.17 HMR Complete Guide: Ballistics, Applications, & More

.17 HMR Complete Guide: Ballistics, Applications, & More
July 12, 2022 Edited March 28, 2023 6546 view(s)
.17 HMR Complete Guide: Ballistics, Applications, & More

One of the least common calibers to see in an AR-15 platform, but tons of fun and fairly cheap to shoot -- the .17 HMR started life as a wildcat but has now become a mainstream cartridge for varmint hunters across the nation!

What is so good about it, why you should get one, and what you can do with it coming up!


Rimfire Vs. Centerfire

Just to clear things up before we get in the weeds -- rimfire and centerfire ammo are fundamentally different. Shocking, I know. 

The names reference how the cartridge is primed. Centerfire uses a primer in the base of the cartridge set in the middle. Rimfire has a rim around the base of the cartridge that is filled with a tiny amount of pressure-sensitive priming compound.

Generally speaking, centerfire cartridges are more powerful and more reliable. Rimfire is older, smaller, and great for super small cartridges like .22 short, .22 LR, .17 HMR, and a few others.


History Behind .17 HMR

Another cartridge that owes its birth to the mad lads that are the wildcatters of the world, the idea for .17 HMR was born out of the desire of the common people to replicate a long dead cartridge.

Back in the 1970s for a period of only 4 years, Remington offered the 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum. As the name suggests, it was a 5mm bullet and had some impressive muzzle velocity sending a 38gr bullet downrange at 2,100 FPS. This super flat shooting varmint round was cool, but unpopular. Remington stopped offering the chambering in 1974 and stopped making ammo for it in 1982. However, Aguila actually brought it back in 2008.

All of that said, in the late ‘90s and early 2000s interest and desire for a fast, flat-shooting rimfire was renewed.

Using the popular .22 Winchester Magnum as a parent cartridge, wildcatters necked it down to .17 cal and loaded it with fancy 4.5mm bullets that were commonly available.

Hornady got in on the action and in 2002 introduced the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire.

.17 HMR Ammo on workbench


Practical Applications

There are really only two major goals with .17 HMR making it a fairly niche cartridge, but it does its job well within that niche.


Hunting/Varmint Control

Call it harvesting, killing, controlling, or hunting -- the result is small critters that need to be very dead. And I do mean small, like real small. Groundhogs and prairie dogs are the most common, but other varmints might include squirrels, rats, and even something a little larger like raccoons.

All of these are firmly in the wheelhouse of 17 HMR

While for something larger like raccoon you would want to be fairly close, like sub-50 yards, things like groundhogs and squirrels can be taken at 200 yards or more.

The high velocity and low recoil make sniping these pests a reasonably easy affair. 

While .17 HMR is sometimes used for animals as large as coyotes, I personally don’t believe it has the punch to reliably drop coyotes even when shot at close ranges. It’s better than nothing, but it wouldn’t be my preference at all.

Raccoon and smaller is more where .17 HMR lives.



While not remotely as cheap as .22 LR, .17 HMR is still a lot more inexpensive than most centerfire cartridges. If you’re looking to plink for less but want to extend your range a bit, .17 HMR is a reasonable choice.



Keep in mind that .17 HMR is still a rimfire cartridge and is only slinging bullets between 15 and 20 grains.

For what it is, it packs a lot of punch. But compared to almost any centerfire rifle cartridge it’s going to look weak.

.17 HMR vs .223 vs .22 LR Ballistics Chart

My favorite loading is the Hornady 20gr HP XTP. From a 24” barrel it moves at around 2,375 FPS, has about 10 inches of drop at 200 yards, and is supersonic to around 230 yards. More than enough to drop prairie dogs in their tracks at that range.

Compare that to a .22 LR varmint round like CCI Singers that send a 32gr bullet downrange at 1,525 FPS -- the Singer goes sub-sonic at around 80 yards and has 30+ inches of drop at 200 yards. While it has about the same energy as the .17 HMR 20gr HP XTP load at 200 yards, it has a lot more drop and windage to contend with.

But of course, if we look at a real centerfire rifle cartridge like a Hornady 35gr NTX in .223 Rem, both of the rimfires get blown out of the water. Moving at screaming 4,000 FPS the 35gr NTX has only 7 inches of drop at 300-yards and is effective on prairie dogs at almost 1,000 yards -- if you can hit them.

Still, while .22 LR might be a 50-100 yard cartridge, .17 HMR is firmly a 200-250 yard cartridge. That’s a big boost in range and power if you’re still looking for the least amount of recoil and low cost of a rimfire.

.17 HMR ammo on workbench


Build Or Buy

.17 HMR is a pretty niche caliber for the AR-15, but 17 hmr uppers and magazines are fairly easy to find from a few brands.

Personally, I don’t recommend building an upper since the parts are often proprietary and rarely play well with others.

Get yourself a complete upper and use the magazines the manufacturer recommends.

If you’re dead set on building, you’ll need a new BCG and new barrel at a minimum depending on the exact system you choose.


Wrapping Up

Sure, .17 HMR is a bit of a niche cartridge that many of us haven’t given a second thought to. But if you have the chance to do some varminting -- .17 HMR is mad fun. This is a great cartridge for leaning on, cleaning the garden of pests, or snapping off the back deck (if it’s legal in your area!).

If .22 LR doesn’t give enough pop for you, give .17 HMR a try!


Please login to comment.

Don't have an account?

Sign Up for free
Robert R England
July 13, 2022
Make an upper in 17 HMR and I probably would buy one.
bill leak
August 11, 2022
its coming out soon
James Johnston
August 18, 2022
I would buy even pre-order
Ricky Cagle
July 14, 2022
will buy a upper in 17 hmr
Brian Roberts
July 14, 2022
I'm game if you make on.
Wade Atwood
July 14, 2022
I will definitely buy one but ya need to make a drum for it as well!
July 14, 2022
Hells yeah! Im waiting!!
John W
July 15, 2022
y not a 17wsm vs the 17hmr?
don b.
July 16, 2022
Different spring and buffer from the .22mag upper for the .17hmr ?
July 22, 2022
Firstly, thanks for staying abreast of what BCA is working on! Currently, the designs for the .17hmr are still with the engineering department and a finalized design has not come out yet. We are so excited to release this and many of our future products, but our team wants to make sure all is working effectively and has gone through all the safety procedures. Though we don’t have an exact date of launch or the final product technical specs we are still looking to have this out by the end of the year. Once again, thank you so much for staying in the know and we hope to give all our customers some additional insights soon.
July 16, 2022
Yes please!!
Randy Breedlove
July 17, 2022
If BCA made the .17 WSM I would be first in line to purchase
Jesse C
July 17, 2022
I’d buy a 17hmr and a 17wsm upper if you would make them
Eddie Hyatt
July 17, 2022
I will buy one in a heart beat
Jaime edwards
July 17, 2022
I would buy a AR 17HMR upper and so would my dad
July 17, 2022
I'll be the 1st inline to buy one
James Johnston
August 18, 2022
2nd lol
Gunny M
July 17, 2022
I have the .22 Magnum, I think a .17 HMR would be awesome.
Robert N
July 18, 2022
Yes I would purchase this caliber I have been shooting the 17 for about 5 years bolt action savage you can shoot pennys at 200 yds not to mention low cost ammo
July 27, 2022
Pennies at 200yds??!! Ok?!
Doug Queen
July 18, 2022
Love to get my hands om anAR15 for a 17 HMR hope you guys get one out before our rights to build one is gone.
Dave Chester
July 18, 2022
Gimme gimme gimme!!!!!!! Nothing would be fine than a BCA .17!!!!!!! You gents make some fine AR rifles and nothing would make me happier than having one in this hell cat little round. The . 17 hmr is one of the most accurate calibers I've ever had the joy of firing and they are a blast for shredding golf balls or varmints out to 100 yds. I own three different makes and models but would love to have one more!
Colby S Hipps
July 19, 2022
I’ve owned 5 .17hmr rifles in my past and always loved them. They have nearly become obsolete . I would buy one or more of those if you will mak them!, Thanks P.S, - I heard or saw something about a .410 AR you might come out with? If you do I’ll be the first in line to get one.
Justin Bovero
July 19, 2022
I'll buy a .17 hmr upper as soon as BCA makes them available!
Gerry Krueger
July 19, 2022
If you build it i will buy one.
justin Nichols
July 19, 2022
I will be first in line if you make an ar15 upper in 17 HMR
Gerry Krueger
July 20, 2022
If you make a .17 hmr upper i will buy one.
July 20, 2022
Hurry up BCA!! I have 2K .17HMR rounds waiting for an upper!!!
George Williamson
August 6, 2022
Develop a 17 HMR and I will buy one for sure or a complete rifle!
August 11, 2022
A big reason why folks do use 17hmr & 17WSM on coyotes is if they tan and sell furs, it doesn't put a large hole in the hide and no exit wound. Also, they are much quieter than .223 so as not to spook as easily any other varmints in close proximity. 17hmr is my personal choice for varmints up to coyotes and bobcats. Shot placement matters and 17hmr is an accurate little cartridge, which makes proper shot placement easier. When you release a 17hmr platform, I'll be purchasing one for sure.
Bronson Spencer
August 12, 2022
I hope you make a 17 HMR upper with a stainless steel barrel. Do that and my brother and my friends and I will all order one. I was hoping you guys would make a 17 HMR upper when you came out with the 22 mag. I can't wait to have a semi-automatic 17 AR!
don brawner
August 13, 2022
When can I buy a replacement barrel for my .22 mag upper , will I have to use a different recoil spring and buffer ? Thank you Don B.
aaron warren
August 13, 2022
Would definitely buy one . Just let us all know how long it will take for us to get one.
Gregory Duncan
August 17, 2022
How about a 5.7x28 or 22 TCM? Is that possibly on the drawing board?
Kevin Winters
August 20, 2022
Since you’re doing 17 caliber anyway, how about the 17 WSM? Your only a chamber reamer away from 3000 fps. A coyotes nightmare to be sure.
Mark Hertzler
August 20, 2022
I'll buy one.
August 21, 2022
Will buy a rifle and pistol of the 17 hmr
Thomas Albright
August 21, 2022
Jason Martin
August 24, 2022
Scott Melton
September 1, 2022
Are you guys going to make the .17 barrel available buy its self or could you put one on the 22lr upper for the .17hm2?
Lee Bickford
September 8, 2022
Can't help but wonder how the 17 HMR Upper release was sold out over night and then offered for advance purchase ( 4-7 week delay) the next day which I signed up for and was pleasantly surprised to receive less than 7 days later. And now they are on sale for almost 50 Bucks less and shown as in stock?! Had the same experience when the .22 Magnum Upper was released, which I purchased, only to be on sale for near 50 Bucks less shortly after?! Kind of hard to understand why BCA would treat their loyal customers and repeat buyers in this manner???
September 9, 2022
Lee We are sorry to hear you had a less than stellar experience with the pricing difference and launch of the .17 hmr. We sold out in 2 hours of the launch so we made them available via backorder. Since we make all of our products in house we were able to turn our inventory quickly and ship out sooner than we estimated. We have tagged a rep to assist you! We appreciate you and all of our customers!! Thank you, BCA
Lee Bickford
September 8, 2022
Left a comment and it has disappeared, wonder if this one will disappear as well.
Craig Williams
September 28, 2022
Did you fix the problem that the 17 has with semi automatic pressure delaying the blowback to keep the brass from blowing out
Charles Gloeckler
September 29, 2022
I would be happier than joe Biden smelling 30 girl’s hair if BCA would produce a 22in. 17 WSM UPPER
Robert Olson
November 12, 2022
I havE purchased the 17hmr and was wondering if it can be buitql with out the buttock setup.
Thomas Gray
December 29, 2022
I have a bolt action 17 HMR and i love it so this will probably be my next upper to get.
Copyright © 2024 Bear Creek Arsenal, LLC. All Rights Reserved.