These two rimfire cartridge favorites are in a constant state of debate. Which one is better or does either offer something more than the other? Of course, as with all caliber differences, there are some inherent differences and there are some subtle characteristics worth looking at.
The first thing you’ll notice between the two is the drastic difference in the bullets, with the .17 HMR streamlined and pointed and the .22 blunt and rounded. The second most noticeable difference is the casing. The .17 HMR is longer and more narrow.
The .22 is shorter and roughly the same size. But it’s the ballistic differences between these two rounds, along with their uses that intrigue shooters the most. A 17hmr vs 22 comparison ultimately reveals two rounds that are fundamentally different in every way.
17 HMR vs 22 Mag
These two rounds have almost nothing in common, and you will see that as soon as you pull one of each out of their respective cases. The biggest remaining question boils down to what they are used for.
The .22 Mag has been around for a long time, originally introduced by Winchester back in 1959, with the release of the Model 61 Rifle. It didn’t take long for the cartridge to gain a good deal of popularity, especially for small game hunting and killing varmints around the house and farm.
One of the popular aspects of the .22 Mag is that it has decent range, with accurate shot groupings at 100 yards. In fact, the .22 Mag has the same velocity at 100 yards as a .22LR round as it exits the muzzle.
The .22 Mag is pretty powerful for such a small cartridge, and it will decimate the meat on a squirrel at ten yards. It’s better for slightly larger game at longer distances. The round is also a little more expensive than its .22LR cousin.
The .17 HMR has a much shorter history than the .22 Mag, released for the first time in 2002. The .17 HMR is pretty powerful for its size, and it’s also very affordable. Where the .22 Mag will decimate squirrel meat at ten yards, a .17 HMR round will make it difficult to identify as a squirrel once the hair and meat are finished raining down.
The .17 HMR has great range and velocity, traveling 2,000 ft/second, and you can get excellent groupings at 100 yards. For very small game, a .17 HMR cartridge is probably not the best idea.
For varmints, who cares? The .17 HMR will be more than happy to vaporize just about any kind of varmint, but the cleanup may not always be fun. For hunting purposes, the .17 HMR is ideal for foxes, coyotes, larger rabbits, or even raccoons.
Specs of each
The .17 HMR cartridge is the successor to the .22 Winchester Magnum Rifle. It was originally designed as an attempt to bring back the ballistic love from the 5mm rimfire. It worked, and now it’s a fairly popular cartridge.
Like many other rounds, you will find .17 HMR in hollow point, FMJ (Full Metal Jacket), and soft tip.
.17 HMR Specs
- Rimfire primer
- Bullet Diameter of .179”
- Base Diameter of .238”
- Rim Diameter of .286”
- The case length is 1.058”
- The overall length is 1.349”
The .22 Mag, as we indicated above, is more closely related to the .17 HMR than a casual observation indicates. It’s essentially the parent of the .17 HMR. For a small game round, it has good velocity and solid range. It will more than handle small game hunting but may be too much for very small game, especially up close.
.22 Mag Specs
- Rimfire Primer
- Bullet Diameter of .224”
- Base Diameter of .242”
- Rim Diameter of .294”
- The case length is 1.055”
- The overall length is 1.350”
What to Shoot with Each
Both rounds are designed for small game but it’s important to distinguish between small game and very small game. While the .17 HMR is not the most well-known round, having been released very recently, it’s growing in popularity as it is discovered by more hunters.
.17 HMR Uses
One of the more popular uses for this rimfire cartridge is against varmints, such as armadillos, possums, raccoons, rats, and rabbits. Smaller varmints, such as squirrels, maybe too much of a mess to clean up after impact. Rats as well, but they can get pretty big themselves.
It can be used for game as large as hogs, however, you have to be very skilled and inside of 50 yards to take down a hog with a .17 HMR. It’s great for coyotes, turkeys, and foxes as well. With turkeys, it may decimate too much of the meat close up, so a headshot is called for.
.22 Mag Uses
The .22 Mag is an incredibly accurate rimfire round and that’s why it has remained a very popular cartridge for well over half a century. A .22 Mag will match the .17 HMR with all varmints and it won’t be as destructive either.
However, it’s still a little too much for small game, such as squirrels. For larger raccoons and rabbits, it’s ideal for mid-range and farther out.
.17 HMR Pros
- Fast flight path
- Solid long-range cartridge
- Great accuracy
- Great for mid-size game
- Flat Tracjectory
.17 HMR Cons
- Too destructive with small game and close range
.22 Mag Pros
- Very little recoil
- Solid Range
- Good accuracy
- Great for small game
.22 Mag Cons
- Less range and accuracy than the .17 HMR
These two cartridges intersect in their usefulness so its a worthy comparison between the two. For old-school shooters, the .22 Mag and the .22LR will always be a mainstay, and you will probably never talk them into switching to a .17 HMR.
That’s one of the biggest advantages of the .22 Mag, however. It has a long history to go with its widespread adoption. The .17 HMR is relatively new to the masses. But if you like to spend a lot of time on shooting forums, you will find that the .17 is making headway with .22 Mag owners.
That doesn’t mean you should rush to discard your .22 Mag cartridges too quickly. They are still the better cartridge for small game, especially at mid-range. The .22 Mag is also fairly accurate, and neither it nor the .17 HMR will let you down when it comes to varmints.
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