.22 WMR Vs. .17 WSM: What's the Best Rimfire Cartridge Right Now?

.22 WMR Vs. .17 WSM: What's the Best Rimfire Cartridge Right Now?

rimfire_versus_f.22 WMR


I won't go as far as to belittle the, uh, little .17 Winchester Super Magnum. It's a unique cartridge that does what no rimfire has done before. It's the fastest rimfire ever designed and actually performs spectacularly — for a rimfire.

What I will do is ask'¦Why? The great charm about rimfires is that they're versatile and inexpensive to shoot. The .17 WSM, superb distance performer that it is, is neither. While it's capable of perforating a prairie dog farther away than "common" rounds, such as the .22 Magnum, most savvy shooters have transitioned to centerfires when distances stretch that far. And up close the .17 WSM is actually going too fast: Squirrels and cottontails suffering a body shot from it leave the hunter with little but fluff.


By stew-pot decree, any rimfire not well suited for small-game hunting is, well, not really a rimfire. It's an outcast. What some folks charitably term a "niche" cartridge.


Contrast that with the .22 Magnum. While it's not as aerodynamic as its .17-caliber sibling, it hits authoritatively within the rimfire's realm — inside of 150 yards or so. For small-game hunting, full-metal-jacket projectiles minimize meat damage; likewise valuable pelts about to be separated from their host furbearer. Butchers effectively use a .22 Mag pellet between the eyes on even the biggest steer.

Government trappers prefer it for killing troublesome mountain lions — cats die in the tree instead of being knocked out, hurt and fighting mad, into their pack of valuable dogs.

And, finally, even homeowners have viable ammunition choices engineered specifically for self-defense to choose from. If that's not versatility, what is? — Joeseph von Benedikt

.17 WSM

Hunters need just two rimfire cartridges for small game: a .22 LR if they want to eat it and a .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) if they wish to kill it. The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) splits the difference between the two, crushing them both in all the categories that don't matter.

The .22 WMR fires a projectile too fast for use on tablefare, such as squirrel or rabbits. What's more, the bullets are ballistically inefficient at longer range. See for yourself. With only a 5 mph breeze, Hornady's .22 WMR 30-grain V-MAX drifts 6.9 inches and strikes with 94 ft.-lbs. of energy at 150 yards. At that same range, Winchester's .17 WSM 20-grain load drifts only 2 inches and carries an impressive 230 ft.-lbs. of energy. At 200 yards, where the .22 WMR is running on fumes, the .17 WSM is still scooting right along and carries twice the energy of the .17 HMR, itself a long-range rimfire.

What about bullet weight and penetration, two attributes the .22 WMR does possess? They simply don't matter on game that can fit inside your mother's purse. What about coyotes? Skip both and use a centerfire.

However, if you must use a rimfire on predators, opt for the 25-grain .17 WSM load. Using its superior velocity, the .17 can and will knock down any coyote within 150 yards as long as you hit your mark. You'll be surprised at the long-range killing power of this little thumper, and you'll save a few bucks in the process.

Speed kills, and the .17 WSM slaughters the .22 WMR in velocity, trajectory, wind drift, and retained energy. Its rimfire lethality is far superior to anything stamped ".22 WMR." — D. Faubion

Recommended for You

Camping

What's In Your Backcountry Pack?

Tracy Breen

Having just the right amount of lightweight gear can make or break a hunt. Find out the best...

How-To

How to Make Hunting Fun for Kids

Jeff Johnston

Pass on your passion and make hunting fun for children with these tips!

Guns

Top Precision Rifles for Hunting in 2019

Joseph Von Benedikt - April 22, 2019

Here are our top choices for hunting this fall!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 10: Snowbound Chamois

Host Brittany Boddington gets more than she bargained for on what turned out to be a grueling, snowbound and extremely physical hunt for chamois in Romania's Carpathian mountains.

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 14: Swamp Bulls

With his Mozambique forest bull in the salt, Craig Boddington sets his sights on the Marromeu grasslands in pursuit of a swamp buffalo.

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 13: Forest Buffalo

Craig Boddington returns to Mozambique's fame Coutada 10 for a shot a forest buffalo that's eluded him for 10 years.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Ammo

.22-250 Vs. .223: What's The Best Coyote Cartridge?

Joseph von Benedikt & David Faubion - February 14, 2014

.22-250 A rodent cartridge is invading Coyoteville. Due to the popularity of the AR-15 rifle...

Recipes

8 Best Venison Marinades

Hank Shaw - August 20, 2013

Perhaps the most common question I get about cooking venison is what marinades I use the most.

Guns

8 Great Youth Guns Designed for Growing Hunters

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 18, 2016

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites from the

See More Stories

More Ammo

Ammo

Turkey Loads

Josh Dahlke - January 17, 2017

Truth be told, there's more than one effective, ethical way to kill a turkey. At the end of...

Ammo

.224 Valkyrie Offers Predator and Deer Hunters New Long-Range Option

Lynn Burkhead - January 24, 2018

When OSG senior digital editor Lynn Burkhead visited with JJ Reich of Federal Premium...

Ammo

The Best Deer Bullets Anywhere

Joseph von Benedikt - January 22, 2019

Whatever your hunting philosophy, there's a capable deer bullet that fits your needs. Here's a...

See More Ammo

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×