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The young boy was doing something he wasn’t supposed to do..he was to weed the very large garden of his Grandfather’s farm. But instead, he was laying in the grass of the open acreage, well behind the farm house, about 30 yards from the now open chicken coupes, and the chickens were spreading in the large yard around the coupes.
In his hands was a Winchester levergun, model 64 in 219 Zipper. Loaded if memory serves, with 48 grain bullets at around 3300 fps. He was waiting for a destroyer, ‘one’ his Grandfather was very angry at. ‘One’ if caught in the Zipper’s sights, would vindicate the boy’s lack of weeding. Factory peep sights and young eyes did catch one of two hawks that came to lunch that day, to dine on chicken. So all was well, Grandfather was pleased, and the varmint hunter in the little boy was born.
Since that day, there have been many varmints in my sights on three continents; North America, Africa, and S.E. Asia, some two legged, as well as the four legged kind. Also an uncountable number of varmint guns...handguns, rifles, even a shotgun or two, have passed thru my hands. But the 219 Zipper/mod.64 Winchester has always been special....and not only because of memories, there just is something nice and comfortable about 22 centerfires in leverguns. Back in the 1940s when that ol’hawk got his.... leverguns chambered for 22 centerfire cartridges were fairly common. Winchester brought out the Zipper in 1937 and the 218 Bee in 1938. The Zipper is on the 25-35 case, or a resized 30-30 case...the Bee is a necked down 32-20 case. Most know about the "Imp" the famous Savage (.228 caliber) Hi-Power, chambered in their Savage 99-H takedown levergun...at the turn of the 19th into the 20 century, around 1912.
Ackley’s two volume book set, shows a half dozen rimmed 22 centerfires into the 1960s (book one). And at least three or more improved designs of each of them (book two). Marlin dropped the 219 Zipper in 1961. So 22 centerfires in leverguns were obviously popular right up thru the early 1960s. Then they were put to bed by the popularity of the near new .222 class of small cased 22 centerfires in bolt guns.
The Zipper in the model 64 was manufactured by Winchester for only ten years and then discontinued from really 1938 to 1948, but then no civilian guns were manufactured during the Second World War. There are a lot less out there than most think. So today they are a prize if you can find one. But hold on to your emotional shock system when you look at a price for even a medium condition shooter. Marlin chambered their 336 in the Zipper for awhile in the 1950s to 1961. And there was a steady business for gun builders chambering leverguns in the Zipper, the Wasp, the Canadian 22 Varmint-R, the Ackley 22/30-30, the 22/303, and the late great Donaldson Wasp.....even a bench rest cartridge called the .224 ICL Benchrester-R version.
And though it wasn’t chambered in a levergun, Winchester produced the 225 Winchester in the 1960s as a bolt action round to contend with Remington’s making the wildcat 22-250 a Remington round. Even though the 225 Winchester was a bolt action rimmed cartridge, I bring it up because the 225 W was nothing but the redesigning of the 219 Zipper Ackley Improved, with a smaller ‘06 size rim.
All of the ‘Improved’ versions of the 219 Zipper pretty much gave 200 to 350 fps more than the standard Zipper. But the standard is no slouch in the velocity department. When I tell people I can easily reach 3500 fps with a 45 grain bullet, 3450 fps with a 50 grain bullet and 3300 fps with a 55 grain bullet, some look at me strangely. They never envisioned a leveraction round of any caliber getting that kind of velocity.
Back to the ol’model 64 in 219 Zipper. Because there is less steel taken out of the 24 inch .224 caliber barrel, than the 30-30 or the 32 Special, also chambered in the 64 at one time, the rifle is slightly nose heavy.... and when aiming you get the impression that the rifle sits on target like a Bluetick bitch on a hot covey of quail. Winchester produced this version of the mod ‘94 levergun because of all the bad press it was getting. Gun writers of the times were all aglow about bolt actions, but had nothing good to say about leveractions. So Winchester countered by bringing out this very special, slick, smooth and stylish levergun in 219, 30-30, and 32 Special. Gun writers still had little to say that was nice... I am glad to see that has changed a good deal today with fine writers like John Taffin, Brian Pierce, Mic McPherson and many others...most of them members of the Shootists.
Also with Cowboy Shooting..... contests and clubs going strong... the levergun has found a whole new generation of admirers and shooters. Since the mid to late 1970s and the chambering of leverguns in handgun rounds, also the resurgence of the 45-70 from Winchester (‘86), Browning (86) and from Marlin (336), hunting with leverguns has taken a jump up. Now it’s time for 22 caliber centerfires. I hope the industry gets on the band wagon. Meanwhile one of my projects is to build a 6mm Zipper Improved, I have the reamers....just need to get the barrel and decide which model levergun to put it on....I expect the 55 grain 6mm bullet to reach 3500 to 3550 fps from a 24 inch barrel and the 105 grainer to hit 3000+fps.
My 219 Zipper is almost as old as me, when the Lord took my Grandfather home (after 96 years) it was one of the guns he had that was to go to me. I made sure it did....telling the whole family anyone who attempts to get my Zipper or my S&W 32-20 Handejector....’we would come in the night and take those people away!’ Actually I knew my Aunt who took care of the Ol’Man for years had the guns carefully preserved and packed...they had been for almost 20 years before I got them. The Zipper shows it’s age and use on the outside, but it’s perfect bore and tight fit even now after 65 years, gives very good accuracy. And all the knocks, dents, worn blue, scratches and such, tell only the story of good service over decades not just years. Many of my family learned to shoot and hunt with the Zipper and a Winchester 25-35 my Grandfather had, and he used them both to teach us. "You will always be able to provide for your families when your growed, if you learn shooting an’ hunting!" he used to say it over and over...and my cousins and I did learn.
‘You don’t hunt ‘Big’ game with a 22 centerfire’, it was the family’s mantra. Even though they were very aware of the Savage 22 Hi-Power... it being a deer round and rifle that was very effective when the bullet was placed right. Even on upstate New York ol’mossey back whitetails that easily reached 200+ lbs.
Personally I have done it often, but only when a better caliber was not available. When I was living in Texas in the 1960s I hunted their very small deer with a 22 Hornet Winchester bolt action rifle, a number of times. The .223 today with 60 plus grain bullets, will work well if the hunter does his job in placing the shot. Certainly the 219 Zipper will also do it very well. Using 31 grains of H380 under the Sierra 63 gr semi-point (#1370) with a velocity of over 3000 fps,(it’s a bullet made for larger game). I have taken one Arizona mule deer at near 180 lbs with it. Shooting down from a ridge I placed the little bullet between his shoulders at around 75 yards. It broke his spine and destroyed a good deal of one lung. It would have done the same thing at 175 yards.
I also use it for long range coyote hunting even though it’s a tough jacketed slug for a 22 centerfire. It’s a bullet that retains it’s velocity and doesn’t destroy pelts.... though pelts don’t bring much in dollars anymore. Some sheep ranchers quietly pay a bounty on them... but don’t talk about it because the tree huggers put up such a juvenile show of stupidity. With 28 grns. of H4320 under a Hornady 55 grn. it gives 3230+fps, but it is a varmint bullet. And it surely varmitizes all varmints...’varmitizes’ that’s a bullet’s ability to tenderize meat. Would I use this bullet if it were all I had on that 75 yard shot deer, it’s only 8 grs less than the Sierra 63 grainer? No I wouldn’t! I would use nothing on any large animal that would have a good chance at a surface wounding only.
Not too long ago someone asked me if a heavy bullet from a Ruger Camp Gun (rifle) in .223 would work well on deer sized game....since the camp guns I have looked at, and tested, have a fast 1 in 9 twist or so....I’m sure you could reach 3000 fps with a 60+ grain slug within pressure limits...30 grns of H380 will do it. Notice I use medium rifle powders even in the short barrel of the camp gun.
In my first book on leverguns circa 1985, I talk about the Zipper and other centerfire leverguns. Even Remington’s one time Sabot ammo(pronounced ‘SaBo’) in a 30-30 loading that made any 30-30 levergun into a 22 centerfire. Much of the mail I got from that book was on that and those chapters on 22 centerfire leverguns. I found when researching that book accuracy was the big bug-a-boo. I’ll be kind and say the first writers in the late 1930s must have gotten individually inaccurate mod.64s. They wrote them up, that they were inherently ...INACCURATE...! And it was believed as gospel, even after F.C.Ness a well known writer of the times, ran tests on several 219 Model 64s and found just the opposite.
Ness concluded that like all leverguns some ammo gave great groups, some didn’t, different rifles preferring different loads. So what’s new in that. Ness ran 10 shot groups with all his test loads. That was the testing procedure in the 1940s and before. His groups ran 1 ½ inches to a little over four inches at 100 yards. Most of the inaccuracy was stringing up and down. Shooters didn’t do their own tinkering in those days, if they had and Ness had, he would have known that a stronger hammer spring would have cleared up much of the stringing...it really is the firing pin. Soft hitting firing pins, not hitting with enough force will string the shots, because of mixed ignition and high/low pressure.
But also Ness used open sights, terrible scopes of the day, and less than great bullets of the 1930s, and ten shot groups, but still averaged 1 ½ to 4 inches at 100 yards. That is obviously not inaccurate. The only problem I have with the Zipper 64 barrel is the twist, a 1 in 16 is much too slow. If I ever reline this barrel it will be with a 1 in 8 to 8 ½ twist.. tops. So that heavy bullets in the 80 grain class can be used. The heaviest bullet I had any good luck with in the W 219 Zipper, is the 55 gr. class and the old Remington 56 gr. commercial load. That Remington load by the way broke 3000 fps from 24 inch barrels and gave 1 ½ inch groups at 100 yards using peep sights. But it also was dropped in the early 1960s.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Marlin has some advantages over the old Winchesters in 219 Zipper. The solid action and closed top make for excellent scope mounting, the barrel is stiffer because of it straight taper and added thickness over the long slim Winchester tube. But the Marlins, especially those of the middle years of the 20th century, are clunky to say the least. I take a belt sander to the wood and slim it way down. There is a difference in feel between the two models, the Marlin is a working gun... rugged, stiff, and heavy feeling. The Winchester is sleek, slim, quick to aim and feels old world classic. I solved the problem of which one to own... I have them both...! So the great but unloved 219 Zipper is gone but not forgotten.
ONE OF THE LESSONS OF LIFE HANDED DOWN IN THE KELLY FAMILY, Just because something is obsolete doesn’t mean, it is no longer very useful!!
219 LOADING DATA.....Except for cast bullets all these loads are absolutely maximum in my guns!!! These loads are safe in my guns only ....old Winchesters in less than strong shape can not take the upper loads, it’s up to the reloader to take cautious and prudent care in reloading for the 219 Zipper or any centerfire round....
45/46 GR. JACKETED BULLETS.....
A2520 28 GR. 3310 FPS @ 40,000 PSI
A2460 29 GR. 3420 FPS @ 39,000 PSI
IMR 4198 23 GR. 3430 FPS
IMR 3031 26 GR. 3500 FPS
IMR 4895 28 GR. 3450 FPS
H380 31 GR. 3650 FPS
H335 30 GR. 3410 FPS
CAST BULLETS 45 GRNS
Unique 6 GR. 1850 FPS
8 GR. 2200 FPS
2400 12 GR. 2190 FPS
50 GR. JACKETED BULLETS
IMR 4320 29 GR. 3450 FPS
IMR 3031 25 GR. 3390 FPS
H 380 31 GR. 3350 FPS
H 335 30 GR. 3400 FPS
CAST BULLETS 50 GR.
Unique 8 GR. 2140 FPS
2400 12 GR. 2175 FPS
IMR 4227 14 GR. 2290 FPS
55 GR. JACKETED BULLETS
H 380 32 GR. 3400 FPS
H 335 29 GR. 3350 FPS
IMR 4320 28 GR. 3230 FPS
IMR 4895 27 GR. 3200 FPS
BL-C2 27 GR. 3250 FPS
60/63 GR. JACKETED BULLETS
H 380 30 GR. 3000 FPS
IMR 4064 28 GR. 3090 FPS