The .220 Swift

By Chuck Hawks

.220 Swift
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

The .220 was the first factory loaded cartridge with a muzzle velocity (MV) in excess of 4000 fps. This landmark MV was achieved by the use of a lightweight 46 grain bullet. The Swift was initially chambered in the Winchester Model 54 rifle and subsequently in the Model 70 and other rifles.

Current Winchester factory loads include a Supreme 40 grain Ballistic Silvertip bullet at a MV of 4050 fps and a Super-X 50 grain PSP bullet at 3870 fps. Federal offers a Premium 55 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet at a MV of 3700 fps. This big game style bullet seems like an odd choice for a varmint caliber, where the bullet should be designed to fragment on impact. Perhaps it is intended for hunting roe deer and chamois in Europe, where big case .22's like the 5.6x57 are popular and legal for such use. Remington's factory loads for the .220 Swift include a 50 grain PSP bullet at a MV of 3780 fps and a 50 grain V-Max boat-tail bullet, also at 3780 fps. All of these factory velocities were taken in 24" barrels.

The reloader can equal or exceed most of these velocities and has access to a much greater selection of bullet weights, ranging from 40 grains to 60 grains. The common bullets used in the Swift include 40, 45, 50, 52-53, 55, and 60 grain weights.

One caution applies when selecting bullets for a .220 rifle. The caliber's rifling twist rate was originally established at 1 turn in 14", due to the light bullets originally factory loaded. Rifles with this twist rate will normally not stabilize bullets heavier than 60 grains. One of the many excellent 55 grain varmint bullets is probably the best choice for .220 rifles with 1 in 14 rifling.

Here are some .220 Swift specifications of interest to reloaders: bullet diameter .224", maximum case length 2.205", maximum COL 2.68", MAP 54,000 cup.

IMR 4064 and IMR 4320, along with Hodgdon's H380, H414, and H4895 are recommended powders for top accuracy and performance. The .220 is not difficult to load for and usually gives good accuracy with almost any suitable powder.

The Lyman 47th Reloading Manual shows that a 50 grain Sierra spitzer bullet can be driven to a MV of 3597 fps by 36.0 grains of IMR 4320 powder, and to a MV of 4000 fps by a maximum charge of 40.0 grains of IMR 4320.

A 55 grain Sierra SBT bullet can be driven at a MV of 3472 fps with 35.0 grains of IMR 4064 powder, or 3906 fps with a maximum load of 39.0 grains of the same powder.

A 60 grain Hornady HP bullet can reach 3304 fps in front of 33.0 grains of IMR 4064, and 3633 fps in front of a maximum load of 37.5 grains of IMR 4064. That latter load recorded a pressure of 53,000 cup. These Lyman loads were tested in 24" and 26" barrels and used Winchester brass and standard Large Rifle primers. See the Lyman Reloading Handbook for further details.

Note: A full length article about the .220 Swift can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2014 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.