Weekly DTIC: Bill Davis, And The Birth of Small Caliber High Velocity

This week’s document, An Investigation of An Experimental Caliber .22 High Velocity Bullet For Rifles, is the report created from one of the first serious investigations of small caliber high velocity ammunition for the standard infantry weapon. Its author, William C. Davis, is one of the key figures in the history of the military .22, with a career in ballistics spanning over half a century.

An Investigation covers the earliest Project SALVO experiments utilizing a necked down 7.62mm NATO case firing a scaled down homologue of the excellent boattailed .30 caliber US M1 Ball round, weighing 68grs. The test article fired this bullet at approximately 3,400 ft/s, and was tested directly against the then-current .30-06 service round. The results were, and still are, surprising:

The ammunition employing the experimental caliber. 22 HV rifle bullet was superior to caliber .30 M2 ball with respect to impact velocities, flatness of trajectory, deflection by cross-wind, perforation of armor plate, perforation of helmets, penetration of pine boards at 2,000 yards, lightness of recoil, and lightness of weight. With respect to over-all wound-ballistic performance, it was approximately equal to caliber .30 bullets with which it was compared.

It is recommended that using forces be invited to comment on results of the testing described here.

Contingent upon the using forces’ expression of further interest, it is recommended that additional weapons and ammunition be procured for further engineering development and for such evaluation as using forces may desire to make at that time.

The result of further investigation showed that, given the results of the Hitchman reports, the .22 High Velocity was “too much” cartridge, but that the .22 Gustafson, with its light 41gr bullet and 3,000 ft/s muzzle velocity, was “too little” to meet contemporary requirements. A bullet weight of 55 grains – the average of the 41gr and 68 gr bullets thus far tested – was decided upon, and the then-new commercial .222 Remington cartridge was considered an ideal test platform. Eventually, the M193 rifle cartridge would be adopted, sporting performance almost exactly in between that of the .22 HV and .22 Gustafson in both bullet weight and velocity.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • I can’t believe that no one here is curious about a FN FAL chambered for a .22/308 wildcat. Perhaps you should post the Olin/Winchester SALVO prototype chambered for the duplex version of the round.

    • I’m sure some are. A good number of readers never post.

    • Perhaps I should have used that as the title image, Daniel!

    • Zachary marrs

      Im just not curious about a FN FAL, period :/

      • Anonymoose

        Yeah, I prefer the G3.

        • dan citizen

          Best damned battle rifle ever. I’m alive because of that rifle.

  • noguncontrol

    the .22 gus ( short for gustafson) was just as good as the 5.56 nato , even with the lighter bullet and much lower chamber pressures, simply because it had a much better BC. and it was probably much cheaper to produce as well as it use much less lead, it could even use aluminium cases. i wish some entrepreneur would bring the .22 gus to commercial production, same with the 8×41 cetme.

    • Anonymoose

      We should bring back the .22 Spitfire as a PDW/carbine cartridge. :^)

      • noguncontrol


      • markgreenman

        That would be awesome. I’m a bug fan of the 5.7, and looking at the specs for the .22 Spitfire it looks to be much faster while only being 0.06″ longer.

        Curious to know how it would perform out of a 5″ barrel, and whether it could work with spitzer style projectiles.

    • .22 Gustafson has a much inferior BC to 5.56mm. Not sure where you got that it had a superior BC from.

      • noguncontrol

        Sorry, i mixed up the .22 Gus with the 5.56 FABRL, i meant the 5.56 FABRL, and the 8×41 CETME.

  • DIR911911 .

    not that it matters much since just about every country using the 5.56 is currently shooting it out of barrels too short to reach the velocity the cartridge was designed for.

    • Zachary marrs

      So? The .30-06 was never designed to function in an auto loading rifle, so they modified the load, same with the 5.56, lots of loads purpose built to offer the maximum efficiency from +14.5″ barrels

      • iksnilol

        Action type and barrel length are two wildly different things for a cartridge. Also the purpose built loads don’t help much when the majority of 5.56 ammo is made for longer barrels (40-50 cm).

        • Zachary marrs

          Its called an example

          In both the 5.56 and .30-06 the powder charge was modified to work better in the platform it was to be fired from.

          • iksnilol

            Not really a good example, your “example” is comparing apples and potatoes. You missed my point.

            EDIT: here is an illustration: http://goo.gl/BmRaXw

            Getting 30-06 to work in an autoloader isn’t hard. Just adjust the gas block/plug on the rifle and you are done. Getting 5.56 to burn its powder in 14.5 inches of barrel requires different powder.
            Do you understand my point better now? 30-06 requires something on the rifle (if it is needed at all) while 5.56 is dependent on the ammunition itself.

          • Zachary marrs

            You are reading wayyyyy too much into this.

            Like way too much

          • iksnilol

            I want to go full on Tony Montana from Scarface on you now. Verbally that is.

            Not reading too much into it, it’s just that I am not some braindead idiot like some condenscending people think I am.

          • Zachary marrs

            Seriously, calm down. I never called you braindead

          • iksnilol

            Nah, just messing with you. We cool?

          • Zachary marrs

            As a cucumber

          • dan citizen

            I like apples and potatoes

    • noguncontrol

      time to switch to 6mm whisper.

    • n0truscotsman

      “designed to do what” is the better question in terms of performance parameters

      5.56 has evolved enough to where it doesn’t need a 20″ barrel to perform reliably against human targets, achieving adequate penetration and dispensing of energy.

      More velocity may be theoretically more desirable, although, if you can adequately engage targets within 300 meters and each shot that hits the bad guy does what it is supposed to do, then, meh….

      I understand your argument though. Its amazing how much shorter barrels have gotten since the days of muskets 😀

  • Marc

    And these days we’re seating 77 gr bullets deep into the casing because then they just averaged two bullets and made the max OAL accordingly short.

  • LilWolfy

    The US interest in SCHV actually dates back to the late 1800’s. The 5.56 Timeline has one of the most comprehensive discussions of this topic, as well as The Black Rifle, Vol.I.

    The first US small caliber service cartridge of note, the 6mm Lee Navy, was so far ahead of its time, as it allowed a basic load of 150rds, in the late 1800’s, with better reach, wind deflection, and flatter trajectory than the .30-40 Krag.

    It wouldn’t be until the early 1960’s that the soldier’s load would be supported by a similar cartridge facilitating basic loads in excess of 150rds, and that was of course with the AR15/5.56×45 M193. The MP44/Stg44 supported a basic load of 180rds easily, but was not high velocity or small caliber, being 7.92×33 Kurz.

    The history of 5.56 development reads like the mix of a dry technical manual, woven with the twists and turns of a torrid soap opera, and anyone who still has an attention span left should get The Black Rifle Volume I just for the entertainment value of the drama coming out of Army Ordnance, the CONARC clowns, the Pentagon, Fort Benning, and McNamara’s “Whiz Kids”, which were a laughing stock among the civilian Army engineers working under Dr. Carten. What a read that is.

    Interestingly enough, Eugene Stoner was not a big fan of SCHV, as he felt .30 caliber was a more effective service rifle option, but I suspect he went through a bit of evolution as special operations customers preferred his designs in the AR15 and Stoner 63 configurations, rather than AR10 and Stoner 62.

    If they had developed a true intermediate cartridge with better efficiency than the 7.62 NATO, like the British were working on, we could have had the best of both worlds with something like the .280 Enfield, with a receiver and magazine profile somewhere between AR10 and AR15, with ammunition load still better than 6mm Lee Navy.

    • I disagree that the .280 British would be a superior round to 5.56mm. It was nearly as heavy as 7.62×51, with nearly as much recoil, would not allow the use of weapons as small as the AR-15, and would impair full auto controllability greatly compared to that cartridge. Further, the trajectory of the .280 British was pretty lackluster, as it had poor muzzle velocity.

      The US tested rounds comparable to the .280, and found that .22 caliber ammunition was superior. These were a part of SALVO tests.

  • Tassiebush

    The .22HV seems a bit like a .22-250 with heavier bullet.

    • It’s roughly similar in performance, but using the 7.62x51mm as a parent.

      • Tassiebush

        So they’re related in a sense as I think the 7.62×51 was actually based on .300 savage case which in turn was a necked up .250-3000 savage which was parent case of .22-250. Great article BTW!

  • Seth Hill

    Looking at the PDF, it is hard to read the dimensions for the case.

    • “Best available copy”, the scourge of archive divers.