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THE 22x64 EXPERIMENT

Shooting meat for the freezer at 4700fps?

223Rem, 22-250, 220Swift, 22x64

The cartridges above are from left to right: 223 Remington, 22-250, 220 Swift and 22x64.

The twin ladies of GS Custom have been hunting with a pair of 220 Swift rifles since 1998. The favoured load for both these rifles has always been a 40 gr HV at around 4400 fps. Much meat and biltong (jerky for those of you in the USA) has been brought home with this combination. We have taken springbuck, blesbuck, fallow deer, red mountain reedbuck and duiker with great success. We have never experienced a single bullet failure and this prompted the line of thought of how to get even more speed from these rifles.

After some measuring and figuring, a 22-250 reamer was lengthened by increasing the cutting flutes along the body of the reamer and altering the angle of the body so that the final result was the same as that of a 270 case. This means that 270 cases can be used to start with and, after reducing the neck diameter by sizing with 6.5, 243 and 22-250 dies, can be fireformed with full loads.

Loading is simplicity itself, requiring only a 22-250 die set. A bit of load development resulted in the pressure limits being found at just over 4800 fps and it was decided to stay with a load that gave 4700 fps.

Hunting with the 22x64 turned out to be even more fun than with the 220 Swift. Time of flight was noticably shorter, wind drift was reduced and with the rifle zeroed at 275 metres, any shot out to 350 was like an extension of thought. After two seasons in the field with the rifle, it is my first choice for game up to the size of a blesbuck. So far we have recovered only two bullets, both at shorter ranges and weight retention was 34 and 39 grains.

The 22x64 has also laid to rest the theory that speed in itself causes meat damage. We have long contended that bullet fragmentation or tumbling is the real culprit. We brought back the pictures below from one of our hunts in the 2003 season. From a larger number of animals shot, we selected three that were shot with a 243 Win at similar distances and with roughly similar shot placement as three of the springbuck shot with the 22x64. The 243 was loaded with premium 100 gr bullets from Europe at a muzzle velocity of 2930 fps. With the 22x64 going 1770 fps faster, meat damage was about one quarter that of the 243. 

22x64 Entrance and Exit

243 Win Entrance and Exit

22x64 Entrance22x64 Exit 243 Entrance243 Exit
22x64 Entrance22x64 Exit 243 Entrance243 Exit
22x64 Entrance22x64 Exit 243 Exit

The blesbuck below was taken at 120 paces and the impact speed was approximately 4400 fps. Meat damage was confined to roughly a palm sized area around the entrance hole seen below. The bullet was recovered from under the skin on the far side. 

This is clear proof that velocity plays a role in the penetration of a bullet. The commonly held belief that increasing speed will increase penetration is only true to some extent. Penetration decreases as speed increases at very high speeds. Penetration also decreases at very low speeds. Penetration depends mostly on the post impact shape of the bullet and therein lies the balance that the manufacturer of a bullet must find. In the case of GS Custom, we ensure enough penetration at extreme speeds for the job at hand, as determined by the caliber used and the intended target. This results in the penetration improving as the bullet slows down, thereby greatly increasing the usable range of the caliber and rifle. 

This balance of factors is extremely difficult to calculate and is mostly found through experimentation in the field. GS Custom has the benefit of having had access to the development of this practical knowledge on the subject since 1985.

Blesbuck taken at 120 paces. Impact speed of the 40 gr HV bullet was approximately 4400 fps.

The only unknown that now remains is how long the barrel will last. The rifle is fitted with a chromemoly barrel from Truvelo in South Africa. As a 220 Swift, it has seen in excess of 2500 shots at 4400 fps. Rechambered to 22x64, it has now fired a further 400 plus shots. As the day it was built, it will still shoot under an inch at 100 and, with careful loading, at a half inch.

Time will tell how long it will last.


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GS Custom Bullets, situated in Port Elizabeth on the East Coast of South Africa, manufactures solid copper, turned, monolithic bullets for hunting and sport shooting. These bullets are used by hunters on several continents, hunting from the smallest of antelope to the largest of dangerous game, using the smooth HP bullet, as well as the more popular HV, FN and SP bullets with the patented drive band concept. GSC bullets are configured for the highest possible ballistic coefficients. SP bullets are mainly used for sport shooting. All GS Custom Bullets are moly coated.