Rifle Talk- .22 Hornet Lineage

Rifle|Varmint Rifles & Cartridges Spring 2020

Rifle Talk- .22 Hornet Lineage
Varmint shooters are well aware of the .22 Hornet. Yet in my neck of the high desert, for unknown reasons, few acquaintances have owned one. Fewer yet have actually shot one. The great exception includes ardent handloaders. Probably due to the widespread use of the far more potent and generally more accurate .223 and .22250 Remingtons and the .204 Ruger – more versatile options all – the Hornet is often ignored. The cartridge can also be temperamental when it comes to accuracy.
Lee J. Hoots

The .22 WCF cases reformed from Hornady .22 Hornet brass (left) look nearly identical to those of the loaded .22 Hornet cartridges, but there are notable differences.

Perhaps for these reasons, the gun-making industry currently offers comparatively few rifle options for .22 Hornet enthusiasts, especially in regard to new options. The lone .22 Hornet on hand is a fairly new Ruger 77/22 topped off with a Leupold VX-II 3-9x 40mm scope in low Ruger rings. It too, is finicky when it comes to shooting groups, though its accuracy is good enough for plinking and the occasional poke at a big, Arizona jack. A Ruger 77/22 .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire shoots smaller groups, so gets more field use.

The Hornet rifle was purchased partly because of its fine walnut stock, but more so for the interesting history of the cartridge. Beyond doubt, the Hornet is a derivative of a Winchester smallbore, black-powder cartridge that came before it, the .22 Winchester (known today as the .22 Winchester Center Fire or .22 WCF).

Its history is worth reexamining. However, in this internet age, where copyrighted work is knowingly “poached” and used for gain by unscrupulous “experts,” it’s important to point out that some of the historical information used here was gathered long ago by Gil Sengel and the late Ken Waters in older issues of Handloader magazine. Frankly, these cartridge’s histories have not changed, will not change, and there’s nothing new to say. Furthermore, since the .22 Hornet’s own history is well-known, only essential information will be provided as warranted.

This Ruger 77/22 .22 Hornet is a classic rifle chambered for an old, classic cartridge.


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Varmint Rifles & Cartridges Spring 2020