Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its various guns, gear, ammunition, and sports. While a large share of the rimfire market is absolutely dominated by the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, other offerings have been developed in more recent times with one of the most modern rimfire cartridges being the tiny .17 HM2 (.17 Hornady Mach 2). 17 HM2 is a much smaller version of the .17 HMR cartridge that is closer in overall size to .22LR and is based on the .22 Stinger case versus the .22 WMR that is the parent case of .17 HMR. The tiny cartridge was first introduced in 2004 and has developed somewhat of a cult following for serious varmint hunters but doesn’t seem to generate must interest outside of that field. Today I want to discuss whether this relatively young rimfire cartridge will survive much longer or if we are seeing it go the way of 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum.
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The Rimfire Report: Is it the End of Days for 17 HM2?
Performance and Purpose
My limited experience with .17 Hornady Mach 2 rests entirely within shooting a few groundhogs, squirrels, and foxes out in rural Oklahoma. During that time I may have shot a few soda cans with it for fun but as far as trigger time with the cartridge, it was far too expensive for me to shoot. My opinion on the actual merits of the cartridge can be summed up with this: It’s expensive, but effective and accurate on a calm day.
The .17 HM2 was introduced in 2004 and designed by the Hornady Manufacturing Company. The .17 HM2 was intended to build upon the success of the far more popular .17 HMR cartridge released just two years prior and which is still popular today as a coyote and small game hunting round. In contrast to the .17 HMR, the .17 HM2 features a much shorter case length while still maintaining relatively the same bullet weight as the larger .17 HMR with typical bullet weights being around 17 to 20-grains in wight. While the HM2 has about half the grain weight as a normal .22LR cartridge, the bullet is also traveling about twice as fast as a standard velocity .22LR cartridge and also shoots much flatter, and has a much greater effective range even if it isn’t living up to its “match 2” moniker.
.17 HM2 isn’t by any means an ineffective cartridge, quite the contrary. The real question I’ve always had about the 17 HM2 is why? Both .17 HMR and HM2 will outperform .22LR at distances of 100-yards and both use lightweight full metal jacket bullets. The only real advantage that HM2 has over .17 HMR is the relative cost with HM2 originally being several cents cheaper. Other than that, HM2 really only fills an extremely niche market within the rimfire community and there aren’t even many firearms that can use the rare cartridge.
Firearms and Practical Use
When it comes to popularity and longevity, a clear marker of success for a caliber almost always certainly relies on how many firearms it can be used in. While there are clearly firearms made for the .17 HM2 cartridges, there aren’t actually that many in existence. Ruger once manufactured a version of the MK III pistol that was chambered in .17 HM2 and even made their Model Single Six Hunter Convertible rimfire pistol which could shoot either .17 HMR or the more economical HM2.
However, due to practical limitations, these pistols never became very popular and to the best of my knowledge, Ruger doesn’t even sell these firearms anymore as standard line items on their website. The Ruger American 17 Mach 2 was a similarly short-lived line item for Ruger that didn’t see all that much attention even from the varmint hunting community. Companies like Volquartsen do make their popular Summit rifle for use with the caliber and conversion kits do exist out there if you want to convert your 10/22 to 17 Hornady Mach 2, but they have been since discontinued by many manufacturers and were often plagued by a combination of .17 HM2 not behaving well in semi-autos as well as purported ammunition quality issues which made the former problem worse.
If you’re interested in buying a reliable .17 HM2 for varmint hunting, your best bet is still going to be a bolt action rifle and even then, you’ll be struggling with the wind at the upper end of the cartridge effective range even on a light breezy day. A great option these days for a .17 HM2 rifle would be the Savage A17 which is available with a bunch of great options from the factory that make it an affordable varmint hunting rifle and also one of the more reliable semi-auto Mach 2 guns out there.
As we’ve talked about ad nauseam over roughly the last year and a half, ammunition prices have skyrocketed in reaction to the increased demand for common calibers such as 9mm, 5.56, and .22LR. As with any product shortage, companies will opt to continue producing more profitable and more demanded calibers to satisfy as many of their customers as possible. With .17 HM2 being such a niche cartridge, to begin with, I don’t know a single plant manager or production manager who would opt to shut down an entire manufacturing line to switch to producing a small batch of ammunition that many customers aren’t even after.
I only know of 3 current manufactures (excluding Aguila’s similar .17 PMC) of Mach 2 which include CCI, Hornady, and Eley. Of the three, Hornady seems to have been the most prolific producer of the cartridge with Eley bringing up the rear in terms of production numbers. Right now you can typically find the ammunition online for around 20 to 30 cents per round making it twice as expensive as current .22LR prices and about 6-10 cents less expensive than .17 HMR.
Unlike other cartridges like 9mm, 7.62×39, and 5.56, rimfire cartridges tend not to be found often with steel casings which might make them slightly more economical. The .17 HM2 does not exist with steel-cased offerings. Even if .17 Mach 2 was offered in a steel-cased version, most rimfire firearm owners I know would probably stick their noses up at it and opt not to shoot their guns with it.
So what is to become of Hornady’s Mach 2 .17 caliber cartridge? Personally, I think it is on the way out. Much like similar discontinued cartridges, HM2 only has one or two niche uses with one of them being as a replacement for the slightly more expensive .17 HMR cartridge. With companies like Ruger discontinuing their product support for HM2, I feel as if they are looking at it from a cost-benefit perspective and simply not enough people were taking interest in the cartridge and the firearms it was made for.
While 17 HM2 has far surpassed the original short two-year lifespan of 5mm RRM (it has since been reintroduced and is still in limited production), my personal belief is that HM2 is going to end up in the same category as 5mm RRM – unpopular, largely forgotten and only used by a handful of individuals. Does that make it a bad cartridge? Not at all. However, without a viable presence within the firearms market, products do tend to slowly disappear from the shelves and become all but a memory. For now, .17 Hornady Mach 2 still remains in production, and for the dedicated shooter, ammo can be found online without much of a hassle.
However, these are just the observations of one deranged and quite possibly overly cynical rimfire junkie. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the 17 HM2 and where it is going or not going. As always, thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you in the next edition!
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