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220 Swift


Announced in 1935, Winchester introduced the 220 Swift claiming the sensational velocity of 4140 fps. This occurred in an era when most shooters were still trying to come to terms with cartridges that generated 3000 fps and many older shooters were still in awe of rounds that launched bullets faster than 2000 fps! It is debatable as to how close to advertised velocity the original load launched the 48-grain bullet. What is not debatable is the performance the Swift did have was unprecedented.

The Swift used a case originally designed for a Military round, the 6mm Lee Navy. The Swift allowed Winchester to use a warehouse full of partially finished 6mm Lee Navy cases that had been surplus since 1894, when the U. S. adopted the 30 U. S. Army as the battle-rifle chambering for all Military branches. Winchester shortened the case and necked it down to 22-caliber, then called the resulting cartridge the 220 Swift, which simply must be one of the all-time great marketing ploys.



Not surprisingly, barrel life has always been a concern with the Swift but, when compared to the 22-250, folks report similar barrel life, likely because the Swift has a significantly longer neck. As nearly as I can tell, little actual difference exists.

As with any conventional varmint cartridge offering such a high degree of performance, barrel heating is a significant concern. It is entirely possible for an incautious, enthusiastic, varmint-hunter to ruin a Swift barrel in a few minutes! All that is required is the firing of a prolonged string of shots without allowing the barrel to cool.

Where extended strings of rapid shots are not valuable, the Swift is still a formidable option for serious varminting performance. Loaded with the best modern components, it will so far surpass original Swift performance as to render any comparison meaningless. For example, with the best propellant available today, it will launch the 53-grain Nosler Varmageddon as fast as original factory advertised ballistics for a 48-grain bullet that had less than two-thirds the BC of the 53 Nosler.

This means, the best modern Swift load will carry more velocity to 600 yards than the original load delivered at 400 yards! When considering the improved accuracy and terminal performance these bullets offer, the ballistic comparison is not even a contest.

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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