

Handloaders can drive 60-63 grain bullets at MV's of 3700 fps. The Hornady Handbood, Third Edition shows that their 60 grain bullets can be driven at 3700 fps with 43.1 grains of N204 powder, or 38.8 grains of IMR 4320 powder. These Hornady loads used RWS cases and Federal 215 primers, and were tested in a 22" rifle barrel.

The trajectory of such a load using the Hornady 60 grain Spire Point bullet looks like this (Hornady figures): +2.6" at 100 yards, +3.4" at 200 yards, 0 at 300 yards, and -8.8" at 400 yards. It should be noted that the Hornady Spire Point, like most 60 grain .22 caliber bullets, is intended for use on varmints, not big game. However, Nosler offers a 60 grain Partition spitzer bullet (BC .228, SD .171) that, at 6.5x57 velocities, should be suitable for game like chamois, Roe buck, and the smallest antelope species.

Note: A more extensive article about the 5.6x57 RWS can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2005, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.