If you want a .17 HMR pistol, your options are limited, but there are a few heaters that pitch the hotshot.
.17 HMR Handgun Options:
- Excel Arms Accelerator MP-17
- Alexander Arms Highlander
- NAA Mini Revolver
- Smith & Wesson 647
- Taurus Tracker 17
- Ruger New Model Single-Six
Introduced in 2002, .17 HMR has the same case dimensions as .22 Magnum but is necked down to accommodate the smaller diameter projectile. This hot little rimfire became renowned for its accuracy and effectiveness at taking certain kinds of smaller game, but both attributes were resultant from the round’s high velocity.
As velocity is dependent on barrel length, .17 HMR is most effective when fired from a rifle, but that doesn’t mean that pistols chambered for it don't perform well. The issue is actually finding a pistol chambered for the hot little number.
Why So Few .17 HMR Pistols?
There are a decent number of handguns chambered for .17 HMR but only two of them are actually pistols, and even one of those is by legal technicality. The issue with .17 HMR is that while it's a ballistically impressive cartridge, it's never been known for reliably feeding in autoloaders. When Savage came out with the first reliable .17 HMR rifle, it was a big deal, and a feat that's never been perfectly replicated in a semiauto handgun.
.17 HMR Pistols
Scantly produced, the Excel Arms Accelerator MP-17 is the only real autoloading pistol on this list, and the only true semi-auto .17 HMR pistol I’m aware of. This pistol was discontinued shortly after its release in 2007, making it somewhat rare and collectible regardless of the pistol’s actual quality or functionality. Reviews of this gun from when it was released show that reliability was not its strong suit, but it still has some features that are as unique as the gun itself. Namely, as a target pistol, the MP-17 has a Picatinny rail on top for mounting optics. If you want a .17 HMR pistol purely for target shooting due to the cartridge’s high potential for accuracy, one of these rare pistols may be worth tracking down, but otherwise, there are better options out there.
By legal classification, this is a pistol, so it's going on the list, but mechanically-speaking it is of course based on the AR-15. As far as .17 HMR guns go, however, the Alexander Arms has a lot of admirable qualities. It's likely the most reliable .17 HMR pistol option available, the highest capacity and can also mount optics with ease. It's as ergonomic and familiar as any other AR variant out there, and with its stabilizing brace it can easily be shot one-handed too.
This gun is probably a bit larger than desired for most people interested in a .17 HMR pistol, but it will be superbly accurate, reliable and effective. It just won't scratch the itch for those looking for a true handgun.
.17 HMR Revolvers
The true definition of pistol is limiting in this case, as most people searching for a .17 HMR handgun are probably open to considering revolvers as well. Including revolvers in your .17 HMR handgun search greatly expands your options and virtually eliminates the reliability issues experienced with autoloaders. Revolvers' fixed barrels also lend themselves to having good accuracy, something the .17 HMR cartridge can take full advantage of.
Because of .22 Magnum’s shared case dimensions with .17 HMR, converting a firearm chambered for the former to the latter is a relatively easy process. This fact combined with the cartridge’s spike in popularity in the mid-2000s resulted in many companies who made .22 Magnums like North American Arms to begin producing .17 HMR models as well. Unfortunately, the necked cartridge of .17 HMR can often result in issues, issues that take time to work out. Likely because .17 HMR doesn’t offer much benefit over .22 Magnum out of such a short barrel, NAA instead opted to discontinue the line shortly after its introduction. These revolvers hold five shots and can still be occasionally found on the used market, but for those who want to exploit .17 HMR’s advantages from a pistol platform, this isn’t a model worth seeking out. There are better and more available options for pocket revolvers out there than this, and .17 HMR benefits the most from guns with very different attributes.
From the most reputable revolver manufacturer on this list, S&W 647s are probably the best quality .17 HMR handguns ever made. Unfortunately for those searching for one, however, these were also discontinued after only one year of production. Their rarity combined with the brand name they carry can make finding an S&W 647 difficult, and they’re very expensive once you do.
These guns are DA/SA revolvers with adjustable target sights and six-shot cylinders. They were available with two different barrel lengths as well—long and extra-long (8.375-inch and 12-inch), lending themselves to the velocity-dependent .17 HMR very well. These guns have both superb mechanical and practical accuracy qualities, so for someone looking to do target shooting or handgun hunting with .17 HMR, the S&W 647 would still be an excellent choice. Just be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for one. The 12-inch model is the only .17 HMR revolver on this list that can mount optics as well.
If all the features of the S&W 647 appeal to you besides its price tag, the Taurus Tracker 17 is worth checking out. Also a DA/SA revolver with a relatively long barrel and adjustable sights, the only thing the Tracker 17 is missing is S&W’s build quality. Taurus revolvers have been known to have issues in the past, and they certainly don’t have the reputation for reliability as other revolver manufacturers do, but considering that .17 HMR pistols of any kind are far more useful for target shooting and hunting than they are for self-defense, the reliability may not be that big of a deal to you. At least the basic models of the Tracker 17 are still in production and can be found for much cheaper than a Smith & Wesson, making it a good alternative for those seeking a .17 HMR pistol with these features. As a bonus, the Taurus can hold one more round in its cylinder than the Smith.
There are a few .17 HMR SAA clones on the market, but the best and most readily available is the Ruger New Model Single-Six. It has a 6.5-inch barrel and adjustable sights, but for all intents and purposes, it’s still just an SAA clone. What sets the Ruger apart from other SAA clones is the company’s reputation for good build quality and the fact that they are still in production, unlike many of the other guns on this list.
With an MSRP of $759, it’s pretty expensive for a rimfire, but if you’re looking for a good quality, new-production .17 HMR pistol that would perform well for both target shooting and hunting, in 2021 the Ruger New Model Single-Six is hard to beat.
More On Hot Rimfires:
- The Evolution Of .17 HMR
- Cartridge Debate: .17 HMR vs. .17 WSM
- Gun Review: Alexander Arms .17 HMR
- The Savage A17 Semiauto .17 HMR Rifle
- .22 Magnum: What's The Use?
- The Top .22 Magnum Options