Someone once said that the .22 Hornet was once the most accurate small centrefire cartridge going. The good news is that it’s more alive today than ever before. Being a professional pest controller for the past 32 years I rely on good equipment, and although guns and ammo do play a part for me in pest control, they are not the be all and end all when it comes to controlling vermin for me…but I do enjoy shooting for the pot.
From a very early age of 5 years old, I have been interested in shooting, having been out with my father on many occasions trapping and shooting rabbits with some sort of gun my father owned from time to time,usually his shotgun was at his side most times. On a few occasions I recall, he would use his 22 Hornet rifle (which I was never allowed to handle) but the shotguns didn’t interest me, they were too loud; it was his rifles that intrigued me, especially the Hornet. He had a variety of rifles, from an old .22 BSA air rifle to a Winchester Model 54 .22 Hornet and being only 5 years old, it was a very loud rifle as I recall no sound mods in those days.
Despite having grown up with guns all around me, since my father had passed away when I was only being 8 years old, it was a while before I was old enough to own my own rifle, around 14 years old I think it was. I got my hands on a very old .22 BSA air rifle, rusty as hell, but it got me out and about shooting rabbits for the pot… missing most shots, as I didn’t have any telescopic sights attached to it.
My introduction to the more powerful firearms rifles was at the age of 17 when my eldest brother Keith got himself a Ruger 10-22, he would be out shooting most weekends, and would invite me along. I loved shooting the 10-22 and that finalized it for me, I wanted a Ruger 10/22. I worked hard and saved as much as I could, I got to about £150 and my brother sold me his Ruger 10-22; It served me well for many, many years , only ever having a new firing pin and a new trigger fitted, it never let me down. I only just sold it a few months ago, so it had been with me for a long time, over 40 years and it served me really well.
Plans were afoot for the 22 Hornet, but this was to change as I got into pest control in a big way, and getting one went on the back burner, at least for a while as other things were more important. Setting my business up and getting out there and treating for pests took priority. That was 32 years ago, and still no Hornet rifle, don’t get me wrong I do have other rifles in my collection, but I now favor the 22 hornet above all them. Now a few will be asking, but why do you want a .22 hornet?? Good question, to be perfectly honest, I prefer small caliber rifles for close range shooting of fox, up to 175 yards. The Hornet has that bit of umph I like for a small caliber bullet, and with that the Hornet is cheap to run, reloadable and enormously fun to shoot.
Now we come to the .22 Hornet Rifle of which I own, it’s a BRNO 465 (1949) and was purchased off a good friend of mine, Leigh Wright a few months ago, it`s threaded for a sound moderator (1/2” UNF), hydro dipped in Real Tree camo (also done by Leigh Wright); once I had the gun, the big question was “Which Moderator do I get? “. The barrel is already 23” long, so a further 6-7inches was going to make it even longer, and a bit awkward to use. Someone suggested a SAK mod (which I already have on my Browning T Bolt ) but that wasn’t for me , I wanted something , something that not only looked the part but performed very well. Help was at hand from Jonny Elsmore, who suggested I get a Wildcat Evolution from Alison at UK Custom Shop Ltd http://www.wildcatrifles.co.uk. Alison put me in touch with a gun smith near me called Dave Folwell at Bowtech in Birtley , Co. Durham who just so happened to have an Evolution in stock, deep joy, it only took me 25 min to get there for the mod, that’s how eager I was to get one. So I get my hands on the new calibre specific Evolution sound moderator, oh, I thought that’s a long moderator (forgetting it was a reflex design), Dave says It`s an over-barrel mod, and not so long as you may think it is. It only adds the same length as the SAK would have done; he was right. The Evolution looks sexy to say the least, but how does it perform, that question called for some testing.
Having got the .22 hornet rifle, and 100 rounds of Hornady V-Max from Leigh which he chucked in with the rifle and the Evolution moderator I had just bought from Dave, it was finally time for some shooting at the range on the farm where I shoot.
I filled the magazine up with the 5x 35 grain Hornady V-Max rounds and tested the first round WITHOUT the mod attached, ‘Woah’, what a bang, brought me back to my younger days with my dad's rifle, the sheep 4 fields away were off the starting blocks like Usain Bolt, I almost jumped out of my skin and there was not a single bird for miles as the blast must have shook the trees. I then attached the Evolution mod, the second round was fired and WOW, what a BIG difference, hardly a bang, more like a pop, I thought it was a miss fire. So third round, again a slight pop followed by the inevitable super sonic crack, this is absolutely excellent I thought. A good few rounds later, and I was having fun, then I remembered someone said to let the barrel cool down after a few rounds as this effects the accuracy and grouping.
Disappointment was definitely not an issue with the 22 Hornet coupled with the Evolution moderator, it performs perfectly. The moderator strips down into 4 pieces for easy clean (in an ultrasonic bath), and the engineering quality is outstanding; precision made and finished in a matt black finish with a purple end (this denotes the caliber). The performance was outstanding, it makes the rifle sound almost silent, yes there is a slight crack/pop , but that’s the sonic crack that rifles make and mods cannot eliminate.
The 22 Hornet rounds themselves are a nice little round, I reload and use 35 grn V-Max from Hornady now, with lil Gun, and at 3057 fps it`s my choice of round, they certainly do their job if placed in the kill zones, i.e. head shots.
The 5 round CZ magazine is of the metal kind, (not these plastic things that are now available), and again can be stripped down for a through clean inside. The CZ action is smooth and feeds like a dream, the rifle is a light and compact package with the over-barrel mod and I find it great to carry in the field with a small compact scope.
Testing different Hornet rounds and reloads is a challenge, and getting the right load is important for any rifle, especially an old girl like mine, but I managed to get what I wanted a round with 12.5 gr of lil' Gun, and a 35grn V-Max ballistic tip bullet. The V-Max reloads are devastating, and give a really good grouping at 150 yards, which puts me on target every time, providing I can stop shaking so much with rheumatism setting in.
Not bad grouping for 10 rounds 2 on the right were the last 2 fired on a rather warm barrel.
Shooting out to ranges of 150+ yards was a breeze for me, but a target at 242 yards, (without any hold over) that was a challenge, especially with a cheap 3-9 x 40 scope. With a better scope, that too is now reachable for me, unlikely for me to do so, but it proved a point for just how far it can reach comfortably. The .22 Hornet never really went away, forgotten maybe for a time, as there have been other calibers that have taken over from it over time. All in all, this little humble bullet still has a place on the shooting scene, and still achieves great results effectively with smaller charges than other calibers in its class such as 223 Rem and 22-250. The 22 Hornet is a great all round point and shoot vermin/varmint caliber, at home on the bunnies and with plenty of power to take down Charlie at sensible ranges.
By Brian Sowerby - Proffessional Pest Controller