The 5.6x50R and 5.6x50 Magnum

By Chuck Hawks

Friedrich Heym and DWM of Germany developed these European cartridges in 1968. Their design incorporated lessons learned from earlier DWM experiments with the 5.6x47R, a rimmed version of the .222 Remington Magnum.

Like the earlier 5.6x57 RWS, the 5.6x50R and 5.6x50 Magnum were designed specifically to be legal for use on medium game animals like chamois and reh deer, which weigh about 50 pounds. The 5.6x50R was introduced in 1968 for the break-action drillings, single shot rifles, and double rifles popular in Germany and Europe. The 5.6x50 Magnum followed in 1970 for bolt action repeating rifles.

The 5.6x50 Magnum is based on a rimless, bottleneck case 50mm (2") in length. The rim diameter is .378" and the shoulder angle is 23 degrees. It looks very much like a .222 Remington Magnum case, although it is .118" longer and has slightly different body dimensions. The overall length of loaded 5.6x50 cartridges is about 59mm. The 5.6x50R is a rimmed version of the same cartridge. Both use standard .224" (5.56mm) diameter bullets, and loads for both are identical.

Information about European loads is, naturally, expressed in European standards of measurement. For the edification of my American readers 2.54 cm = 1 inch, 1 meter = 3.25 feet, and 1 gram = 15.43 grains.

European factory loads using a 3.24 gram (50 grain) expanding or FMJ spitzer bullet are available at muzzle velocities (MV) of 1050 meters/second (3413 fps) and 1095 meters/second (3559 fps). The faster 1095 meters/second load has muzzle energy (ME) of 1942 Joule. At 200 meters the velocity of this bullet is 755 meters/second (2454 fps) and the remaining kinetic energy 922 Joule. The trajectory is as follows: +4 cm at 100 meters, +1 cm at 200 meters, and -19 cm at 300 meters. These are fine varmint and small game loads for the 6.5x50 Magnum.

The most popular European factory loads use a heavier 3.6 gram (55 grain) expanding bullet at a MV of 1000 meters/second (3250 fps) and ME of 1780 Joule. At 200 meters the velocity of this load is 705 meters/second (2291 fps) and the remaining energy is 885 Joule. The trajectory of this load is as follows: +4 cm at 100 meters, -0.5 cm at 200 meters, and -25 cm at 300 meters. I would think that this would be the preferred load for game larger than varmints. However, some of the European factory loads use 55 grain bullets made by Nosler and Sierra, which are considered varmint bullets in the US.

Reloaders can duplicate these European loads, but not exceed them by much at permissible pressures. The Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, Third Edition shows maximum loads using their 55 grain Spire Point bullet in front of 26.8 grains of N201 powder, 27.4 grains of N202 powder, or 27.5 grains of IMR 4064 powder at a MV of 3300 fps with ME of 1330 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures are 2474 fps and 748 ft. lbs. The trajectory of such loads is similar to that given above.

Hornady's 60 grain Spire Point bullet can also be driven at a MV of 3300 fps with a ME of 1451 ft. lbs. using 27.5 grains of N202 powder, 27.8 grains of IMR 4064 powder, or 28.7 grains of W748 powder. At 200 yards the figures are 2553 fps and 868 ft. lbs.

The trajectory of that load looks like this: +1.4" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -6.7" at 300 yards. This would seem to be a better load for 50 pound game. Note that Nosler offers a 60 grain Partition spitzer bullet which is intended for use on game larger than varmints. That might be the ideal bullet in the 5.6x50R and 5.6x50 Magnum for shooting reh deer and chamois.

In summation, the 5.6x50 twins fall between the .223 Remington and the .22-250 in power. They are excellent varmint cartridges that manage to satisfy the minimum German government regulations regarding range and energy for legal use on reh deer and chamois. However, if a hot .22 is required for game of this size the .22-250, .220 Swift, 5.6x52R, and 5.6x57 are all more capable cartridges.

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Copyright 2002, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.