Punxsutawney Phil said spring was on its way a while ago. Once the snow melts off, I’m sure it will arrive. Before long it will be time to bust out the squirrel guns!
For most folks, this means a .22 for ground squirrels and likely a .223 or .22-250 for the bigger stuff. But there is another sheriff in town, not exactly new but newer to the party.
In years past, there have been several attempts to dethrone the .22 Long Rifle as America’s rimfire darling. Some, like the 5mm Remington Magnum, quickly went by the wayside and today are only seen in collectors’ vaults. Others, like the .22 WMR, are still widely used but have hardly supplanted the .22 Long Rifle. Enter the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire.
In 2002, the .17 HMR was released to the public. To say it’s been well accepted would be a huge understatement. Its design is simple, the full-length .22 WMR case necked down to .17 caliber. The performance is extraordinary, the report is mild and the accuracy truly amazing.
For only being around for 17 years, this cartridge has won the hearts and minds of thousands of hunters and with good reason. Its effective reach is over double the distance of a regular .22, and its tiny 17-20 grain bullets start out at double the velocity. These thin-jacket speed demons open violently on impact, eliminating not only their target but any chance of ricochet more commonly seen with the bigger, slower-moving .22 projectiles. Now I will concede that it’s not nearly as cheap to shoot as a .22, but the added performance is well worth the extra dinero.
No other cartridge so excellently melds the reach of the smaller centerfire rounds with the efficiency and mild blast of a rimfire round than does the .17 HMR. And even though it’s more or less a specialty cartridge, it does just fine on bigger stuff as well. That’s right. It’s not merely a 250-yard squirrel rifle but also works well for skunks, badgers, coyotes and the like. The smaller .17 caliber bullets don’t drift in the wind a fraction as badly as do the .22 rimfire rounds. The higher velocity and ballistic coefficient of these .17 calibers are to thank for that increase in performance.
Not that I’m trying to sell the old .22 down the river, but the .17 outclasses it in nearly every way. It’s a literal apples-to-oranges type of comparison. Do I think the .17 will replace the .22 Long Rifle as rimfire king? I am dubious, but I think there is room for both in your gun cabinet. Make your next squirrel gun a .17 HMR. They are a real blast to shoot!
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