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The .218 BEE: although commercially eclipsed by the .22 hornet, this ultra-cool varmint round has plenty of sting to go around.

THE POOR .218 BEE EVER HAD A HANCE. IT WAS INTRODUCED IN 1939 in the Winchester Model 65, which was basically the Model 92 with a pistol-grip stock, 22-inch barrel and button magazine. As all Winchesters were in those days, quality was excellent and accuracy was as good as a lever action could possibly be, but varmint shooters had too many other options. About a year before the Bee emerged from its hive, Winchester had introduced a faster cartridge called the .219 Zipper in the Model 64 lever action. Even earlier, the .22 Hornet hornet: see wasp.  had become available in the super-accurate Model 54 bolt gun "Bolt gun" can mean:-
  • A gun with a bolt-type mechanism.
  • Captive-bolt gun: see captive bolt pistol.
  • An industrial tool for shooting a bolt into a workpiece.
, and in 1937 the Hornet and the new .220 Swift were offered in an equally new rifle called the Model 70. During all the interest in cartridges of higher velocities, the .218 Bee got swatted in the shuffle, and the Model 65 was discontinued in 1947 with less than 6,000 built, the majority in .25-20 and .32-20.



In 1949 Winchester made a final attempt at keeping the .218 Bee buzzing over the varmint fields by offering it along with the .25-20 and .32-20 in the Model 43, an economy-grade bolt action bolt action

Type of breech mechanism that was key to developing an effective repeating rifle. It combines the firing pin, a spring, and an extractor, all housed in or attached to the bolt. A projecting handle with a round knob moves the bolt back and forth.
 often described as "the poor man's Poor man's is a common slang term used to compare one thing with another. It is not necessarily a derogatory term. It is usually used in a sentence as "X is a poor man's Y", with "X" being the person or thing one is referring to, and "Y" being the superior but similar person or  Model 70." Through the years, I have owned Model 43s in all the chamberings, and while the one in .218 Bee was accurate enough for bumping off a crow at 200 long paces, it was not as accurate as my Model 54 and Model 70 rifles in .22 Hornet. It's a darned darned  

Adj. 1. darned - expletives used informally as intensifiers; "he's a blasted idiot"; "it's a blamed shame"; "a blame cold winter"; "not a blessed dime"; "I'll be damned (or blessed or darned or
 pity that the Bee was never available in those higher-priced rifles.


Then in 1949 came a superbly accurate little bolt-action rifle from Finland called the Sako L46. Most sold in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  were in .222 Remington, but a few were also chambered in .22 Hornet and .218 Bee. The L46 and the Model 82 offered by Kimber of Oregon during the 1980s are the two most accurate Bees I have ever shot.

Not many other rifles have been available in .218 Bee. Ruger chambered a few No. 1 rifles for it during the 1990s, and for a while the Thompson/Center custom shop offered rifle and pistol barrels for the Contender. Then there was the Browning Model 65, which was a Japanese copy of the Winchester Model 65, and an excellent one at that. Marlin also offered the Bee in the Model 1894 lever action. (I still have one of those.)

One of the more interesting firearms chambered in .218 Bee was the Marlin Model 90, which was introduced in 1937 and initially sold only through the department store chain of Sears-Roebuck & Company. It started out as an over/under shotgun in 12,16 and 20 gauges and was eventually offered with its lower barrel chambered for the .410 shotshell and the upper in .22 Long Rifle The term Long Rifle (or alternately Kentucky Rifle) refers to a type of rifle used in early America by both military and civilians. It is characterized by an unusually long barrel, sometimes over four feet in length, which is felt to be in large part a unique development of , .22 Hornet or .218 Bee. One of those guns was used in verifying velocities for .218 Bee data in the Sierra reloading manual. If I were to buy a Bee today, it would be the Cooper Model 38.

There was a time when the .218 Bee was loaded by both Remington and Winchester with 46-grain hollowpoints at 2,860 fps, but Remington dropped the cartridge during the 1970s, leaving Winchester as the only source. Unprimed cases are not always easy to come by, but the good news is that they are easily formed by necking down .25-20 and .32-20 brass. Both are available from Remington. Starline also offers .32-20 cases.

A trip through a .218 Bee full-lengthresizing die does it for the .25-20 case, but the .32-20 must first be resized in a .25-20 die to avoid case loss due to collapsing at the shoulder. Bee brass formed from either of those cases will emerge from the die with a secondary shoulder just forward of the original shoulder. Simply reduce the amount of powder by 10 percent below a recommended starting charge, fire the cartridge and out pops a fully formed .218 Bee case. The neck will be a tad short but not enough to matter. Some of the leveraction rifles I have shot through the years had chamber diameters reamed on the maximum side, and in them the neck sizer in my set of RCBS RCBS Rathfarnham Concert Band Society (Ireland)
RCBS Rock Chucker Bullet Swage (ammunition reloading company) 
 dies extended case life enough to notice.

Due to low-impact velocities compared with bigger cartridges, thin-jacketed bullets made specifically for loading in the Hornet and Bee are the most effective on varmints. Like the .22 Hornet, the barrels of rifles in .218 Bee almost always have a rifling twist rate Twist rate is a gun term that refers to the rate of twist of a gun barrel's rifling grooves.

It is usually expressed as a ratio of one twist per n inches or centimeters.

For example, a 1:7" twist rate means one complete rotation in 7 inches.
 of 1:16, and for this reason bullets measuring no more than .560 inch long are usually the best choices for accuracy. They include the Sierra 40-and 45-grain Hornet, Nosler 40-grain Solid Base, 33-grain Hornet, 40-grain Spire Point and 46-grain FN from Speer and three bullets from Hornady: the 35-grain V-Max, 45-grain Hornet and 45-grain Bee.


The 40-grain Hornady V-Max and Nosier Ballistic Tip of the same weight border on the brink of instability in the slow twist, and for this reason they seldom deliver the best accuracy. Bullets of all styles are suitable for use in bolt actions and single-shots, but those with sharply pointed tips should not be loaded into a tubular magazine. Maximum overall cartridge length for lever-action rifles is 1.680 inches.

Optimal powders for top velocities are 2400, W296, H110, Lil'Gun, H4227, IMR IMR - Internet Monthly Report  4227, VV N120 and A-1680. Lil'Gun combined with the Sierra 45-grain Hornet and Hornady 35-grain V-Max has proven to be the most accurate in my 1950s-vintage Sako. Due to the miserly mi·ser·ly  
Of, relating to, or characteristic of a miser; avaricious or penurious.

miser·li·ness n.

Adj. 1.
 powder charges, a mild primer such as the Remington 6.5 will often deliver the lowest velocity spreads.


I like to zero a rifle in .218 Bee two inches high at 100 yards. This puts its bullet about an inch above point of aim at 150 yards and a couple inches low at 200. As versatility goes, the Bee is small enough to use on chipmunks and flickertails and big enough to handle a called-in coyote coyote (kī`ōt, kīō`tē) or prairie wolf, small, swift wolf, Canis latrans, native to W North America. It is found in deserts, prairies, open woodlands, and brush country; it is also called brush wolf.  standing 100 yards from the muzzle.

Recoil recoil /re·coil/ (re´koil) a quick pulling back.

elastic recoil  the ability of a stretched object or organ, such as the bladder, to return to its resting position.
 is almost nonexistent non·ex·is·tence  
1. The condition of not existing.

2. Something that does not exist.

, and a rifle barrel lasts practically forever. So does a pound of powder. But when all is said and done, the biggest thing the little cartridge has going for it is a soft bark compared with bigger cartridges. This is becoming increasingly important in the more settled areas of our country where shooting a .226 "Loudenboomer" may cause the fellow who owns the land to forget to invite you back.

WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for Which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.

            WEIGHT                                              GRP.
             (CR -             (CR.)            (FPS)   (ft -  (IN.)
                 )                                       lbs)

SPEER TNT       33  VV N120     15.0  1.660     3,055     683   1.28

HORNADYV -      35     H110     13.0  1.650     2,954     677  0.71S

HORNADY V       35  Lil'Gun     14.0  1.650     3,071     732   0.69

HORNADY V       35  VV N120    14.5*  1.650     2,982     690   0.97

HORNADY V       40     H110     11.5  1.770     2,922     758   1.54

HORNADYV -      40    VV296     11.5  1.770     2,811     701   1.86

NOSLER          40  Lil'Gun     14.0  1.765     2,868     730   1.41

NOSLER          40   VVN120     14.5  1.765     2,884     738   1.26

SIERRA          40     2400     12.5  1.700     3,014     806   0.87

SIERRA          40  IMR4227    13.5*  1.700     2,967     781   0.93

HORNADY         45   RL - 7    14.5*  1.640     2,721     739   0.91

HORNADY         45      A -     14.0  1.640     2,830     799   1.33
HP/BEE                 1680

NOSLER SB       45  IMR4198      .2*  1.735     2,718     737   1.38

NOSLER SB       45   VVN120     14.0  1.735     2,840     805   1.29

SIERRA          45    H4198    15.0*  1.735     2,772     767   0.61

SIERRA          45  Lil'Gun     10.2  1.735     2,711     734   0.46


SIERRA          40     2400     12.0  1.680     2,798     695   2.12

SIERRA          45     SR -    4 0**  1.680     1,331     177   1.65
HORNET                 4759

SIERRA          45     SR -  11.0***  1.680     2,488     618   1.84
HORNET                 4759

SIERRA          45     2400     11.5  1.680     2,724     791   1.71

* Powder charge dispensed through a six-inch drop tube.
** Reduced-velocity samall-game load.
*** Reduced. velocity turkey load (where legal). All loads are maximum
and should be reducedby 10 percent for starling loads. Winchester cases
and WSR primers were used. Accuracy shown shown for each load is an
average of two five-shot, 100-yard ground fired from the bench. The
Sako L46 was topped with a Bushnell Elite 4-16X scope; the Marlin M1894
was scoped with a Burris 4-12X Mini.
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Title Annotation:G&A RELOADS
Author:Simpson, Layne
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:May 19, 2012
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