Skip to main content

Harvey Donaldson: Pioneer Benchrester

Harvey Donaldson: Pioneer Benchrester
Harvey A. Donaldson (1883–1972) devoted his life to improving rifle shooting through dogged determination, innovative cartridge designs, and technical advances.

In response to my recent column on gunsmith and wildcatter P.O. Ackley, reader David Buck asked for information about another wildcatter named Harvey Donaldson. Shooting Times readers likely will associate that name with the .219 Donaldson Wasp cartridge. I’ll get to the cartridge in a few minutes, but here’s what I have learned about the man.

Harvey A. Donaldson was born on April 6, 1883, in Fultonville, New York. He attended public school in Fultonville, the Peekskill Military Academy, and the Albany Business College. He worked as a machinist and toolmaker, but shooting was his life.

Donaldson took up the exacting sport of Schuetzen target shooting in 1895 and pursued it diligently through 1915, focusing on 200-yard offhand shooting. He began handloading ammunition in about 1900 and handmade his own arbor press loading tool. Later he developed specific methods of benchrest shooting that were conducive to achieving the best results. For example, he discovered that resting the heavy, long barrel of a Schuetzen rifle on a shooting rest did not negatively affect accuracy and also discovered that fliers could be caused by uneven case neck thicknesses.

Donaldson was ahead of his time in wildcatting for accuracy and fathered at least 15 wildcat cartridges. He worked with cast bullets and also was swaging jacketed bullets by 1906. A proponent of 100 percent load density in the cartridges, he developed and pioneered using a funnel with a long stem in order to load more powder into a cartridge case. He also worked on primers and ignition.


Donaldson developed the rimmed .219 Donaldson Wasp cartridge during the late 1930s, and it became quite popular among match shooters in the 1940s. It is based on the .219 Zipper, which is a .22-caliber wildcat formed by necking down the .25-35 Winchester case. The .219 Donaldson Wasp is considered by many to be the grandfather of benchrest cartridges.


Winchester introduced the .219 Zipper in 1937, and Donaldson quickly modified the body of the case to increase its powder capacity from about 24 grains to 28 grains of IMR 3031. Donaldson’s cartridge provided higher velocity and improved accuracy. He later lengthened the case neck by about 0.03 inch, with the resulting case length being 1.750 inches. The .219 Donaldson Wasp typically pushes a 45-grain 0.224-inch-diameter bullet at a muzzle velocity of 3,560 fps, and it has generally been chambered in falling-block single-shot rifles. At least two other versions of the .219 Donaldson Wasp came to be, both created by wildcatters other than Donaldson.

Donaldson was a good scientist in his study of rifle shooting, but he was subjective at times. He started writing about what he was learning before 1900, and eventually he wrote many articles for American Rifleman and Handloader magazines.

A person of great energy, Donaldson enjoyed driving sports cars and racing motorcycles. He collected fine firearms. And he loved hunting upland birds with shotguns as well as hunting woodchucks with high-powered .22-caliber rifles.

Donaldson passed away on November 6, 1972, at the ripe old age of 89. He was a great shooter. He was a creative innovator. But most importantly, he never stopped searching for ways to improve his shooting equipment and his shooting skills. Harvey A. Donaldson stopped shooting only when he could no longer sit at a benchrest and concentrate on a target’s bullseye for long hours.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe features a European walnut stock, a non-military action, and a two-position  wing-type safety.Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe Rifle Review Rifles

Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe Rifle Review

Joseph von Benedikt - August 19, 2020

The Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe features a European walnut stock, a non-military...

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle Rifles

Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished walnut stock. Magazine capacity is four rounds. It is well made, accurate, and attractive. This is a fine rifle that is light enough to tote over hill and dale but heavy enough to hold steady for precise shooting in the field.Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review Rifles

Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review

Steve Gash - August 17, 2020

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished...

The new Winchester Active Duty 9mm ammo is loaded to the same military ballistics specifications as for the MHS program and has a rated muzzle velocity of 1,320 fps and a muzzle energy of 445 ft-lbs.Winchester Active Duty 9mm Ammo Review Ammo

Winchester Active Duty 9mm Ammo Review

Jake Edmondson - July 17, 2020

The new Winchester Active Duty 9mm ammo is loaded to the same military ballistics...

See More Trending Articles

More Gunsmithing

We remodel a common service-grade duty semi auto pistol into the ultimate last-ditch survival sidearm.DIY: Auto-Pistol Remodel Gunsmithing

DIY: Auto-Pistol Remodel

Joseph von Benedikt - July 24, 2018

We remodel a common service-grade duty semi auto pistol into the ultimate last-ditch survival...



Glock pistols are well known for their firepower. They are available in most popular and powerfulGlock Conversion: 9x23 Winchester Gunsmithing

Glock Conversion: 9x23 Winchester

Brad Miller, Ph.D. - February 18, 2016

Glock pistols are well known for their firepower. They are available in most popular and...

The prolific P.O. Ackley created more than 50 wildcat cartridges, some purely for the fun of it.P.O. Ackley - The King of Wildcats Gunsmithing

P.O. Ackley - The King of Wildcats

Joel J. Hutchcroft - February 14, 2019

The prolific P.O. Ackley created more than 50 wildcat cartridges, some purely for the fun of...



The Beretta 92 FS 9mm semiauto pistol has been with us for many years. For the most part, it hasEasy Gunsmithing for the Beretta 92 Gunsmithing

Easy Gunsmithing for the Beretta 92

Reid Coffield - May 23, 2016

The Beretta 92 FS 9mm semiauto pistol has been with us for many years. For the most part, it...

See More Gunsmithing

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now