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17 HMR vs 22LR

Let’s go through the pros and cons of two excellent ammo types in this comparison of the .17 HMR vs .22LR. Why does .17HMR cost so much? And is it really that much better than .22LR? Are you having a hard time trying to decide what to get for varmint hunting or small game hunting? Which is the better round choice for plinking?

.17HMR vs. .22LR Bullet Side by Side

To keep things fairly even, let’s compare the CCI .17HMR TNT vs CCI .22LR Stinger:

CCI .17HMR TNT vs CCI .22LR Stinger Comparison Chart

As you can already see, the .17HMR is a faster and lighter bullet than the .22LR (Although it’s widely known that the .22LR is lethal on small game out to 100 yards). After that the bullet drops rather quickly. To get a better idea, take a look at this Bullet Trajectory for the .17HMR, .17HM2, .22LR and .22WMR.

Now let’s discuss which type of ammunition is more versatile in hunting small game. The most important thing to look at in the charts in muzzle energy, which is measured in ft-lbs, which translates into killing power at various distances. As you can see the 17 HMR has much more killing power at 100 yards than the 22 LR.

The .17 HMR does a number on Squirrels and Rabbits, and is even known to destroy the meat. It is three times as expensive as .22 LR ammo, but is much easier to find. The .17 HMR is effective at killing prairie dogs, coyotes, and things like that, but that's more varmint shooting than it is small game hunting. If that's what you intend to hunt then it is probably the better choice. The .22 LR is better for small game hunting. There is way less appeal in using .17 HMR for squirrel hunting. It's more expensive and would destroy the meat more. It’s not any more effective when you’re shooting squirrels. The .17 HMR caliber really shines at distances further than the typical squirrel hunting distances. Squirrels tend to explode with .17 HMR under 75 yards. The .17 HMR is a fast, flat shooting cartridge that more closely compares to .22 WMR in power than .22lr. The .17 HMR ammo is just as accurate as .22 WMR. out to 125 yards. The .17 HMR caliber has slightly less bullet drop from 150-175 yards than the .22 WMR. Many varmint have been taken humanely out to 150 yards with the .22 WMR and .17 HMR. The .17 HMR is generally well liked for varmint hunting. .22 LR will be the cheaper to feed and better suited for hunting small game under 75 yards. The .17 HMR will have better ballistics and impact on game at distances greater than 75 yards but not more than 150 yards.

For humane hunting kills on small critters with a .22 LR, the max range is around 75 yards or less. After 75 yards the bullet has lost a lot of velocity and it’s more likely to injure small game than do a humane job killing it. On the other hand, the .17HMR blows up any edible small game if you hit them within 75 yards. It is a headshot only caliber for edible game at distances under 75 yards.

In regards to hunting functionality, anything the .22 LR can kill the .17 HMR can kill also. I've seen coyote fall where they were shot by both a .22 LR and a .17 HMR. I've also seen coyote take a shot from .22 LR and .17 HMR and keep running. It has to do with shot placement most of the time. Rabbits and squirrels die regardless of which round they were shot with, although the .17HMR tends to make eating squirrels a bit difficult since the ballistic tip of most .17HMR ammo causes the bullet to expand dramatically upon impact.

.17 HMR vs .22 LR Ballistics Chart

.17 HMR vs .22 LR Ballistics Chart

More expansive list of .22 LR ballistics for 27 different cartridges.

Let’s do a cost - benefit analysis when comparing the two types of ammo when used for plinking or target shooting.

The .17HMR is more expensive than .22lr for general plinking. The 22lr is a great plinking cartridge, but for small game where you're at a distance, the .17HMR is by far the better option. The cost to benefit of the .17HMR rimfire ammo is way too high for targets and plinking inside 100 yards. The .17 HMR is a niche caliber and most ideal for hunting small game at 100 – 150 yards. The .17HMR is really expensive for rimfire ammo and it tends to destroy game at close distances under 75 yards, but it shoots flat out to 150 yards and then drops off dramatically.

The .17HMR can be more difficult to clean with the smaller bore and special cleaning rods required to clean the barrel. Most shooters are shocked to discover that their standard cleaning rod wouldn't go into the barrel. The special skinny little rod usually breaks because it’s so flimsy and can bend in half if you apply to much force. Don’t even bother trying to run a solvent patch down the barrel with that wimpy rod. A Boresnake would correct this problem.

The .17HMR shoots really flat, and you can put 10 rounds inside a dime sized shoot'n'see sticker at 100 yards outdoors with a breeze way more easily than you ever would with the .22LR. Comparing the .17 HMR to .22lr, the bullets are significantly more expensive. If you're target shooting a .22lr rifle and you want more accuracy, you will need to spend more money on higher quality ammo like CCI. The more .22lr accuracy you demand, the more money on ammo you will need to spend. 22 LR is much cheaper and easier on the ears than .17HMR. .22 LR is heavier and much slower than .17 HMR. It’s probably becoming apparent to you that .17 HMR gives much higher velocity, shoots much flatter, and in general is a much better long range caliber for varmint shooting. The 17 HMR will shoot straighter, farther, and is way more destructive down range. The .22lr is cheaper, not as straight and cannot shoot as far. Overall the .22 rimfires (.22lr and .22 mag) are for hunting small game, as they don't destroy as much meat. They are also good for target shooting. The .17 HMR can be used for target shooting if better accuracy is required and price of ammo is not important. It’s all the preferred choice for shooting varmints at a distance. If your just shooting for pest control and not keeping the meat than why not go with the .17 HMR. The fact is, if you're plinking or target shooting, just use smaller targets at 50 yards with .22LR. Even pretty good .22LR ammo is 1/3 the price of .17HMR. Most Shooters see no sense whatsoever in using .17HMR for high-volume paper punching.

To make a fair comparison the .17hmr should be compared to .22wmr ammunition and not .22lr. The performance of the .22lr compared to the .17hmr is not even close!
The .17hmr does have it's place and is a fun round choice addition to any firearm collection. It’s flatter, faster, generally more accurate, huge impact on critters, but yes, more expensive to feed. Any Shooter would rely on the .17 HMR over a .22lr for longer range shots any day. The .17 HMR is a fast, flat shooting cartridge that more closely compares to .22 WMR in power than .22lr.

The .17 HMR rifles are pretty cool and have more power, better trajectory/range than .22 LR rifles. If you enjoy compensating, the .22 LR adds a nice challenge even if you don't hit as much at longer distances. Most people just like the versatility and cheap cost of .22 LR ammo. If you're going for accuracy alone, then the .17 HMR is by far the better round over the .22 LR hands down. Shooters usually prefer the .17 HMR because you can reach out further. Although there are many more .22 LR rifle options compared to .17 HMR rifle options. Most shooters will start with a .22 LR rifle and then move up to the .17 HMR when they can afford it and appreciate the benefits of the .17 HMR. The .17HMR is going to be a much more accurate round than the .22LR. That being said, depending on your shooting ability and the distances you plan on shooting at you may not notice the difference much.

Average Ammo Costs: .17 HMR vs .22 LR boxes of 50 rounds found online:

.17 HMR = $15 per box which works out to 30 cents per bullet.

.22 LR = $5 per box which works out to 10 cents per bullet.

.223 = $25 per box which works out to 50 cents per bullet.

For bolt on accuracy take a look at the MCARBO Firearm Performance Accessories!

If shooting under 100 yards, the .22LR will be more practical to plink with. The .17 HMR however is a blast at much longer ranges; it's just more expensive to shoot. I own both as well as a couple of .22 magnums. I wouldn't give up any of them. They all have their place. The .17HMR on a calm day is a hoot to shoot out around 175 yards. Out to 125 yards it's deadly accurate on small furry critters.

Within its range, the .17 HMR seems to be a much better killer of small varmints than most .22 LR. It also has the edge on accuracy in most cases but bottom line a well placed shot is a major critical factor. It’s much safer to use .17 HMR for critter control where the .22 LR might ricochet. I've used the .17 HMR to dispose of groundhogs and raccoons in places I would not have used the .22 LR simply because of the greatly reduced chance of pass through and/or ricochet. That tiny .17HMR bullet has only one thing going for it and that's velocity. Without its speed the performance would be way less than exciting. As you can see there are a ton of pros and cons when comparing the .17 HMR to the .22LR. The .17 HMR will get you way better performance and accuracy out at greater distances that the .22 LR can’t compete with. The .22 LR will effectively kill small game under 75 yards and allow you to plink all day since the rounds are a third of the cost of .17 HMR ammunition. Now that you know the pros and cons of the .17 HMR vs .22 LR maybe the best question you should ask yourself is what do you plan on doing with the rifle? Happy Shooting!

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