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.222 Remington

History


First introduced by Remington in 1950, the .222 Remington was designed primarily as a varmint cartridge.  At the same time the sport of benchrest shooting was newly emerging. Both benchrest and varminting demanded accurate, light recoiling, high velocity cartridges and the .222 delivered on every front. By 1951, when the National Benchrest Shooters Association was officially formed, the .222 was already winning competitions. This success continued and in competition shooting, the .222 remained popular for many years. The .222 was later rivaled by the .22-250 officially introduced in 1965 and then in 1975 with the introduction of the .22 PPC firing a 52 grain bullet at 3500fps. The .22 PPC is based on the .220 Russian, which is in turn based on the 7.62x39.   
 
For many years the .222 was surrounded in mystique regarding its suitability for use on medium game.  The combination of high velocity and just the right bullet weight were sighted as reasons why this cartridge was perfect for medium game. The attraction to the .222 for many hunters lay in the fact that rifles of this caliber were light and accuracy was easy to obtain with such low recoil. Naturally, the .222 was touted as being an ideal medium game cartridge for women and youths. Ultimately a long list of unqualified assumptions resulted in a great many wounded game animals. 

In New Zealand the .222 was offered to professional deer cullers and meat hunters, again promoted as the ideal medium game cartridge. Many hundreds of Red deer were taken in NZ with the .222 and Norma ammunition. This practice was in vogue when game numbers were at an epidemic. As Red deer numbers diminished in New Zealand, so to did the use of the less than forgiving .222. 

Today the .222 is occasionally used in Europe for hunting the lightly built Roe deer. A few NZ meat hunters continue to use the .222 for neck or head shooting Red deer and feral goat. The .222 is used similarly by the Inuit peoples of the Arctic. Apart from this, the .222 is mostly enjoyed as it was originally intended - as a varmint cartridge.
 

Performance


The .222 suffers the same limitations as other .22 centerfires when used on medium game. With conventional projectiles including all factory ammunition, the .222 at close to moderate ranges produces a broad wound channel however the broad wound quickly tapers off as energy is lost, within about 5 to 6” of penetration. Beyond this depth the wound channel tends to be very narrow. For this reason if using the .222 on medium game, it is very important to try to avoid major shoulder bones so that the broad and shallow wound occurs almost exclusively within vitals.
 
When using the .222 on medium game the most effective point of aim is the neck or the axis, the junction where the spine meets the skull. This is the fastest killing shot for the .222 and leaves at least some room for error. A second point of aim once popular with professional hunters in NZ was the junction between the neck and chest, this is a soft area where the major blood vessels pass through. 

The third point of aim is often referred to as the meat saver shot. This is the largest target area for the .222. The meat saver is taken behind the foreleg, allowing the bullet to enter without blowing up on the shoulder or ruining the meat. The more this shot is angled into the forward chest cavity, the faster the kill. Deer shot with the rear lung/meat saver shot usually move off a little way. The calmer the animal is at the shot, the less likely it is to move too far. Hunters are cautioned not to aim too far behind the shoulder due to over-compensation. The meat saver shot should be placed as close to the rear line of the foreleg as possible. This style of hunting is more akin to bow hunting, a bow hunter who moves immediately after making a hit may lose his or her deer. 

The key to the .222 is expectations. With conventional projectiles the hunter should expect bullet blow up resulting in a broad but shallow wound and utilize this accordingly. Most .222 projectiles are not very aerodynamic and lose around 100fps per 25 yards of flight. Because of this, beyond 200 yards, kills can be very slow and wind drift can make exact shot placement difficult. 

Whether the hunter utilizes explosive varmint type projectiles or stout premium projectiles is purely personal choice. Stout projectiles tend to produce a narrow, slow bleeding wound which makes exact shot placement just as important as the accuracy required when using explosive projectiles. 

Regarding game weights, the .222 is best utilized on game weighing less than 40kg (90lb) and up to 60kg (130lb) as a maximum. This cartridge can indeed be used for neck shooting heavier animals up to 120kg (260lb) but only female animals. On male deer during the rut or roar, the neck becomes too swollen for the .222 to produce an effective wound. Male hogs also have very thick skin at the neck once mature.
One word of caution, insulation tape cannot be used to protect the muzzle of .22 centerfires as this renders these caliber rifles completely inaccurate. 
 

Factory Ammunition


Most factory loads for the .222 feature 50 grain bullets at velocities of 3140fps from  24" test barrels.  Typically, sporting rifles chambered in .222 have shorter 22” and lose around 70fps. All factory produced ammunition is intended for varmints with an emphasis on complete disintegration of the projectile immediately upon impact.

Remington factory loads include the 50 grain Accutip, a 50 grain hollow point, a 50 grain soft point and the 50 grain Hornady V-Max, all at 3140fps for a realistic 3070fps. The Accutip is the stoutest of these projectiles, adequate for meat saver shots on light medium game. The most readily available off the shelf load is Remington’s 50 grain soft point. This and the Federal Vital-Shok soft point projectiles are both predictable in terminal performance with regard to the broad, shallow wounding

Winchester loads include the 40 grain Ballistic Silvertip at 3370fps for a realistic 3300fps and their 50 grain Super-X soft point at 3140fps, giving 3070fps in shorter barrels. Both are very soft, fast expanding loads.
Federal loads include the 40 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip at 3450 for 3380fps and the 50 grain Hi Shok at 3140fps for 3070fps, the Vital-Shok being the slower expanding, slightly deeper penetrating projectile.
Hornady produce the 50 grain V-max, again at 3140fps for 3070fps. The V-Max is a very soft, explosive projectile but can be used with success providing the hunter has an understanding of this projectile’s strengths and weaknesses.
 

Hand Loading


The rather small case capacity of the .222 necessitates the use of fast burning powders. H-322, BLC-2 and the 4895’s are typically good performers in the .222. From 22 barreled sporters, realistic safe maximum working velocities include 3380fps with 40 grain projectiles, 3180fps with 50 grain projectiles, 3130fps using 52 to 55 grain projectiles and 2930fps with 60 grain projectiles. Some rifles and load combinations are capable of producing higher velocities however the figures given here are the most common.
 
Optimum projectile weights for the .222 for use on medium game are those weighing between 50 and 55 grains. Most .222 barrels have too slow a twist rate (1:14) to utilize 60 grain projectiles. Of the conventional 50 grain projectiles, there is very little difference form one brand to the next. Readers who wish to use conventional soft point projectiles are therefore advised to choose an economical projectile which is accurate in their rifle.  
 
The stoutest conventional projectiles are the European brands however differences in penetration between these and cheaper U.S made projectiles are so insignificant as to be irrelevant. The shooter must always expect gradual disintegration of any conventional .222 bullet during penetration. Currently, the cheapest conventional projectiles for the .222 are the 50 to 55 grain soft point bullets produced by Hornady and Remington. Essentially, the most reliable conventional projectiles for the .222 are those that feature a cannelure. This helps to either arrest expansion or creates a break away point, allowing the front of the bullet to disintegrate down to the cannelure.
 
The only fully suitable premium projectiles for use in the .222 are the Barnes 53 grain TSX and XLC bullets. Barnes once listed an excellent 50 grain XLC coated projectile however, this projectile has not appeared in recent catalog. Instead, the only 50 grain bullet listed by Barnes is their traditional flat base which may not shoot well in some rifles due to excessive copper fouling. The heavier 55 grain Barnes bullets tend to cramp the powder capacity of the .222 with a reduction of achievable velocities, therefore, the 53 grain Barnes, while only slightly lighter, is the optimum choice. The 53 grain bullets can be driven at around 3030fps in 22” barreled sporters, both styles can be relied on to penetrate through shoulder bones of lighter medium game along with vivid wounding of internal organs.
 

Closing Comments

 
There was a time when the subject of the .222 and its use on medium game created heated debate. In hind sight, a major reason for the success of the .222 was that it was chambered in some very accurate rifles.  When the .222 was first introduced, both Sako and Remington flooded the market with accurate rifles.  These rifles were considered light but still had stout barrels. The .222 cartridge aided accuracy further through minimal harmonic vibration to bedding surfaces. In contrast, few shooters knew about bedding during the 1950’s and 60’s. The high recoiling rifles of the day, just like those of today, were prone to accuracy problems due to poor bedding. 
 
Taking these factors into consideration, it is not hard to see why a hunter would become more attached to a sub MOA .222 capable of instantaneous kills over a 3 to 4MOA .270 Winchester caliber rifle that cannot be relied on to hit vitals beyond 100 yards. That said, the hunter should always put animal welfare before all else. If the hunter is able to accurately shoot a more powerful cartridge, he or she should do so.

 
Suggested loads: .222 Remington Barrel length: 22”
No ID   Sectional Density Ballistic Coefficient Observed  MV Fps ME
Ft-lb’s
1 FL 50gr Federal Vital-Shok .142 .175 3070 1045
2 FL 50gr Remington SP .142 .175 3070 1045
3 HL 53gr Barnes TSX FB .151 .231 3030 1080
4 HL 50gr Hornady SP .142 .214 3180 1123
 
 
Suggested sight settings and bullet paths       
1 Yards 100 125 200 230 250 300
  Bt. path +1.9 +2 0 -2 -4 -10.5
2 Yards 100 125 200 230 250 300
  Bt. path +1.9 +2 0 -2 -4 -10.5
3 Yards 100 125 205 237 250 300
  Bt. path +1.9 +2 0 -2 -3 -8
4 Yards 100 125 212 245 300  
  Bt. path +1.9 +2 0 -2 -7  
 
 
No At yards 10mphXwind Velocity Ft-lb’s
1 250 12.5 1850 380
2 250 12.5 1850 380
3 250 9 2080 510
4 250 9 2130 525
 

222 remington final.jpg

 
  Imperial Metric 
A .378 9.6
B .376 9.55
C 23deg  
D .357 9.0
E .253 6.4
F 1.264 32.10
G .313 7.95
H 1.700 43.18
Max Case 1.700 43.18
Trim length 1.690 42.9
 
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