Ammunition

The Rocking Hot .17 HMR

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

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.

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]

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Comments (14)

  1. 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!

  2. 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 . . . .

  3. Frank, I’m with you on the .17 HMR. I have two; a Marlin and a Ruger 17 -77.I follow you on the 17 gr. pills. Try the Speer 20 gr. Gamepoint or the Hornady 20 gr XTP.(Hornady makes both) I’ve used the Speer 20 gr solid on squirrels and rabbits with less meat loss than the other weights/ brands, Federal’s 17 gr is supplied by Hornady also. I think Win’s 20 gr is supplied by Hornady too.. Either way, whichever brand you choose, they’re all the same. Last year, ay the family’s place in Florida, a 127 lb. spike presented itself, and my uncle wanted it removed. I gave him the Ruger and one shot to the lower neck did the job. Legal ? Probably not. Tasty? Hell yeah. I wasn’t about to shoot it but Uncle B said it was ruining his strain and he wanted it gone, I’m not advocating the .17 HMR for such, but in a survival pinch, who knows? Try the 20gr.s you might be surprised with them.

  4. Frank, I’m with you on the .17 HMR. I have two; a Marlin and a Ruger 17 -77.I follow you on the 17 gr. pills. Try the Speer 20 gr. Gamepoint or the Hornady 20 gr XTP.(Hornady makes both) I’ve used the Speer 20 gr solid on squirrels and rabbits with less meat loss than the other weights/ brands, Federal’s 17 gr is supplied by Hornady also. I think Win’s 20 gr is supplied by Hornady too.. Either way, whichever brand you choose, they’re all the same. Last year, ay the family’s place in Florida, a 127 lb. spike presented itself, and my uncle wanted it removed. I gave him the Ruger and one shot to the lower neck did the job. Legal ? Probably not. Tasty? Hell yeah. I wasn’t about to shoot it but Uncle B said it was ruining his strain and he wanted it gone, I’m not advocating the .17 HMR for such, but in a survival pinch, who knows? Try the 20gr.s you might be surprised.

  5. I have had two 17’s, a CZ and a Cooper, for quite a few years now, With a well-placed shot, they are like a death ray on ‘chucks and raccoons; overkill on nuisance red squirrels. I agree with one on the posts above, the little bullet is very frangible and will break up at close range.

    I’ve shot water-filled gallon milk jugs and the bullet just blows the things up, and leaves nothing but bullet fragments behind.

    Bill

  6. OK, GP, whatever, thanks for being so helpful.
    I stand corrected, the fact and point remains that you can have ammo shipped to you, if not by mail, then FedEx or UPS.

  7. I love my .17 Savage. A true tack-driver and fun to shoot. Ammo is still fairly easy to find and reasonably inexpensive.

  8. Hey Jim Ramirer,
    I’m pretty sure that moving just to be able to get .17HMR is likly out of the question.
    I’d suggest that you try Nevada. If you in SoCal Los Vagas has several great sporting goods stores.
    But if your in CenCal head to Scheels sporting goods in Reno/Sparks they always have it there is also a Bass Pro or Cabalas over there in Reno too. Both are just off the Interstate.
    To much of a trip? Let your fingers do the walking . . Cheaper Than Dirt will likly have what your looking for and I don’t think that the uber left democratic ultra socialist Finstienenings have got around to making it illegal to get ammo by mail in Cally yet. Anywho there are some constructive options for you.

  9. I purchased a Savage bolt action .17 HMR about a year ago. The first time I took it to the range there were some pretty stiff wind gusts. With the gusts the accuracy diminished significantly at 100 yards. Even at 50 yards the bullet was being moved a couple of inches. I went back on a clear day and all was well, all shots were grouped within an inch at 50 yards. And almost as good at 100 yards. Great gun if the wind is calm.

  10. I too purchased a .17 HMR in a Marlin bolt action as soon as it showed up here in Idaho (about 10 yrs ago). This rifle and cartridge has brought incredible fun to shooting. I have taken ground squirrils out to 300 yds using a BSA sweet 17 scope, even in a brisk cross wind once I corrected. One interesting thing I learned was that the little 17 grain bullet broke up on the near side of jack rabbits only wounding them when shot within 50 yds, but putting them down immediately between about 60 and 233 yds (furthest I have shot a jack). When I later purchased a .17 Mach II it would put them down immediately within 50 yds. The only thing I can think of is that the 17 grain HMR is going too fast within 50 yds and the frangible bullet breaks up on jacks at close range. I have noticed the same results on Rockchucks. These two cartridges have been a joy to shoot and both are extremely accurate.

  11. Hey Bob,
    Nice to see a positive write up for the .17 HMR! I have been using the .17 for about nine years now, mostly for pasture Pariea Dog and Marrmot control. Something that this round excells at. I don’t think I’ve had my .223 Tika Whitetail out for dog or wistel pig now in a couple of years. I have one of the Savage 93’s laminated thumb hole stock, stainless bull barrel , AccuTrigger, Topped with a BSA Sweet 17 optic. Bi-pod, of course and I’ve picked up several 10 round magazines for it. In the 130 meter engagement envelope for small burrowing, hole making, livestock ankle damaging critters there’s just nothing that’s as accurate, cost effective and just plain fun to shoot! If I miss its all on me . . Not the gun or the ammo.
    As I do with many of my firearms I shoot them out of the box to see how the group up. In this case two box of 50 rounds from the same production lot. After zeroing the scope using a lead sled I then shot 25 rounds at 100 meters in five shot groups at five separate targets. Average grouping was .78 of an inch with the largest at .98 and the smallest at .56 inches. disassembled, cleaned and sent to a firm that does liquid nitetrogen tempering and had the barrel, reciver, bolt and trigger group cryo tempered. Cost withe shipping is about $75. About ten days later got it back droped it in its stock and shot the remaining 25 rounds from the box. A 100 meters in the sled the five shot groups dropped in size to an average between five, five shot targets of .54 inches! Largest .61, smallest . .50. In prespective that’s five shots at 100 meters that one can cover with a nickel !! Gotta love that cryo tempering! If I can put the cross hairs on them their history. I like the BSA Sweet 17 optics very much too. They did a very nice job creating a caliber specific scope for this small but effective round.. I’d reccoment this caliber to anyone. At the moment the ammo if far easer to find than .22LR too.

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