As soon as any new cartridge hits the mainstream market, hand loaders start tinkering with it making wildcat variations. The now super popular Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor case is no exception to that rule. The first of these wildcats to make it to the big league was the 6mm Creedmoor; now a SAAMI approved cartridge with rifles offered by many manufacturers.
I have rifles chambered in both 6.5 and 6mm Creedmoor (CM) but the 22 CM has captured my attention. I first heard of it from a friend that said the 22 CM came in the top 3 in a first-round hit capability study he had read.
Well, I’m always a bit skeptical of studies and statistics since they can easily be swayed depending on what is included or excluded in the study, or how the study process is conducted. However, after running basic ballistic numbers on the 22 CM it looked very interesting.
The 22 CM has been making waves in the predator hunting circles since before 2014 and gaining popularity since. I’m not saying the 22 CM is anywhere close to becoming a big factory rifle/cartridge offering any time soon; but it is gaining industry support, with brass, dies, ammunition on the market.
Being based off the 6.5 CM cartridge case, the 22 CM runs in short action rifles and feeds smoothly from SA magazines produced by many manufacturers. The only thing needed is a fast twist barrel to stabilize the long, high BC bullets; 1 x 7 – 7.5 twist.
I had a rifle built by Meredith Rifles, using a Defiance action, Bartlein barrel, Manners stock and Nightforce scope. The first rounds I loaded were made by necking down readily available 6mm CM cases before 22 Creedmoor head-stamped brass was available.
The process for making that brass was easy enough, but still, somewhat time-consuming. The good news is that Hornady, Peterson, Gunwerks, Atlas Development Group (ADG) and Alpha Munitions are all selling factory brass now, so no more necking down the 6 CM for me.
Similarly, there are no big-name ammunition companies loading for the 22 CM, but there are several smaller companies offering ammunition so you don’t have to reload at all. Cooper Creek, Gunwerks, and Spark Munitions have a variety of offerings depending on what purpose you have for the gun.
The available ammunition is priced in line with high-quality hunting and match ammunition, which is taking the 22 CM a step beyond the realm of a wildcat requiring hand-loading, and getting closer to that of being a factory product.
Bullet diameter .224
Shoulder angle 30 degrees
Shoulder diameter .462
Rim diameter .468
Case length 1.92 inches
Primer type Large and small
The performance of the 22 CM with 75 – 80 grain bullets makes it an outstanding varmint cartridge. I’ve seen claims of 80 grain Bergers @ 3500 fps out of 26” barrels, which would be devastating on any varmint. Loaded ammunition is available with bullets in the 70-75 range leaving 24” barrels at velocities around 3400+ fps, a bit more conservative than personal hand-loading, but still making it a very flat shooting, low recoiling round delivering impressive results.
Part of the beauty of the 22 CM is that it shoots standard .224 caliber bullets that are available almost everywhere for the hand loaders and cost less than larger caliber bullets. The heavier bullets being used in the 22 CM range from 75-95 grains.
With a wide selection of bullets and factory brass available, all that’s needed is reloading dies to put it all together, and with reloading dies now available from major sources such as RCBS, Hornady, Redding, and Whidden, the 22 CM’s seems on the rise.
The reason this cartridge stood out in the first round hit study, is because these heavy for caliber bullets have relatively high ballistic coefficients, and can be launched at fast speeds resulting in less wind and elevation corrections being required.
I have to say, the best part about shooting the Meredith 22 CM is that it’s just fun to shoot. The gun has NO recoil, and is downright easy to hit targets with due to the flat trajectory and outstanding wind-defeating bullets.
The lack of recoil resulting from using relatively light bullets makes it possible to watch your own impacts or misses if the terrain allows. This allows for fast and accurate second round corrections, which is a big advantage while hunting or competing.
I built the 22 CM to be a dual-purpose gun, or actually a 3-purpose gun. The first was for the coyotes and varmints previously mentioned. The second was for shooting PRS (Precision Rifle Series) style matches on occasion, and the third was for hunting deer sized game. As with any multi-purpose tool there tends to be compromises.
For this project, my sacrifice was in the barrel. It’s a great quality barrel, but the only profile available at the time was far heavier than I would have liked, so in order to keep the overall weight of the gun down I had the gunsmith make it shorter, giving up some velocity to gain mobility afield.
PRS matches typically limit bullet speeds to 3200 fps, which coincidentally works well since Copper Creek offers the 22 CM with a 95-grain SMK at 3160 fps based on a 24” barrel. This makes an outstanding round with only 7.1 mils drop at 1000 yards, and 1.7 mils of wind drift for a 10-mph wind at that distance. For PRS you don’t actually need all the speed the 22 CM has to offer from longer barrels.
Taking a quick look at how the 22 CM compares to some other cartridges will shine a light on its potential. Using 1000 yards as a distance benchmark, the 6mm CM drops 8.1 mils, and the 6.5 CM with the Hornady 147 ELD-M drops 8.7 mils. Both these rounds are considered fantastic for long-range shooting. Compared to the 7.1 mils of the 22 CM it’s easy to see why the 22 CM has a high hit probability. On unknown distance targets, that flatter trajectory would result in more hits.
All of these Creedmoor cartridges are truly great long-range rounds when compared to the old military/police standard 308. The industry standard 308 load of a 168 grn Sierra Match King bullet at 2650 fps is no match for the more modern high BC cartridges. The old standard would have dropped a rainbow-like curve of 12.6 mils at the 1000-yard mark.
For the third purpose, hunting deer sized game the 22 CM will certainly shoot far enough flat enough to get accurate hits. The long slender bullets have good sectional density, so they will easily get the penetration needed to reach the vitals of thin-skinned medium game. However, the big question for hunting, is if the small diameter bullets have the energy needed to make clean kills.
So how much bullet energy is needed for medium sized game? Well, it seems opinions are mixed, and you know what they say about opinions. Research shows that recommendations range from 800 ft-lbs to 1300 ft-lbs. While some think that energy is not the all-important factor and cite archery and sub-sonic hog hunting as an example; really can’t argue that either.
Well, the good news is the 22 CM seems to have all the energy needed for the task. The old deer hunting go-to 30-30 caliber 150 grn bullet drops below the 800 ft-lb mark at about 225 yards. The 22 CM drops below that 800 ft-lb threshold at between 600 to 775 yards depending on the bullet and velocity of Copper Creek’s different offerings.
Leaning toward the more conservative number of 1300 ft-lbs, the same 22 CM bullets combinations are good out to 300- 400 yards. In reality, I think that number is way over what’s needed with good shot placement.
|Drop @ 1000 (mils)
|10 mph Drift @ 1000
|Energy @ 500 yds (ft-lbs)
|22 CM 75 ELD
|22CM 88 ELD
|22 CM 95 SMK
|6 CM 108 ELD
|6.5 CM 147 ELD
|308 168 SMK
I ran the numbers on the 45-70 I carried to Africa last year. The Hornady 250 grn FTX worked well on a large Black Wildebeest at 296 yards, the first shot took it down, the second ensured it never got back to its feet.
The energy of the 250 grain 45 caliber bullet at that distance was only 630 ft-lbs. I’ve used the same round on whitetail deer and inside of 100 yards it takes them off their feet and they never know what hit them. So, it is definitely more than just the energy numbers that is important.
With all that being said I don’t think the 22 CM will have any problems making clean kills on deer size game out to 400-450 yards with solid shot placement. A highly accurate, easy to shoot rifle with a flat trajectory will make for confident hunting.
The only real issue that remains on the 22 CM rifle is just how long the barrel is going to last. I’m running the heavier bullets, typically 88 or 95 grains. These bullets have the higher energy levels, perform better in the wind, and should have a longer barrel life than the faster lighter bullets.
Compounding the problem though is the fact it’s so fun to shoot, and that its 22 caliber makes it much cheaper to shoot than my larger calibers as well. I think the barrel will give me a good barrel life based on round count but not based on time because I really enjoy shooting it and letting others try it.
So, was a 22 CM worth spending the time and money to build? I think so, the 22 Creedmoor is a great shooting cartridge and the Meredith rifle shoots amazing. The cartridge and rifle perform well with my handloads or the factory available ammunition. The fact that several vendors are manufacturing 22 CM brass certainly makes handloading simpler.
If I was to do it over again, I would build a lighter hunting weight rifle, which in reality would mean just a slimmer barrel and dropping down to a Nightforce NX8 2.5- 20x scope. Then the 22 CM would be right at home in the field where it belongs. So check out the details and run the numbers yourself and consider one for your next rifle build.