Custom rifle in .22-284

The Ray Gun: a custom long-range varmint rifle in .22-284

My sons call my .22-284 the Ray Gun and it seems entirely apt for a custom varmint rifle shooting 80gn projectiles at 3500fps to ½ MOA accuracy. 

A few years ago when i had a lot of spare time on my hands, I decided I liked the challenge of long-range shooting and needed a good, accurate, long-range single-shot rifle made to benchrest standards fitted with a good-quality long-range telescopic sight.

.22-284 wildcat cartridge
The .22-284 wildcat cartridge sends the 80gn JLK projectile out at 3500fps

The question of calibre and projectile remained open. I would hate to count the hours I spent on it before deciding on a .22-243 shooting a projectile in the 60gn range … which I later abandoned.

I found a gunsmith to carry out the task. He was a competition benchrest shooter and was aware of my aims. 

The only problem was that he did not have a suitable reamer and suggested an alternative with the .22-284 cartridge, which had escaped my initial reading. It added the possibility of a bigger projectile and, hence, greater downrange energy.

The final design was a Remington single-shot action, a McMillan fibreglass stock and a Madco 1:8 barrel. 

We decided on a JLK 80gn boat-tailed projectile, and the basic BC was a .51-some projectile. 

The rifle came complete with a set of straight-line reloading dies. 

A computer program and other extensive research suggested that IMR 7828 powder was suitable; the closest Australian powder was ADI AR2214 (since replaced by others, as you’ll read in a moment). 

With the slower powders available, the cartridge was perhaps not as overbore as some critics were suggesting.

The rifle demanded a good long-range telescopic sight. The short story is that we had a 6-18x Leupold converted to an 18×40 with a mil-dot reticle by Premier Reticles in the USA. It was costly but has proven to be a worthwhile investment. 

With 100 cases formed by the gunsmith, we initially trimmed the necks to 0.008” in thickness and started the load development process. The computer predicted 51.7gn of IMR 7828 powder at 3210fps, suggesting starting a load of 46.5gn of powder.

AR2214 has now been successfully replaced in the .22-284 by AR2217 and AR2225

Based on the computer program’s modelling for IMR 7828, I started at 49gn of AR2214 and proceeded at 1gn intervals up to 50gn, and ½gn thereafter. 

Shot 16, at 58gn of powder, provided hard extraction. 

Thereafter, the maximum load was 57gn of AR2214 that produced 3500fps velocity and groups in the ½-inch range with the projectiles just off the lands of the barrel.

It was good enough for me. The rifle could outshoot my capabilities. It was a steep learning curve. 

The first satisfactorily kill was a rabbit around 250 yards out, the first at long-range being a measured 375 yards. 

I was very careful to keep the barrel cool and avoided long strings of shots like the plague. In addition, the barrel was cleaned in a specific manner around every 10 or so shots.

Eventually, AR2214 was no longer made, but the cartridge quickly adapted to AR2217 and AR2225; velocity loss was small, and accuracy remained in the ½” range. 

I tried a few other projectiles, but none were as accurate as the 80-grain JLKs; thankfully, I still have several hundred on hand. 

When they finally disappear, I am sure that Gary Little in Brisbane will have a suitable replacement.




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Ron James