17 HMR: The Ultimate Rimfire Cartridge? 

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Video how far is a 17 hmr accurate

Prepare yourself — I’m about to make a case for the 17 HMR, and .22 loyalists may not like it. Like many reading this, the first rifle round I ever sent downrange came out of the barrel of a .22 lever action. That Winchester rifle was a single-shot, and I remember spending hours by a winding creek near my southeast Colorado home busting aluminum cans off an old, rotted cottonwood stump.

I would go through box after box of ammo, and over time, I considered myself a crack shot with my open-sight .22, especially once I upgraded from whatever ammunition was cheapest at Walmart to better ammo fitted with more accurate projectiles.

Over the years, I shot rabbits, squirrels, and prairie dogs and flat wore out old cans and bottles.

I cracked that old lever action out on a bet a few years back. A buddy of mine had purchased a .17 and put $20 down as a bet that he could outshoot me (open sights) at 50 yards. I took the gamble, and I lost badly.

Later that afternoon, we topped the rifle with a Leupold scope, and that’s when our rimfire accuracy got flat-out scary. At 150 yards, every single time my buddy pulled the trigger, his Hornady 17 HMR clanged steel. Then, he’d work the bolt action’s 70-degree throw, settle in, and clang steel yet again.

It was a special session to witness. The speed the bullet produces is impressive, and when Hornady, along with some assistance from Ruger and Marlin, developed the cartridge, that was the goal. Hornady wanted speed along with excellent downrange accuracy in a rimfire round.

Mission accomplished.

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Cartridge History

The 17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) cartridge was developed by Hornady in 2002, in collaboration with Marlin Firearms and Ruger. The cartridge is a necked-down version of the .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire) and features a smaller, lighter bullet with a higher velocity.

The .17 quickly gained popularity among hunters and target shooters for its flat trajectory and high-range accuracy. It became the fastest rimfire cartridge available, with velocities approaching 3,000 feet per second.

The cartridge has also been credited with reviving interest in the rimfire market, which had been declining for decades. Other manufacturers, including Savage and CZ, began producing rifles chambered in .17 to meet the growing demand.

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However, the cartridge has also been criticized for its small size and limited stopping power, making it less suitable for larger game. Some jurisdictions also restrict the use of the cartridge for hunting, citing concerns over its potential to wound animals rather than kill them outright.

Despite these criticisms, the 17 HMR remains a popular choice for target shooting and varmint hunting, with a loyal following among enthusiasts, who appreciate its accuracy and performance.

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Speed and Accuracy in a Rimfire

In most cases, a necked-down version of the .22 Magnum, the 17 HMR, is loaded with a 17-grain bullet, which allows the caliber to hit muzzle velocities as high as 2,550 fps. However, ammunition manufacturers offer bullets in other grain weights, such as 15.5 and 20.

Speed like this, mirrored with excellent ballistics, enables the round to be 100% flat-shooting out to 100 yards and drop less than 9 inches at 200 yards. Most serious shooters consider 250 yards the maximum effective range of the 17 HMR.

Regarding accuracy, the round can produce dime-sized groups at 100 yards, and those groups remain tight beyond 200. The speed, blended with the design of the 17-grain bullet, prevents the bullet from being overly abused by gusting winds. It is still a light bullet, which needs to be considered when shooting the 17 HMR, but the wind won’t throw it to and fro as it does with lesser rimfires.

If you can get a semi-calm day and lie down on a bench with a quality 17 HMR bolt action rifle, you will be shocked at how accurate the caliber really is.

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What Makes the 17 HMR Great

For starters, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a range gun that’s more fun to shoot. Ammunition, though not ultra-cheap, won’t break the bank, and the firearm produces near-zero recoil. Small-framed shooters, kids, and grown adults can shoot round after round with alarming accuracy without getting beat up.

This is a great training round. Several friends have started their soon-to-be-big-game-hunting youth out on a scoped 17 HMR. The caliber allows youngsters to experience immediate success and not get flinchy because of excess recoil. After learning how to properly acquire targets through a scope, settling in, and squeezing the trigger, youth shooters can quickly move on to other calibers.

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Many 17 HMR bolt action rifle owners only use their rifles to bang steel or punch paper at the range. Still, the caliber is also a tremendous mid-range small-game round and has become increasingly popular with varmint hunters.

A bullet like Hornady’s 17 HMR 17-grain V-MAX Varmint Express Rimfire promises honest 200-yard performance, and the polymer-tipped projectile ensures precision and perfect expansion upon impact. The round produces plenty of speed and energy to pop prairie dogs, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels beyond 200 yards.

Serious predator fanatics who use the 17 HMR typically hunt with the caliber to create a challenge and want coyotes, foxes, and bobcats no farther than 150 yards.

A box of 50 rounds will run you under $20, an important feature to keep in mind when considering whether a bolt action rimfire rifle suits you. Save $100, and you can grab 200 rounds of ammunition.

Outside of Hornady, ammunition kingpins like Federal, Winchester, CCI, and others make affordable 17 HMR ammunition.

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Top .17 HMR Rifles You Can Buy Today

Ruger Precision Rimfire Price: $619

Ruger is well-known for making tough, hard-working, highly affordable firearms for everyday Americans. The company’s Precision Rimfire line of rifles definitely lives up to its reputation.

Tipping the scales at just under 7 pounds, this well-balanced, well-built rifle is a joy to shoot whether you’re punching holes in paper targets or pesky groundhogs. It comes with an 18-inch cold hammer-forged steel barrel threaded 1/2:28 for a suppressor.

One of the best features of this rimfire rifle is the adjustable glass-filled nylon buttstock that makes customizing length of pull and comb height super easy. This one will fit pretty much any shooter from any shooting position. Shooters will also appreciate the externally adjustable with a trigger pull range of 2.25 to 5 pounds.

Henry Varmint ExpressPrice: $654

Henry carries close to a dozen lever action models in 17 HMR, but the Varmint Express is something extra special. This lever-action rimfire is perfect for picking off prairie dogs or plinking random recyclables. It features a checkered American walnut Monte Carlo stock, a 19 1/2-inch round, blued steel barrel, and a buttery smooth action.

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While the receiver of the Varmint Express comes grooved for scope rings, the rifle also comes outfitted with rear Williams Fire Sights with fiber-optic inserts.

Alexander Arms Varmint PredatorPrice: $2,395.95

If you’ve got a little extra cash laying around, this rimfire rocket is well worth the investment. If you want a tactical flare to your rimfire shooting, this is a super-fun way to make that a reality.

The Alexander Arms Varmint Predator has the familiar AR-15 manual of arms and has all the modularity of the platform that we’ve come to know and love, so you can accessorize with standard furniture to your heart’s content.

Rad features include a Magpul enhanced trigger guard and stock, a top-notch Velocity trigger, a spiral fluted barrel, two 10-round magazines, and an ultra-cool camo Cerakote finish.

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Cartridge FAQs

What is a 17 HMR good for?

The 17 HMR is equally suitable for plinking, punching paper, ringing steel, and taking small game. Multiple bullet types are available, but it is an all-around rimfire round that serves numerous purposes for the recreational shooter and small-game hunter.

Which is better: the .22 long rifle or the 17 HMR?

Regarding ballistics and downrange performance, the 22 LR can’t touch the 17 HMR. The 17 HMR is faster, more accurate, and hits with more energy.

Is the 17 HMR louder than the .22 LR?

Though it produces minimal recoil, the 17 HMR is slightly louder than the .22 LR, which shouldn’t matter because you should be wearing ear protection.

Is the 17 HMR good for deer hunting?

No, plus the 17 HMR would be an illegal deer-hunting caliber in most states. Though fast and accurate, the speed of the bullet, blended with its grain weight, doesn’t produce enough downrange energy to be ultra-lethal on larger game, such as deer.

What animals can you shoot with a 17 HMR?

The caliber is excellent for small-game animals such as squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, etc. Varmint hunters will also use the caliber when hunting coyotes, foxes, and bobcats, and the round is a favorite of fall turkey hunters who prefer to chase wild turkeys with a rimfire rifle.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>