Today is Thanksgiving and I am going to tell you why I am thankful for my .17 HMR and why everyone should own one. The picture at the top is my customized .17 HMR and it is the most fun gun I have ever shot. Before I get into why this caliber is so great lets look at a little history and some ballistics.
HMR stands for Hornady Magnum Rimfire, the round was developed by a dedicated group of rimfire wildcatters (wildcatters build one off rounds) at Hornady in 2002. The goal was to find a replacement for the dead and gone 5mm Remington Magnum Rimfire round and to mimic the ballistics. The 5mm RMR was produced from 1970 to 1974 and for quite a while was the fastest rimfire round ever produced. The 5mm (.20 caliber) died off because there was a lack of 5mm bullets and barrels. In fact there was not another 5mm round produced until the .204 Ruger in 2004.
The most successful rimfires have always been .22 caliber but they have never had the greatest ballistics. So the wildcatters at Hornady decided they would use a smaller .17 caliber bullet. The .17 is nothing new, the .17 Remington and .17 Mach IV center fire cartridges already exist so there are barrels and bullets in existence.
Hornady took the .22 Magnum shell and necked it down to .17. There were already plenty of actions available for the .22 Magnum so that would make it easier for gun makers to adopt the new round. The .22 Magnum case was also the strongest rimfire case available. Hornady also made sure that the overall length (OAL) of the cartage was the same as the .22 Magnum so that the same action could be used.
In order to push the speed barrier with the .17 caliber bullet Hornady decided on a weight of 17 grains. Hornady designed a new V-Max bullet to fit the .17 caliber and 17 grain weight. This bullet combination is how Hornady was able to push the muzzle velocity to 2550 feet per second.
Hornady ended up with the fastest and flattest shooting rimfire ever developed.
The first chart I made here is comparing the .17 HMR with a Hornady V-Max 17 grain bullet and the most popular rimfire the .22 long rifle with a CCI 29 grain bullet. For this chart I used a 100 yard zero. As you can see the .17 HMR has a bullet drop of only 18.98 inches at 250 yards where as the .22 LR had a bullet drop of 100 inches at just 200 yards. When you look at the muzzle velocity of these two rounds it is easy to see why there is such a big difference. The .17 HMR has a muzzle velocity of 2550 feet per second and the .22 LR has a muzzle velocity of just 710 feet per second. To put the muzzle velocity of the .22 LR into perspective, 710 feet per second is just over twice as fast as current compound bows on the market.
If you search for ballistic tables of the .17 HMR on the internet you will find tons of tables comparing the .17 HMR with the .22 LR like I did above. This comparison (as we saw) is not even close. I decided I wanted to compare the .17 HMR with a center fire round and so I decided to compare it with my favorite center fire prairie dog round, the .204 Ruger. I probably should have chose some other round besides one of the fastest center fire small caliber rounds, but this will be an interesting comparison.
This graph is comparing the .17 HMR with a Hornady V-Max 17 grain bullet and a .204 Ruger with a Federal Sierra BlitzKing 40 grain bullet using a zero of 100 yards. This graph shows both rounds out to 400 yards, but the .17 HMR only has an effective range to somewhere in the 250-300 yard range. My longest prairie dog shot with the .17 HMR was 287 yards. Both rounds have a fairly flat trajectory out to about 200 yards where the .17 HMR has a drop of 8.47 inches and the .204 Ruger has a drop of 1.6 inches. Beyond 200 yards the two start to separate but the two only have a difference of 15 inches at 250 yards. This really is not that much difference for the difference in muzzle velocity, energy, and center fire vs. rimfire. The muzzle velocity of the .204 Ruger is 3750 feet per second which is 1200 feet per second faster than the .17 HMR.
I had been hearing people talk about the .17 HMR for a while so I was curious. I had always wanted to get a Ruger 10/22 and customize it with any number of aftermarket parts. After talking to some people with the .17 HMR I decided that if I was going to invest in a rimfire rifle I would be better off buying the .17 to take advantage of the increased range.
I was saving up some money to buy a Savage 93R17 with the thumbhole stock when something amazing happened. I help out with my local Pheasants Forever chapter and we had a Savage .17 HMR at the banquet. I ended up winning the gun. The gun was the lower end model, it had blued barrel and action and had the standard stock. I did some searching around and found Boyds Gunstocks who offer some really cool stocks in some great colors. I chose a blue and grey laminate thumbhole stock (pictured above). I also upgraded the floor plate and trigger guard and added a one piece rail from DIP Products. I am not affiliated with Boyds or DIP but they have great products and I highly recommend them.
Why you need a .17 HMR
Ok so if you have not decided for yourself by now that you need a .17 HMR I have a few more reasons.
Most everyone owns or has shot a .22 LR, it is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) guns in existence. There is only once scenario where I would choose a .22 LR over a .17 HMR, but I will get to that in a second. First lets go over some pros and cons.
- Higher velocity than other rimfire rifles
- Flatter trajectory than other rimfire rifles (especially .22 LR but also .22 WMR)
- Less wind drift than other rimfire rifles
- Longer range
- More energy means more stopping power
- Cheaper cost per round than center fire rifle rounds
- Fun factor
- The velocity and energy of the round can be devastating when hunting small game for meat. Squirrel hunting would be tough because the shot would have to be well placed to avoid loosing too much meat. This is the biggest downfall of this round.
- Higher cost per round than .22 LR and .22 WMR
Like I listed in the cons, the biggest downfall of the .17 HMR is the absolute destruction it can make at shorter ranges. If you use this round for small game like squirrel and rabbit you may loose some meat.
The last point I want to talk about is the fun factor. I have never had as much fun shooting a gun as I have with my .17. If you have ever heard the expression that a gun is a “tack driver” this gun/round is the definition of a tack driver. I have never shot anything that is more consistent than this gun is. To demonstrate what I am talking about I will leave you with a picture of a 5 shot group at 100 yards.
If you have any questions about the .17 HMR leave a comment below.