17 WSM: Is the Rimfire Speed King Worth It?
Designed and produced in 2002, the 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire is pretty new in terms of cartridges, but there is an even newer kid on the block. The 17 Winchester Super Mag (WSM), has been in production since 2013 and is attempting to cut out a piece of the marketplace for a faster 17, and since the cases are made from nail blanks, they’re pretty inexpensive (very similar in cost to 17 HMR.) But is it fast enough?
Price update Sept 2022: 17 HMR is going for about $25 per box of 50 while 17 WSM is pretty close at about $30 per box.
Performance Comparison: Trajectory and Drift
The 17 WSM sends a 20 grain bullet out at 3000 fps, whereas the HMR is sending a 17 grain bullet at 2550 fps. That makes for some difference in the field, with the HMR granting an MPBR of 165 yards, whereas the WSM can do it with 205 yards (I’m running calculations for gopher-sized targets). That’s an extra 40 yards of non-adjusted range. More impressive is the wind drift difference. With a 10 mph crosswind, at 100 yards the WSM will drift 1.6 inches vs the HMR at 3.1 inches over. That could be the difference between a hit and a miss.
Quick numbers: (MPBR is for gophers: vertical target size of 3″)
- 17 WSM 20 grain: 3000 FPS: .185BC: MPBR: 205 yards Energy: 400 ft-lbs
- 17 WSM 25 grain: 2600 FPS: .23BC: MPBR: 186 yards Energy: 375 ft-lbs
- 17 HMR 17 grain: 2550 FPS: .128BC: MPBR: 165 yards Energy: 245 ft-lbs
Performance Comparison: Energy
This is the big difference here. The 17 WSM makes for a decent coyote gun, carrying more energy much further, and the 25 grain bullet gives an option for more weight/penetration of larger varmints. I think the 204 Ruger and 223 Rem are better pure coyote rounds, but the 17 WSM offers a very inexpensive option for coyote control.
Downsides of 17 WSM
I’m going to bullet these out (ha!):
- Availability. It doesn’t have mass support, and you won’t find boxes of it at your local hardware store. In fact, depending where you live, you might not be able to find any at all.
- Ammo selection: Only Winchester makes the ammo so far. If your rifle doesn’t like either the 20 or 25 grain Winchester rounds, tough luck. Accuracy gremlins may be tied to the quality of ammo as well. “Accuracy at 100 yards with the 25-grain bullets was a bit over an inch; the results of the groups with the 20-grain load were too awful to print in a family magazine.” – John B. Snow article on the Winchester 1885 in Outdoor life. ***Oct 21, 2014 edit: Hornady has announced they are coming out with a 20 grain V-Max load for the 17 WSM.***
- The ammo boxes are big and bulky compared with 17 HMR boxes.
- Very few rifles are available in 17 WSM.
- The Savage B.Mag
- Volquartsen has a semi-auto 17 WSM
- Franklin Armoury’s semi-auto F17-L
- Winchester 1885 Low Wall Hunter
- Slightly louder
- May die out as soon as other rimfire ammo becomes readily available again. 17 WSM has yet to be firmly established and if none of the other ammo manufacturers end up making it, you might end up with a rifle or ammo that is discontinued or only supported by Winchester.
So, is 17 WSM Worth it?
At this point, 17 WSM is where a lot of new rounds and rifles find themselves: encountering teething problems and in that “will it become a thing or not” area. If you love staying at the leading edge of technology, this is it but be prepared to pay for being at the bleeding edge. Just because your new rifle and cartridge is better on paper than your buddy’s, doesn’t mean that you’ll outperform them in the field and you might end up dealing with growing pains.
Still not sure about these magnum rimfire rounds? Check out my article on the 17HMR vs 22LR.
Want to do your own MPBR calculations? Check out this calculator.