I went to the Sebastian Shooting Range Sunday, and only took a 9mm pistol, and a 17HMR Henry lever action rifle to shoot. I’d fired the pistol many times before, but never had the opportunity to do much shooting with the Henry. I very happy I took the time today to test it out.
I went with a friend, and he also brought a 17HMR, his was a bolt action. I took the time to fire both of them, logging in over 150 rounds on the two rifles, and I’ve got to say how impressed I am with the 17HMR’s ability to shoot flat and consistent. Both guns performed very well, and I must admit that I feel the .17 is one of the better all-round cartridges that I’ve fired. And with almost zero recoil, I ended up shooting all of ammo that I brought with me.
The inherent accuracy of the .17HMR cartridge (and rifle) allows a less accurate shooter to provide better results than a cartridge that offers consistently larger groups. TO put it plainly, the .17HMR makes a decent shooter into a better shooter than if he were shooting a .22 variant.
This brings me to the point of contention with most “one-caliber” discussions, stopping power. It IS a small bullet. But it is FAST. With speeds comes stopping power. And since I have always preferred head and neck shots (it wastes less meat, I hunt to provide as much food as possible), the .17HMR could allow me to take the preferred head/neck shot and make it further than had I used a .22 or .22mag.
When compared to a .22 Long Rifle cartridge, it is faster, flatter shooting, more powerful, more accurate, and is therefore more affective on small to medium game. Comparing it to the .22 Mag, the 17 is faster, flatter, longer affective range, and more accurate. You do lose a bit of kinetic energy, the .22 mag being a heavier bullet, but the flatter trajectory and the increased accuracy more than makes up for it.
I realize that there is no correct answer in the question of what is the best all-around caliber. For me, I’m starting to lean towards the .17HMR for the reasons mentioned above. No this isn’t my only option, and yes, I realize that in certain situations, the .17HMR would be a pathetic round. However, knowing the limitations of the round allows me to squeeze more performance out of it. I wouldn’t hesitate to harvest larger animals from cats and dogs up to deer and hogs, if the right shot was available and the situation was right for doing so.
Plus, the .17HMR is a mighty fine option for squeezing out the accuracy needed for head shooting zombies…