Recently I read an article comparing the .17 HRM to the older .22 magnum, authored by Layne Simpson. He preferred the .22 magnum. His views mirror mine.
At one time my only small game rifle was an Ithaca M-49 saddle gun. Back when Sandi and I lived in Montana, I traded an obsolete Marlin pump rifle in .32-20 caliber for it. The Ithaca was designed similar to the old single-shot Martini action, with a dropping breechblock and an external hammer. Superficially, it resembled a model 94 Winchester carbine. Though inexpensive, it was reliable and accurate.
I flat wore that little rifle out. I killed grouse, badgers, bunnies, coyotes, jackrabbits, fox, skunk, squirrels, hogs, porcupines, picket pins, rock chucks, raccoons, wild turkeys and assorted other critters with it. If the receiver had been made out of steel instead of an alloy, it would still be in my gun safe.
Find another one, you say? Been there, tried that. It’s like trying to find a dragon guarding a virtuous maiden. Or like finding an older Savage over and under, the one with a wood stock and a .22 long rifle chambered barrel over a .410 or 20-gauge shotgun barrel, for under $800. Such things are the stuff of dreams.
I was hooked the very first time I fired a .22 magnum. It was in one of those same iconic Savage over-unders chambered for a .22 magnum on top and a 20-gauge barrel beneath. It belonged to my future brother-in-law. It happened while we were hunting pheasants. A squirrel ran across the road and scrambled up a tree about 150 yards away, sitting on a bare limb in plain sight.
Daniel challenged me to hit it with his Savage rifle-shotgun combo, since I only had a shotgun with me. We pulled over on the two track and, using the hood of the car for a rest, I cranked in the front sight and squeezed off the shot. Don’t know who was more surprised, me, the squirrel or Daniel. But the squirrel tumbled out of the tree deader than last week’s news. Yeah, I was impressed. So was Daniel.
My first .22 mag rifle was a Mossberg Chuckster, a five-round, magazine-fed bolt action repeater. I gave my little brother the rifle when Sandi and I moved to Bozeman, thinking I’d never need a .22 mag there. It didn’t take me long to figure out how handy a .22 magnum was even in the mountains for smaller game and, since it was cheaper to feed than my ancient .32-20 pump, I traded the Marlin for the Ithaca.
Eventually the Ithaca wore out and wound up being replaced with a .22 mag, octagon-barreled Rossi pump rifle. After several years the Rossi was replaced with an octagon-barreled Steven’s favorite, another dropping-block single shot, again in .22 mag. Either rifle was picket-pin deadly with open sights out to 125 yards or so.
That little Stevens collected several wild turkeys for me many years ago. My grandsons have the rifle now and it’s still collecting the odd gobbler or two, or so I hear. My current .22 mag rifle is a lever-action carbine made by Henry Arms. I had a Winchester 9422 in .22 magnum at one time and much prefer the Henry.
My history with the .17 HMR is limited, partially because it was introduced 40 years after the .22 mag. Granted, the little .17 was appreciably more accurate than its big brother when it was introduced, primarily because more research was done on its bullets before it was offered to the public. The .22 mag was handicapped for decades with rudimentary bullets designed for older .22s. Presently, thanks to the competition from the little .17, very accurate bullets for the .22 mag have been developed.
The .17 HMR was a performer right from the beginning, accurate and deadly on smaller pests. Still, I’ve used the tiny caliber to shoot some of our big jackrabbits and truthfully, I felt it was over-matched for the job. Unlike with the .22 mag, I usually had to shoot the jacks more than once with the little .17. I hate that.
We shot some bunnies with a .17 HMR a friend owned one year and wasted a lot of good meat, but it killed them dead at some fairly impressive ranges. Maybe it was just me, but I figured it was a good 100-yard picket-pin gun and that’s about all as I generally don’t hunt chipmunks, turtles and frogs.
The point here being, if you’ve got a .17 HMR and you like it, great. But like cold coffee, pickled eggs, ultra long-range animal assassination, or 10-mm caliber auto pistols for bear protection, it’s not my cup of tea.
But it’s a moot point, simply because if given my druthers, I prefer using a revolver these days. For plinking, hunting small game, and just about everything else, rimfire shooting related, revolvers are my “go to” choice including ones in .22 magnum. I’ve had a Ruger Single Six so chambered for most of my life.
At present I also have a four-inch barreled .22 magnum that I occasionally carry. An inexpensive model made by Heritage Arms that will pop the eyes out of a rattler at 10 yards if I do my job. It’s sudden death on bunnies and jacks inside 50 yards and I’d even use it for a trap-line gun if I was still trapping. It’s tough, reliable and accurate and, within its limitations, quite deadly.
What more can you ask for?
By the way, it took a couple of months, but the road block that was Sen. Mike Enzi, whose sole negative vote blocked the passage of a bill allowing our nation’s sailors a long denied recognition for exposure to Agent Orange incurred while serving offshore Vietnam, has been surmounted. I don’t understand much about Congress, but apparently when the committee charged with forwarding legislation to the floor of the Senate kills a bill, there are ways around it. Still, the fight for veteran’s rights continues and it shouldn’t have to.