The .22 Hornet

By Chuck Hawks

.22 Hornet
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

The smallest common centerfire rifle cartridge, the .22 Hornet is still a nifty 175 yard varmint and small game cartridge. It has a rimmed case very adaptable to single shot rifles (and pistols). The SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) for the .22 Hornet is now 43,000 cup, which means that actions for it need to be strong, but not as strong as those chambered for high intensity cartridges like the .223 Rem. In earlier years the Hornet's MAP was 46,000-47,000 cup, so old reloading manuals will usually show higher velocities than the latest editions.

Hornet factory loads are offered by Hornady, Remington, and Winchester. The Remington and Winchester factory loads use 45 grain pointed soft point or hollow point bullets at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,690 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 723 ft. lbs. A typical 45 grain .224" bullet has a ballistic coefficient of only .191 and a sectional density of .128 (Hornady figures). These are not impressive numbers, and explain why the little bullets shed velocity fast and are quite succeptable to even mild crosswinds. Set up to strike dead on at 150 yards, the Hornet's 45 grain spitzer bullet strikes 1.4" high at 100 yards, and 4.3" low at 200 yards.

Due to the low MAP now allowed the .22 Hornet, powders must be chosen very carefully to maximize velocity. I have read that Accurate 1680 and Hodgdon Lil'Gun are among the best performers.

The Speer Reloading Manual shows a MV of 2749 fps with a Speer 40 grain Spire Point bullet in front of 12.5 grains of AA 1680 powder. The 45 grain spitzer bullet in front of 12.5 grains of AA 1680 achieved a MV of 2651 fps. The Speer 50 grain bullets achieved a MV of 2495 fps in front of 12.0 grains of AA 1680, and the 52 grain HP bullet hit 2395 fps in front of 11.5 grains of AA 1680 powder. Speer found that Accurate 1680 powder was by far the best propellent for the .22 Hornet, and all loads were held to a C.O.L. of 1.723" and should feed through the magazines of bolt action repeating rifles without a problem.

Note: An article about the .22 Hornet can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2015 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.