The .225 Winchester

By Chuck Hawks

The .225 Winchester was announced in 1964. It was intended as a replacement for the .220 Swift, offering longer barrel life and factory loads with heavier bullets at the price of somewhat reduced velocity.

1964 was not a good year for Winchester products, as those that can remember those far off times or have read my articles on the Model 70 bolt action and Model 94 lever action rifles know. As it turned out, only a year after Winchester introduced the .225 in both varmint and sporting versions of the reviled 1964 revision of the Model 70, Remington adopted the established .22-250 wildcat and started producing factory loaded ammunition. They offered the .22-250 in their svelte and well-received Model 700 rifle, which basically drove a dagger through the new .225's heart. .225 sales never developed as Winchester had hoped, and the .225 was quietly dropped from the Model 70 line after 1972.

The .225 and .22-250 are similar in performance, but when push comes to shove the .22-250 can drive all bullet weights approximately 100-150 fps faster than the .225 Winchester. The irony is that the .220 Swift, which can drive all bullets about 100 fps faster than the .22-250, has made a comeback while the .225 is no longer being chambered in Winchester rifles and is obsolescent. It seems that Winchester seriously under estimated the market for high velocity.

As of 2003 Winchester is still offering factory loaded ammunition for the .225 for sale, but the sale of brass was discontinued in the late 1990's. To the best of my knowledge there is no other source for .225 ammo or brass. The handwriting is on the wall, so owners of .225 rifles should stock up on a lifetime supply of ammunition while it is still available.

None of which detracts from the fine performance of the .225 as a long range varmint cartridge. Taken on its own merits it is strong, accurate, and deadly to all species of rodents and small predators.

Winchester describes the .225 as a semi-rimmed case, but since it lacks the extractor groove typical of both rimless and semi-rimmed cases, it looks like a rimmed case to me. Technically, however, the .225 headspaces on its shoulder rather than its rim. The reason for this unusual case design is that the .225's rim diameter was designed to measure .473", the same as the rim diameter of the 7x57, .30-06, .308 and other standard cartridges.

This means that it mates with standard diameter bolt faces, making it easy for other manufacturers to adapt their existing rifles to the cartridge. But that ploy did not work, as the Savage Model 340 was the only rifle (other than the Model 70) offered in .225 Winchester. All of the other major rifle makers opted for Remington's .22-250.

The rimmed design also made the .225 readily adaptable to traditional single shot rifles, whose extractors needed a rim to catch. For a while, quite a few old single shot varmint rifles were being re-chambered or re-barreled to .225 Winchester.

The .225 case is a rimmed, bottleneck design that looks like a necked-down and Improved .30-30. And, in a pinch, .225 cases can be made from .30-30 brass, although several operations are required. It accepts standard diameter .224" bullets and large rifle primers. The base diameter is .422", the shoulder diameter is .406", and the neck diameter is .260". The case has a 25 degree shoulder and a length of 1.93 inches. The overall cartridge length is 2.5". The SAAMI maximum average pressure is 50,000 cup.

The single Winchester .225 factory load drives a 55 grain Pointed Soft Point bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 3570 fps and 1556 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. The 200 yard velocity is 2616 fps and the remaining energy is 836 ft. lbs. The Trajectory of that load looks like this (Winchester figures): +2.4" at 100 yards, +2.8" at 150 yards, +2.0" at 200 yards, 0 at 250 yards, and -3.5" at 300 yards. This would be an excellent way to zero a .225 rifle used primarily for shooting small predators like foxes and coyotes. For varmint shooting a mid-range trajectory not exceeding 1.5" is usually preferred.

Although the .225 can be reloaded with bullets weighing from 40 to 70 grains, bullets weighing between 50 and 60 grains are probably the best choice for most purposes. The .225 is an easy caliber for which to reload and several powders provide good performance. H335, BL-C(2), W-760, IMR 4064, and RL-7 are all good powders for the .225 Win.

According to the fifth edition of the Hornady Handbook 29.6 grains of IMR 4064 will drive a 55 grain Hornady bullet to a MV of 3200 fps. 32.9 grains of the same powder gives a MV of 3600 fps. Alternatively, 29.8 grains of BL-C(2) will drive a 55 grain bullet to a MV of 3300 fps, and a maximum load of 33.5 grains of BL-C(2) will give a 55 grain bullet a MV of 3600 fps.

The trajectory of the 55 grain Hornady V-Max bullet (SD .157, BC .255) at a MV of 3500 fps looks like this (Hornady figures): +0.2" at 50 yards, +1.1" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -5.8" at 300 yards. That ought to make any prairie dog pretty nervous.

Anyone who owns a Model 70 in .225 should hold onto it. Not only is it a perfectly good varmint rifle, not all that many were sold and it is bound to develop collector's value. It's sort of like having your cake and eating it too!

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.