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17 HMR vs 17 WSM

Ballistics Performance Comparison of 17 HMR vs 17 WSM Cartridges

The .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) and the .17 WSM (Winchester Super Magnum) are both smaller varmint hunting cartridges for shooters working small distances and backyard game. The .17 WSM is a newer addition to the market, and you might be wondering whether it can really stack up against more established cartridges like the .17 HMR. While the .17 WSM does have some ballistic advantages, it’s still a new cartridge with limited options in the marketplace.

17HMR vs 17WSM

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the 17 HMR vs 17 WSM based on bullet weight and performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

17 HMR 17 gr vs 17 WSM .20 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.

17 HMR 17 WSM
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 2,550 ft/s 3,000 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 1,902 ft/s 2,504 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 1,379 ft/s 2058 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 245 ft⋅lb 400 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 137 ft⋅lb 278 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 72 ft⋅lb 188 ft⋅lb
Hunting Usage @ 0 yds Not recommended Small Game
Hunting Usage @ 100 yds Not recommended Small Game
Hunting Usage @ 200 yds Not recommended Not recommended
*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures taken from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.

Velocity

Velocity is an important factor in understanding the difference between bullets, and many shooters enjoy the small rimfire cartridges precisely for their high velocities. The .17 HMR is often known for its high velocity, but the .17 WSM offers an even faster small bullet. Right out of the muzzle, we can see that the .17 WSM is flying 450 ft/s faster than the .17 HMR. At 100 yards, this advantage has grown to 602 ft/s. At 200 yards (as we near the end of these calibers’ effective ranges), the .17 WSM is moving 679 ft/s faster than the .17 HMR.

Energy

If you’re going to be targeting predators like coyotes as well as smaller varmints like squirrels, the increased energy of the .17 WSM is a very important factor. This makes the difference between frustrating an animal and alerting it to your presence, or actually taking it in a clean, ethical kill. We can see that the .17 WSM offers quite a bit more energy than the .17 HMR. Out of the muzzle, the .17 WSM has an extra 155 ft-lbs of energy over the .17 HMR. This means that the .17 WSM can work as an effective coyote gun, but the .17 HMR just doesn’t have the stopping power necessary in most scenarios.

Trajectory

A caliber’s ability to shoot flat deeply impacts your ability to hit a target well. If you’ll be shooting in windy conditions, it is crucial to understand wind drift, which measures how a bullet will fly in the face of a 10mph crosswind. Here, the .17 WSM has the advantage: at 100 yards, this crosswind will cause it to drift just 1.6”, while the .17 HMR can be expected to drift 3.1” at 100 yards. The .17 WSM will also not drift more than 3” over 205 yards, while it will only take 186 yards for the .17 HMR to drift 3” or more.

Recoil

Both of these calibers have an extremely light recoil thanks to their light bullet weights. Virtually any shooter, even one who is particularly anxious about recoil or new to shooting, will probably be able to handle this level of recoil. You may encounter just a bit more with the .17 WSM because it’s shooting heavier bullets at a greater energy. However, the recoil on both is so slight that it’s unlikely this difference is big enough to be a real factor in deciding between these cartridges.

Versatility

Both of these calibers are light rounds meant for short ranges. However, the .17 HMR fragments on impact due to its similarities to powder-actuated nail gun charges, and therefore does not have the deep penetration required for anything larger than a backyard pest with a thin skin. If you want something that can handle these pests and up to predator-sized game like coyotes, the .17 WSM is going to be a better bet.

Price & Availability

The .17 WSM has cases made from nail blanks. This means that even though they’re newer to the market, we’re still seeing a similar cost between them and the .17 HMR. However, availability is certainly an issue with the .17 WSM. Because it’s so new to the market, it is only supplied by a select few manufacturers, and you’ll have a handful of rifles to choose from. The .17 HMR is more widely available, and you’ll have a better rifle selection as well.

Size Comparison

Both of these calibers are quite small, and in fact share the same bullet diameter of .172” (as you might be able to guess from them both beginning with .17). They are highly comparable in size, with the .17 HMR having an overall length of 1.349” and the .17 WSM having an overall length of 1.440”. The .17 WSM is slightly larger, as it additionally has a base diameter of .269” compared to the .17 HMR’s base diameter of .238”.

Which Caliber is Best?

Both of these calibers will fly fast inside of 150-200 yards. If you’re planning on plinking or target shooting, the easier access to the .17 HMR might be a great reason to opt for that more established cartridge. However, if you plan to actually use this rifle for pest control and want to be able to get bigger than a ground hog, you’ll need the extra power and heavier bullets of the .17 WSM.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.