My first experience with the cartridge came more than 10 years ago when I obtained one of the first .17 HMR rifles. I could not find a bolt-action rifle and had to settle for a Taurus pump-action rifle. I thought, well, I will have to work with what I have for this review. I could not have underestimated the capability of the rifle more.
While the little carbine was designed primarily as a short-range hunter for taking squirrels from the treetops and for plinking, it proved super accurate. As a bonus, it rocketed straight to the target with little drop to 100 yards, and it was very easy to hit with the rifle. Recoil is less than the .22 long rifle, although neither really has any push.
The .17 HMR is a .22 Magnum necked down to 0.172 inches. A bottleneck cartridge solves a lot of feed problems, as my pump-action rifle demonstrated. However, modern powder technology combined with Hornady engineering to produce a startling 2500 fps from the average rifle with a 17-grain bullet. Today, loads are available in the 15- to 20- grain range.
My little Taurus consistently grouped three shots into 1 inch at 50 yards, about all I am capable of with iron sights, which I felt was extraordinary with a pump-action rimfire. A scoped bolt gun is embarrassed by any group over an inch. Yep, the .17 is a 1 MOA rifle at 100 yards all day long. The economy of the combination is good.
Rifles and ammunition are inexpensive compared to factory centerfire loads, the rifle offers excellent performance to about 200 yards. Yes, at 200 yards the .17 drops only 9 inches or so with a 100-yard zero and maintains useful accuracy to 200 yards. It is roughly comparable in usefulness to the .22 Hornet, particularly for those who do not handload.
I like this cartridge a lot. It is not useful for anything larger than small varmints and light game, but then again, that is the idea. Hornady offers a 20-grain XTP I have not tested yet that offers more penetration at short range. At 50 yards or so, I dispatched pests, with a flurry of fur and instant stops. However, I discovered I could hit farther than I could kill on crows. Crows have heavy wing bones.
The .17 could hit them to 150 yards, even with the pump gun, and I needed to stay within 75 yards for good penetration. The new 20-grain loads will address that concern.
Overall, the .17 HMR is a hot and pleasant number, well worth your hard-earned bucks.
Were you as surprised as the author by the .17 HMR’s performance? What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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