Join the author as he attempts to wreck a pre-production Alexander Arms .17 HMR AR in the pursuit of the ideal pest control rifle.
The first time I shot the .17 HMR cartridge, I was so enamored with it that I didn’t quit until I had fired more than a brick of ammo… one shot at a time through a Thompson/Center Contender rifle.
In three days of hunting, I shot a pickup load of jack rabbits, skunks, coyotes and even a couple of wild turkeys. When a crow flew by 80 yards away in the desolate area, I couldn’t resist but to slide the crosshairs in front of the crow and squeeze the trigger.
My first reaction to the explosion of black feathers was to shout the obligatory “Did you see that!” Instead, I promptly handed the gun to another writer and said that I was finished shooting for the afternoon. I know to quit when I’m ahead.
Birth of the.17 HMR
Initially, Bill Alexander, the company owner and chief engineer, sent me his first production .17 HMR. He predicted correctly that I would find a bug or two in the early design (that’s long since been fixed), and that we would work through to address them.
Initial conversations about the .17 HMR topic with Alexander, opened my eyes to several things related to this cartridge and the guns that shoot them. With a well-established reputation for building AR rifles in .50 Beowulf and 6.5 Grendel, I was curious as to why he would want to chamber his new rifle in .17 HMR.
When Hornady developed the .17 HMR, they worked with Ruger and Marlin to seek the fastest rimfire cartridge that could produce accurate reliability and economic manufacturing. Some of their parameters included performance beyond that of the .22 WMR in trajectory and velocity and be less susceptible to wind drift.
Similar noise levels were to be maintained, as well as operating at the same case pressure. Frangible bullets that weren’t as susceptible to ricochet also were specified. All of this was packaged in a cartridge that was designed to shoot less than a minute of angle or better. A lesser-known requirement was that the cartridge should produce between 23,000 and 29,000 copper units of pressure (CUP).
Several companies initially chambered their rifles for the new cartridge, but the .17 HMR’s pressure and thin case didn’t adapt too well. Some stronger semi-auto designs seem to be withstanding the pressure, but Remington was quick to issue a recall of their bolt-action Model 597s chambered in .17 HMR. Others followed suit.
“The AR is so massively overbuilt that it just keeps on ticking,” Alexander said, “whereas a 597 blows up.”