Torn Between Two Calibers


I like to shoot. I shoot for accuracy. I shoot for relaxation. I shoot for fun. But sometimes I overthink this fun and end up in a dilemma. That’s what I’m having today.

Lately, I have been struggling between two calibers. The rifle I intend to purchase, in whatever caliber I decide on, are essentially. They are both manufactured by Savage Arms, they are both heavy barreled, and they are both the same barrel length. So, the firearm is not part of my dilemma.

My dilemma is deciding between the .22WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire) and the .17HMR (Hornaday Magnum Rimfire). They’re both light. They both have almost no recoil. They’re both readily available. Hmm…let’s see.

The .22WMR was developed by Winchester in 1959 as a long-range varmint round; a boost from the reliable .22LR used by every farm kid since 1887. It is really an extended case using the same basic .22 bullet giving the round more powder, and therefore, more power. It shoots fast and flat and reaches our further with more energy on the target. It’s effective for small game between 100-150 yards. Mostly, it’s a fun round for plinking. “So is the .22LR,” you say, “and they’re cheaper.” Well, you’d be right about that and I can’t deny just wanting it for the purpose of honing my own proficiency at further and further distances. Again, I shoot for fun and this would be a fun round to shoot.

So, let’s look at the .17HMR. It’s been around since development by Hornaday in 2002. It is a necked-down .22HMR case to fit the .17″ diameter round. When speaking about “fast and flat,” this little guy gets that job done handily. My opinion is that it’s the new darling of the varmint circle and maybe that’s why I’m considering it. Because it’s small, it really zings out at longer range reaching speeds approaching Mach 2. That’s also it’s downfall; due to it’s smaller stature, it delivers less energy to it’s target at further distances, and it has a tendency to get pushed around by the wind a little more than the .22WMR. And if you want to gouge me on the cost of this fun, the .17HMR is even more expensive to shoot than the .22WMR. Nice thing about it, though, is its extended effective range over the .22WMR.

So the question is this: do I want the screamingly fast .17 to “whistle” downrange, or do I enjoy and moderate “crack” of the .22 round? Do I really need either when the .22LR is still the cheapest popular round on every store shelf in America? The .17 sounds exciting and new, but stocking a new round for a new gun just for the excitement? Sounds a bit like an extravagance, but then this whole debate is about want versus need, isn’t it?

So, the debate in my head rages on and it’ll probably end up in a coin flip, which, by the way, both of these rounds could effectively hit at 150 yards away! Happy shooting, whatever you choose.

Photo by Michael B., Flickr Creative Commons