Handloader|February 2021
The Ultimate Varmint Catridge?
Patrick Meitin

If you make a habit of perusing gun magazines, for the past several years you could be excused for believing the 6.5 Creedmoor was the only centerfire cartridge of significance. Though gun writers can’t seem to discuss anything else today, the round never really grabbed me. My obsessions lean heavily to burrowing rodents or predators willing to investigate the morbid cries of dying bunnies. So, it wasn’t until the 6mm incarnation appeared that the Creedmoor name entered my orbit.

My first was chambered in Ruger’s Precision Rifle topped with a Vortex Optics Viper PST 6-24x 50mm scope. That combination worked well when distances exceeded 400 yards, especially when prairie winds stir. The thing that makes that rifle sing, besides the chassis design and precision turret system, is its 1:7.7 rifling that stabilizes long-for-caliber 6mm bullets with exceptional ballistic coefficients (BC).

When I heard the first rumblings of a .22 Creedmoor, my first thoughts were of gross overbore and short barrel life, but I was also envisioning 55-grain bullets pushed to 4,000-plus fps. When I had the opportunity to hold a 6mm Creedmoor next to a .22-250 Remington, my assumptions proved somewhat overblown.

I had also discovered the .22-250 Ackley Improved closely mirrors the .22 Creedmoor (CM) dimensionally. The notable difference is .22 CM rifles are normally equipped with faster rifling twists to stabilize heavier, higher BC bullets. Shooting heavier bullets at more reasonable velocities also calms some barrel-burning qualms. This also creates a different beast altogether, including higher maximum pressures (based on SAMMI 6mm CM numbers). The .22-250 AI and .220 Swift, with their traditional 1:14 to 1:12 rifling, will always be limited to lighter, low BC bullets and all that entails.

Building a fast-twist Swift (Rifle’s Varmint Rifles & Cartridges, Fall 2019) included a long action and gunsmith involvement, and the .22-250 AI isn’t exactly mainstream. Alpha Munitions, Petersen Cartridge, Quality Cartridge and Hornady offer properly-head stamped brass, though creating .22 CM brass is no more difficult than running factory 6mm CM cases through a full-sizing die, with no trimming required, though some neck turning may be required.

Still, finding .22 Creedmoor load data proved hit and miss – with plenty of spooky loads floating around internet chatrooms. This leaves .22-250 Ackley Improved data as a viable starting point. Fireformed Remington .22-250 AI brass holds 50.5 grains of water and a new Hornady .22 CM case 51.0 grains. Though .250 AI recipes rarely include bullet weights exceeding 60 grains. With a rifling twist rate of 1:7, bullets up to 85/90 grains become viable in my .22 CM. Many of the loads listed here were established by extrapolating .250 AI loads, with Rob Behr (formally of Western Powders) and the guys at Capstone Precision (Lapua/ Berger/Vihtavuori) also running some QuickLoad software for me.

None of the “Big-Five” rifle makers have expressed interest in the .22 Creedmoor at this time. This leaves custom rifles, and for that I turned to Dale Hegstrom, owner of Little Crow Gunworks. I started by gathering required parts: a new Remington 700 .308 action, Timney Trigger, PROOF Research barrel blank with a 1:7 twist (ordered through stockysstocks.com), a Stocky’s AccuBlock EuroMatch adjustable cheekpiece laminated stock and a MAGPULL magazine well kit with a PMag 10-round box magazine.

Hegstrom prepared the blank, producing a 26-inch finished length with muzzle threads to accept a suppressor, included a recoil lug and trued the action and bolt head. A short piece of Picatinny rail was installed on the forearm to accept a MAGPULL bipod. Hegstrom skim bedded the recoil-lug area (The stock included a precise aluminum bedding block and didn’t require full-blown glass bedding.), assuring this outfit would shoot its very best. This is the first time I’ve enjoyed the luxury of handpicking every component during a custom-rifle build, and Hegstrom is a true master.

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