.17 Hornet Superformance Varmint

When I first read about Hornady’s .17 Hornet, a necked down .22 Hornet, I was skeptical. I just assumed it was the classic ammunition marketeers tactic of taking an old cartridge and necking it up or down and then telling the world it was the best cartridge ever designed. I could not have been more wrong

The .17 Hornet loaded with a 20 grain bullet performs significant better than .22 Hornet loaded with a 35 grain or 45 grain bullet. At 300 yards, a 35 grain .22 Hornet bullet will be travelling at about 1126 ft/s, (99 ft/lbs of energy). A 20 grain .17 Hornet bullet at 300 yards will be travelling almost than twice as fast, 2122 ft/s, with more than twice the energy (200 ft/lbs). At 300 yards a 45 grain .22 Hornet performs slightly better at 300 yards (127 ft/lbs of energy), but the .17 Hornet still has it beat by a large margin.

THe .17 Hornet works in the same actions as the .22 Hornet, all that is needed to convert a .22 Hornet gun to .17 Hornet is a barrel change.

The Hornady .17 Hornet is loaded with Superformance powder and a V-Max bullet. MSRP is $25.27/box.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Nathaniel

    .17 is the new .250.

    For serious, as bullet technology gets better and better, smaller calibers and lower weights are becoming acceptable for more and more things. At this point, it’s even enough to compensate for the original deficiencies of the .223 cartridge against hominids (see Mk. 318, 62gr Gold Dots, etc).

    I approve of the new .17 caliber centerfire.

  • Komrad

    Looks neat. I just wish there were .22 Hornet semi-autos to be converted to .17 Hornet.

    • Ah… a semi auto would be awesome. It would be a powerful version of the 4.6mm H&K round.

      • noob

        hmm. is the OAL short enough to fit into the pistol grip of a pistol?

        I’m thinking something along the lines of a center fire pistol.

        Imagine the love child of a kel-tec PMR-30 and a HK MP7.

      • Komrad

        I have a small colelction of cartridges and just compared a few of my .22 Hornets against other pistol cartridges. It is significantly longer than almost all of them, even 7.63 Mauser and .38 Super ACP. The round that it is closest to in length is .30 Carbine being only a hair longer. I think you could do a pistol, but it would be odd looking like the AMT Auto-Mags in .30 Carbine with a very wide magwell.
        A pistol with a magazine outside the grip would probably be ,ore comfortable and easier to design, especially if it could be made to accept Ruger 77/22 .22 Hornet mags, but they might require some modification because of the different taper.. Higher Capacity (maybe 20?) single stack magazines could be fairly easily developed.
        Perhaps a pistol would be better based off of a semi-auto rifle. It wouldn’t be as small, but it could be just as fun.

        The problem with these would probably be that .22 Hornet and probably .17 Hornet sit on the edge of requiring a gas system. This would mean either adding weight with a huge bolt or with a complicated gas system. Maybe extra strong springs could be used to compensate somewhat.

  • chris B

    Strange – i have been handloading .17 K-hornet since I can’t remember ~1978. What is old is new my guess.

    • Chris B.

      I recently purchased a 17K Hornet(Thompson Center) and cannot find any ammunition. I recently purchased a die,but do not know how to reload the bullit. Is there any info that you can share with me? Thank you for your help.

      Carl M.

  • G

    “The .17 Hornet works in the same actions as the .22 Hornet, all that is needed to convert a .22 Hornet gun to .17 Hornet is a barrel change.”

    The same can be said about .221 Remington Fireball and just about every gun that has a .222 Remington bolt face.

    • G

      I wrote the name of the wrong cartridge. I meant .17 Remington Fireball instead of .221 Remington Fireball.

  • Dan

    I love this idea. Would like to see what do does to the varmints

  • Donnie L.

    Nice concept. Will have the first run in a model 25 savage and about $700 bills.. Will monitor the reviews before considering an investment… 17 Remmy still works:)

  • Whatever

    Why would this make more sense than a rifle in 223 Remington? There are more options in rifles and ammo for the 223 Remington than almost any other cartridge. It’s not like the recoil from the 223 Remington is excessive.

    • Komrad

      Well, for starters, this would have lighter recoil, which may not be too important for many people, but smaller framed people and youths might enjoy the experience more. This round would also be quieter, allowing for more follow ups or maybe shots at other animals nearby without spooking them. It would be less likely to make blood pudding out of your animals and it would also make a smaller hole for if you are selling pelts.

      For things like coyote and similarly sized varmints, the difference might be negligible, but it could be significant for prarie dogs and such.

      • ejb

        If the .223 recoil is going to bother the shooter, I can’t see the .17 Hornady giving them a whole lot of relief.

  • Todd

    Why should I consider putting my .204 Ruger out to pasture for the .17 Hornet? The smaller bore allows for less ejecta to get expelled and will likely foul faster. I am sure it will have a novelty factor because nothing drives sales like a new caliber but I will probably not bite on the .17 Hornet hook.

  • Will

    I believe and correct me if I am wrong. But I think Ruger chambered the 77/22 for a .22 hornet. So you would be getting more power from a smaller lighter rifle.


    • Komrad

      Actually, it would probably be slightly heavier if they used the same barrel profile. Less materiel would be removed from the interior of the barrel.

  • elk hunter

    Next up is the 17 Bee (218 Bee).
    For a semi-auto rifle, why hasn’t anbody thought of the 30 Carbine?
    There is a wildcat 17 Carbine, could use it in a semi-auto.

  • Bartlett

    I am intrigued by the possibilities of the .17 Hornet. Having hunted varmints in NE Ohio, including about 325 groundhogs, our varmints take a lot of killing. The groundhogs are the worst: sometimes you wonder if they need a grenade or a mortar to put them down. 95% of the time the best frangible bullets from the better manufacturers work just fine. My issue is that I hate when the varmint is hit and still runs to its den. I have seen groundhogs utterly eviscerated in the belly and still run to their den. Now I know they are soon going to expire, but I do not like the idea that I witnessed them running that far. I have hit groundhogs with Federals 40 grain bomb in 22-250, basically be disemboweled, and still run 30 yards to the den. Usually those Federal pills get the job done right away. I am wondering about 20 grain bullets in .17 caliber going about the same velocity as my 22-250 and how they will perform. I would not push the .17 grainers beyond 200 yards in most cases. Clearly they damn well better hit like a grenade to humanely take out something as tough as a groundhog.

    As far as coyotes go, I would limit my ranges in NE Ohio to 100 yards or so. I have shot some coyotes in this area that were right around 80 pounds. It is rare, but I shot one with my 22-250 Sako at about 350 yds. and the bullet had lost enough velocity and was pulled off enough by severe winds that the brute survived for about a year. He had lost locomotion on the shoulder that I hit, but was doing quite well until a sheep farmer drilled him. Such experiences buffer my thoughts about anything in .17 caliber. Doubtless I would not have taken that shot with a 20 grain bullet.

    • In the past I knew very little about what qualities were necessary for a super accurate bullet and iron sights were adequate on the old .22 LR for woodchucks up to 200 or so feet. I didn’t expect pinpoint accuracy and just accepted that the woodchuck was dead and was glad of it. The pinpoint accuracy of the modern .17 bullets and 32 power scopes requires us to pass up easy body shots in favor of headshots only. If it’s windy we have the choice of only taking near shots. We have the luxury of waiting for a headshot during ideal conditions. We don’t have to go for heart/lung shots on bigger game if we learn to stalk and use the modern superaccurate bullets, scopes, rangefinders, and other modern tools available to us. The first time I used a scope on a muledeer I was so close I could have shot it’s eye out, but because there was a small pine tree between us I foolishly moved around to get a clear heart/lung shot instead. It just didn’t occur to me to do a head shot!
      The problem with using a dead animal or other variable medium for comparing calibers etc. is that the comparison is only good for that one shot or range or variation of bone or flesh. That is the reason I have opted to do penetration tests on various thicknesses of soft A-36 steel. I move the target away until the bullet fails to penetrate. My last target is soft A-36 steel .031″ thick and I’m still punching oversize holes in it at 1300 feet. I’ve run out of clicks on the scope so the next move is purchase of an angled scope base to increase the range of the scope. Once the effective range of the 20 grain FMJ is known it will be necessary to determine the effective rifle accuracy to that range. There is just no point in trying to exceed the accuracy of the rifle. I want to know what my range limit is on a dead calm warm summer day with the .17 HMR 20 grain FMJ with that rifle. Then I will shoot the same steel with some .22 magnum rounds to set my limits with that rifle, cartridge, etc.

  • Norm

    Cartridges of the World notes that the .17 Ackley Hornet is notably more accurate, and fouls bores less than larger case-capacity .17’s, as well as being quiet, negligible recoil and seldom ricochets.The .17 Ackley Bee doesn’t offer much more velocity with similar weight bullets. The shoulder angle on the .17 Hornady Hornet appears to be slightly more gentle than the Ackley version, though it’s hard to tell from ad pictures and the small photo in the reference. Still, ~3500-3600 fps is high efficiency from a rather small capacity case. I’m thinking of turning an as yet uncommitted Cadet Martini action into one.
    I don’t think it’d be a good semi-auto candidate. I think Ackley did experiment with a .17 based on the .30 carbine case, which would be a better choice. The thick hornet rim is a minus in trying to get a semi to function, and Hornet brass is rather thin, and would get mangled during ejection. The Browning 5.7×28 might also be an interesting candidate, and is already available on a pistol platform…just change the barrel and recoil spring. Or the 5.45×18 Russian…though case capacity is probably a bit short.

  • Edward Bartlett

    The .17 Hornady is a brilliant development from Hornady. In N.E. Ohio it will not replace say a 22-250 after 225 yards or so. Groundhogs take a lot of killing. I might not even try the .17 Hornet beyond 150 yds. Only experience will tell. I appreciate the velocities the 20 gr. bullet is achieving, but beyond 150-200 yds. the groundhog anatomy does not respect little bullets, no matter how fast they are traveling. Of course if you hit the spine or brain, or take out the top part of the heart it is a moot point. But at a distance of 175 yds. or more who is doing precision shooting like that? The small bullet is easily pushed by our robust winds, making long-shots quite challenging.

    • At present the Hornady Handloading book lists 24 bullets for reloading in .22-250. It seems that many bullets disintegrate above 3600 F.P.S. due to the high centrifugal forces and/or thin jackets.
      It’s quite difficult to compare the .17 Hornet with only two available factory loadings to the .22-250 with 24 available bullets. However, the .17 hornet loaded with 20 grain FMJ bullets will pierce .031″ A-36 steel at 800+yards.
      Does anyone have any similar results for .22-250?

    • Sam Pensive

      my grandparents used the old type ‘hornets’ to gun after hogs and feral cats.
      close? =they’d take the head off a cat.
      at distance/ you’re right…be a great aim or the burly hogs
      go subterranean pretty quickly..whether they perish is a guess.
      i’d favor a more robust load/bullet.

  • In MA, we can use only shotgun or .22LR at night. During the day, anything goes for coyote, but no slugs or buckshot. This little number might be just the thing for coyote and even bunnies, along with woodchucks, etc. thanks to the accuracy, speed, and quietness over the .223. In addition, the .17 will be kinder on coyote pelts than .22 caliber rifles. The reason it isn’t in automatics is due to the rim. The .19 Badger is a good round based on the .30 Carbine, if you are interested in that.

  • Kyle

    I really like this concept, and I personally like .17 caliber rifles for varmints at moderate ranges. I am looking for something to compliment my .17 HMR and this might be just the thing. I will wait a few years however just to see if the cartridge holds up, hopefully it does not suffer the same fate as the .17 rem fireball.

  • wayne harris

    It is back to the old argument of velocity and range verses bullet weight and wound channel. Energy levels are not always an accurate assessment of penetration or killing power. I loved my .22 Hornet. Wish I still had it and would consider getting another one except for where I live. I live in a an area recently re designated to shotgun and rim fire only zone as do many others that have had urban sprawl take over rural lands. No center fires allowed. I will stick with my .22 WMR. I decided not to buy a .17 HMR because my Friend bought a .17 HMR and we did comparative penetration tests on a dead coyote at 130 yds and the .40 Gr. Winchester jacked soft point .22WMR won hands down over the 20 Gr .17HMR. I think the same argument will apply with the .22 and the .17 Hornets. Both rim fire loads are borderline for coyotes and I stick to 80 yds or less normally for them and place shots carefully or let them walk if I can’t a shot I am comfortable with. Head shots are always my first choice if possible especially with ground hogs. I also like to know they are dead above ground. Even if still legal here, the Hornet is a bit loud for new urban folk that are already making noise about banning hunting in my area. The .17s have a place and many love them. Just not at my place. Just a choice. Yours circumstances, requirements and opinions may differ.

  • Tony Belding

    My big question is what role this cartridge is expected to fill that the 17 Fireball (or its wildcat predecessor, the 17 Mach IV) doesn’t already do better? The 17 FB is a rimless cartridge with head dimensions compatible to the 223 Rem, so it seems a lot more versatile to me, as well as better performing.

    • The reason I didn’t go for the fireball: The ratio of length to width is less than the .17 Remington and I simply don’t like cartridges that may be more out of alignment with the bore. When a bullet is out of alignment with the bore it tends to set up a high speed shimmy which results in unnecessary high pressure against the bolt face and burnout/breakage in the leade. The .17Hornet provides a nice transition between the .17HMR and the .17Remington and perhaps cheaper to reload than to buy .17HMR . The two wood stocked Savage .17 Hornet barrels are 24″, Plastic stock .17 Hornet is 22″. All three models seem to have heavy barrels. The Hornady Handbook lists velocities from 2900 F.P.S. to 3750 F.P.S. .
      Berger and Calhoon do not list 20 grain .17 FMJ bullets but they can be pulled from the CCI HMR cartridges, not sure if the 17 grain accutips can be pulled from the .17 MachII. I have not been able to find another source for .17 twenty grain FMJ bullets. The .17 HMR 20 grain FMJ will pierce .031″ soft A-36 steel at 400 yards. The .17 Hornet 20 grain FMJ will do the same at 800 yards+.

  • None of the factory ballistic charts list the foot pounds per square inch of frontal area delivered, they only list raw foot pounds. Foot pounds per square inch of frontal area is one of the prime considerations for penetration by similarly constructed jacketed bullets.
    A 45 grain .223 hollowpoint will drift 72.2 inches in 745 yards with a 5 mph wind.
    A 20 grain .17 Remington Accutip will drift 55.92 inches in 760 yards with a five mph wind.
    Both projectiles deliver 2,048 foot pounds of energy per square inch of frontal area at the distances cited.
    Velocity matters.
    The .17 caliber bullets are vastly underrated. They are just as prone to richochet as any other jacketed bullet. A regular .22 long rifle lead bullet will simply splatter if it hits a soft steel target. A Jacketed HMR .17 twenty grain FMJ will send the back half of it’s jacket back to the shooter from a soft steel target.
    The foot pounds per square inch of frontal area of all the HMR .17 rounds exceeds the foot pounds per square inch of frontal area of all the .22 magnums. Warning: soft steel shooting is dangerous and should only be undertaken under tightly controlled laboratory conditions.

  • What can i do with the new 17 hornet, that i cant do better wth my old 222 loaded wth 40 grain bullets at 3500 fps. “just wonderin”. I’ll buy a 17 hornet and all the reloading goods. Curiousity killed the cat. 🙂

  • eddie veness

    Where can I get hold of a Savage .17 Hornet magazine? There don’t appear to be any to be found which is rather odd for a consumable which should be readily available.

    • eddie veness

      After speaking to Savage Arms in the states, I went through to their sales people and purchased from them direct. Today to my amazement I have recieved x4 magazines as promised by them. I suspect that in future I will just call them up and order direct.