The obvious birth of the .17 HMR rimfire craze started with the development of the famed 22 WMR back in 1959. Over many years, the hot 40 to 50-grain rimfire had a solid place in the small case sub caliber community. However, the 22 WMRs were in for some stiff competition.
Hornady, the well-known bullet and cartridge designer, took a fresh hard look at a replacement. He at least hoped to create something on par with the Winchester 22 WMR. Enter the 17 HMR. In 2002, it came on the scene as the new super speed rimfire rifle cartridge. The HMR 17 was light in terms of grain weight projectiles, but it was more accurate and even cut trajectory.
Along with the development of the necked down 17-caliber cartridge came turn bolt rifles. These were the direct result of a paired design from both Marlin and Ruger. This innovation allowed the 17-caliber rimfire cartridge to take off.
Typically, finding .17 caliber rifles has never been an issue. In fact, there is quite a broad selection out there! The main thing to think about when shopping for the best .17 HMR rifle is what you’re going to do with it. Just wanting it to shoot won’t cut it!
The 11 Best .17 HMR Rifles: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best for the money: Ruger M-77
- Best for the money #2: Ruger American
- Best for the money #3: CZ 455 Turn Bolt
- Best lever action: Henry “Golden Boy”
- Best bolt action: Savage New Model B
- Best bolt action #2: Savage 93R17 TRR-SR
- Best overall: Anschutz Model 1517D
- Best overall #2: Anschutz Model 1517 American Varminter
- Best semi-automatic: Savage Model A-17
- Best semi-automatic #2: Alexander Arms AR-15
- Best single shot: Thompson Contender G2
|Best for the money
|Best semi auto
|Rate of Twist
Best .17 HMR Rifles For The Money
1. Ruger M-77
Over the past several years right up to the summer of 2017, I was involved in some extensive testing of the 17 HMR as applied to the Ruger M-77. If you are searching for a 17-caliber with the feel of a “big rifle”, you needn’t look any farther than this model.
My first Ruger M-77 was put to work against the Rocky Mountains of central Wyoming. I hunted at The Silver Spur Ranch for over 10 years using various ammunition and optics manufactures. During that time I evaluated each product and learned about the 17 HMR as well as the Ruger turn bolt rifle.
Why choose Ruger? This brand was first to come out with a 17 HMR. As a result, the company has the most experience regarding the cartridge’s history and performance standards. Ruger has built a very high-quality rifle chambered in this equally fine cartridge.
The Ruger M-77 is not a working “tractor” rifle, but instead retains an element of elegance that should be respected. It features a metal bottom, deep blue polished barrels and actions, and American walnut fittings.
A year or two ago, Ruger discontinued the M-77 as a factory offering and introduced the newer Ruger American to fill the hole. Now, as of 2019, the M-77 is offered in the newer 17 WSM. Happily, the 17 HMR has already appeared in the company’s American Series rifle lineup.
The M-77 makes use of the famed Ruger rotary magazine, a solid receiver milled from a single block of steel. It also features the usual hammer forged and accurate barrel. Tack on the manufacturer’s special base rings and mounts, and you have a one-of-a-kind winner!
The only real drawback is that it could be hard to find an M-77 in 17 HMR. However, with a quick search, I had no trouble finding plenty. Guns America and similar outfits stand tall in this sales arena.
It’s a bit strange to feature a rifle no long manufactured on our list of preferred rifles. Be that as it may, this is one of the best rifles in this chambering. Also, be advised that the M-77 in a 17 HMR was being sold as of 2016, so the whole marketing change is quite recent.
2. First Runner-up: Ruger American
The Ruger American it is a nice rifle, and I have tested several of them here on my range in western South Dakota. This manufacturer offers a very extensive line of composite and wood-stocked American rifles. The polystocked 17’s can take a pounding in the field as “ tractor” guns. However, they lack the fine tuning and finish of the old M-77s.
I carried the American on my grain cart pickup tractor for several years while harvesting corn in South Dakota. The heavy steel and glass cab of a John Deere 8-wheeler is no place a rifle like this to be bouncing around. Yet, the Ruger American did well and fought off the days of rough ground pounding. It even killed a few badgers and raccoons during its time aboard my big green machine.
Ruger M-77 used or almost new will run about $500.00, whereas the Ruger American comes in at $500.00 brand new.
3. Second Runner-Up: CZ 455 Turn Bolt
Another rifle that I’ve spent countless hours in the field behind is the CZ 455 turn bolt. CZ builds a quality rifle that retains their signature European walnut and quality metal finishing. For a lighter weight and handling rifle, I found the 455 turn bolt to be accurate and well balanced. All CZ rifles have a smooth lockup, and it would be hard to go wrong buying this variant in HMR chambering.
The CZ 455 turn bolt is one more rifle you may have to search for. In fact, we recommend the Browning T Bolt Sporter. Here you have an elegant rifle dressed in a maple finish, cut checkering, and metal finishing to the max.
Best 17 HMR Lever Action Rifles
1. Henry “Golden Boy”
The Henry 17 HMR is a quality lever action rifle that is currently being manufactured. Although not a turn bolt tack driver, this gun shoots well and has the ability to hold scope bases and rings. Not to mention this gun is built with a brass receiver, American walnut, and a quick speed lock time.
The Henry “Golden Boy” is a brass and deep blue octagon classic barrel topped with a buckhorn rear sight. For most field work and varmint killing, the Henry will do just fine. Of the rifles I have sold to local folks here in western South Dakota, about half buy the 17s and the other half buy the 22 WMRs.
Overall, I strongly recommend the Henry “Golden Boy” for use on the farm. Especially at the very reasonable price point of $529.00.
Best Savage 17 HMR Bolt Action Rifles
1. Savage New Model B
When it comes to pure weapon mass in the market, you can’t do better than Savage Arms. Savage offers a rifle for every buyer’s taste and even pushes toward the ultra upper-end market. This manufacturer offers just about everything in a 17 HMR action design.
I spent a week with Savage on the Rosebud Indian Reservation last summer while hard nose testing no less than 20 different centerfire and rimfire rifles. At an event like this, you can really see the limitations and advantages of the cartridge and its firearms.
The number of quality bolt action rifles sold by Savage is almost endless. However, I had to choose the new Savage Model B as the absolute best. This gun is much like a big centerfire rifle, with some added heft and balance related to its design. I shoot this rifle in a 22 WMR with great success, but regardless of the cartridge, the basic handling is the same.
If you decide to mount a 1-inch big rifle scope, you will be pushing the limits of the 17’s range. Regardless, it is your personal choice. Just remember not to sub-scope this rifle with a low standard rimfire piece of glass.
Of the 6 different rifles I tested, I settled on this rifle as the best because it was so close to a larger centerfire design. Not to mention the Model B’s accuracy. Even the price is relatively affordable at $459.00.
2. Savage 93R17 TRR-SR
If you are looking for an upper-crust specialized bolt action rifle, look no further than the full-sized Savage 93R17 TRR-SR. This 17 HMR rifle was built as a tactical weapon with a beavertail style forend and a target raised comb. This sets the gun up for tack driving accuracy.
The Savage 93R17 TRR-SR is equipped with their trademark Accutrigger system, fluted barrel, and threaded receiver. You can count on the gun to pull off excess heat while maintaining accuracy. This rifle is a sweet machine, and costs $654.00.
Best Overall Anschutz 17 HMR Rifles
1. Anschutz Model 1517D
Now we get to the king of the hill in terms of total quality and desirability. The brand is Anschutz, and the rifle is the bolt action Model 1517D.
This rifle is a dream system in terms of quality metal fit, walnut wood grain, and extreme accuracy. The Model 1517D extracts every bit of performance out of its 17 HMR cartridge and comes in at a costly $1005.00.
2. Anschutz Model 1517 American Varminter
Want to stay with the above-referenced action and brand, but move into a tricked out varmint rifle for close-range small targets? Introducing the Anschutz Model 1517 American Varminter. This gun is a thumb hole, open skeleton stocked action that’s set up as a walking varmint rifle.
The 1517 American Varminter is set up the same way as most other 17 HMRs. Simply slide up for close range shooting on prairie dogs, or stand off to shoot ground squirrels near field watering pivots.
Best 17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rifles
1. Savage Model A-17
The Savage Model A-17: welcome to trouble unless you’re willing to take care of this beast! That being said, the autoloader is just fine when it works. Unfortunately, not many shooters want to maintain and clean a self-stuffing firearm everday. Fortunately, the kinds of shots you get off are well worth the effort!
The story behind the Model A-17 is interesting. For the most part, 17’s don’t like to be used in autoloading rifles. Savage changed the game completely by engineering a totally new action design. This technology delays the bolt lock to stay open just long enough to facilitate the reliable ejection of spent cases.
This Savage gun retains a button-rifled barrel, Accutrigger system, Accustyled stock, rotary magazine, and blue finished barrel and receiver. The Model A-17 also comes with its own brand of CCI /Savage ammo. The reason you have to buy special cartridges is that their load is pre-balanced for this specific rifle.
At first, I did have issues with the feeding of this gun. Even after breaking it in I had some issues. However, based on the history of the 17 HMR in autoloading rifles, the Savage Model A-17 is a vast improvement from older designs. In this case, buyer beware when shopping for a second-hand auto in this chambering. A new one will cost $401.55.
2. Alexander Arms AR-15
For a second autoloading option, check out the Alexander Arms AR-15 modified to 17 HMR. I warm-target live-fired, field tested, and wrote about this system several years back. It isn’t the worst idea, and I believe this gun is still in production by Alexander Arms because it has few if any problems.
Shooting this rifle is just about flawless. The main issue with the modified AR-15 centers on basic bullet weight. In effect, there is almost no weight to work within a blowback autoloading rifle action. Alexander Arms indicated they had more trouble balancing out the AR platform as applied to the 17 HMR than any other modification away from the standard .223 / 5.56 AR.
The magazine of this rifle is compressed so it can accommodate the smaller rounds. The action was designed up from a standard rimfire blowback concept. However, the engineering is different as it is applied to the bolt and overall action. At a whopping $1,541.23, be sure this is the right gun before you buy!
Best 17 HMR Single Shot Rifle
1. Thompson Contender G2
This past fall there was a single blast of thunder in my back 40 as 300 grains of lead slammed into a whitetail buck. He was stone dead on the ground in seconds. The blast came from one of my favorite firearms frame systems of all time: a 50 cal muzzleloader set on a Thompson Contender (T/C) frame. I own several, but only 1 can be the best. T/C is the name, and the 17 HMR G2 is the game.
The most field kills by this writer can be credited to a single firearm in the 17 HMR class. That honor goes to the Thompson G2 frame. Combined with the 17 HMR, this rifle becomes a sweet shooting system! I like to use mine for mid-winter jackrabbits on the Dakota prairie.
The G2 has a smaller frame that is a natural for use with 17 HMR cartridges. Scope this little gem of a rifle/carbine, and you’ll have a super lightweight field carry gun that will seal the deal in terms of solid 200-yard 17 HMR!
Overview: 17 HMR Ballistics
Regardless of the specific rifle you decide to buy, keep in mind that the general performance of all 17 HMR will be similar. Overall, the 17 HMR is a 200-yard service cartridge and not a barn-stormer hot rod. It won’t shoot to the next zip code.
All 17’s hate wind, and by that I mean don’t do well when a stiff or even moderate wind blows. The light bullets shed velocity quickly and blow around like Styrofoam cups. Almost no one will discuss this fact in print, so you need to review down range ballistics tables to actually see how the cartridge performs under blustery conditions.
A final point is raw killing shock or energy in ft/lbs. Using a very simple and well-engineered table we can see the following few facts.
- Point blank range: the cartridge and given 17-grain bullet will kill a 7-pound critter.
- 50 yards: the weight drops to a 5-pound target.
- 100 yards: the target’s weight drops to 3 pounds. If that won’t take a fat coyote out of the picture, the next two range limits will.
- 150 yards: the cartridge will handle a 2-pound target.
- 200 yards: the target weight drops to 1 pound. The saving grace here would only be a brain pan shot at any range previously indicated.