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More 22 Hornet, 22 Years Later
By Alex Clarke
Jim Waddlell’s experience with the 22 Hornet is so similar to mine, that I just couldn’t let the chance to go by to remark.
I started looking for a 22 Hornet after I had run through a 22-250, several 223s and a Ruger Ranch rifle and while “just browsing” at DeGolf’s guns in Mechanicsville, VA, probably looking at shotguns, (I had been victim or the same disease that women seem to have when they buy hats to alleviate tension problems) and ran headlong into a Browning 22H Micro Medallion. Browning had had them in their catalogs on and off for several years, but apparently had just started releasing them. Beautiful! Laying there just staring at me like a beautiful teenager asking her new heartthrob to please take her to the prom. Dateline here is sometime around 1994. I had not yet been bitten by the handloading bug, so for a while I shot factory stuff. One or two of the rifles I had bought up to this time had shot close to 1 inch at 100 yards, but that was an exception, and my cousin Bobby’s favorite groundhog gun was really putting pressure on me.
Bought several boxes of ammo of Remington and Winchester persuasion and headed home with the rifle and a Nikon 3-9 scope and the stuff to mount it with. The affair begins!
First trip to Bobby’s little farm range and the Winchester soft point 45 grainers were shooting about 0.8 inch 3 shot groups at 100 yards and the hollow points just a touch larger. The Remingtons didn’t do as well, even though they shot better than any of the factory stuff did in my other rifles.
The handloading bug bit! Didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t get under an inch with anything I tried. I would always start and end my range sessions with a group with the Winchester soft nosers to make sure it wasn’t me that was causing the problem. My primary powder at the time was Hodgdon H110, primers were WSRs. I wasn’t savy enough to figure out that it might have something to do with the bullet to lands spacing, loading purely with the manual’s recommended cartridge overall length (COL). 20 years later, I still have some of those bullets that I never got to shoot in my stash. Nothing I loaded would go under an inch, and most wouldn’t make it under 1.5 inches. At that point you could have probably bought my entire reloading bench and equipment for 50 cheap!
I don’t remember what the magic dust was, but a combination finally appeared that would really shot. Successive 5 shot, 100 yard groups at ½ moa. Load was on the low side of what was recommended for H110, and the overall length was whatever just happened to be the luck of the day, but I was THERE! I was so impressed and the rifle was so lovely and I was so naive that to “save” this little lovely, I bought a Ruger 22H M77 as a “beater.” Worked on it for a while and nothing would work to get below 3 inches, so when Precision Shooter mag reported that someone at Ruger had said 4 inches was about par for a 22H, the Ruger went down the road immediately.
Bobby and I were out groundhog hunting one afternoon when he asked why I was spending so much time with the only rifle I owned that he wouldn’t take shooting for any reason, and wouldn’t give me $25 for. The little rifle went on to teach me about adjusting the COL so the bullet was pushed close to the lands, the load was optimized, which brass worked the best, etc. However, having been my tutor for so long, and not having the poop Bobby’s or my next “hat job” rifle had, the little lovely became a “safe queen.” Net Buddy Joe Novotny was hot to have a 22H and my little Micro Medallion found a home in his safe. He still uses my data and says that that sweetheart is the first rifle out of the safe when he goes prairie dog hunting.
Note now that the Hornady 35 gr Vmax factory ammo was just coming on the market as I sent the Micro Medallion off to Joe. Enter Pete Hauer, a member of FoxPro’s team, and Sonny Pruitt, our local foxhunter guru. Pete’s view of the Micro Hunter 22H was that if you shot the 35 gr VMax factory fodder (he is not a reloader) and told folks how accurate it was they would immediately no longer believe anything you said. Sonny was having spectacular accuracy with his Micro Hunter 22H. Said that it was not only accurate, but just right for Fox. He was using 40 gr. VMax bullets, which he said were better past 100 yards than the 35 gr. VMaxes. Of the 6 or more guys he got hooked on the 22H Micro Hunter, all shot as well as his (and mine) did. I began to wish I hadn’t let my MM 22H go.
At this time I was shooting a 17AH Cooper. Went hunting with Sonny and almost had to wrestle him to get him to hand it back. His “fix” on that was to get a buddy of his to try to locate another MH 22H to convert to a 17AH. He and the buddy were each planning on having one of the little “needle guns.” I reckoned that I needed one as well. All three arrive. Two went off to Bob Greene to be rebarreled to 17AH. Not mine. Bought a batch of Hornady factory 35 gr. VMax fodder. Can only say that ½ MOA accuracy out past 200 yards is common.
I’m getting old and lazy. This factory stuff shoots so well I don’t feel I have to reload to be able to grab the 22H and head off on a walk to thin the ‘hog herd. I had written up the little Micro Hunter for an article in Small Caliber News which died as a result of the fiasco at Dakota Arms before I could send it in. Found the manuscript as I was writing this, modified it a touch and sent it off here to the Rob’s blog. I may not shoot this one a lot, but will never be without one again.
Good show, Jim!