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220 Swift

Since its introduction in the Winchester Model 54 in 1935, the .220 Swift has been a favorite punching bag of those who seek to find fault with everything in life. First the Swift was put down by wildcatters who were envious of its performance and even today it is a favorite target of those who find it impossible to praise one cartridge without condemming another. Despite its unfair treatment, those who actually have experience with Winchesters big .220 consider it to be the finest factory loaded cartridge available for shooting varmints at extremely long ranges.

Inherently, the .220 Swift is extremely accurate. Recent testing of the cartridge loaded with custom benchrest quality bullets in a Remington 40X rifle produced 25-shot aggregates of less than .270". Another 40X rifle in the same caliber with slightly over 3000 full power loads fired in its barrel averaged .344" for 5-shot groups with various powders. The key to enjoying long accuracy life with the .220 Swift, or any other high velocity cartridge, is to choose a top quality barrel of modern steel, never subject it to a high rate of sustained fire, and the maintenance of its bore by proper cleaning.

As this is written, the Remington 40X, Ruger Models 77 and No. 1, and Ultra Light Arms Model 20 rifles are available in .220 Swift. The Swift is seen at its best when loaded with a good 55 grain spitzer at 3800 to 3900 fps. If you want less velocity, buy a .22-250 or .223. It could be that more IMR-4064 has been burned in the .220 Swift than any other powder and it is a dandy, but H380 and H4895 often produce equally fine performances.

Source: Hodgdon Data Manual, 26th Edition


Historical Notes:

The 220 Swift was developed by Winchester and introduced in 1935 as a new caliber for their Model 54 bolt action rifle. When the Model 70 Winchester bolt action was first issued in 1936, the 220 Swift was one of the standard calibers offered and continued to be until 1964 when it was discontinued. Now the Savage Model 112V, the Ruger M77 and the Ruger No. 1V single shot are offered in the 220 Swift chambering. The Model 70 Winchester is no longer made in this caliber. Norma of Sweeden lists the 220 Swift with a 50 grain bullet at 4110 fps, and they also sell unprimed brass cases for reloading. Hornady / Frontier offers a 55 grain SP and a 60 grain HP loading.

The prototype for the 220 Swift was developed in 1934-35 by Grosvenor Wotkyns who necked down the 250-3000 Savage as a means of achieving very high velocities. However the final commercial version developed by Winchester is based on the old 6mm Lee Navy cartridge necked down. It is a semi-rimmed case.

General Comments:

The 220 Swift was and still is the fastest commercial cartridge in the world. It is also one of the most accurate super velocity 22 cartridges ever developed. Its popularity has benn somewhat retarded by the fact that the ammunition in this caliber is expensive. Swift barrels have never been noted for long life, but this factor has been negated to a large degree by development of modern, erosion resistant barrel steels since WWII. Factory ammunition has always featured the 48 grain and 50 grain bullets, but the Swift is considered adequate on all animals up to deer size. There is certainly plenty of field evidence to demonstrate on occasion it will give fantastic one shot kills on deer and antelope. However the 220 Swift tends to be erratic in its performance on large animals, and most states will not permit its use on big game of any kind. Properly constructed bullets would almost certainly solve this problem on animals to mule deer size. In any case, factory bullets are designed for quick expansion on light animals. Most varmint hunters agree that the 220 Swift is the best varmint cartridge made. It remains a popular caliber despite the fact that no domestic major manufacturer offers it.

Source: Cartridges of the World


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