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218 Bee


Developed by Winchester and standardized in 1937, the 218 Bee is merely a necked-down, 22-caliber, version of the 25-20 WCF (which is merely a necked-down version of the circa 1873, 32-20 WCF). The 218 was intended for use in the Model-65, a model based on the lever-action 1892 Winchester.

Winchester seems to have made no noticeable effort toward assuring the rifles and ammunition produced in this chambering were as accurate as was reasonably feasible. Evidently, it assumed folks using such a gun would never know the difference; it was wrong. It was very wrong!

Factory 218 Bee ammunition and the rifles chambered for it soon garnered a reputation for inadequate accuracy. In other words, gun and ammunition manufacturers offered a combination intended for varmint and small-game hunting that was often not accurate enough to do those jobs.



Exceptions existed with some rifles and factory loads having impressive accuracy and many handloaders found that by careful loading with the right components, they could get all the accuracy they needed and more, but the damage was done.

The 218 Bee and the 219 Zipper, a similar effort based on the 30-30 case (and first chambered in the Model-64 version of the Model 94 Winchester) were not booming successes.

This, and other factors contributed to the general belief among serious shooters that lever-action rifles simply were not capable of top-notch accuracy. This erroneous belief festered among shooters and, especially among gun-writers, until by the time I was involved, everyone who was anyone just knew lever-action rifles were not accurate.

Today, many of us know better. If you have one of these rifles you might well be surprised at what it can do with good handloads when shot with due care and expertise. I have dedicated much of my life and writing to proving what the lever-action rifle can do and learning how to prove that at the bench and in the varminting field.

As with all cartridges used in guns with a tubular magazine, a properly applied crimp can smooth and ease chambering and a crimp is critical to lock the case mouth into the cannelure and thereby prevent recoil and chambering forces from driving the bullet into the case. In some instances, a roll crimp might be the best option but the Lee Factory Crimp Die usually does a better job and the crimp it applies will not damage a cast bullet as chamber pressure drives that from the case.

Heritage of this case dates to 1873 with the introduction of the 32-20 WCF.

The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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