What I’ve Learned in 20 Years With the .17 HMR

.17 HMR Cartridge

Perhaps I should say I am looking forward to my 20th year with the dinky little .17 HMR, as it isn’t quite two decades old— but we are getting very close. I have owned a .17 of some type since its introduction.

My first .17 HMR was a neat little Taurus pump-action rifle. It was more accurate than its .22 Magnum counterpart. Today, my .17 is a Savage Arms Model 93R.

It’s Accurate

The 93R is a beautifully stocked rifle with a gorgeous target-grade thumbhole stock.

The 93R17, topped with a Bushnell scope, is among the most accurate rimfire rifles I have ever tested. The little .17 deserves a good rifle and the Savage is affordable but more accurate than most of us will be able to hold.

The 17-grain Hornady V-MAX loading runs at 2500 to 2600 fps in most rifles. The 15.5-grain Hornady load is a bit faster.

The 20-grain bullet isn’t a heavyweight, but at 2350 to 2400 fps offers a bit more penetration for larger groundhogs. The advantage of the .17 for most of us is accuracy and flat shooting.

A ground squirrel is in real danger to 125 yards, perhaps more with good optics and a trained shooter.

A caution— it is possible to hit with the .17 HMR at greater ranges than those that guarantee a quick kill. A crow may explode at 50 yards, but over 100 yards the wing bones may stop a .17. Know the target and know the range.

Savage .17 HMR Rifle
The Savage .17 HMR is a great rifle for small game hunting or target shooting.

It’s Consistent

It isn’t difficult at all to be down at the bench rest with the Savage rifle and turn in excellent groups at 100 yards.

As an example, it doesn’t take extraordinary effort to punch three shots into .8 inch with the 20-grain load. Even the lightweight 15.5-grain load will secure a careful shooter a 1.0-inch group.

The 17-grain load, the original loading, remains the one I use for ninety percent of my chores.

It will group .7 to 1 inch in this rifle, depending on how the author presses the trigger and controls breathing.

There are other versions of the 93R17 line of rifles, including more affordable versions with plain-wood stocks and a synthetic stock version.

I am certain they are useful rifles. I simply like my racy thumbhole stock version.

.17 HMR Cartridge Cutaway
Intelligent powder selection and good bullet design make the .17 HMR a big winner.

It Has Other Advantages

If you look closely at the Savage action, you find a rifle that cocks on the upstroke on opening, and features a fixed ejector along with dual extractors.

The magazine holds five cartridges and the safety is positive in operation. The rifle features the much-copied Savage Accutrigger. This is a very nice trigger that may be set for a super sharp, crisp and lightweight trigger press.

The Savage features a stainless steel barrel and action, a good choice for an outdoor rifle. The rifle isn’t a burden at just over six pounds with the Bushnell scope mounted. The heavy barrel is 21 inches long and the overall length is just at 39.5 inches.

The thumbhole stock feels right and offers good stability for accurate fire from a solid, braced position. Advantages of the cartridge over the .22 Magnum include limited expense, greater destruction at moderate range and a flat trajectory.

Generally, the .17 HMR is more accurate than its .22 caliber counterparts. Don’t overstretch the caliber, shoot straight and you will have a fine field companion.

Bushnell Rifle Scope
Bushnell scopes are a great option for sporting rifles.

What are your experiences with the .17 HMR? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (20)

  1. I have shot thousands of South Dakota prairie dogs with the very same rifle you wrote about. The accuracy and grouping is absolutely unreal AND on a still day, it will kill PDs at 200 yards. That is not an estimate, it is a FACT, measured with a laser rangefinder. I only use the 17 grain varmint load.

  2. Just got a Tikka T1X in 17 hmr. 4×12 Nikon scope. Getting ready for a range day. All i have seen on the Tikka is good news. So I am looking forward to good results.

  3. I have the A17 semi auto Savage and a savage 110 both in .17HMR. It has taken more meat with a tiny bullet then anything else i hunt with right now.Knocks yotes flat to 100 yards and i have made 150 yard shots with ease and a 1 shot kill when the bullet is placed properly.Squirrel stand no chance but i learned when hunting small game to go with the 20 grain solid or it destroys too much meat.I aim for the head or mid body to keep from ruining the edible parts of the squirrel

  4. Down here in Louisiana, the 17 HMR is a
    Squirrels’ worst nightmare up in Maine, picking off a Riffed Grouse picking gravel or sitting up in a pine is a fun challenge to get your limit of four birds a day.

  5. I have used the 17 for over 15 yrs. It is my go to rifle for squirrels, crows, and varmints. Kills over 100 yds happen with regularity. One inch groups at 100 yds common; better if I do my part. Savage model 93R17 with Redfield Battlezone 3X9, Hornady 17 grain, deadly combination. My friend shoots a bolt Marlin, and has toasted crows out to 225 yards; have witnessed the shots. Suppressors keep the noise down to regular .22 LR sound, so hunting with it is tolerable without hearing protection. (still a good idea, though, to wear it) When I first bought it, I was trying to justify a reason for using it. Now, after several years of using the 17, have to say I’m glad I chose it. Meets all the criteria for a great target/plinker/hunting round; as long as you realize its limitations.

    I absolutely love my 17 hmr. That is such a fun round. I think my favorite is turtle heads at 50 yards. That will hone in your skills. We have taken foxes at 80 yards with clean kill and minimal hide damage. I prefer the 20 grain bullets for the better long range stability and penetration. The lighter bullets sure make a mess with crows. Really does blow them up. I have also taken Turkey with headshots at about 40 yards. Very versatile and fun gun.

  7. You didn’t mention how very very sensitive it is to wind. I love .17 HMR inside 70 yards (which is fine for my application- hunting tree squirrels). But if I want to do some 100 yard plus plinking .17 hmr accuracy falls apart in slight breeze. That’s why you still need 22 magnum.

  8. The 17 HMR is already a Nostalgia Cartridge. My Father well into his 80’s bought a Marlin model 917VS chambered in 17HMR for my Christmas back in 2005. It was just after a few months after my Mother had passed. I was 39 at the time; now 53. Other than the BB gun my Father bought me when I was 10 years old this particular 17 HMR rifle is the first and last “real” firearm my Dad bought me. He has now passed on to be with God and my Mother.

  9. I have 3 heavy barrel Savages. The best rifle for the money and shoots as good as I can shoot. 17 HMR is one of the calibers.

  10. My wife and I are seasoned sage rat shooters. We have been shooting sage rats for over 30 years and started by using .22 rim fires. We graduated to the .17HMR when we both bought the Savage you are referring to which, was over 10 or 12 years ago. We both enjoyed the accuracy of the Savage and the speed and power of the .17 HMR. In 2013 I bought a Volquartsen Custom also chambered for the .17HMR (a semi auto gun) and had such great results that Wife Terri also bought one in 2014.
    She is able to place 9 shots under a dime at 100yds and has Her targets displayed at the local
    gun shows here in Oregon by the Volquartsen dealer. I wish I could say that (only 5 shots under a dime). Both guns are topped of with Leupold scopes and are deadly sage rat guns.

    Roy and Terri White

  11. I guess you could say I’ve been bitten by the .17 HMR bug. The first one I bought was the Henry Golden Boy. The second was a Savage A17 and the third is my favorite, if I were to have a favorite, is a Ruger Single Six.

    These guns are, without a doubt, the most fun to shoot in my collection. Although it’s not really practical I can’t help but wish someone would come out with a primed case that one could try out hand-loads with. Of course that means someone would also have to come up with dies etc and, unfortunately, the market just isn’t big enough. But I still think it would be fun…….

  12. Good article Bob. I own five 17 caliber rifles I like them so much. Everything in your article I find to be true. Don’t overlook the 17HM2, I really enjoy my Savage HM2 and it’s accuracies are very good as well. I believe my 17HM2 and 17HMR are more accurate than my 17WSM’s and I have two rifles with WSM’s. I shoot primarily 100 yards and with HMR,s and HM2’s all groups are less than one inch, and even half inch when I don’t get shaky. I’m a 72 year old man and it happens. Early last summer I picked up a Ruger Precision Rifle in 17HMR and it’s a tack driver as they say. Thank again and happy shooting.

  13. My Savage 93 is the laminate stock and stainless barrel. It has been my go-to varmint gun for a long time. It always sits there ready to go when that woodchuck makes an appearance in the garden. Or that racoon decides our chickens look tasty. Extremely accurate! When I miss I know it’s my fault. It is my most used gun in my collection.

  14. I have a 93R that I bought right after they came out. It has the Bull Barrel, but not the AccuTrigger. I had my local gunsmith do a trigger job on it. Mine has the standard wooden stock. I have a BSA Sweet 17 BDC 3-9×42 scope is perfectly matched to the little rifle. At 100yds it will hold dime sized groups. I have had tons of fun with it just around here with squirrels and ground hogs. Last year I took it to South Dakota on Prairie Dog Trip. I used it for shots under like 200 yards. It was so much fun to see the little tiny bullet explode some of the smaller dogs. I used it almost exclusively to clean off an entire hillside. My guide made the comment that one shot one dog was going to put him out of business. Needless to say when we go back this spring it will be going along again. It is one of my favorite

  15. Well I don’t own a .17HMR, but let me tell you that my .22 Magnum loaded with Hornady 30 GR V-Max bullets with a muzzle velocity of 2200 fps is an excellent round for varmints. I live in a heavily wooded area and my garage and barn seems to be very inviting for raccoons and possums and the .22 Mag loaded with 30 GR V-Max bullets has no issues neutralizing them. None have gone more than 10 yards after being hit with the 30 GR V-Max.. And chipmunks explode when hit with one. So I’m keeping my .22 Mag and not even thinking of getting a .17 HMR even though the .17 HMR seems to be quite a good bullet.


  16. I have a Marlin 917 Bolt Action VRx17 Rifle 17HMR, with a Simmons 4-12 Protarget. Heavy barrel and composite stock, with a Accutrigger. This is so much fun to shoot and accuracy is more than I’ll ever need. I don’t hunt anymore, so this is strictly for target shooting. Total fun.

  17. I have that same rifle in a LH version, I shoot long guns LH because my eyesight is cross dominant. The thumb hole stock means no ambi, LH only. I have 5 round and 10 round mags for it, a decent but inexpensive scope and bipod on it. My first kill was a large ground hog, gave him a .17 cal sleeping pill behind the ear at 40 yds with CCI A-17 ammo. Varmint tip bullet penetrates ~ 3″ and frags, so a body shot on game that large is not good, but it will devastate a rabbit broadside at 40 yds. Head shot is much neater. My back yard is 45 yds deep, and I haven’t gone any longer with that rifle, but I would probably stay inside 100 yds with it realistically. Very accurate for me sighted in at 40 yds, shorter shots give me trouble because I haven’t got the elevation difference worked out yet.

  18. I became aware of the 17HMR very early on. I wanted one but was not yet available in my preferred firearm so I ordered , from JDJ, a barrel for my TC Contender carbine. It has been my deadly companion for groundhogs ever since. Single shot, one and done!

  19. Ruger Precision Rimfire rifle, topped with a Bushnell Rimfire scope, a great combination.
    If I’m having a good day under half inch at 50 yds is no issue, at 100 it opens alittle more. I can’t make up my mind what is more fun to shoot my 17 RPR or my childhood
    22 Marlin 39A Golden. I guess I’ll just keep on shooting until I decide what is my favorite
    small caliber rifle to shoot.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading