The 5.6x52R (.22 Savage High-Power)

By Chuck Hawks

This old North American cartridge was designed by Charles Newton and commercialized by Savage in 1912. Newton was the king of high velocity in his time, much as Roy Weatherby was in the 1950's. Newton designed a line of big case wildcats, some of which were commercially successful for a time.

The .22 High-Power is based on the old .25-35 Winchester case necked down to accept .227-.228 inch bullets. Reloaders should note the odd bullet size; the .22 High-Power does not use standard .224" (5.56mm) diameter bullets. It is unusual in being a .22 that was designed as a combination varmint and deer cartridge.

The High-Power had a run of popularity in North America starting back before World War I. Its high velocity bullet sometimes provided spectacular quick kills on small deer. But at other times the little .22 bullet broke up on impact and failed to penetrate to the vitals, and the cartridge got a reputation as a wounder of deer. Eventually American shooters went back to larger caliber cartridges for deer hunting, and the .22 High-Power fell into disuse and eventual obsolescence.

The .22 High-Power may have become obsolete in North America long ago, but it retains a modest level of popularity in Europe where its rimmed case makes it adaptable to the break action combination guns and drillings beloved in the Old World. In Europe the High-Power is called the 5.6x52R because it uses a 5.6mm bullet in a rimmed case 52mm in length. The 5.6x52R turned out to be a satisfactory cartridge for shooting chamois and Roe buck, and the recoil is very low. Chamois and Roe buck are small 50 pound hoofed animals that are legally hunted with powerful .22 caliber centerfire rifles in Germany and other European countries.

As far as I know, no factory loads have been offered by the Big Three North American ammo companies for the .22 Savage High-Power during my lifetime. The Lyman technicians chronographed some old Remington .22 Savage High-Power ammunition, and in the Lyman Reloading Handbook, 45th Edition they reported an instrumental velocity of 2624 fps 15 feet from the muzzle of a 20 inch barrel. The High-Power is currently factory loaded in Europe as the 5.6x52R. Norma 5.6x52R factory loads are imported into the US from Sweden.

The Norma factory load uses a 71 grain soft point bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2789 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 1227 ft. lbs. At 200 yards figures are 2128 fps and 714 ft. lbs. Norma trajectory figures show the following: +2.1" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -9.9" at 300 yards.

The 5.6x52R can be reloaded, and the Hornady Handbook, Third Edition has data for reloaders. Data for European shooters is available in European reloading manuals. Hornady makes a 70 grain Spire-Point .227" bullet (BC .288, SD .194) specifically for the 5.6x52R, which they describe as a "varmint and small game round." Hornady's test rifle for developing the following loads was bolt action Mauser 66 and they advise that for old lever action rifles their maximum loads should be reduced by at least 10%.

Hornady data shows that their 70 grain Spire Point can be driven to a MV of 3100 fps with 28.3 grains of N203 powder, 27.4 grains of IMR 3031 powder, or 27.6 grains of N201 powder. At a MV of 3100 fps the ME is 1494 fps. At 200 yards the figures are 2441 fps and 927 ft. lbs. The trajectory of that load looks like this: +1.6" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -7.5" at 300 yards.

If I were in the market for another combination varmint/deer rifle, I would get one chambered for the much more versatile and powerful .243 Winchester or 6mm Remington cartridges. But for hunting little 50 pound animals I can see no reason why either the Norma factory load or the much hotter Hornady handloads mentioned above would not be sufficient in the old 5.6x52R.

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