The real ammunition development begins with the introduction of the first self-contained, all metallic cartridges around 1845 in France. Louis-Nicolas Flobert created the first integrated rimfire metallic cartridge by modifying a percussion cap to hold a small lead bullet. The first truly modern cartridge was designed for the Flobert indoor target (gallery) rifle and came in two versions known as .22 BB and .22 CB.
Soon, the anemic 6mm Flobert cartridges inspired US firearms manufacturers to develop the first American modern, all-metallic cartridge called the .22 short. By design, it was a rimfire cartridge and it led to the almost universal adoption of all-metallic cartridges that we are using today.
That said, the .22 rimfire is the world’s oldest metallic cartridge that survives to this day, establishing the .22 calibre as a staple in a rimfire arena.
Certainly, the most popular and widely used rimfire calibre is a .22 Long Rifle (.22LR) cartridge. Similar rimfire rounds were created for many years, but rather slowly and inadequate for longer work.
Comparing the .17HMR vs .22 Magnum
|Bullet Diameter||.172 in (4.4 mm)||.224” (5.4 mm)|
|Case Length||1.058 in (26.9 mm)||1.055” (26.8 mm)|
|Overall Length||1.349 in (34.3 mm)||1.350” (34.3 mm)|
|Rim Diameter||.286” (7.3 mm)||.294” (7.5 mm)|
|Case Capacity||9.3 Grains of Water (0.6 cm3)||56 gr H2O (3.62 g)|
|Max Pressure (SAAMI)||26,107 psi (180 MPa)||23,206 psi (160 MPa)|
|Muzzle Velocity||2,650 fps (810 m/s)||1,920 fps (585 m/s)|
|Muzzle Energy||245 ft-lbs (332 J)||324 ft-lb (439 J)|
|Bullet||17 gr (1.1 g)||40 gr (2,6 g)|
|Powder Load||5.4 gr (0,35 g)||5.6 gr (0,35 g)|
|Rifle Weight||5.5 lb. (2,5 kg)||5,5 lb. (2,5 kg)|
|Free Recoil Energy||0.29 ft-lbs (0.39 J)||0.53 ft-lbs (0.72 J)|
.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (.22 WMR)
After almost 70 years, Winchester has noted the cry for a more powerful .22 rimfire and released in 1959, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (.22 WMR) in order to serve hunters seeking a rimfire cartridge accurate up to 125 yards. Winchester has slightly lengthened their old .22 Winchester Rimfire (.22 WRF) case to create a new one and benefited from the combination of more powder and higher sustained pressures.
The .22 WMR is also known as .22 Magnum or “.22 Mag” and it was the big dog rimfire when it appeared and for a long time, it was the only successful rimfire cartridge introduced in the 20th century.
In comparison to the more popular .22 Long Rifle, the .22WMR/.22 Mag has a longer case and uses slightly larger .224-calibre bullets. Additionally, the thinly jacketed .22 Mag bullets are heavier, starting at about 30-grains and moving up to a 50-grain load.
Typically running a 40 grain jacketed hollow point bullet at 1,875 fps, and generating 324 ft-lbs, a .22 Magnum was a big jump over the standard .22 round of a 40-grain bullet at 1,200 fps and muzzle energy of 135 ft-lbs. Practically, it means that the .22 Magnum at 100 yards has 50% more kinetic energy than a 40-grain .22 LR at the muzzle.
With increased muzzle velocity and more energy to deal with varmints and predators downrange, the maximum point blank range of this magnum rimfire cartridge could be extended to about 160 yards.
On the other hand, the .22 WMR is not an ideal round for truly long-range work due to its bullet shape. The .22 WMR’s flat-nose and stubby, rounded bullets incur a lot of drag and provide a reputation for less-than-stellar accuracy. On average, you can get 2 MOA to 1.5 MOA groups depending on a rifle/ammo combination.
Regardless of modest accuracy, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire has firmly established as the most powerful rimfire cartridge for shooting small game and varmints up to around 110-135 yards depending a lot on bullet weight.
While the match-grade .22LR is still king in the world of precision rimfire competition, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire excels in a hunting role at harvesting varmint/predators as heavy as 20 pounds.
To resume this short overview, the .22 WMR uses the most common ammunition today – .22 calibre. As a result, it is chambered for almost any existing firearm platform, including revolvers, pistols, and rifles in every possible action type (bolt action, lever action, pump action and semi-autos).
Interestingly, the .22 WMR was introduced in 1959 but was not used until Winchester released their Model 61 slide rifle in 1960 chambered for .22 Magnum.
Though .22 Magnum was originally designed for use in rifles it was quickly adapted to handguns. That said, another curious sidenote refers to single-action revolvers. These classic smallbore single-action revolvers were particularly popular as “convertible” combinations enabling handgunners to shoot two cartridges from the same gun. The most popular configurations come supplied with two cylinders for .22 LR and .22 WMR. The convertible rimfire wheelguns allow owners cheap plinking and competitive target shooting paired with small-game hunting capability.
.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire
By exploiting the idea of the 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum (5mm RFM), ammo maker Hornady in collaboration with firearms manufacturers Marlin and Ruger created the fastest commercial rimfire round on the market – the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire or .17 HMR cartridge.
The .17 HMR descended from the .22 WMR by narrowing down the .22 Magnum case to take a .172″ calibre bullet. It was introduced in 2002 as an improvement over the .22 Mag. to give shooting enthusiasts an impressive reach and surprising punch.
The rimfire .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire bottleneck rounds use very light bullets, typically found between 20 grains and 15.5-grains. However, the .17 HMR’s most successful and popular load on the market is the 17-grain pill in Hornady provenience. Dubbed as V-Max and using polymer tipped projectile, this tiny bullet is designed specifically for the .17 HMR for varmint hunting.
The 17-grain bullet delivers muzzle velocities in excess of 2,550 fps and generates 245 ft./lbs. of energy at the muzzle, while just producing about 25,600 psi of chamber pressure (slightly higher than 23,200 of .22 Mag.).
The .17 HMR offers the best accuracy of any rimfire primed cartridge with a fully flat bullet trajectory to 100 yards due to its high velocity. Compared to the .22 WMR’s bullet which must rise by over 8″ to achieve a 200-yard target, the .17 HMR rarely rises by more than 5 inches to gain the same range.
Although Hornady designed the .17 HMR for 200-yard varmint hunting, maintaining a supersonic velocity beyond 150 yards this diminutive rimfire provides an effective and ethical range for hitting targets at 125 to 175 yards.
The .17 HMR sleek, pointy shaped projectiles best the typical .22 WMR rounded bullets in several categories but take a back seat in others. Although the .17 HMR, shoots incredibly flat with a maximum point blank range (+/- 1.5″) of about 165 yards, speaking of hunting efficiency, the ethical rule of thumb dictates to use of the .17 HMR for taking game species under 25 pounds at distances out to 150 yards.
The .17 HMR’s hunting bag includes animals works well against rabbits and other small game. But if you going to use a .17 HMR rimfire for hunting larger game you should stick to 125 yards or less.
Since the two big names in the firearms industry (Marlin and Ruger) provided initial support for .17 HMR, there’s no shortage of rifle choices. With huge commercial success, other companies released their bolt action repeaters, but also lever-action and pump-action repeating rifles. Autoloaders for .17 HMR are less common but there are many inexpensive, break-action, and even falling-block single-shot rifles.
Designed as a rimfire rifle cartridge, the .17 HMR might be the ideal rimfire for small game handgun hunting. Though handgun choices for .17 HMR are a bit limited and reserved almost exclusively for revolvers, handgun manufacturers quickly jumped on the .17 HMR bandwagon offering many wheelguns and single-shot pistols.
As you assumed, both .22 WMR and .17 HMR rimfires offer very little recoil impulse and limited report, particularly from a rifle.
Related: Read our guide on comparing the differences between the .243 and .308w
Final thoughts on the .17HMR vs. .22 Magnum
While these two opposing cartridges come from two different worlds, the .22 Mag as an old-school calibre offers greater stopping power than the .17 HMR.
On the other hand, the .17 HMR as a rimfire cartridge for the 21st Century will allow you to harvest varmints and pest control at ranges under 200 yards with an explosive terminal performance.
Although a lot of gun authors consider the .17 HMR as a rich man’s gun, surprisingly cost is not a major differentiating factor between these two rimfire magnums, but their purpose.
Unlike the explosive impact energy of a .17 HMR supersonic bullet, the older rimfire brother is not too destructive and will waste less meat than the .17 HMR, making the .22 WMR a better choice for hunting edible game.
Finally, the choice totally depends on your preferences and whether you want to keep the meat or you are looking for amazing accuracy at distances up to 170 yards.