Introduced by Winchester in 1930, the .22 Hornet was the first commercial varmint cartridge adopted by a U.S. manufacturer. The Hornet was developed during the 1920's by wildcatters who loaded the old .22 WCF case with smokeless powders and jacketed bullets. At that time, the most popular rifle for converting to a .22 Hornet was the 1922 Springfield. Since the Springfield was originally chambered in.22 Long Rifle, the Hornet was loaded with the bullets of .223" diameter to match it's grove diameter. Later, various commercial rifles were built with barrels of .224" groove diameter, the reason some of our bullet makers still offer Hornet bullets in two diameters. Later rifles such as the Sako L46 and the Kimber Model 82 have barrels with .224" groove diameters.
Although the .22 Hornet is far outclassed by more modern cartridges, it will still get the job done out to 200 paces when loaded to maximum chamber pressures in the Winchester Model 70, Sako L64, and Kimber Model 82. In a strong modern rifle, the Hornet will push a 40 grain bullet almost as fast as a 50 grain bullet leaves the muzzle of a .222. However, when loading the Hornet for rifles of lesser strength, it is best to keep velocities in the neighborhood of 2500-2600 fps.
Best bullets for shooting varmints with the Hornet are those weighing 40 and 45 grains. It's relatively small powder capacity will not allow this cartridge to push heavier bullets fast enough for the explosive expansion needed for humane kills on larger varmints, especially when the range is extended beyond 100 paces or so. Excellent powders for the .22 Hornet are H4227, W680, and IMR-4227. Faster burning powders should only be used when developing loads at reduced velocities. A superb turkey load for this cartridge is a 50 or 55 grain soft point moving out at from 2300 to 2500 fps.
The 22 Hornet, based on the black powder 22 WCF, was developed during the late 1920's by a group of experimenters at Springfield Armory; Col. Townsend Whelen, Captain G. L. Wotkyns, and others. Winchester produced the first commercial ammunition in 1930. Within a few years the Hornet had been standardized by all American manufacturers. The original rifles were based on the Springfield M1903 military and Martini single shot actions. Winchester announced its Model 54 bolt action in 22 Hornet caliber in 1932, but rifles did not actually reach the market until early 1933. Savage Model 23-D bolt action rifles were available in 22 Hornet by August 1932. Stevens single shot Model 417 "Walnut Hill" target and 417-1/2 sporting rifles were advertised in 22 Hornet caliber in 1933. During WWII, military survival rifles were made for the Hornet. At the present time, Anschutz, Ruger, Ultra Light Arms chamber rifles for the Hornet and Thompson/Center has their TCR and Contender in the caliber. In Europe, the Hornet is known by the metric designation 5.6x35Rmm.
The 22 Hornet was the pioneer small bore, high velocity cartridge marketed in the United States primarily for varmint and small game shooting. It has never been commercially available in anything but bolt action and single shot rifles. For this reason, it quickly established a reputation for superb accuracy. No other cartridge of this type has ever caught on so fast or achieved such wide popularity.
Although not quite as powerful as the 218 Bee, it is a perfectly adequate small game and varmint cartridge. It remains popular, but suffers in comparison with the 223 Remington and the 22-250. It remains a fine choice for economical shooting at ranges between 100 and 150 yards. Due to its reduced powder capacity, The Hornet won't do as well with heavier bullets of 50 or 55 grains as will the 218 Bee. It is a good cartridge for use in settled areas because of the light report and low chances of ricochet. Early rifles had bores requiring bullets of .223" diameter. Sierra still offers such bullets. Later rifles had normal bores for .224" diameter bullets. Most bullet manufacturers offer special bullets for loading the 22 Hornet. The improved "K" Hornet is among the best know wildcats based on the Hornet and most common of all Improved chamberings. Loaded ammunition is available from Remington, Winchester and Norma.