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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • reloading manual
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
  • shotshell reloading
  • bullet reloading
The Ultimate Reloading Manual
hodgdon load data

.25-20 Winchester (using Hornady bullets)

Author: Brian Pearce / Wolfe Publishing Co.
Date: Apr 16 2013

The .25 WCF (.25-20 Winchester) was first offered in the middle 1890s by necking down the .32-20 Winchester (aka .32 WCF) case to accept .257-inch bullets. It was essentially a black powder varmint and small game cartridge; however, it gained widespread acceptance among ranchers and farmers for purposes ranging from deer hunting to defense. Although the .25-20 has been offered in many types of guns, the Winchester Model 1892 and Marlin Model 1894 lever actions are the most common. Early loads pushed an 86-grain lead bullet to around 1,460 fps, but when smokeless powders appeared, factories dropped bullet weights to 60 grains (jacketed) and increased velocities to around 2,250 fps. Winchester and Remington currently offer factory loads advertised to push an 86-grain JSP to 1,460 fps.

The .25-20 cases are rather thin, and being a bottleneck design, can give difficulties when seating bullets and applying crimps. Die manufacturers offer a two-die set as standard. Cases should be full-length sized. When seating bullets, the cases are so thin that they often buckle at the shoulder from pressure, or the bullets hang up on the case mouths just enough to cause them to crumple. Either scenario ruins the cases. I prefer to use a (third) neck expand die that just slightly opens the case mouths so that they readily accept the bullets and allow seating without damage to the cases.

After seating bullets to the correct overall cartridge length, the crimps (which are especially important to keep bullets in place while cartridges are in tubular magazines) should be applied as a separate operation. If using a roll crimp, case lengths should be uniform, or inconsistencies will occur. Another good crimp option includes the Lee factory crimp die, which is forgiving when using cases with varying lengths.