17 WSM: Is the Rimfire Speed King Worth It?
Designed and produced in 2002, the 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire is pretty new in terms of cartridges, but there is an even newer kid on the block. The 17 Winchester Super Mag (WSM), has been in production since 2013 and is attempting to cut out a piece of the marketplace for a faster 17, and since the cases are made from nail blanks, they’re pretty inexpensive (very similar in cost to 17 HMR.) But is it fast enough?
Performance Comparison: Trajectory and Drift
The 17 WSM sends a 20 grain bullet out at 3000 fps, whereas the HMR is sending a 17 grain bullet at 2550 fps. That makes for some difference in the field, with the HMR granting an MPBR of 15-134 yards, whereas the WSM can do it with 18-166 yards (I’m running calculations for gopher-sized targets). That’s an extra 30 yards of non-adjusted range. More impressive is the wind drift difference. With a 10 mph crosswind, at 100 yards the WSM will drift 1.6 inches vs the HMR at 3.1 inches over. That could be the difference between a hit and a miss.
Performance Comparison: Energy
This is the big difference here. The 17 WSM makes for a decent coyote gun, carrying more energy much further, and the 25 grain bullet gives an option for more weight/penetration of larger varmints. I think the 204 Ruger and 223 Rem are better pure coyote rounds, but the 17 WSM offers a very inexpensive option for coyote control.
Downsides of 17 WSM
I’m going to bullet these out (ha!):
- Availability. It doesn’t have mass support, and you won’t find boxes of it at your local hardware store. In fact, depending where you live, you might not be able to find any at all.
- Ammo selection: Only Winchester makes the ammo so far. If your rifle doesn’t like either the 20 or 25 grain Winchester rounds, tough luck. Accuracy gremlins may be tied to the quality of ammo as well. “Accuracy at 100 yards with the 25-grain bullets was a bit over an inch; the results of the groups with the 20-grain load were too awful to print in a family magazine.” – John B. Snow article on the Winchester 1885 in Outdoor life. ***Oct 21, 2014 edit: Hornady has announced they are coming out with a 20 grain V-Max load for the 17 WSM.***
- The ammo boxes are big and bulky compared with 17 HMR boxes.
- Very few rifles are available in 17 WSM.
- Slightly louder
- May die out as soon as other rimfire ammo becomes readily available again. 17 WSM has yet to be firmly established and if none of the other ammo manufacturers end up making it, you might end up with a rifle or ammo that is discontinued or only supported by Winchester.
So, is 17 WSM Worth it?
At this point, 17 WSM is where a lot of new rounds and rifles find themselves: encountering teething problems and in that “will it become a thing or not” area. If you love staying at the leading edge of technology, this is it but be prepared to pay for being at the bleeding edge. Just because your new rifle and cartridge is better on paper than your buddy’s, doesn’t mean that you’ll outperform them in the field and you might end up dealing with growing pains.