The .17 Remington

By Chuck Hawks

The .17 Remington was introduced in 1971 and has remained in the Remington cartridge and rifle lines ever since. Prior to that time .17 wildcat cartridges based on the .221 and .222 Remington cases had gained enough recognition to convince Remington that a commercial .17 was feasible.

The .17 Remington case is similar to the series of Remington rimless, bottleneck, .22 caliber cases that includes the .221, .222, .223, and .222 Magnum. It shares the its .378 inch rim diameter, .376 inch head diameter, and 23 degree shoulder with all of these cartridges. Other dimensions of the .17 case are slightly different. It measures 1.151 inches from the extractor groove to the beginning of its shoulder, has a case length of 1.795 inches, and an overall cartridge length of 2.15 inches. And, of course, it accepts .172 inch diameter bullets.

As I write these words, Remington's sole rifle offering in .17 caliber is their justly famous and popular Model 700 BDL deluxe bolt action. This rifle is supplied with a 24 inch barrel with a 1 turn in 9" twist, and has a magazine capacity of 5 rounds.

Remington factory loads drive a 25 grain Hornady Hollow Point spitzer bullet at a sizzling muzzle velocity (MV) of 4040 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 906 ft. lbs. At 200 yards that bullet is still traveling at 2644 fps, and the remaining energy is 388 ft. lbs. Remington ballistics tables show the following trajectory for their factory load: +1.8 inches at 100 yards, +2.3 inches at 150 yards, +1.8 inches at 200 yards, 0 at 250 yards, and -3.3 inches at 300 yards.

The sectional density (SD) of the 25 grain .17 caliber Hornady bullet is .121 and its ballistic coefficient (BC) is only .187. These are both low figures despite the sleek appearance of the little bullet. For comparison, a .22 caliber Hornady Spire Point bullet weighing 45 grains has a SD of .128, and a BC of .202. The 55 grain Hornady Spire Point, commonly used in the .223 and .22-250 cartridges, has a SD of .157 and a BC of .235.

The report of the .17 Remington is low and its diminutive bullets very frangible, so it is a good choice for use in semi-populated rural areas. As the figures above attest, it is a flat shooting cartridge, making hits on small targets possible at extended ranges. Another advantage is its minimal recoil. And its little high velocity bullets are sudden death to rodents as far away as they can be hit.

On the debit side, extreme velocity means accelerated barrel wear, and the tiny bore fouls quickly. Frequent cleaning is required if accuracy is to be maintained. Also, small variations in powder charges can give big variations in MV and pressure, a point reloaders should keep in mind. And the relatively low BC of .17 caliber bullets means, among other things, that they are very subject to wind drift. .17 Remington rifles, ammunition, and bullets for reloading are not common, and even the most ordinary supplies, such as .17 caliber cleaning rods and accessories, must often be special ordered. The increasing popularity of the rimfire .17 HMR cartridge can be expected to improve the latter situation.

Hornady is the only major bullet maker producing .172 inch bullets. In addition to the 25 grain HP bullet used in the Remington factory load, Hornady offers a 20 grain V-Max bullet. This plastic-tipped bullet has a SD of only .097, but its BC is .185, very close to that of the 25 grain bullet due to its more streamlined nose.

The fifth edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading reports that WIN 760, VIHT N-133 and N-140 powders gave the best results in their testing. The Hornady Handbook shows that 20.5 grains of N-133 can drive the 20 grain V-Max bullet to a MV of 4000 fps in the 24 inch barrel of a Remington Model 700 rifle. A maximum load of 22.4 grains of the same powder gave a MV of 4300 fps.

With the 25 grain Hornady HP bullet, 24.6 grains of WIN 760 achieves a MV of 3600 fps and 27.4 grains of the same powder gave a MV of 4000 fps. A maximum load of 28.1 grains of WIN 760 achieved a MV of 4100 fps. All of these Hornady loads were developed in Remington cases and used Remington 7 1/2 primers.

The Hornady ballistics tables show the following trajectory for the 20 grain V-Max bullet at a MV of 4000 fps: +/- 0 inch at 50 yards, +0.8 inch at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -5.1 inches at 300 yards. This trajectory is identical to that of the 25 grain Hornady HP bullet at the same 4000 fps muzzle velocity, due to the nearly identical ballistic coefficients of the two bullets.

For most shooters a .17 Remington caliber varmint rifle is a bit too far "off the wall." But, significantly, those who actually own .17 Remington rifles are usually very high on the caliber.

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.