Ammo Roundup: .17 HMR
By Chuck Hawks
There are several ways to organize any ammunition "roundup." It could, for example, be listed by manufacturer. Organizing the various .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) loads by manufacturer has one obvious advantage, in that not all brands are available in all areas, so the reader can skip to the brand(s) he or she can actually purchase.
The most difficult way to present the information, unfortunately, strikes me as one of the most useful. That is, to list the various loads by the purpose for which they are most useful. So I am going to try to do both. I will list each brand, and then in sub headings the purposes for which the various loads are best suited.
In the case of .17 HMR ammunition, that is basically varmint hunting or small game hunting. Those are the purposes I will address in this ammunition survey. Of course, like all rimfire cartridges, the .17 HMR is also often used for plinking.
Varmints are small animals that are usually not eaten, and are often shot at comparatively long range. Examples of varmints include marmots (groundhogs and rock chucks), gophers, jack rabbits, rats, and ground squirrels. Some of these creatures are larger and tougher than most small game animals and preserving an edible carcass is not a consideration.
The load most commonly recommended for shooting varmints is the 17 grain spitzer bullet at a MV of about 2550 fps. This type of ammunition provides the flattest trajectory and the greatest killing power available in .17 HMR caliber. It is also used for hunting edible small game, but can be overly destructive if bullets are not well placed.
Small game hunting
Small game refers to edible creatures such as squirrels and rabbits. The key ingredient in small game ammunition is adequate killing power to insure a quick, clean kill without blowing the game apart. In .17 HMR the 20 grain controlled expansion bullet is the usual choice. These are usually designed to mushroom rather than fragment, analogous to a soft point bullet in a centerfire rifle caliber.
Head shots are best when hunting small game, as no edible meat is then wasted. The heart/lung (chest) area is another satisfactory target, as little edible meat is wasted.
"Plinking" refers to informal shooting at casual targets. The time-honored tin can is probably the most common plinking target, but there are endless alternatives. Some of the most common include Necco candy wafers, fired shotgun shells, wooden matches, jar lids, paper plates, potatoes, and all manner of paper targets. There are even paper targets made specifically for plinking. Unfortunately, glass bottles are also common plinking targets, but should not be; broken glass will inevitably become someone's problem. My favorite plinking target is the ordinary "clay pigeon" used by trap and skeet shooters. They are reactive, safe, fragile and degradable.
Any ammunition can be used for plinking, with cost usually being the primary consideration due to the high volume of ammunition expended. Personally, my hunting ammunition is my general purpose and plinking ammunition. At the time of this writing there is no low cost "promotional" ammunition in .17 HMR that would be equivalent to the Wildcat, Cyclone, American Eagle, and Thunderbolt brands found in .22 LR caliber.
Manufacturers and brands
A growing number of companies offer .17 HMR ammunition. It is true that CCI actually loads all of the .17 HMR ammunition for the CCI, Federal, Hornady, and Remington brands. However, the ammunition is loaded with different bullets to different specifications. This article will only cover brands and loads that are reasonably well known in the U.S.A. Fortunately for our international readers, most of these brands are also well known in the rest of the world. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of the brands that will be included in this roundup:
Small Game Hunting
Small Game Hunting
Small Game Hunting
Copyright 2005, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.