Updated 222 Remington Loads
Date: Mar 16 2023
The 222 Remington set the shooting world on its ear when it was introduced in 1950 in the Remington 722. It was based on no other case and was the first rimless varmint cartridge. It quickly introduced new standards for accuracy, going on to set many benchrest records before the advent of the PPC cartridges that were introduced in the 1970s. New 222 Remington rifles have become increasingly rare as the 223 Remington has established its dominance, but the “triple deuce” would become the basis for the 223 Remington/5.56x45mm, 222 Remington Magnum, 221 Remington Fireball and many others. That fact alone makes the round significant.
Like my favored 221 Fireball, the 222 Remington is arguably ideally suited to much of the small-varmint shooting most of us conduct – the 150- to 250-yard burrowing rodent sniping comprising most of the varmint-shooting sport. The 223 Remington has become more popular, because that is what happens when our government adopts a cartridge for military use. Cases for the 223 Remington are just so abundant, even during periods of ammunition and component shortages, that it makes sense it remains a favorite. However, its added velocity and energy delivery are not prerequisite to success for shots at typical shooting distances already touched on. This is to say nothing of the 22-250 Remington and 220 Swift-class cartridges…
More powder burned, more noise and recoil endured, shorter case life – to accomplish what exactly? If your varmint shooting – be that a busy ground squirrel colony, lightly shot-over prairie dogs, or woodlot groundhogs – does not exceed 250 yards, why not shoot something more economical and pleasant natured?
The original 222 Remington load included a 50-grain bullet pushed to around 3,140 feet per second (fps), though it does well with modern varmint – and target – bullets weighing from 40 to 55 grains that prove compatible with the triple deuce’s near-standard 1:14 rifling twist. Newer, long-for-weight nontoxic 35-grainers add another dimension to varmint shooting with the 222, pushing muzzle velocities to 3,800 fps. The 222 Remington includes an especially long neck, about .313-inch long, compared to the .203 inch of the 223 Remington, and a trim-to length of 1.69 inches, to the 1.75 inches of the 223. The 222 also holds an average of 29.5 grains of water to the 31.9 grains of the 223.
Its low-case capacity makes it compatible with many fast-burning propellants, Accurate A-1680, A-2200, A-2015 and Ramshot X-Terminator; Alliant Power Pro Varmint and Reloder 10X; Hodgdon CFE BLK, H-4198, Benchmark, CFE 223 and H-322; and Vihtavuori N120, N130 and N133 used for testing in this series. Each was chosen on the promise of cleaner-burning characteristics, improved velocities or promised accuracy. As hinted by the title, modern bullets were chosen to explore previously uncharted territory or to maximize accuracy and terminal performance on small varmints. Bullets tested included Nosler’s 35-grain Ballistic Tip Varmint Lead Free, Cutting Edge Bullets’ 40-grain ESP Raptor (later replaced by Berger’s 40-grain Flat Base Varmint), Hammer Bullets’ 44-grain Hammer Hunter, Sierra’s 50-grain BlitzKing, and Hornady’s 52-grain ELD Match.
Brass for the 35- through 50-grain loads was headstamped RWS, which came with the loaner rifle, so I have no way of knowing how many times they have been fired or reloaded. These cases held 28.9 grains of water when filled to the brim. Cases for the 52-grain loads were made from PMC 223 Remington brass and held 29.6 grains of water. This proved a fairly simple process: lubing and running the 223 cases through an RCBS full-length sizing die set up to over-cam slightly, trimming with Little Crow Gunworks’ Ultimate Case Trimmer, neck reaming with Forster’s Appelt reamer/trimmer to thin necks slightly, a second ride through the full-length sizing die, and inside/outside chamfering readied cases for loading. Various bullet ogive profiles required disparate seating depths.
The rifle was one borrowed from friend Norm Barrington’s eclectic collection. The rifle is based on a commercial Mauser ’98 action and holds a massive 23-inch fluted/stainless steel barrel measuring 1.25 inches in diameter at the muzzle. A Timney replacement trigger was added, including a wide trigger shoe that broke at a consistent 1.23 pounds. The rifle was designed to single feed off a grooved magazine filler block and the works bedded into a chunky walnut stock of Norm’s own design. The effect is a 16.45-pound benchrest-style rifle that sits solidly on a rifle cradle. I added a proven Bushnell Elite 6500 4.5-30x 50mm scope with MilDot reticle, set in sturdy steel Trijicon four-screw rings. Norm had other 222s available, but it was thought that if a load combination failed to shoot well from this rifle, it wouldn’t shoot from anything.