218 Bee (Varmint Grenade)

A farmer friend of mine was thinking of selling his 22-250, as he wanted something a little more fun. What could do the job as a 100 metre varminter, but be that little bit different?

He had recently beaten me to a nice Marlin CL 218 Bee, sod! I needed the Bee to complete my set, 25-20, 32-20 and 218 Bee. We thought that the Bee would be limited to range shooting 25 or so metres, but he had read various articles about Barnes Varmint Grenade bullets, and thought that this lighter bullet would give him increased velocity, and then hopefully flatter shooting. It was also important to have a frangible bullet that was safer for shallower shots, reducing the risk of ground ricochet.

I must admit I was not convinced that the Bee in a lever rifle was able to perform much past 25 metres with any bullet. Now obviously we all know the risks of loading pointed bullets "up the tube", but we were only going to be shooting and loading individually.


We used a 14x40 scope, could have done with a little more power, and used load data for 35 grain HDY V-Max bullet from the Hodgdon Manual, and for a 40 grain Speer Sp. SP from the Lyman 49th Edition Handbook. Only starting loads would be used, making sure to be well with pressure tolerances as a lighter bullet was to be used.

On the left is the factory Winchester 46 grain bullet, next to the Barnes 30 grain. The bullets are of a similar size, but as the Barnes contains no lead, it is still considerably lighter.

Lil'Gun was used along with a favorate of mine IMR 4198. I knew the 4198 had given good results in the 25-20, and felt sure that it would work for the Bee.

We had a chance to shoot at 25, 50 and 100 metres, though I thought that 100 metres was asking too much of the cartridge in the Marlin. I was also testing my new .222 Remington that day, hence the 100 metres, and would also be using a Barnes VG but in 36 grains.

The targets that were used were 25 Yard Repair Centre B-8C(T) official NRA targets 26.5cm x 26.5cm, with a 4 cm bull. We had to put some white tape on the centre as the scope was low powered, and additional help was needed in picking out the targets.

This target we managed to shoot upside down, was at 25m with 12.5 grains of Lil'Gun, and was already looking poor.


Now shown is a group at 25m with 14 grains of IMR 4198, this gave a lightly compressed load, with no evidence of excessive pressure, and produced a group of no real surprise.

Same recipe but now at 50m, not much worse than the 25m target but still not very good.

Things are getting a little more tricky, but amazingly the IMR 4198 is still tight, though I did pull one shot to spoil things. The point of aim remained at centre and there was no adjustment of the scope. I thought that this would be about it, but we kept on going expecting it to unravel at 100m. 

This next picture shows a digital zoom and then an actual 100m shot, remembering that we only had x 14 magnification. You can just see the target in the middle, between the two trees.

Then the true view, you will have to guess where the target is.

As I said earlier, I felt that from a lever gun, even getting it to print on a repair centre target would be amazing, and the Lil'Gun was an example of the scatter gun shooting that I would have been content with, as bellow.

Now the IMR 4198, same bull point of aim, with no scope adjustment.

I could not believe the group, and just wished we had more ammo to keep going. I had also made the same load but with a factory crimp. I thought that this could help increase performance allowing for greater pressure in the chamber as the bullet was so light that I thought that there would not be sufficient resistance to get any performance.

This was shot on an old target, so I was aiming at the top of the black, 12 O'clock picture. The bullet drop was a little left, but was still shooting more or less point of aim, reasonably flat. We will chronograph the load, but looking at the tables, length of barrel and all that, the Barnes must have left the Marlin at about 3000-3200 fps.

In short, the 22-250 though considerably more gun, carrying heavier bullets another 150m easily, my pal thought that the added fun factor and the sort of shooting he was likely to do,  the Bee had swung it for him, and the 22-250 would be up for sale.

The Barnes Varmint Grenade has our vote, and shot through the same hole at 100m with a 36 grain bullet using my .222.