What in tarnation is a .256 Dean?

John Wayne loved his Winchester 92's, but a .256 Dean wouldn't.
John Wayne loved his Winchester 92’s, but a .256 Dean wouldn’t. Image Wikipedia.

Q: Recently I heard about a wildcat called the .256 Dean which is I have been told, nothing more than an improved .25-20. What can you tell me about it? Would it be safe to have my Winchester ’92 rechambered for it?
Rob Douglas

.25-20 Cartridge Drawing
.25-20 Cartridge Drawing

A: The .25-20 WCF is the .32-20 necked to .25 calibre to make a reasonable copy of the famous .25-20 single-shot for use in the 1892 Winchester. It was the top varmint cartridge until the .22Hornet came along in 1930. It was improved ballistically by Harry Dean of Buffalo, New York by giving it minimum body taper, a shortened neck and increased capacity so that the velocity of the 60gn bullet was boosted from 2200fps to 2400 fps without a pressure increase. Back in the late 1950s, the late Col Shadbolt used to write in Austalian Outdoors about this experiences with a Sako L46 rifle he had rechambered to .256 Dean. I wouldn’t recommend rechambering a ’92 Winchester for the .256 Dean as little would be gained in the way of velocity as pressures would have to be held down to be safe in that relatively weak lever-action. In a strong single-shot rifle fine accuracy with higher pressures and higher velocity could be achieved. But that old wildcat has nothing to recommend it today, and is better forgotten.

Editor’s note. The .256 Dean is such an esoteric chambering that I could not find an image of it anywhere.





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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.