.17 HMR [Guide]: Best Ammo & Guns

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.22 LR, 9mm, .45 ACP, 5.56 NATO, and .308 Win seem to get all of the glory.

But there are dozens of other cartridges that are worthy of our attention. .17 HMR is just one of them!

.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, or .17 HMR, is a comparatively young cartridge that made a huge splash when it first came on the market over a decade and a half ago.

The round’s popularity isn’t surprising. It’s one of the fastest and most accurate rimfire cartridges currently on the market.

Garrow Arms 17 HMR Magazines
Garrow Arms .17 HMR Magazines

Yet a lot of people still aren’t very familiar with the .17 HMR or what it can do.

So what do you need to know about this relative newcomer?

I’ve put together this guide to tell you! Now let’s get started.

What Is .17 HMR?

.17 HMR is, as the name would suggest, a rimfire cartridge that first hit the market in 2002 and is used primarily in rifles, but also in some revolvers.

Also as the name would suggest, .17 HMR was developed by Hornady with assistance from Marlin and Ruger.

The design was inspired by rounds created by hobby rimfire cartridge makers, or wildcatters, who were attempting to develop a round with similar ballistics to the Remington Magnum Rimfire, or 5mm RMR, because of its speed and flat trajectory.

The developers designed .17 HMR to be a high-velocity cartridge that was also accurate and dependable.

The .17 HMR is a necked-down version of the .22 Magnum and generally uses a 17-grain bullet, though you can also find rounds with 20 grain and 15.5-grain bullets.

Though .17 HMR was designed to replicate the ballistics of the 5mm RMR.

But the .22 Magnum cartridge was instead used as the parent case because it was more widely available, was stronger than other .22 cases, and wouldn’t require significant changes to existing rifle and magazine designs like the 5mm RMR would thanks to its unusual head.

.17 HMR is available in hollow point, soft tip, and full metal jacket (FMJ).

.17 HMR Ballistics

It’s here that we begin to see why so many people enjoy using this particular cartridge. For starters, the range is one of the best you can get for a rimfire.

Typically, 250-yards is considered the effective range of a .17 HMR bullet out of a rifle, and the first 100-yards of this distance is going to have a completely flat trajectory.

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This means for the majority of what you aim at with this caliber (with my assuming most of your critters are going to be relatively close), you’ll have no problem taking them out.

Daniel Defense DDM4ISR Shoot House Night Vision

Provided you can put the reticle on target, you should be golden.

Even wind doesn’t seem to pose as much of a problem to the .17 HMR as when compared with other rimfires.

Whereas other rimfire calibers can really get tossed off-target by steady gusts, the .17 HMR can still ring relatively true without as much drift.

Out to 100-yards, you’re typically looking at these bullets hitting with 136 foot-pounds of force as well.

That means it’s plenty strong enough to take out that rogue skunk who keeps spraying your dog without your ever having to worry about being inside the immediate stink zone.

Uses of .17 HMR

.17 HMR is primarily used for mid-range small game and varmint hunting. The bullet’s velocity and accuracy make it ideal for hunting rabbit, possum, and raccoons from up to 200-yards.

The round’s high energy can make it a bit too destructive for hunting varmints like squirrels and chipmunks, but if you’re not particularly concerned with preserving the body, then .17 HMR can be a great choice.

Skilled marksmen have used .17 HMR for larger game like hogs and coyotes, but it takes a hell of a shot and a range within about 50 yards to pull it off.

The other major use for .17 HMR is for plinking.

It balances affordability with speed and accuracy. It’s also relatively quiet compared to larger ammunition, though it is louder than its main competitor, .22 WMR.

Best .17 HMR Ammo

Now that you know a bit about .17 HMR and what it’s useful for, let’s talk about some of my favorite HMR rounds for plinking and hunting.

.17 HMR Plinking Ammo

When it comes to plinking ammo, my favorite .17 HMR rounds are Federal Premium V-Max Polymer Tip and Winchester Varmint.

I don’t want to spend much on plinking ammo, so I like that these rounds are super affordable but also have respectable accuracy, velocity, and energy.

Both of these are great ammo picks, normally I just grab the cheaper option since I love both equally.

.17 HMR Hunting Ammo

For hunting, either Hornady Varmint Express or CCI Gamepoint is the way to go.

Hornady Varmint Express is the OG of .17 HMR, and it shows offering excellent quality at an affordable price.

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Whether you go with 15.5-, 17-, or 20-grain, the soft tip offers superior accuracy alongside impressive expansion. Of course, that expansion means this ammo is best used for pest control.

CCI Gamepoint is better if you want to preserve your game. It’s a full metal jacket round that expands minimally to protect your meat.

It’s also incredibly accurate, with a max rise of only 0.6-inches when sighted for 100-yards.

The Current World of .17 HMR Ammunition

While these are some of the better .17 HMR cartridge options, the fact of the matter is that right now you have to get what you can get.

Multiple online retailers have been out of stock of .17 HMR now for months, and in many cases, there’s no telling when warehouse supplies will be restocked.

So quite honestly, if you see it, get it.

.17 HMR Rifles

Of course, even the best ammo is useless without something to shoot it out of.

Fortunately, I’ve also assembled some recommendations for something to make that ammo go boom.

SW Model 647

Handgun choices for .17 HMR are a bit limited, but there’s no shortage of rifle choices, so let’s start there.

I’d be more selective of which .17 HMR rifle I chose compared to my willingness to snatch up just about any ammunition out there. However, there’s a severe shortage of these on the market right now as well.

If you can find a rifle chambered in such though, my recommendations are two-fold: stick with something affordable and find something that you like.

Real ornate, right?

Garrow Arms 17 HMR Forend

Budget-Friendly .17 HMR Rifles

For starters, spending anything over $400 on a rimfire rifle to me just doesn’t feel right.

Throwing big money around is for night vision, AK-47s, and bolt-action 6.5mm Grendel pieces. I don’t want to drop major dollars on something that I’m going to be “plinking” with.

.17 HMR [Guide]: Best Ammo & Guns
We prefer to spend our money…elsewhere.

Or shooting possums with, for that matter.

If you’re like me in that thought process, I recommend checking out what Savage has to offer, particularly, the Savage 93 FSS.

Chiappa makes an interesting little break-action .17 HMR called the Little Badger as well that may be more in the price range you’d be willing to spend.

“It’s Just Money” .17 HMR Rifles

If you are willing to spend big money, one of the most widely recommended is the Ruger 77/17.

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The Ruger 77/17 was designed by Ruger specifically for .17 caliber ammo and is available in .17 HMR, .17 WSM, and .17 Hornet.

The Ruger 77/17 is a classically styled bolt action rifle with plenty of modern touches. It has a stainless steel action, cold hammer-forged barrel, and a detachable rotary magazine.

It also has built-in sling swivel mounts to make this rifle easier to carry, even when trekking through the underbrush, as well as integrated scope mounts on the steel receiver and included scope rings.

What’s your take on the Ruger? Give it a rating!

.17 HMR Handguns

Handgun choices in .17 HMR are fewer and almost exclusively revolvers.

The Taurus Tracker is one such revolver.

This is a durable revolver great for hunting small game!

It has a textured rubber grip to help you keep maximum control over the weapon in all kinds of conditions and has a seven-shot capacity, giving you an extra shot before you need to reload when compared to most revolvers.

The Tracker also has an excellent safety mechanism. The gun can be locked with a key at which point the revolver can’t be cocked or fired and the manual safety can’t be disengaged.

When you’re ready to use it again, you can unlock it and get going. The same key can be used for any Taurus revolver or pistol.

If you don’t like the Taurus, check out Smith & Wesson’s Model 647.

.17 HMR [Guide]: Best Ammo & Guns
Smith & Wesson Model 647

It’s a beautiful revolver that, unfortunately, also has a ridiculous cylinder lock. It’s a hard gun to find, but it’ll get you into the world of .17 HMR revolvers.

If you’re looking for something a little more cowboy and a little less film noir, check out the Ruger Single-Six or the Chiappa 1873 SSA 17.

Both of them are single-action, unfortunately, but they’re the cheapest way to get a .17 HMR handgun that I know of.

Conclusion

Whether you want a fun plinker or a varmint hunter, the .17 HMR can get the job done.

.17 HMR [Guide]: Best Ammo & Guns
Garrow Arms 17 HMR Forend

Though ammo can be tough to find, when you do find it, it’s worth it to play with this fun round.

Have you done much shooting with .17 HMR? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re interested in other obscure or mainstream calibers then you’ll want to check out our Ammo & Reloading Guide!

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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 >>