Is Ruger Trying to Jumpstart Another Forgotten Round?

Last week Ruger announced a new variant of the vaunted double-action Ruger Super Redhawk in .22 Hornet, a cartridge officially on life support.

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Dec 2023

You may not remember this, but FN coughed up the 5.7x28mm round in 1990 after nearly a decade of R&D. The Belgian gunmaker had a wrap on the cartridge and the guns– the Five-Seven pistol and P90 PDW– that used it for decades. This made it very niche and, by 2019, was close to falling out of production.

Then swooped in Ruger with their 57 pistol and it became a hit.

Soon, everyone was talking about 5.7 again. In the past few years since, CMMG, Diamondback, KelTec, PSA, and S&W entered the 5.7 game while Ruger expanded their offerings to include carbines, forcing FN to release a new Mk3 variant of the Five-Seven pistol.

In the same period, ammo makers saw the writing on the wall and started making the rounds in quantity and variants never seen in the caliber, both increasing supply and halving the cost.

Amazing what can happen when someone takes an almost forgotten round and, through the introduction of a new gun, breathes life back into it.

Well, Ruger may be trying to do a repeat with a new chambering for an old revolver. Last week they announced a new variant of the vaunted double-action Ruger Super Redhawk in .22 Hornet.

The Super Redhawk in 22 Hornet
The Super Redhawk in 22 Hornet

That’s an odd move for a wheel gun that was typically chambered in big hunting grade/counter bear calibers such as .44 Rem Mag and .454 Casull. Heck, Ruger created the .480 Ruger in 2003– then the largest-diameter production revolver cartridge– just for the Super Redhawk.

Super Redhawk in 22 Hornet, Left Profile
Super Redhawk in 22 Hornet, Left Profile

Further, it is the only new .22 Hornet handgun on the market anywhere. The last was the old bolt-action Savage Arms Striker bench gun that went out of production in 2005.

What’s so special about the .22 Hornet?

Super Redhawk in 22 Hornet - Right Profile
Super Redhawk in 22 Hornet - Right Profile

Developed by Townsend Whelen a full century ago, the .22 Hornet is not rimfire like the .22 Magnum and .22 LR but is instead a centerfire round that is about a half-inch shorter than a .223/5.56.

The longer 35mm case of the .22 Hornet (the .22 Mag has a case length of 26mm) allows it to carry a heavier bullet at a faster speed, typically twice the velocity of a .22 Mag, while generating almost three times the energy downrange.

In short, the .22 Hornet is a blistering fast little round (Hornady’s 35-grain VMax load has a released spec of 3,060 feet per second) and is ideal for use by varmint hunters and in survival guns– a use the military had for it for years.

However, today, the .22 Hornet is still around but should be listed as being on life support.

As far as I can tell, the only production guns in the .22 Hornet these days are bolt action rifles: the Savage 25 in several different finishes and barrel lengths, and the Ruger 77/22.

Browning-owned Winchester still markets a Japanese-made Model 1885 Low Wall Hunter in the caliber, but production can’t be very brisk, and odds are they just pulling from a batch made years ago that is sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

Keeping these new guns and legacy models fed is likewise slim-picking but not impossible. The round is still in commercial production both in the U.S. by Federal, Hornady, and Winchester, and overseas by PPU and Sellier & Bellot.

Has Ruger been reading the tea leaves on this one and seen an opportunity to pull another rabbit out of the hat, caliber speaking, when it comes to the fading .22 Hornet? We’ll see.

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