Welcome back to another edition of the TFB Round Table sponsored by Ammunition To Go! For those who are first joining us, this is a multi-part series where TFB will discuss the characteristics of great ammunition for specific applications. This could vary from big game hunting, plinking, precision rifle matches, small game hunting, or even pistol competitions. Chances are there is someone here at TFB who can offer you advice on buying the right round for your task at hand. This week I’m at the helm on TFB Round Table to discuss and recommend a cartridge that I myself was not entirely familiar with. The cartridge in question is that of .218 Bee. Do you have an old Winchester chambered in this wildcat round? Are you finding yourself pondering the purpose of such a random caliber? Stay tuned! Let’s dive right into the .218 Bee caliber and some ammunition options to bring your old gat back to the range!
TFB ROUND TABLE: THE 218 Bee ORIGIN STORY
Winchester in the early part fo the 20th century was a successful and booming business riding on many of John Browning’s firearm designs. When you are a company with such a fruitful track record up until let us say the late nineteen-thirties, you start to look for new niches to tap into with current popular designs. Winchester introduced their brand new .218 Bee cartridge in 1938. This cartridge was invented with the intention to gain sales from the people out there that really enjoyed themselves a good light varmint caliber. In proper Winchester fashion, the new .224 caliber cartridge was paired with a new-ish rifle called the Model 65. The 65 was the next in line after the Model 53 and was supposed to be an improvement on the Model 1892 design.
I mentioned that .218 Bee uses a .224 caliber bullet and I understand how that may be confusing. .218 Bee is unique in a fair few aspects but one specific one would be that it is named after the bore diameter of the Winchester Model 65 rather than the actual diameter of the bullet. This brand new stinger of a short-range varmint cartridge was intended to draw some popularity off of the .22 Hornet that gained immense favor with shooting enthusiasts in the 1920s. Even though .218 Bee does tend to perform slightly better than the .22 Hornet, it did not exactly blow consumers away since a lever-action system has looser tolerances than the bolt action one resulting in very good to fair in terms of accuracy. At the end of the day, the Model 65 was produced in very slim numbers when compared to the other two models named earlier. This makes the Model 65 very collectible and the most popular chambering with collectors happens to be in little old .218 Bee.
Ammunition to Go gives us a lovely overview and even some comparisons to some similar cartridges:
218 Bee ammo shoots a .224-inch (5.7 mm) bullet and the caliber’s name derives not from bullet diameter, but bore diameter. Its parent cartridge is the .25-20 Winchester that has been necked down to .224 inch.
.218 Bee rounds are fun to shoot and can handle bullets up to 55 grain with advertised velocities over 3,000 feet per second with factory ammo. It is at its best as a short range, smaller varmint eliminator offering performance that is better than the .22 Hornet, but generally considered less spectacular than the .222 Remington and of course the popular .223 Remington.
TFB ROUND TABLE: WHAT’RE WE LOOKING FOR HERE?
If you find yourself in possession of a firearm chambered in such a caliber, there are a few things to consider. You have yourself an old collectible Model 65 and would like to experience some late 1930s fun, a later Sako bolt action for some hunting or even a very neat Ragging Bee revolver. Regardless, it is important to know your intent and even better yet know what you are looking for in terms of .218 Bee which can be still found on some shelves today.
- Bullet Type
- Bullet Grain Weight
If you are the kind of person who wants to go hunting with this small varmint cartridge I would look into hollow point or soft point ammunition. These days I am not sure how easy it would be to find ball range ammunition but I would expect this cartridge is popular with reloaders for the reason of ammunition price and availability. Grain weights and velocities are entirely up to your preference and working with the ammo you are able to track down. The reason I mention them though is when pairing the ammo you find with your firearm it could have a short barrel like the Ragging Bee or a longer barrel like some later bolt actions and you may want to consider bullet weights and velocities to ensure maximum performance.
TFB ROUND TABLE: 218 Bee Now
Below is an excerpt from the Lyman 49th Edition Reloading Handbook:
Winchester Later chambered their Model 43 bolt action for the Bee. In a good bolt or single shot, the Bee is very accurate and offers a mild report.
In more recent years, Marlin and Browning have chambered rifles for the 218 Bee. Thompson/Center has offered their Contender single shot handgun and Taurus had introduced their Ragging Bee, an eight shot revolver.
As always, thank you for reading TFB! Be safe out there, have fun while shooting, and we will see you next time for the TFB Round Table brought to you by Ammunition to Go! Also, let us know what you think in the comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.
TFB’S ROUND TABLE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY AMMOTOGO.COM
This is .218 Bee Winchester Super-X 46gr. Hollow Point Ammo. This round features include ultra-high velocity, pinpoint accuracy and explosive fragmentation. Weight rearward design enhances bullet accuracy. This ammo is ideal for prairie dog, coyote, woodchuck, and other small varmints. Muzzle velocity of 2760fps. This ammo comes packed in 50rds. per box.
New to Hornady’s extensive lineup for 2017 is their 218 Bee ammo. This ammo is perfect for varmint hunting and features a zippy 2,750 FPS muzzle velocity with a 45-grain hollow point projectile. Each box features 25 rounds of brass-cased, boxer-primed reloadable ammo.
Hornady ammo is American made in Grand Island, Nebraska and is now being run by the 2nd and 3rd generations of the Hornady family.