There’s a new rimfire kid on the block and from the start it took off like wild fire. This little hot rod started when Hornady necked down a great cartridge to start with, necking down the .22 WMR to hold a 17-grain, 17-caliber bullet. This new rimfire appeared at the 2002 SHOT Show in Las Vegas and things have been moving along briskly since.
The initial push revolved around long guns, of course. Out of a typical rifle barrel, Hornady’s Magnum Rimfire generates 2,550 fps, creating a bite way out of proportion to the bark and a surprising lack of recoil. The new round is 25 percent faster than the old standby .22 Magnum and the new .17 HMR manages to trump up 245 ft-lbs of muzzle energy from its 17-grain bullet. Of course the other great things that go with a rimfire cartridge go hand in hand, as well. There really is no recoil and the muzzle blast is but a puff, if you will. (Hearing protection is still necessary, however.)
It didn’t take long for the cartridge to start showing up in shorter barreled arms, either. While cutting a foot or more off of a barrel does effect velocity, a great cartridge often remains great regardless of the barrel length. The rimfires are a good case in point. Hands down, the rimfires are great out of anything. In fact I’ve long felt that the world’s greatest cartridge is the .22 Long Rifle. Most of us started out with this great cartridge and where fun is considered, the .22 LR has no peers. The magnum rimfire is every bit as great, when one wishes to up the ante a bit.
Taurus introduced the new Tracker in 2002 and the line now includes a gem chambered for the .17 HMR cartridge. Constructed from stainless steel and equipped with the best grips that I’ve wrapped my hands around, this new Tracker may be one of the slickest handguns in the business.
The Tracker .17 HMR sports a 6 1/2-inch barrel that includes a vented rib that works great to attach a Taurus scope base for optics and the like. Still Taurus’ open sights aren’t bad either. Up front, Taurus installed a typical ramp that features a bright red insert while a nice, fully adjustable rear sight is provided with a white outline on the notch. Out of the box the rig tended to be just a tad low and right, but it took but a minute to move things right into the middle of a three-inch Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target at 25 yards.
The stainless steel Tracker features a nice, classy matte finish that would look good anywhere. The finish is well done and the fit of everything is perfect for lack of another suitable word. Operation of the Tracker is normal in all respects. The cylinder locks up in two places: A spring catch in the yoke engages a slot in the receiver up front while a pin in the cylinder-base pin engages the frame at the back. Lockup is good with little shake at either end.
The black “Ribber” grips are as good as it gets, regardless of the caliber of the arm. Featuring deep grooves, the grip feels great and with a tight grip, it tends to take the shape of the hand. While recoil isn’t part of the mix here, this grip will indeed soak up recoil on harder kicking guns as well.
Taurus has one more good idea. A screw located on the back of the hammer can be turned by an included Allen wrench so that the arm can be prevented from firing in seconds. Loaded or otherwise, with the screw backed out half a turn this rig is solidly locked up. We’re going to have a grandchild running around here in a few years and this might be a great idea although Cindy and I still believe that education is most important.
The trigger of this arm is good, out of the box. The single-action trigger averaged five pounds, 3.5 ounces on the Lyman digital trigger gauge. The SA trigger is crisp and clean with no takeup and no discernable creep. The DA trigger is smooth and probably weighs about 12.5 pounds although it was just over the ability of the Lyman gauge to measure. I’d like to see the pull weight of the single-action around three pounds or so, but I’ll take this one, just the same.
Taurus equipped the .17 HMR with a heavy barrel that looks great. Featuring six lands and grooves, Taurus equipped the .17 HMR with a 1:10 twist. I didn’t have time to slip optics on the Tracker so the drill consisted of using shooting glasses to clear things up while resting the Tracker on sandbags. All range work took place at 25 yards, outdoors, over the course of several days. In the spring here, the temperature moves all over the thermometer while the humidity tends to stay consistent. The Federal .22 Magnum (used for control from another gun) and CCI loads were fired when the temperature was in the high 50s while the Remington load was fired when the temperature was in the mid 80s. Take this into account when you look over the chart.
The CCI JHP load left the 6 1/2-inch Tracker doing just shy of 2,000 fps over the Oehler 35 P Skyscreens, 15 feet from the muzzle. At the 25-yard target the CCI load was still moving along nicely, generating 1,832 fps and 126.67 ft-lbs of energy. The five, 5-shot CCI groups averaged 1.38 inches center to center with the best group going just larger than 3/4 inch. Keeping small holes that close is downright fun, to be sure. Hornady’s V-Max load left the Tracker doing 1,966 f
ps, retaining 1,830 fps at the target. The Hornady load accounted for the best group of .63 inch and just over an inch for the average. What fun it is to work with a good shooter like this.
Remington’s load is last only because of the alphabet. This load left the Tracker doing 2,049 fps, generating 158 ft-lbs at 15 feet. At the target this load was still steaming along nicely at 1,943 fps, generating 142 ft-lbs. The five Remington groups averaged 1.2 inches center to center with the best five-shot group measuring .62 inches.
To put the .17 HMR in perspective, I relied on a tack driving Freedom Arms 252 to see what how the old WMR stacks up against this new kid on the block. This isn’t really comparing apples to apples since the Freedom Arms 252 sports a 7 1/2-inch barrel and 2X Leupold scope, but it makes for a fair comparison, just the same. Federal’s fantastic Premium 30-grain Sierra JHP load leaves the FA 252 doing 1,620 fps and it retains 1,477 fps at the target. This combo accounts for 175 ft-lbs of instrumental energy at 15 feet. At the 25-yard target this WMR combo accounted for 145 ft-lbs of energy. This load would probably do 1,550-1,570 fps from a 6 1/2-inch barrel and generate about 164 ft-lbs in the process. Don’t ever believe that a WMR won’t shoot either. The Federal/Freedom Arms combo averaged 3/4 inch with ragged one-hole groups the norm.
I ran the ballistics through the Oehler Ballistic Explorer program and the .17 looks great on paper, too. As one would suspect, the .17 is flatter shooting. With a 25-yard zero, the .17 can be held dead-on to 90 yards or so, while the .22 WMR can be held dead-on to less than 70. At 100 yards the .17 drops two inches less. At 50 yards the Federal/WMR combo accounts for 113 ft-lbs energy while all three .17 loads are on the WMR’s heels accounting for 100 ft-lbs or so. Although the .17 never catches the WMR, it gets close quickly, and it’ll make a great hunting round for small game like rabbits, squirrels, gophers, and prairie dogs, if you keep things to 50 yards or so.
While I wouldn’t sell a good WMR to buy a new .17 HMR rig, I plan to add this new rimfire round to the collection. You don’t have to pick up the brass or plan on reloading, either. Just load and shoot. Yep, this rimfire game is still as good as it gets.
|SHOOTING RESULTS: Taurus Tracker|
|CCI 17-gr. JHP||1,986/79/24||149||1,832/127||.79||1.86||1.38|
|Hornady 17-gr. V-Max||1,966/151/36||146||1,830/127||.63||1.34||1.02|
|Remington 17-gr. V-Max||2,049/97/30||158||1,943/142||.62||1.87||1.20|
|Comparison: Freedom Arms 252, 7 1/2-in. barrel .22 WMR|
|Federal Premium 30-gr. Sierra JHP||1,620/141/38||175||1,477/145|