Guns and Gear

Wheelgun Wednesday: Cartridge Spotlight – .17 Caliber Revolvers

Image credit: TFB’s Adam S.

Welcome to TFB’s Wheelgun Wednesday, where we explore all that revolves around revolvers. This week, we’ll take a look at .17 caliber revolvers to kick off a gradual series based on our previous 57 Revolver Cartridges article, using it as an overview. In this new Revolver Cartridge Spotlight series, we’ll spotlight each caliber currently chambered in revolvers, the available revolvers that shoot said cartridge, and some pros and cons about them. Without further ado, let’s start off the Revolver Cartridge Spotlight with .17 caliber revolvers.

Wheelgun Wednesday @ TFB:

.17 HMR (HORNADY MAGNUM RIMFIRE) SPECIFICATIONS

The .17 HMR cartridge was developed by Hornady in 2002 with varmint hunting in mind. The projectiles are often seen with a ballistic style tip to increase bullet expansion on impact and has been known to game as large as coyotes. The .17 HMR was designed for speed and for reaching targets accurately to 200 yards.

Hornady’s Podcast had a recent episode in which guests Steve Hornady and creator Dave Emary discussed the interesting origin of how they came to design .17 HMR, and how it almost didn’t hit the mainstream. Give it a listen if you’re interested!

Most of the following specs are according to Cartridges of the World, 16th Edition by Frank C. Barnes.

  • Year Developed: 2002
  • Designed By: Hornady
  • Parent Case: .22 WMR
  • Case Type: Rimmed, Bottleneck
  • Bullet Diameter: .172
  • Neck Diameter: .193
  • Shoulder Diameter: .24
  • Base Diameter: .242
  • Rim Diameter: 294
  • Rim Thickness: .05
  • Case Length: 1.064
  • Cartridge Length: 1.365
  • Primer: Rimfire
  • Grain Weights: 15.5, 16, 17, 20
  • Velocity From Revolver: 1700 –1900* fps

(*depending on load and barrel length, see links for example)

Revolver Cartridge Spotlight - .17 Caliber Revolvers

Image credit: TFB’s Luke C.

.17 CALIBER REVOLVERS – MOSTLY .17 HMR AND ONE .17 MACH 2

If you’ve been thinking about getting a brand new revolver chambered for .17 HMR, you’ll most likely have to wait for manufacturers to receive enough orders to spool up for another run. Ruger still lists their Single-Six in .17 HMR, but has a “currently unavailable” status. Chiappa still has a product page for their 1873 pattern revolver, but there’s no direct path from their home page, and it’s listed as “out of stock”. Taurus was the only manufacturer of the bunch that didn’t appear to have discontinued their .17 HMR revolver, so I reached out to them and Taurus USA confirmed that they still do limited runs every year. Smith & Wesson had also done one production run of a .17 HMR revolver in the Model 647, which was discontinued in 2004.

Revolver Cartridge Spotlight - .17 Caliber Revolvers

Image credit: Chiappa Firearms

If you really want a .17 HMR revolver right now, some can still be found on the used market. I’ll admit that I was tempted when I saw a police trade-in Taurus Tracker 17 for $350. It has a few patches of light rust, but in reading internet forums over the years, and more recently for this article, I was a bit leery to pull the trigger on the sale. 17 caliber revolvers seem to have pretty mixed reviews. This could stem from quality control issues, but the fact that four of the five manufacturers have very limited or non-existent runs may also indicate that people either lost favor for the diminutive rimfire cartridge or that they just couldn’t justify the purchase of a dedicated .17 HMR revolver.

Revolver Cartridge Spotlight - .17 Caliber Revolvers

Image credit: Ruger

The .22 WMR (.22 Magnum) cartridge had already been around and had been chambered in revolvers for 43 years by the time the .17 HMR was created. Thus, the choice between the two cartridges could be the revolver version of the 4.6x30mm vs. 5.7x28mm debate. As for the .22 WMR vs. .17 HMR competition in regards to its usage in revolvers, it’s clear which won out in the long run since the .22 WMR is currently being chambered much more abundantly, both as a stand-alone revolver or as a combo kit that includes .22 LR and .22 WMR cylinders. More on that for another week though.

For an honorable mention, North American Arms (NAA) had chambered their Mini Revolver for .17 Mach 2 (.17 HM2), but they’ve since removed all mention of the .17 HMR and Mach 2 models from their website. One forum mentioned that the shorter barrels had issues stabilizing the .17 caliber projectiles due to the excessive velocities they produced, and several owners mentioned keyholing the targets were common.

Revolver Cartridge Spotlight - .17 Caliber Revolvers

Image credit: North American Arms. (.22 Magnum version shown)

SINGLE ACTION .17 HMR REVOLVERS

DOUBLE ACTION/SINGLE ACTION .17 HMR REVOLVERS

 

PROS & CONS OF .17 CALIBER REVOLVERS

As mentioned above, consumers had mixed reviews when it came to their .17 caliber revolvers. While some had great results, others had less than stellar memories. One of the potential headaches when chambering revolvers for cartridges that feature a shoulder is that when fired, the cartridge expands and can be forced rearward based on the geometry of the case shoulder. When this happens, friction can be caused between the empty case and the recoil plate of the revolver’s frame. Since the cylinder requires revolving movement, any friction caused by one or more expanded casings can hinder the overall operation of the wheelgun.

The primary advantage of the .17 HMR cartridge is speed, which leads to a flatter trajectory and less influence from wind. From a 24-inch barrel, Hornady lists velocities between 2375 and 2650 depending on projectile weight and load. TFB’s Luke C. wrote an article comparing the .17 HMR to .22 WMR if you’re interested in seeing how they go head to head.

As for chambering revolvers for the .17 HMR (and at least one case of the .17 Mach 2), having a companion handgun to a rifle chambered in the same cartridge could be handy on a varmint hunt, or to add some extra challenge at the shooting range without switching to a different type of ammo.

Revolver Cartridge Spotlight - .17 Caliber Revolvers

Image credit: Federal Ammunition .17 HMR

FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite the fact that some people had great luck with their .17 HMR revolvers, the reports of those that didn’t certainly scared others off, and since there were other, more well-established options available, the .17 caliber revolver phase didn’t last overly long. As we’ve seen above, low sales lead to low production numbers and eventual discontinuation or infrequent runs. The good news is that if you’re still interested in having a .17 HMR revolver, they are still available from Taurus, or the used market.

.17 Caliber Revolvers - Revolver Cartridge Spotlight

Taurus Tracker 17. Image credit: Taurus

Since we’re on the topic of rimfire on today’s Wheelgun Wednesday, feel free to check out TFB’s Rimfire Report if you haven’t yet.

If you happen to see a good deal on a used .17 HMR revolver in the wild, would you give it a new home? If you have or had one, how was your experience? Which make and model was it?

 

Read the full article here

Back to top button