17 WSM vs 223 – Learn The Difference

Every firmly established small game and varmints hunter has heard of, or shot the .17 WSM vs .223 Remington at one point in their lives. These smaller caliber cartridges may seem essentially identical to most novice hunters, but the experienced lot knows the downrange ballistics advantage of each of these calibers and the benefits they offer during a serious hunt. These are the best rimfires around that have lasted the test of time.

Biggest Differences Between 17 WSM & .223 Ammo

picture comparing the differences between 17 super mag vs 223

The most obvious distinction between the two ammunition is the bullet size. The .223’s grain varies between 35 to 85 grains, with 55 grains being the most common. On the contrary, the .17 WSM utilizes a 20 grains bullet. As we saw in our comparison of the 300 ham’r vs 300 blackout, bullet size is a major factor.

Note: Winchester Super Magnum bullets smaller and lighter with high muzzle energy.

  • The smaller .17 WSM bullets produce less noise, travels a longer distance due to a higher level of velocity, making them highly accurate with minimal collateral damage to the target. Check out post on how fast does a bullet travel to learn more about bullet velocity!
  • The muzzle energy of .17 WSM is considerably greater than its counter parts like the .17 HMR but lesser than the .233.

Another feature that favors the .223 Remington is the ability to shoot and hit a target at long range due to increased muzzle energy and velocity. The only draw back to this is the unwanted collateral damage to the target. I found similar issues during my comparison of 6.5 grendel vs 300 blackout ammunition.

History Of The 17 WSM?

The .17 WSM is a relatively newer round, coming into existence less than 10 years ago. The production of these rimfire cartridges was commenced in 2012-2013 by Winchester. Be sure to also read out post on what is the main difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition? The .27 blanks of nail guns were ingeniously utilized to craft the .17 Winchester Super Magnum. This gave most shooters unprecedented:

  • Accuracy
  • Efficiency
  • The thrill of the kill for varmint hunters

Note: Being a novel cartridge, it can be chambered in relatively fewer firearms than others and are mostly produced and distributed by Savage arms, Ruger and Volqartsen.

History Of The .223 Remington Ammo?

The history of .223 Remington Ammo stretches far back to the 1950, where it was first used as a trial round for the Armalite AR-15 in 1957. Enhanced field performance of this ammunition led to its adoption by the US army in 1964. It is not quite as old as the 35 Remington ammunition, but it’s still been around for a long time!

Accuracy Comparison: 17 Super Mag vs 223

The big advantage of using a .17 WSM rimfire ammo in your rifle is its unprecedented accuracy in small game hunting at moderate distances. The bullet does tend to drop over longer distances and subsequently, the .223 ammunition takes precedence in long-range hunting due to better ballistics and decreased deflection of the bullet by the wind. I found similar results when I compared the .350 legend vs .357 magnum rounds. But the 17 WSM is still more accurate!

Takeaway: The .17 WSM has superior accuracy.

Price Comparison

It goes without saying that price is always one of the biggest ranking factors in any type of ammunition. People often ask questions like,
why is 380 ammo so expensive? The answer is always is always supply and demand.


Affordability and availability are the avenues that favor the .223 over the .17 WSM for your rifle. The .223 ammunition is cheaper in cost as compared to the .17WSM. We saw in our comparison of 350 Legend vs 223 ammo that the 223 really is a very fairly priced round.

More people have access to the .223 than the .17 WSM because .17 WSM is not widely distributed in the market and is not economical for the average person.

When Is It Best To Use A 17 WSM?

The circumstances that warrant the use of .17 WSM rimfire are primarily small game hunting that utilizes the increased velocity of the bullet coupled with decreased collateral damage. It also has low sound and lower recoil. This means that you can aim your rifle, shoot a target and neutralize it before it hears the gunshot and runs away. These are some of the main reasons I also like to use a 6.5 grendel for deer hunting.

The flatter trajectory and decreased bullet drop of the .17 WSM rimfire make it the ideal cartridge for plinking a target using bolt action rifles. The increased velocity also leads to lesser wind deflection. Trajectory was also a major deciding factor when I compared 45 70 govt vs 308 ammo rounds.

Just remember to match your ammo to your weapon! Shoots have asked, can you shoot 30 30 in a 32 special? The answer is yes. But you shouldn’t because it can damage your weapon.

When Is It Best To Use A .223 Remington?

The .223 Remington is a beast at longer ranges. Despite being a military-issued round, it has found recreational usage in the hands of gun enthusiasts and hunters alike. In our previous ammo comparison, we saw that using the 450 bushmaster for deer hunting is very popular. But the 223 is popular for hunting as well! If downing a target is all you are trying to do then these cartridges must be your go to for your savage arms like a rifle, gun or pistol.

This bullet has a better maximum point-blank range as compared to the .17 WSM and does cause significant collateral damage.

Just like we saw in our analysis of 223 vs 30 06, the 223 is is best for small game hunting! Rabbits, hares, squirrels, prairie dogs and coyotes can all be shot easily and effectively using the .233 caliber ammo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the 17 WSM still made?

Yes, Winchester still manufactures .17 WSM and can be found online and at gun stores, however, finding them is quite a challenge due to scarcity. The hunt experienced using this round in your rifles cartridge will be like no other.

How accurate is a 17 WSM?

Accuracy of the .17 WSM is dead on, due to the light weight, high energy characteristics of the cartridge. Rifles chambered with this cartridge will always land you the prize. Even while keeping the factors rifle barrel length, rifling and rifle mechanics in mind the accurate performance of this Winchester round is relatively better than its counterparts.

Is a 17 WSM a good coyote gun?

Yes, the ability of this cartridge to the target accurately while minimizing collateral damage makes it a better choice than any other cartridge in hunting the savage coyotes at medium ranges. The performance which .17 Winchester Super Mag. rimfire delivers at medium ranges is phenomenal.

What is the most powerful 17-caliber rifle?

The .17 Winchester Super Mag. (WSM) is, without a doubt, the fastest rimfire with a remarkable increase in performance as compared to the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR). If we're talking 17 HMR vs 17 WSM, .17 WSM rimfire shoots a 20 grain bullet at 3000-foot pounds, making it over 600 fps faster than the .17 HMR.

Is a 22 Magnum or 17 HMR more powerful?

When it comes to comparing the .22 Mag. and the .17 HMR, the .22 Mag takes the win. The main difference between the two is the bullet diameter that is fired by each cartridge. The .17 HMR, with a 0.172

The Bottom Line

To sum things up, comparing centerfire ammunition with rimfires is tricky as it depends mainly on the firearm and its intended use. This was especially true in our comparison of the 5.56 vs .223 rounds! The right one for you depends on what you’re looking for. If you want something that is effective but affordable, the .223 might be the best option for you. On the contrary, the .17 WSM is best for someone that is looking for something light, fast with less collateral damage for the occasional plinking and hunting. Just like we found in our analysis of 5.56 vs 5.56 nato, it is very important to pick the best cartridge for your use case!

Both cartridges serve a unique purpose, it is up to you to choose the one that is right for your needs which fits your purpose.

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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