Behind the Bullet: .17 Hornet – 3 Facts About It

We took turns sitting on a hot spot in one of the huge prairie dog towns that make up South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation and shooting different rifles and cartridges.

Some of my favorite rifle calibers were there, like the.22 Long Rifle, the.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, the.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, and the.17 Winchester Super Magnum.

There were also some of the most famous rifle calibers, like the.22-250 Remington, the.22 Hornet, and the.223 Remington, as well as the.17 Hornet, which caught my eye because of.

Hornady Superformace .17 Hornet with Bobcat in Background

Wildcat.17 caliber cartridges have been around for more than 70 years, but the first commercially available.17 caliber cartridge was the 1971.17 Remington, a screaming varmint cartridge based on the.223 Remington and necked down to hold bullets with a diameter of.172 inches.

17 Hornet

Before Hornady made the.17 HMR in 2002 and the.17 Mach II in 2004, the.17 bore wasn’t very popular. Remington released the.17 Fireball in 2007, and SAAMI finally approved the.17 Hornet, a wildcat made by Hornady since the 1950s, in 2012.

Charles O’Neil came up with the idea of a.17-caliber cartridge with Elmer Keith and Don Hopkins, but it wasn’t made until P.O. Ackley made his own bullets for his.17 Pee Wee wildcat. Then, Ackley would take on the.218 Bee and.22 Hornet.

Even though Ackley’s.17 Hornet was different from the Hornady design in that it had a 30-degree shoulder, the Hornady design was still based on Ackley’s.

Ackley said to put DuPont IMR 4198 in the case, scrape off any powder that went past the mouth of the case, and pack the load with the bullet.

17 Hornet

.17 Hornet Ammunition with Headstamp

The Hornady version is about sixty years younger than the parent case. It has the least amount of body taper and a slightly shorter case length (1.350 inches for the .17 Hornet vs. 1.403 inches for the .22 Hornet).

Both cartridges are 1.723 inches long, which means they can fit in the same magazine. Even though the.17 Hornet case from Hornady has a smaller capacity than the Ackley case because it has a 25-degree shoulder instead of a 30-degree shoulder, advances in powder technology more than make up for this. Like the.22 Hornet, the rim of the.17 Hornet is used to set the headspace.

At the moment, the.17 Hornet can carry three loads. Hornady’s Superformance line, which used to have three different loads, still has the 20-grain V-Max bullet with a muzzle speed of 3650 fps. This load shoots pretty flat and stays supersonic out to 500 yards, though its energy drops to 85 ft-lbs.

If you set your gun’s zero to 200 yards, the bullet will hit your target 1.1 inches high at 100 yards. This will kill any small animal within 200 yards. At 300 yards, the bullet will hit 6.4 inches low, at 400 yards, it will hit 20.4 inches low, and at 500 yards, it will hit 46.8 inches low.

The paths of a.300 Winchester Magnum with a 180-grain bullet and a.223 Remington with a 55-grain Hornady V-Max are not that different.

Federal’s American Eagle line has a 20-grain Tipped Varmint bullet moving at 3610 fps, which is similar to the Hornady load.

17 Hornet

Winchester’s Varmint X line has a 20-grain Polymer Tip Rapid Expansion bullet moving at 3650 fps, which is also similar to the Hornady load.

Hornady NTZ Superformance Varmint 15.5 Grain 17. Hornet Ammunition

The problem with the quick.17 Hornet is that the wind can affect those tiny bullets much more than it does with more common varmint rounds. At 500 yards, a 55-grain.223 Remington load needs 14 inches more correction for wind drift than the.17 Hornet.

The cartridge is great for long days of shooting from a bench, in alfalfa fields full of woodchucks, or high above prairie dog towns because the felt recoil isn’t much different from the. 22 WMR.

The bullets in the.17 Hornet are made to break apart enough that they won’t cause major exit wounds or damage to the fur of animals with fur, like foxes, bobcats, and even the biggest coyotes.

If you don’t want to (or can’t) reload your own ammunition, you can.

17 WSM is a good choice because it is a rimfire that can shoot a 20-grain V-Max at 3000 feet per second. Even though the.17 WSM is a great round, I found that the extra 600–650 fps of the.17 Hornet made a big difference in how hard it hit.

17 Hornet

Nearly half the price of ammunition for a.17 Hornet,. Still, you can’t reload 17 WSM rounds with the same precision and accuracy as centerfire rounds.

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