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One of the interesting things to occur during the Great Depression is the amount of innovation and development that took place. As a kid, I recall my folks telling me of the desperate times they faced when they were kids during that tragic event. Later, in school, more tales of anxiety, misery and sackcloth left us the impression that virtually all development and commerce had ground to a halt.
However, in the firearms industry, things were pretty busy—as they often are when countries are arming up for war. Here in the U.S., the sporting arms market was busy as bees building a hive. Shooting and hunting were still considered mainstream activities, so development in these disciplines continued despite the economic turndown.
Varmint, pest or predator shooting has long been a popular way to stay afield, even after the big game seasons close. In 1885, Winchester introduced the .22 Winchester Centerfire. Chambered in the Model 1885 single-shot rifle and later in the Remington No.7 Rolling Block Rifle, it featured a 45-gr. lead bullet in front of a pinch of black powder, generating around 1,550 f.p.s. This is about the same as the .22 Winchester Rimfire that came along five years later.
During the late 1920s, a couple of experimenters from Springfield Armory—Col. Townsend Whelen and Grosvenor L. Wotkins—replaced the black powder with smokeless, and it became the .22 Hornet with a velocity of 2,690 f.p.s. Prior to that, Charles Newton working with Savage came up with the first .22-cal. centerfire designed for smokeless powder, the .22 Savage Hi-Power, in 1912 that sent a 71-gr. bullet downrange at 3,100 f.p.s.
Another experimenter, Harvey Donaldson, along with Wotkins, J.E. Gebby, J.B Smith and John Sweany, began playing with the .250 Savage—a.k.a. .250-3000 Savage—case in an effort to crack the 4,000 f.p.s. barrier with a .22-cal. bullet. Known then as the .22 Varminter, Gebby’s design, and .22 Wotkyns Original Swift—with minor variances—it achieved its objective of 4,000 f.p.s. with a 40-gr. bullet in a 26″ barrel. Gebby and Smith it is said came up with the final design of the wildcat .22-250. The cartridge remained a wildcat for 28 years, despite being one of the more popular varmint cartridges.
When Remington added its name to the cartridge and began offering it in its Model 700 rifles in 1965, varmint shooters simply ate it up. They finally had a factory rifle chambered in a very hot cartridge that could smack a prairie dog or woodchuck from a quarter-mile away. Target reaction was impressive, to say the least.remington 22 250 model 700
One real advantage of the .22-250 Rem. had over its nearest speed competitor, the .220 Swift, was that the .22-250 Rem. was a bit softer on barrels than the Swift. The Swift—which came out in 1935 from Winchester—was birthed from the old 6 mm Lee Navy cartridge, and consistently produced velocities in excess of 4,000 f.p.s. Pre-war and early post-war barrel steels eroded fairly quickly with the Swift, though modern barrel steels are measurably tougher. Both cartridges have been quite popular for those who enjoy giving varmints an “aerial burial.”remington 22-250 ammo ballisti
The Swift is largely obsolete now, though it can be found on the used market. The .22-250 Rem. remains a factory chambering and hasn’t lost its luster in 56 years. I bought my first .22-250 Rem. in 1980, a Ruger No. 1V. By 1990 I had burned out the barrel. I’d estimate that I put in excess of 6,000 rounds through that rifle. Targets were ground squirrels, marmots and prairie dogs in Wyoming and South Dakota, and ground squirrels in California.remington 22-250 ammo