Kick your varmint hunting up a notch with the 17 Hornet.
Now that we’ve taken a look at most of the popular .22 caliber varmint cartridges, it’s time to consider some of the smaller ones.
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The .177 caliber rifle has been around for a long time in the form of BB guns, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that folks became bored enough to start putting out .17 caliber cartridges. The 17 Hornet might actually be the first 17 to ever come down the pipe.
Folks like noted gunsmith and constant tinkerer P.O. Ackley started necking the 22 Hornet case up and down, and the 17 Hornet was one of the first Hornet wildcats. Despite its long history, the 17 Hornet has only recently become a factory cartridge embraced by gun manufacturers.
This mostly has to do with the fact that getting a rig like the 17 Hornet to really perform requires powders and bullets that have only recently come into being.
Today’s 17 Hornet has had most of the taper taken out of the case and its shoulder angle has been sharpened up to increase powder capacity.
The modern incarnation of the 17 Hornet can launch 20 gr bullets up to 3700 fps and 25 gr bullets up to 3200 fps, making it a real screamer even though it loses 100 fps for every grain of bullet weight you add due to the small caliber.
The bullets available for the Hornet these days are adorable miniaturized versions of the ballistic-tipped fodder we’re used to, and they offer outstanding performance on small critters without the reticule of your scope even twitching when the gun goes off.
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If you’re the kind of varmint hunter who likes to see the bullet impact, the 17 Hornet is the gun for you. Of course, the 17 also offers recoil which is almost imperceptible and sips on a pound of powder for years.
Twenty years ago the .17 caliber was little considered by shooters. An old acquaintance of mine used to joke that 17s didn’t shoot well because nobody made a 17 caliber cleaning rod, which kind of summed up the situation.
Without accessories like readily available reloading components or cleaning tools, the 17 was never going to be popular.
The modern market has fixed this problem, though. Today you can get all the bullets and gear you want for odd calibers, and the 17 is making a bit of a comeback.
Ruger, Savage, Chiappa and CZ all chamber the 17 Hornet these days in rifles that shoot so well they can be used for hunting flies if the gophers prove too easy to hit.
With a 17 Hornet you’ll always suffer a bit more in terms of wind drift than you will with a .22 caliber gun, but the added fun and scorching velocity of the 17 Hornet tend to make up for it.
This tiny hornet will only sting varmints, never your wallet or your shoulder.
Image via Hornady.com