Gun Digest

Greatest Cartridges: Sizzling Varmint Medicine, the .22-250

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Whether as a wildcat or factory cartridge, there has always been something mystifying about the high-velocity .22-250.
Whether as a wildcat or factory cartridge, there has always been something mystifying about the high-velocity .22-250.

There is some considerable confusion as to when this popular varmint cartridge was developed, and who developed it.

Its name comes from the fact that it uses a .22 caliber bullet, and the parent case is the .250 Savage. The parent case came out in about 1915, so it was sometime after that.

The names associated with the cartridges development most often include Harvey Donaldson, Grosvenor Wotkyns, J.E. Gebby and J. B. Smith. Considerable development work went on in the mid-1930s.

At least one version was called the .22 Varminter, and others, the .22-250. Wotkyns is generally credited with developing the forerunner to the .220 Swift, although Winchester chose to use the 6mm Lee Navy case, rather than the .250 Savage. Author, gunsmith and consummate handloader, Phil Sharpe, was an early fan of the .22-250.

For many years the cartridge languished as a popular wildcat, until Browning announced in 1963 that they were adding the chambering to their rifle line.

My old pal, mentor, and good friend, John T. Amber, wrote in the 1964 issue of Gun Digest, the following: “Browning did an unprecedented thing this year—they added a caliber to their High Power rifle line, the Wildcat 22-250, for which no commercial ammunition is available! As far as I know, this is the first time a first line arms maker has offered a rifle chambered for a cartridge which he—or some other production ammunition maker—cannot supply.”

Ever since the .22-250 has gone from wildcat to factory cartridge, varmints have been shaking in their boots.

The cartridge also has, in a way, a powder named for it. H-380 was an unnamed spherical rife propellent when the late Bruce Hodgdon first used it. When a 38.0 grain charge behind a 52 grain bullet gave one hole groups from his 22 caliber wildcat (now called the .22-250), he appropriately named the powder H380.

I've also heard that the velocity delivered with that load, around 3800 fps, played a role in the decision though that may also be just so much fluff.

I have owned at least a couple rifles so chambered for many years now. When I tire of one and get rid of it for something, at the time anyway, that's more spectacular, I end up down the road always picking up another.

I currently have two, a heavy varminter from Savage that has had a few custom touches added to it (another stock for one thing) and a Mark VII medium weight varminter from E.R. Shaw. Both are superbly accurate.

I don't do a lot of varmint shooting here in southeastern Arizona, but when I do go out, one or the other of these two rifles goes with me.

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