Wednesday Weapons – .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire

Henry Golden Boy .17HMR

The 17 HMR has revolutionised shooting for many New Zealanders, meaning that the old adage of a man only needing three guns, a shot gun, a big game gun and a .22 is dead. There was always plenty of scope for arguments about what calibre of big game gun a man should have, and good logic to having most. When it came to shooting rabbits, hares and possums, there was only one calibre, the .22. Most shooters learned how to shoot with a .22, a cheap, effective cartridge that teaches boys (alright, and girls if they are into shooting) good field craft and placing shots, as you have to get bloody close to a rabbit to knock it over.
Over the years there have been plenty attempts by different people to create a souped up .22, but none have really caught on as the .22 was simply too cheap, too effective and too much fun to shoot with. This all changed in 2002 when the 17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) was introduced.

The 17 HMR is a tiny little projectile that sits atop a 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (22 Mag) cartridge. For the layman, this means that the power is condensed into a wider, shorter area, providing even powder burn, improving velocity, drop and accuracy. That?s the theory. In practice the 17 HMR is a life changing weapon because it allows you to reach out to 200m and knock over rabbits and hares without having to stalk in like you did with a .22. A rangefinder and a bipod mean that killing at 200m should be expected if you are a half decent shot and can find something 200m away to shoot.

Depending on the cartridge, a 17 HMR zeroed at 100m will drop 22cm at 200. This makes anything under 100 pretty easy, so you start seeking bunnies further out. This cartridge goes like a cut cat, flying out the muzzle at over 2500 fps, between 700 & 1500 fps faster than ?.22 Long Rifle (the correct name for the .22). At under 100m it punches a pretty big hole in a rabbit, picking it up and tipping it over without too much trouble at all.

It slows down a fair bit at 200m but still drills a pretty big hole in a rabbit, and will dump a hare without having to worry too much about inch perfect shot placement.

Close range shooting for possums is meat and drink for the 17, as it puts a very, very large hole in the possum so you don?t end up with a possum hanging in a tree with a ?few .22 bullets in it, wondering whether it needs more to humanely finish it off. Wild cats, on the other hand, tend to bounce around a bit much after getting a .17 in them, which is not ideal especially if the wild cat happens to be the neighbours pet that is knocking off a few of your native birds and needs to be discretely sent to a better place. In that case a suppressed .223 is a far better bet as the extra grains in the .223 give it much more knock down power rather than just relying on the speed of the bullet. Suppression of bullets is a good thing.

17HMR Magnum Research Barracuda Semi Auto Graphite

7HMR Magnum Research Barracuda Semi Auto Graphite

There are a good number of 17 HMRs available in NZ, with lots of different configurations to choose from. At the bottom end Marlin & Savage produce effective rifles but the Marlins action suffers a bit from being a bit short in the bolt, and not being that smooth. Going up the cost scale the CZ has a good number of faithful adherents, and Ruger make a very nice .17 also. There are other brands on the market, usually more expensive and usually pretty bloody good, but the Savage will do as an introductory rife for just about anyone except the most fanatical varminter. Being? left handed shooter I prefer a semi-auto or a Lever action and my preferred lever action is the Henry Golden Boy in .17HMR. It has a nice heavy octagonal barrel and good balance, if you stick a bipod on it and decent scope you have a very effective rabbit slaughtering machine. If I were to have a semi-auto you can’t go past the rugged dependability of a Ruger except they don’t make a .17HMR, but Magnum Reasearch do. Booyah! For those who don’t know Magnum Reasearch are the makers of the Desert Eagle pistol in either .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum. The Magnum Research boys make a custom model based loosely on the proven Ruger 10/22 action and magazine system. That blowback system? though is not suitable for the high pressure .17HMR and so Magnum Research have made significant adjustment to the action. And very cunning their modification is too. They have developed and have a patent pending unique operating system that combines gas operation with the old blowback operation. They have precisely located a very small orifice hole directly in front of the chamber of this rifle that bleeds a very small amount of expanding gas as the bullet passes it. By doing this they are able to “equalize” the peak pressure of this gun and allow it to operate as a blowback action. They have also developed and installed a “gas block” on this rifle that diffuses the gasses safely under the fore-end. Now a word of warning, this rifle is expensive at $2299 but I just bet it works flawlessly.

The only thing to be wary of with the 17 HMR is barrel fouling. Barrels need a lot of cleaning and you will lose accuracy if you don?t keep your barrel clean.

I think I would still stick with the Henry, a true Classic.