By Mark Hampton
Back in 2002 when Hornady first introduced the .17 HMR cartridge, I thought it was just another marketing blitz. You know, the kind of smoke and mirrors hype leading you to believe this is the greatest thing, and you just have to have some. I reluctantly decided to give it a go and see for myself. Back in the day, my friend, the late Ken French of T/C Arms, had the Custom Shop build me a 15″ Contender barrel in .17 HMR. Today it still is cradled in a special flat side frame Ken also had made for me, with the serial number being “Mark 1.” I slapped a Burris 2-7X scope on it and went to work with Hornady’s 17-grain offering. Today, after almost 15 years of target shooting, recreational plinking, slaying squirrels, prairie dogs and other vermin, I must confess — this just might be the greatest thing since, dare I say it, sliced bread!
In my Contender, the .17 HMR is ridiculously accurate. Shooting both Hornady’s 17-gr. V-Max and 20-gr. XTP, 10-shot groups at 25 yards leave one ragged hole. After shooting this round in extensive range sessions alongside the .22 LR and 22 Mag., the 17 HMR is tops. In my humble opinion, the .17 HMR is the Mt. Everest of rimfires.
This round is absolutely devastating on small game. On several occasions I have found myself surrounded by over-populated prairie dogs running amuck only to fight my way out of Dodge with the .17 HMR. I can assure you the prairie dogs didn’t like those 20-gr. XTPs! Shooting out to and a tad beyond 100 yards I have found the little .17 HMR to be deadly on small targets. Burris’s 2-7X scope seems ideal, with 2X for those close range encounters, while cranking the power up to 7X for longer shots.
Mark was able to tempt Karen away from his Contender by introducing her
to the Crackshot, also in .17 HMR. It’s handy for shooting off the Ranger
on their farm.
Fooling Karen Kinda’
The problem unfolds like this — my wife really likes shooting this handgun. Karen loves shooting the Contender whether we are in the middle of prairie dog city or shooting rocks off the pond bank at our farm. She enjoys shooting this .17 HMR so much, I can barely get a turn, and have to resort to shooting other pistols. I don’t mind sharing, but this has gone too far! So, I devised a plan.
By accident I bumped into a Traditions Crackshot rifle chambered in, of all things, .17 HMR. These single-shot rifles are chambered in both .22 LR and .17 HMR with a new 20″ barrel. The Crackshot has an option of either a 16.5″ or 20″ barrel. It’s a handy rifle, weighing just a bit over four pounds. The little gun also provides an easy take down feature for quick disassembly and transport. The synthetic stock and forend comes in a variety of colors, including black and different camo patterns. One feature I really appreciate is the dual safety system which includes a hammer block safety and manual trigger block safety, making an extremely safe firearm. Our Crackshot came with a one-piece base and mounting a scope was simple. A 4X scope from Traditions was mounted and we were ready for the range.
A morning squirrel hunt with the Crackshot in .17 HMR proved it’s accurate,
easy to run and just plain fun.
And We Learned …
After a day at our range, we came away with some opinions. The rifle has a trigger a little heavy for my liking but a trigger job is forthcoming. Better yet, Karen liked the Crackshot, exactly what I was hoping. It makes a handy rig for carrying in our Polaris Ranger when we ride around the farm every evening. We carry this Crackshot around the property and frequently run across vermin needing to be exterminated. This is a great option for younger shooters too as it’s available in a youth version ideally suited for small-framed shooters.
Shooting a single-shot whether it’s in rifle or handgun configuration encourages concentration on proper shot placement. When you know you only have one shot, it makes you focus on proper trigger squeeze, sight-alignment, shot selection and shot placement.
Opening morning of squirrel season here in Missouri, I snuck out of the house with the little Crackshot and a pocket full of Hornady 17-gr. V-Max. As daylight broke in the woods I began to search the treetops for any movement. It was a good morning and before it was over, I had enough meat for supper.
I believe Karen is to the point where she will allow me to use the Contender a little more now. The Crackshot is a dandy little firearm and comes with a budget-friendly price tag. Either way you slice it, the .17 HMR is ideal for small game, varmints such as prairie dogs, groundhogs, fox, bobcat and related vermin. It makes target sessions and informal plinking fun, while providing zero recoil. Whether you choose a rifle or handgun, the .17 HMR is practical, enjoyable to shoot — and deadly accurate.
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