17 vs 22: Comparison Of Rimfire Cartridges

When you think of the .22 LR memories come flooding in, like the first time shooting with a gunpowder caliber or first time hunting an animal, or even grandpa putting you on his lap and telling you how he once shot a deer with his .22 LR. The .17 HMR, a relatively new cartridge that is not so aligned with American history as the .22 LR, is becoming quite the show-off. How do these rimfire cartridges compare with each other and for what are they best suited – let’s find out.

History Of The 22 LR

The .22 long rifle (LR) is well-known in almost every American household. This highly esteemed cartridge was introduced in 1887 by J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company. The cartridge was developed from the .22 BB Cap (1845) and the .22 Short (1857). The rimfire cartridge provided a solution to shooting small targets at close range with a cartridge that is low cost, low noise, and has negligible recoil.

The cartridge is predominantly used for recreational shooting, firearms training, small game hunting, and pest control.

History Of The 17 HMR

The 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) is one of the latest rimfire rifle cartridges to be developed. Hornady designed the .17 HMR in 2002 to overcome some of the shortcomings of the .22, it has since become one of the most popular small caliber cartridges in America.

Some of the advantages of the .17 HMR rimfire ammo are that it shoots with a flatter trajectory, better accuracy, and higher velocity.

Differences Between .17 HMR vs .22picture of 22LR and 17 HMR ammo

1) Which Is Best For Range & Target Shooting?

Just like we saw in our comparison of 350 vs 6.5 Grendel, most people buy ammo for target shooting. Going to the range is always a fun endeavor, shooting 50 rounds in quick succession can really get the adrenaline pumping. Rimfire cartridges are much cheaper, have less recoil, and are quieter than centerfires, which is why they are so attractive as a range-shooting cartridge. If you need to read up on the difference, read out post on what is the main difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition to learn more!

The .17 HMR has better accuracy with its higher velocity and flatter trajectory. A .22 LR can do a grouping of less than a half-inch at 50 yards, the .17 can match that performance but at 100 yards.

However, the .17 HMR is also considerably more expensive. One .17 HMR round costs x4 that of a .22 LR round. Shooting 50 rounds will cost you less than $50 with the .22 LR, yet it will cost you $200 with the .17 HMR.

So if you are looking for the best in terms of performance, then the .17 HMR is the way to go. Otherwise, choose the .22 LR if your main goal is general plinking, blowing off steam, or just having fun at the range.

2) Hunting Performance

When it comes to hunting, you need a long-range precision cartridge. Something that can provide the same performance at 50 and 150-200 yards. Before the .17 HMR, the .22 LR was long the small game hunting cartridge of choice. However, the range was predominantly limited to within 50 yards. You will get an accurate shot placement at 200 yards on rare occasions.

When the .17 HMR came on the scene, many chose it for its better long-range performance. I remember my first time hunting with my bolt action CZ 457 Varmint was on a coyote, I made an ethical kill at 60 yards. It might not seem impressive, but considering that I grew up with a .22 LR and was limited to shooting squirrels within 50 yards – made me like this little .17 HMR rimfire cartridge a lot.

If your primary goal is having a budget-friendly cartridge capable of shooting small critters such as squirrels and fowl within 50 yards, then opt for the .22 LR. However, I would choose the .17 HMR, it is a much better round in terms of versatility. Just like we saw in our comparison of 30-06 vs 223 Rem, versatility in a cartridge is very important. Providing better performance at longer distances and delivering a larger blow, allowing you to ethically hunt larger game.

3) Ballistic ComparisonPicture of 17 HMR ammo ballistic data

By now, you can already assume which rimfire cartridge will take the ballistic performance crown. Nonetheless, it is worth looking at each aspect of the ballistic performance. For this comparison, we will look at Federal’s 17-grain Varmint & Predator Speer TNT as the .17 HMR ammo and the 40-grain Hollow Point Hunter Match for the 22 LR. Just like we saw when comparing the 30-30 and 44-40 rounds, ballistics make a huge difference on performance.


The .22 LR:

  • Muzzle velocity – 1,200 fps
  • 50 Yards – 1,069 fps
  • 100 Yards – 982 fps
  • 150 Yards – 917 fps

The .17 HMR:

  • Muzzle velocity – 2,530 fps
  • 50 Yards – 2,150 fps
  • 100 Yards – 1,804 fps
  • 150 Yards – 1,502 fps

With more than double the .22 LR’s velocity, the .17 HMR is the clear winner with its high velocity.


The .22 LR:

  • Muzzle Energy – 128 ft-lbs
  • 50 Yards – 101 ft-lb
  • 100 Yards – 86 ft-lb
  • 150 Yards – 75 ft-lb

The .17 HMR:

  • Muzzle Energy – 242 ft-lbs
  • 50 Yards – 174 ft-lb
  • 100 Yards – 123 ft-lb
  • 150 Yards – 85 ft-lb

The .17 HMR also easily wins the energy category. Even though kinetic energy is not the only determinant of lethality, it does contribute considerably. Hence, the .17 HMR can ethically kill larger animals than small varmints as opposed to the .22 LR. Just like we saw in our breakdown of 5.56 nato vs 5.56, we found muzzle energy is very important!


The .22 LR:

  • 50 Yards – 0
  • 100 Yards – -6.1 inches
  • 150 Yards – -21.1 inches

The .17 HMR:

  • 50 Yards – 0
  • 100 Yards – -0.4 inches
  • 150 Yards – -3.5 inches

As already mentioned, the .22 LR is a caliber fit for 50-yard shooting, ideal for hunting small animals such as prairie dogs. Even though the ballistic coefficient of the .22 LR is .130, the bullet drops combined with the weak performance at a longer distance make it unpredictable for varmint hunters to hunt beyond 50 yards.

Whereas the .17 HMR is a flatter shooting cartridge that delivers a higher stopping power at a longer effective range. The ballistic comparison clearly shows that the .17 HMR is the superior rimfire cartridge.

4) 22 vs 17 HMR Size Comparison

The .22 LR:

  • Parent case – .22 Long
  • Bullet diameter – 0.223 in – 0.2255 in
  • Land diameter – 0.212 in
  • Neck diameter – .226 in
  • Base diameter – .226 in
  • Rim diameter – .278 in
  • Rim thickness – .043 in
  • Case length – .613 in
  • Overall length – 1 in

The .17 HMR:

  • Parent case – .22 WMR
  • Bullet diameter – 0.172 in
  • Land diameter – 0.168 in
  • Neck diameter – .190 in
  • Base diameter – .238 in
  • Rim diameter – .286 in
  • Rim thickness – .05 in
  • Case length – 1.058 in
  • Overall length – 1.349 in

The .22 LR has a bullet weight ranging between 30 gr to 40 gr, with the 40 gr being the most popular for varmint hunting. The .17 HMR incorporates a lighter bullet ranging between 15.5 gr up to 20 gr.

The .17 LR is a much larger cartridge with a 28% longer overall length.

5) Price Comparison – 17 HMR vs 22 LR

As already mentioned, the price difference between these two cartridges is drastic. A pack of Winchester Super-X 40 Grain Small Game .22 LR rounds will cost you $44 for a pack of 222 ($0.19/round). In comparison, Hornady’s Varmint Express 17 Grain .17 HMR rounds cost $24 for a pack of 50 rounds ($0.48/round). Thus, shooting 50 rounds of the 17 HMR will cost you 250% more.

6) Recoil Comparison

Before we look at the recoil comparison, it is important that a rifle’s weight is inversely proportional to recoil – increasing the rifle’s weight by 10% will result in a 10% decrease in recoil. However, this principle is more important for more powerful cartridges. Low-powerful cartridges are built lightweight for increased maneuverability and easier handling. Just like we saw in our comparison of the 17 WSM and 223 Rem rounds recoil is a major factor for shooters to consider.

Now, for the recoil comparison, the .17 HMR has 0.2 ft-lb recoil energy, surprisingly, so does the .22 LR. However, the .17 HMR was chambered in a 7.5-pound rifle, while the .22 LR was chambered in only a 4-pound rifle. Exploiting the rifle weight difference, we can assume that the .22 LR has lower recoil than the .17 HMR.

Even though the .22 LR wins the recoil, both cartridges have minimal recoil and are thus an excellent choice for teaching purposes.

Other Similar Rounds

The closest round that compares to these two rimfire cartridges is the .22 Winchester Mangum Rimfire (WMR). This rimfire cartridge was introduced in 1959 by Winchester. The cartridge was an upgrade for the classic .22 as it was accurate up to 125 yards, delivering 20 pounds of energy.

If you want to read more on the .22, we have a detailed article on how far the .22 cartridge can travel & other information!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a 17 more powerful than a 22?

Yes, the 17 HMR has more than double the muzzle energy and muzzle velocity than the .22 LR.

Is a 22 or 17 HMR better?

Yes, for hunting squirrels or other smaller animals or just for general plinking within 50 yards, it is a better round. It is 2-4 times cheaper and has less recoil, even with a heavier bullet. The 17 HMR is the better cartridge for longer ranges and larger targets.

How far is a 17 HMR lethal?

The 17 HMR is lethal up to 200 yards, however, for an ethical kill, it is recommended to remain within 150 yards on smaller targets and, for larger game within 75 yards.

Is 17 HMR OK for squirrel hunting?

Yes, the 17 HMR is a great caliber for hunting small game like squirrels. However, other calibers like the .22 LR is better as it's rounds are 4 times cheaper.

Is 17 HMR big enough for coyote?

Yes, I have shot a couple of coyotes with the 17 HMR. However, for better results and to ensure you make an ethical kill, it is advised not to exceed 75 yards when shooting larger game like coyotes with the 17 HMR.

What distance is a 22lr good for?

A 22 LR is good for shooting up to 50 yards, beyond 50 yards, the bullet's energy and velocity drop dramatically, making it difficult to shoot accurately and perform ethical kills.

The Bottom Line

Even though the .17 HMR beats the .22 LR in almost every aspect, few things can beat that feeling of shooting cans or hunting squirrels with your grandpa’s .22 LR rifle. If your primary objective is recreational shooting, go for the .22 LR. But if you want a low-cost, low-power hunting cartridge for smaller varmints and birds, then go for the .17 HMR. Did you know Winchester developed a centerfire cartridge that competes with the .223 for the best varmint hunting cartridge – Feel free to read our article on the 350 Legend vs 223 Remington rounds.

About the author

Charles Neser

I'm a life long hunter & gun lover. Currently pursuing my Master's Degree (M.Sc.) in Animal Nutrition at University of the Free State.

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