Rimfire Shootout: Savage B-Series .17 HMR vs. .22 LR

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I am relatively new to the .17 HMR cartridge. When it debuted in 2002, I was guilty of downplaying its effectiveness. Most of my life, Uncle Sugar bought me all the centerfire rounds a growing boy could want, so I didn’t have to worry about training ammo. Now that I have to buy my own like a regular mortal, a cheaper training bullet is very much my cup of tea. Having also lived on the East Coast for a very long time, I feel the pain of all of you that don’t have access to a long-range facility.

The author discredited the .17 HMR when it was first introduced in 2002. However, after putting these two rimfires head-to-head, he’s changed his tune.

The problem with .22 LR has been its consistency. Most .22 LR specific sports are shot at either 25 meters or 50 meters, which isn’t ideal for training on a rifle in field conditions. Past about 50 meters, every .22 LR I’ve shot starts really falling apart. This is in terms of accuracy. You need inherent mechanical accuracy at a decent range if you are going to replicate the types of shots your centerfire rifle is capable of.

Yes. You can hit a target with a .22 at 1,000 yards. But it better be the size of a barn door.

What I have been looking for is a cheap, accurate round with a projectile shape and ballistic coefficient that makes windy day shots valuable. After researching pellet guns, very expensive .22 LRs and electronic trainers. I have settled on the .17 HMR.

The Savage B Series offers shooters a high-quality option at an affordable price point.

Savage B Series

To be fair in testing, I matched the .17 HMR against the .22 LR in identical rifles. The Savage B series offers a variety of rimfire rifles in various cartridges at an affordable price. I was very impressed with the Savage B22 when I reviewed it last month. Also, it turned in a most impressive ¾ inch group at 50 meters with Federal Hunter Match ammo. It might be a bit overkill, but I topped both rifles Steiner 3-15X variable power scopes, the T5Xi and M5Xi respectively. It’s probably uncommon to put a $3,000 scope on a $300 rifle, but it was one way of assuring it was a fair caliber-to-caliber test.

The .17 HMR produced .5-inch groups at 50 yards and also produced at five-shot group of .5-inch at 100 yards.

The only published ballistic coefficient (BC) I found was from Hornady, which lists both 40-grain .22 LR and 17-grain .17 HMR at a BC of .125. I am not sure that is correct, but at this point, a full BC extrapolation wasn’t really worth the effort. The shape of the .17 HMR is more like a modern rifle bullet, while the .22 LR is rounded. The .22 LR is more than twice the bullet weight. But The .22 LR moves out at 1,200 feet per second (fps), while the .17 HMR is at 2,550 fps at the barrel. The only way to find a verified answer to which one works better was to have a shoot off.

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Accuracy

To test accuracy, I first shot paper groups at both 50 and 100 yards. The .17 HMR blew the doors off the .22 LR. The B17 turned in extremely impressive ½ inch five-round groups at both ranges, which is better than most centerfire rifles will do. At 50 yards, the .22 LR started off well, but couldn’t replicate the ¾-inch group I shot last month. The wind was playing hell with it for certain. The B17 five-shot group remained at 1/2 inch at 100 yards.

  • .17 HMR: 1    .22 LR: 0

The Savage B-Series has the AccuTrigger, which allows shooters to adjust the trigger pull.

Next, I moved on to field targets, specifically 9mm casings at 50 yards. That is a pretty small target, and a great test medium for these two rifles. The wind was blowing pretty strong during this test, 8 to 10 mph. The .22 LR left five of the 10 still standing, while the .17 HMR only left two. Considering the wind increased during the .17 HMR’s phase of the test, the winner is a pretty clear.

  • .17 HMR: 2    .22 LR: 0

Wind

Then, I moved back to 150 yards, shooting 5½-ounce juice cans. These cans are 3½ inches tall, by 2¼ inches wide. The narrow shape should be ideal for testing wind calls, and they are reactive enough it’s hard to mistake a hit. Starting with the .22 LR, the test was to try for five hits with 10 rounds. The first can I hit with the .22 wasn’t the one I was aiming at, which told me a lot about wind drift. Out of the next eight rounds, I only managed one more strike. The .22 LR was really struggled to drive in the wind. Stepping up to the .17 HMR, it was an entirely different ball game. Not only did I shoot all five of the designated targets, I had enough ammo to clean up the .22 leftovers. The biggest difference I saw with the HMR is that it was predictable in the wind. I have yet to work out a wind formula exactly, but it is possible.

  • .17 HMR: 3   .22 LR: 0

The B17 chambered in .17 HMR held up well during testing on a windy day in Idaho.

Price

Here is where the .22LR beats the .17HMR, but that margin is not as big as you might think. If you are going to use .22 for precision training, you have to feed it premium ammo. The bulk bucket isn’t going to cut the mustard. I used Federal Hunter Match ammo, which is some of the best .22 LR around. That put me at a price point of about 12 cents per round. CCI .17 HMR, bought in bulk is between 18 and 22 cents per round, depending on the day. This is a close enough price point that while .22LR wins this round, I’m inclined to step into the 21st-century rimfire rifles.

  • .17 HMR: 3    .22 LR: 1

Takeaways

The B17 and B22 feature a large bolt knob that makes cycling easy.

The .22 LR isn’t dead, and given the sheer amount of rifles already chambered in this caliber,  it’s around to stay. But it’s hard to argue with our testing results of the .17 HMR. It pulled away with a three to one lead in two accuracy tests and combatting wind. It’s the clear winner. There are tasks the .22 does better, but holes in paper or hits on steel isn’t one of them. The B-17 is a champion, and I have added it to my arsenal. But if .17 HMR is good, does that mean .17 Winchester Super Magnum is better? Fortunately for you, that is the question we will be addressed next week.

What’s your favorite rimfire cartridge?

For more information about the Savage B Series rifle, click here.

For more information about Federal Match Hunter ammo, click here.

For more information about the Steiner scopes, click here.

To purchase a Savage B Series rifle on GunsAmerica, click here.

{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Mark stern September 8, 2017, 9:18 am

    Not sure why a comparison was done with .17 hmr and a .22 that is twice the weight and half the speed. I have a .22 magnum that shoots the same speed as .17 Hmr, Hornidy also makes a 30 grain in .22 with a pointed round nota round nose. This would be a better comparison.

  • Jim August 30, 2017, 6:49 pm

    I have used 22,17HMR ,and recently purchased 17WSM. Heavy bbl. 1022, savage model 93, and stnls. hvy bbl BMAG. all perform very well but when it comes to distance neither 22 or HMR even comes close to WSM. These are all off the shelf rifles. only advantage is that WSM has BSA super mag scope that is calibrated for this. I have shot pdogs out to 300 yds. with hmr and admittedly it is not the explosive effects of centerfire rifles but they can only die so dead and hmr does that job well. as for shooting small game with HMR would not be first choice but not because it has no (knockdown). my experience has been that it gets very messy if you do not get headshots. My choices would be 22 100yds. or less. Either 17 over 100yds but WSM would easily extend to 300 yds. HMR to 200 yds. for most shooters. Include myself in that group.

  • Tim August 28, 2017, 12:39 pm

    The .22 LR is accurate out to 60 yards. Comparing that round to the .17 HMR at 100 yards and over is not comparing apples to apples. For distances of 100 yards and over I would have liked to see a shootout between the .17 HMR and the .22 magnum.

    • floyd fritcher August 28, 2017, 5:31 pm

      The 22 LR is a poor comparison to the 17 HMR, like comparing a bicycle to a motorcycle….
      should have used the 22 mag. floyd

    • W.W. KNOX II August 28, 2017, 5:46 pm

      I HAVE DONE THE COMPARISON,, AND SOLD MY 22 MAG..,,!!!!,, NO COMPARISON,, 22 MAG CRAPS AT 150 YARDS.. 17HMR 300 YARDS,, “WHISTLE PIGS”,, (COLUMBIAN GROUND SQUIRREL),, SIZE OF A BEER CAN,, DOPE THE WIND AND U GET A KILL CONSISTENLY!!!!,, MY 22’S (RUGER 10-22) CONSISTENT KILLS ATE 120 YARDS, 4X14 LEUPOLD,, DUPLEX NOT A PROBLEM…
      I HAVE 4 , 17 HMR’S, SAVAGE BOLT,, A-17 SEMI AUTO,, AND BROWNING “T” BOLT, CZ 452,, 100 YDS,, ALL ROUNDS TOUCHING,, OH YEA,, ON MY 17’S,, LEUPOLD VX3, LR,,6.5 X20,, WITH VARMINT RETICLE,,
      KEY:,, KNOW YOUR GUN,, PRACTICE,, DOPE THE WIND,, ENJOY THE SUCCESS.. !!!!!!WW.

  • Tim August 28, 2017, 12:13 pm

    Just a pet peeve that I see used all too often: “The bulk bucket isn’t going to cut the mustard”. The correct term is cut the muster

    • Bob LaMontagne August 28, 2017, 2:48 pm

      “CUT THE MUSTER” actually came about as a spoof of “cut the mustard”. The correct term is “cut muster”. Sorry to take the wind out of your sails.

    • Ryan Demkar August 28, 2017, 8:31 pm

      It is Cut the Mustard. Cut the Muster is a spoof on the original. This is one that did not originate in the military.

    • BOhio August 30, 2017, 9:56 am
    • Gary Dittrich August 30, 2017, 5:34 pm

      Unless your talking about licking the jar. 😉

  • Woody Liddell August 28, 2017, 10:32 am

    Would it have been a better match if you had used the 17 Mach 2? The match you used seems about as even as a match between you and McGregor.

    • BOhio August 30, 2017, 10:08 am

      I think you’re right. The 17HM2 appears to be basically a .17 caliber bullet in a .22 LR case.

      I have an Anschutz 1702 heavy barrel, i.e. 54 action repeater chambered in 17HM2, but have yet to shoot it, because ammo has been EXTREMELY difficult to find… however, backorders are being filled — from years ago — and there are now at least a couple of online vendors who have it in stock. I’ve just received 1,000 rounds, so maybe I should try to replicate Clay’s testing to some degree. I also have a Savage-Anschutz 54 Sporter, chambered in .22LR, so except for the heavier barrel of the 1702, they’re kissing cousins. OTOH, I don’t have a pair of $3k scopes lying around. Put I do have a couple of vintage Leupold 3.5-10×40 ‘tactical’ models… this is starting to sound like fun.

      • James Crisp September 2, 2017, 10:09 am

        You’ll have to use Midway for the most part. I ordered on when they first came out, i could have dworn they would have taken off like a house of fire, but was severely mistaken. I still have my hm2, but don’t use it that often anymore. It is a lot better on game than the hmr, but didn’t help it’s popularity any sadly

  • Northern Cheesehead August 28, 2017, 10:14 am

    I have a Savage BTVSS in 17 HMR, and would have agreed with this article 100% until the boys that I shot 1000 yards with challenged me to league shooting 22LR at 200 yards a few years ago. The scope elevation needed is very similar to that of a .308 at 1000 yards. So, I dug out my 1973 Anschutz 64, mounted appropriate optics, and started shooting. I shot that thing a lot as a teenager at 50 feet and 50 yards, reaching NRA Expert rating. I never dreamed it would shoot 200 yards. So, I had to try the 17HMR, even though it wasn’t legal at the competitions. The 17HMR is awesome to 150-160 yards. Then it goes subsonic, and despite my best calm day efforts, it’s 2-3MOA at 200 yards. With subsonic .22LR, you never cross the sound barrier. If it’s not windy, I shoot MOA all day long. My teen daughter shoots 1 3/4″ groups consistently when it isn’t windy (steadier hands and better eyes). Bottom line is, under 160 yards and my HMR will hit a paint ball on a golf tee rather impressively all day long, even with a fair breeze. Beyond 160, the lowly 22LR may be a little 45-70 like in it’s flight pattern, but it will group consistently unless it’s a windy day Even on a windy day, it’ll at least match the HMR. I’ve talked to a few guys who shoot 300 yards, they get MOA as well. The question is, what kind of range are you looking for?

  • Charles Valenzuela August 28, 2017, 9:14 am

    Yeah, twice the price for an additional 20 ft-lbs of “soda can knockdown power”, eh?
    I”ll pass on that, thanks.

    • Dereklsj August 28, 2017, 3:55 pm

      It’s not even close to being that simple, unless all you want to do is punch paper. I bought my .17 HMR for varmint hunting, including coyotes out to ~175 yards. The 17 HMR has an average MV of 2,250 FPS, almost exactly double the .22 LR! The 17 HMR is laser straight at similar ranges. This is where the HMR really shines and beats the pants off a .22 LR. Depending on the type of round used, the 17 HMR can be overkill where the .22 LR is better suited, i.e. squirrels and other small animals, if you want any meat left. The 17 HMR is much better for prairie dogs too. The coyotes I’ve shot, are through and through, liquefying the lungs, etc., due mainly to the .17’s much higher M.V. For even longer ranges, >200 yards, I find the 5.56 or .22-250 to be better suited for coyotes.

  • Charlie August 28, 2017, 9:05 am

    It all depends on what you are looking for and what you can afford . I can shoot hundred .22 LR shells and still afford a beer. With the .17 I will have to go home thirsty. Also the .17 is a bit of a pain in the *** to clean,at least that has been my experience. What ever, have fun.

  • Sherman August 28, 2017, 8:58 am

    I own and have shot both calibers in many different platforms including a custom built ruger 10-22 with way too much money invested into it ,that will beat most centerfires at 100 yards or less. I got on the .17 bandwagon early and have never looked back. This round is boringly accurate with devastating energy. If I’m hunting for meat it better be a headshot because this round literally implodes small animals. If someone shot a squirrel three times, the first two must have been misses or they were using a .177 caliber pellet gun instead of the .17 hmr. All I can say if you are on the fence get a nice 93R17 BTVSS and I guarantee that it will be pulled out of the safe more range trips than anything. I’ve got three .17 hmr’s of different configurations and enjoy shooting them all.

    • Dereklsj August 28, 2017, 4:21 pm

      A rim-fire 10-22, no matter how much money you invested in that gun, is still limited to the .22 LR’s ammo ballistics! Beating a center fire out to a 100 yards, is not a possibility if comparing it to an MSR. Any decent AR15 in .223 / 5.56, will decimate any .22 LR using paper target shots, especially when using a 4,000 FPS varmint load in the AR, which shoots laser straight. Any shooter worth his salt, can easily get 3-5 shots out of 5, touching on paper at 100 yards. Factor in some cross-winds and the .22 LR is even worse. I have a Bushmaster Varminter 5.56 AR 15, with a 24″ competition barrel and two stage trigger. Using that AR, I consistently can get 5 rounds touching with 2-3 of them in the same hole, at 100 yards.

  • Franics Miller August 28, 2017, 8:47 am

    Would be nice if the 17 could be had in a semi-Rifle that actually will cycle the rounds with out ftf issues. Would be nice in a semi-auto hand gun as well.

    Until the happens the 22mag blows its doors off and can be had both semi guns!!

    • Greg W August 28, 2017, 10:25 am

      I have the Savage A17 semi auto and it cycles perfectly. I haven’t had a single jam at this point although I’ve only run around 250 rounds thru it. I have several .22’s that I’ve been shooting most of my life and they can’t hold a candle to the A17.

      • W.W. KNOX II August 28, 2017, 5:48 pm

        JUST AN IDEA…PUT A BOYD TARGET STOCK ON IT,, AND NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE,, WW.

  • Mike Hadderton August 28, 2017, 8:42 am

    Go ahead and shoot that Savage,pretty soon no matter how you clean it, about every other round won’t eject. Savage should give away a free pocketknife with every gun. JUNK in my humble opinion.

  • WinchesterMan August 28, 2017, 7:47 am

    I own dozens and dozens of 22 rifles and pistols, also several (more than 10) of rifles in 17hmr. I have hit pigeons on barns at 100 yds many times with a Browning Belgium T-Bolt, a great accurate rifle. Winchester Wildcat ammo worked best. I have the Savage BTVSS, stainless heavy barrel with laminated thumb hole stock, both in 22 and 17 HMR. Both are very accurate. I must admit, though, that CZ 452 Americans in both calibers seem to outshoot them all. The barrels are hand lapped with screwed in barrels. I enjoy shooting all of them but the CZ HMR continues to amaze me, killing crows at 200 yards and blowing turtles off logs at 100 yards ( mostly head shots)
    Thank God we have such marvelous and plentiful choices available! I have two Ruger 77/17s in 17 WSM that I hope test as well but their triggers suck. I have 3 CZ 527s in 17 HORNET that take shooting small 17s to a whole different level.
    Take your choice, you won’t be unhappy with any of them.

  • srsquidizen August 28, 2017, 7:29 am

    If you’re talking about only pennies per round price difference, I believe some of the least expensive .223’s (suitable for target practice anyway) are only a few pennies more than .17HMR or .22WMR when bought in bulk. Rimfire is great for plinking, target practice less than a football field away, and pesky little critters. That’s why it exists. But IMO practice at centerfire distances should be done with a centerfire rifle.

  • wonnie6455 August 28, 2017, 6:46 am

    For plinking, 22 is great. For hunting out to 150 yards, take the 17hmr. The 22 mag is somewhere in the middle.
    Savage makes the only 17 that will handle the 17 hmr. I believe they have solved the issue of magazines falling out. Make sure you keep it clean. Wonnie6455

  • Lloyd Dumas August 28, 2017, 4:56 am

    Nothing beats plinking with a 22 and I also use it for small game and small varmints. What I am after is knock down, a friend of mine told me just before I bought a 17 that he shot tree rats with a 17 and it was not deadly as a 22. Made sense to me so I avoided the 17. No question the 17 would be more accurate at distance given it’s shape of projectile and speed. Since I get a taste for small critters sometime I will stick to my trusty ol 22lr.

    • BOhio August 30, 2017, 10:29 am

      “Knockdown” is debatable, but if you can do the math, then figure out the kinetic energy of each round and see what you get. Your friend’s comment makes no sense to me at all, so I would avoid his advice rather than the 17.

  • Thomas Figliuzzi August 24, 2017, 7:24 pm

    I am on the precipice of buying either the Savqge A17, 22 WMR, or the Savage A17 HMR Heavy Barrel. I would love to see an actual match up of these two selections, and not just in grouping at close/far distances, but to also test for Knock-Down impact between the A-Series (mag) vs the A Series HMR. Also I would like to know if 22 Mag 40 grain ammo can be used in the A17 22 Mag? Thank you.

    • Sebastian August 28, 2017, 6:33 am

      .17 HMR wins. No on 22 mag ammo. Both rifles are rather inexpensive. Buy both so you don’t fall from that precipice!

  • James O'Connor August 24, 2017, 6:48 pm

    They want to compare rimfire to centerfire, then use the .22 Mag

  • Craig August 24, 2017, 5:09 pm

    The issue with accuracy with the .22 is well known past 50yds; using subsonic ammo keeps the bullet from slowing through the VERY turbulent transonic regime and opening up groups. Try some subsonic with the .22; you’ll be VERY happy with the accuracy increase. Still doesn’t buck the wind as well, but the consistency is much better.

    • Frankie August 28, 2017, 9:37 am

      What happened to the Remington 22 yellow jacket it was the most accurate 22 ammo I even used.

      • Montana August 28, 2017, 7:32 pm

        That is the question I have been asking sporting stores for more than a year and most of them are unfimular with the round. They seem to have disapeared when 22LR rounds became hard to find. My Marlin 60 grouped these rounds at 5/8 inch group in 100 yeards.

        • Jake August 30, 2017, 1:05 pm

          I still have a few bricks of 33 grain Yellow Jackets I got years ago for something like $13 per 500. Thunderbolts for $8.90 per brick. Those were the days.
          I have never been able to find/get the 33 grain Viper to compare which is the same truncated cone design without hollow point.
          I always get some Yellow Jackets out to test accuracy with a .22 rifle. They are the most accurate round I have ever used in a .22. They are outstanding as a hunting or varmint round for stuff like 13 stripe ground squirrels.
          I can consistently hit tiny, one inch targets at 100 yards with this round in a Walther G22 with a 20″ Lothar Walther barrel and a 3-9×32 Bushnell. I think the Lothar Walther barrel is a superior tube. Combined with this superior round you can wring out every possible bit of .22 performance.

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