Hunting Bullet Guide – 22 Hornet

The 22 Hornet has the distinction of being the first cartridge ever designed and produced exclusively for hunting varmints, small predators, and small game.  Springfield Armory developed it around 1920 and paved the way for small-bore center-fire cartridges. 

X22H2 - 22 Hornet

  • Ballistic Coefficient: 0.129
  • Product Symbol: X22H2
  • Description: Rapid expansion or fragmentation on impact. For Prairie dog, coyote, woodchuck.

Rifle Ballistics

Distance (yds)Muzzle50100200300400500
Velocity (fps)2690204215021128948841
Distance (yds)Muzzle50100200300400500
Energy (ft. lbs.)7394262301309272
Distance (yds) 50100150200250300
Short Trajectory (in.) +0.30.0-2.4-7.7-16.9-31.3
Distance (yds)100150200250300400500
Long Trajectory (in.)+1.60.0-4.5-12.8-26.4-75.5-163.3

46 gr. Super-X® Hollow Point

Since it’s introduction many cartridges have come along with much more impressive ballistics than that of the 22 Hornet.  When compared on paper to the 222 or 223 Remington the 22 Hornet’s numbers look somewhat dismal.  Do not be fooled, paper ballistics do not show what the Hornet is capable of doing in the field. Muzzle velocity of the Hornet with a 45-grain bullet is only 2600-2800 fps.   Most varmint hunters, myself included, like lightning fast velocity and laser beam trajectory.  This type performance is what is need where targets are small and distances are 300 yards or more, but many varmints are taken well inside 150 yards.  Varmint hunting is not always a long-range game, this is especially true when “calling” or hunting more settled areas.   These situations are where the little 22 Hornet fits into the game and why, with a few other reasons, it has survived all this time.  The 22 Hornet can easily take any varmint out to 200 yards.  I’ve killed everything from Jackrabbits to Coyotes, and all sorts or critters in-between, with no problem.  The Hornet has several advantages over other larger varmint rounds when used in its preferred hunting situations.  One of which is minimal pelt damage even on small predators such as Grey Fox.  The Hornet has much less muzzle blast than that the 223 Remington and similar rounds.  The report is more like a loud “boom”, than a “crack” common with higher-pressure rounds.  This is an advantage when hunting settled areas or at night (see note at end of article).  The Hornet is a tiny little round making it possible to be chambered in small lightweight rifles like the Ruger M77/22 Hornet bolt-action or the Thompson/Center Contender (G-2) single-shot carbine.  Browning also chambers the Hornet in their A-bolt Micro-hunter, which is a really fine little rifle.  Even in these lightweight guns recoil is almost non-existent and the muzzle blast and report are still mild.  These little rifles show their handiness when carrying a calling machine, spotlight, and battery pack, in addition to a rifle, when hunting varmints at night.  Factory ammunition is readily available from Remington, Winchester, and Hornady.  The Remington (45-grain) or the Winchester (46-grain) hollow-points are both good choices for varmints and small predators.  Hornady offers a 35-grain V-Max bullet in a factory load as well as for hand loading.  This bullet reaches a muzzle velocity of 3100 fps or so and should be a top performer on fox and other small predators.  Hand loading for the 22 Hornet can be trying but with patience, quite rewarding.  The 22 Hornet cases are not very durable and the necks are very thin so care should be taken during resizing and bullet seating not to crush the case.  The thin necks also lend to case stretching.  I recommend checking the overall case length each time the case is loaded.  When reading this one might think the 22 Hornet is more trouble than it’s worth.  Truth is, it’s not.  These issues can be held to a minimum by neck-sizing the cases.  Not only will this improve case life, and accuracy in most cases, but reduce neck stretching.  Powder is something that the Hornet requires very little of to do it’s work.  The best one’s I’ve used are WW296, H4227, and 2400.  WW296 and H4227 are much cleaner than 2400 but 2400 is quite accurate.  There is an array of bullets that will work for the Hornet.  For my purposes the Sierra 40 and 45-grain Hornet (.224 dia.), the Hornady 45-grain Bee (.224 dia.), or the 35-grain V-Max, also from Hornady, are the bullets I would choose for hunting varmints with a magazine fed bolt-action.  Hornady’s 45-grain Bee looks like a miniature version of their XTP handgun bullets and is super explosive.  The 40-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip is also a good bullet but, when safely loaded, it’s overall length is to long to be fed form a magazine.  It does work great in single-shots or fed one at a time into a bolt action.  Loaded with a full metal jacket and the Hornet is and excellent round for wild turkey.  Ranchers looking for a good round for a truck gun will find it in the 22 Hornet.   All things considered the 22 Hornet performs as well as any varmint round out to 200 yards and in some cases even better.


NOTE:  Hunting varmints at night is legal in Texas; however, some states do not allow hunting at night so be sure to check your local laws.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *