The .221 Fireball

By Chuck Hawks

The .221 Fireball is the highest velocity pistol cartridge ever loaded by a major ammunition maker. Its SAAMI maximum mean pressure is 52,000 cup, the same as for the .223 Rem. and higher than that permitted for the .222 Rem. It was intended specifically for the sport of handgun varmint hunting, and it remains perhaps the best pistol cartridge for that purpose to this day.

In recent years the .221 has also found favor with a small number of rifle shooters looking for a relatively quiet varmint cartridge for use in semi-populated areas. The Fireball offers superior performance to the .22 Hornet, its main competitor in this role.

In 2002 Remington re-introduced the .221 as a rifle cartridge. Their Centerfire Rifle Ballistics Table shows a 50 grain V-Max boat tail bullet at a MV of 2995 from a 24" barrel. The accompanying trajectory table shows that with a 200 yard zero that bullet hits 1.8" high at 100 yards, 1.7" high at 150 yards, and 3.4" low at 250 yards. This trajectory makes the .221 about a 225 yard varmint cartridge.

In the rifle cartridge section of the Nosler Reloading Guide No. 4 it is revealed that the .221 Fireball (using their 40 grain Ballistic Tip bullet) is the favorite small varmint cartridge of the Nosler ballistics staff. 17.0 grains of RL7 powder will drive this bullet to a MV of 2869 fps, and 19.0 grains of RL7 will drive it to 3242 fps. The Nosler staff used Federal 205M primers in Remington cases to develop these loads, which were chronographed in a 22" rifle barrel.

Note: A complete article about the .221 Fireball can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.