By Russell Thornberry
Accurate small game guns (left to right): Remington Model 597 autoloader; Savage’s Model 30R17 lever-action falling block; and Ruger’s 77/RM, all chambered in .17 HRM.
This hot little caliber is the ultimate rimfire cartridge for small- to medium-sized varmints.
Remember when you were a kid and first laid eyes on that Daisy Red Ryder BB gun? Me, too. Something deep in my soul cried out, “I’ve got to have one!”
The next time that happened, I was old enough to be trusted with a .22-caliber rimfire rifle. I worked all summer and saved my money to buy a Marlin 39-A lever-action carbine. How I loved that little rifle! I still have it, and I harken back to those magical days of youth every time I look at it.
That same magic sprung up anew in my now somewhat-less-than-youthful heart when I first saw the .17 HRM cartridge. It was just too wonderful for words.
Did I need a rifle in that caliber? Not particularly. But did I want one? You bet, and I laid my money down! And so did thousands of others, making the .17 HRM the hottest-selling rimfire cartridge in the last 40 years.
Further evidence of its popularity is the array of rifles chambered for the .17 HRM. From manufacturers like Marlin, Remington, Ruger and Savage, you can take your pick of bolt-actions, lever-actions, semiautos, falling-blocks, single shots and even a single-action, six-gun revolver.
The three rifles I tested all shot extremely well. To my amazement, after sighting-in the little Ruger bolt-action Model 77/17RM at 100 yards, I shot nine consecutive shots (a full magazine) as rapidly as I could chamber a new round and steady myself on the bench, and put all nine shots into a 1-inch group!
I was using a Nikon 4x12 AO scope with the Ruger and had it cranked up to 12 power for this bench test. I was further delighted when Remington’s Model 597 Autoloader performed similarly with a 3x9 Nikon scope. I mounted a Nikon fixed 4x scope on Savage’s cute little Model 30R17 single-shot, falling-block rifle. At 50 yards, it was also a tack driver. My conclusion: The .17 HRM is an inherently accurate round.
The author shot nine quick consecutive shots from the bench at 100 yards with a Ruger 77/17 HRM and placed all nine shots in a 1-inch group.
The .17 HRM (a .22 rimfire magnum case necked down to .17 caliber) lives up to (and in some rifles) even exceeds its advertised muzzle velocity of 2,550 feet per second with 17-grain factory ammo. By comparison, it is 35 percent faster than the .22 rimfire magnum with a 40-grain bullet, and it produces more energy at 200 yards than the .22 Long Rifle produces at the muzzle. That makes this hot little caliber the ultimate rimfire cartridge for small- to medium-sized varmints such as prairie dogs, groundhogs, crows and jack rabbits. Well-placed shots at bobcats or coyotes at reasonable range should be deadly as well.
At 150 yards, I shot crows with amazing accuracy and devastating results. Rabbits, squirrels and raccoons were no match for the little .17, either.
I used Hornady’s 17-grain V-MAX ammo, which combines a lightweight polymer tip with advanced internal construction. The result is a center of gravity that creates the level of stability imperative for long-range varmint shots. A very sharp tip improves ballistic coefficient, while maintaining the optimum bearing surface needed for maximum stability.
If you’re captivated like I was, and just can’t stand the thought of not owning a .17 HRM, or you’re looking for a perfect little rifle for a child, this one fills the bill. It produces virtually no recoil and a relatively quiet report.
Although the .17 HRM is new on the scene, its development can be tracked back to the early 1990s when wildcatters first played with the idea. But they could never produce satisfactory velocities, so it sat idle for a decade. While it was sleeping, the advances in gunpowder technology moved forward, finally providing a powder that was perfect for the diminutive little round, and Dave Emary of Hornady put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Emary says it was a matter of finally finding a satis-factory powder and designing a bullet design with a slight enough bearing surface to produce the desired velocity.
When I think of the .17 HRM, and why I just had to have one, it reminds me of Patrick McManus’ hilarious article about how to sneak a new rifle into your home without your wife finding out. In the end, McManus offered a rationale to offer in case the missus catches you in the act. He said, tell her that a new rifle is like a wilderness. You don’t really need it, but you just feel better knowing that it’s there!
Amen. I’m with you all the way, Pat!
Reprinted from the premier issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine in 2003