The Rocking Hot .17 HMR

By Bob Campbell published on in Ammunition

If I say .17 Hummer, you know what I mean. The .17 HMR was a awaited and excellent addition to the small game hunting scene.

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.

Multiple rifles lying on the ground with 2 red, white and black boxes of .17 Hornady Magnum rimfire ammo

The .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire is a first-class pest and small-game cartridge.

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.

Cutaway of a .17 HMR cartridge

A cutaway of the little giant shows that a lot of development went into it.

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.

Open box of .17 HMR ammo with 5 cartridges in front of the box plus a closed box with a red label and white-and-black lettering on a gray background

The original load is deadly accurate, a firecracker with plenty of velocity, no recoil and a low report.

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.

Box of 20-grain XTP ammo with 4 cartridges outside the box on a white background

The 20-grain XTP load is the better choice for heavier small animals.

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.

SLRule

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 Shooter’s 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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Comments (14)

  • Jerry

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    I went coyote hunting several years ago, and my buddy loaned me his Savage 93 .17HMR, since I only had larger (7.62×39 SKS, .270 and 30.06) rifles at the time, and he wasn’t going to let me use his 22-250.
    It had a BSA ‘sweet 17′ 3×9 scope, and we called a coyote to within 125 yards. I was pretty skeptical that a ‘souped-up’ .22 would drop a dog, but I dialed in the range on the scope, put the crosshairs on the heart-lung area, and did what I know how to do, and the coyote made a leap, and ran a dozen steps, before collapsing.
    The next week I was the proud owner of my own Savage 93 .17HMR, and I’ve used it to teach my wife how to shoot accurately. The low recoil (recoil? None, really), and superb accuracy made it easier for her to learn.
    We compete with each other now, to see who can put the tightest groups (5 rounds), and even though I’ve been through Army Ranger Sniper school, sometimes she gives me a good run for the money! Okay, don’t tell anybody, but a couple of times she’s beat me. (Hanging my head). But when you have to measure groups with a micrometer, at 50 and 100 yards, you know what you have a really accurate rifle!

    Reply

  • Carl P

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    I would like to see the .17HMR offered in a platform like a PMR30 or an FN 5.7×28. From looking at the ballistic tables it seems that the 17HMR generaly fall between the .22 mag and the 5.7×28.
    Maybe a Ruger along the lines of the 22/45 MkIII UltraLite with a threaded barrel ?? Just thinking out loud . . . .

    Reply

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