I like the 17 HMR. It is a fun cartridge to shoot. And that is the category it fits in: Fun. It isn't a serious cartridge for hunting coyotes or deer. The ammo costs more than .22 lr. That harms the fun factor, but only a little. You make up for higher ammo costs by hitting what you shoot at more often, and the results of a hit on a varmint are more certain, sometimes even spectacular.
I bought a Remington 597 Magnum in 17 HMR. I like the idea of the gun, but as is typical of Remington, they botched it. The magazines feed like crap, and the bolt barely closed on an empty chamber. The rifle was very accurate, but not reliable at all. And then Remington recalled it. Seems a bottleneck cartridge in a blowback action wasn't a great idea. Others did it though.
So anyway, the gun wasn't getting shot, and Remington's recall was a joke. They'd give me $200 towards a Remington gun. This meant I'd have to spend about $600 out of pocket to get my $200, and I paid over $300 for the gun. I wasn't taking that deal; at the time Remington had nothing I needed. So I just hung on to it but never shot it.
Now, the problem with 17 HMR is that a good rifle costs as much as a cheaper (or even a more expensive centerfire). There is a savage for about $200, but I didn't like that one. Marlin makes a nice one, but I haven't seen one in years and they cost too much also. This is a fun cartridge, not a serious one, so if I'm spending serious rifle money I should get a serious rifle.
So then, the 17 WSM comes out. Wow. I wanted one. The 17 WSM is starting to get into serious cartridge territory. It
shoots a heavier bullets faster than the HMR. It will work as a fox or
coyote rifle close in, anyway.My uncle got one, my cousin got one. They liked them. I shot my uncle's. The savage B-mag is not impressive. The round is awesome. I did some research on Rimfire.com. Apparently there's a lot of problems with the Bmag rifle and some speculation on the ammo. Oh well, I wanted one anyway. I need to fill that niche. (It doesn't matter that the niche didn't exist a dozen years ago, it does now). One problem, three local gunshops have rifles but nobody has ammo. I don't want to buy a gun I can't get ammo for. So, I figured I'd wait. Maybe somebody would make a better rifle in the meantime.
A new gunshop had opened up in town. I took my brother in law in to show him the AR's. When we were just about to leave, something caught my eye in the used rifle rack. "Ruger American .17 HMR. $260" Now what is this? The dealer told me he had sold the gun new and the guy traded it in after a week because his wife wanted a .204 AR and she told him she needed that worse than he needed this gun. I told the dealer I needed a wife like that. 15 rounds through it. So I made a deal for $240. You can't beat that. Finally a decent 17 HMR that I feel good about spending the money on. His price for a new one was $270.
This is a bolt action repeater that holds 9 in the magazine. Uses Ruger's rotary magazines just like the 10/22 only scaled up. It has an adjustable trigger similar to savage's acutrigger. The bolt is solid feeling. No binding. It isn't as silky as a tikka, but it is pretty smooth and has a substantial feel to it. I was loading a round once and bumped the mag release. The magazine fell out, but the round stayed on the bolt face even when I moved it forward and back. I wouldn't call it controlled round feeding, but it is similar. Feeding, extraction and ejection were very positive.
It has a fold down rear sight and a fiber optic front sight. I hate fiber optic sights, they usually are so big. This one I liked, and I liked the sight picture. I feel you can get a pretty fine hold with them. Despite this, I couldn't hit anything with the iron sights. I don't think they were sighted in. The stock is synthetic and comes with two inserts, one with a higher cheekpiece for using the iron sights. The stock is fairly solid feeling. Not at all like the rubbery plastic one on the Bmag.
I took a set of rings off a .22 and mounted a Weaver Grand Slam 4.5-14 off my old .17 HMR. I think that is a pretty good choice for optics. It may seem silly to mount a scope on a gun like this that I paid twice as much for as the gun. Yet, the cartridge is capable of great precision so higher magnification is in order. A small field of view isn't a problem, You aren't going to be swinging on a whitetail running through the trees. This is a cartridge you take your time to set up your shots with. Quality optics are called for when the gun and cartridge are capable of making the most of it.
I got it dialed in quickly. The third shot hit dead on. I shot a five shot group. I didn't measure, but it was around 1/2" at about 40 yards. Not too bad for just screwing around and only trying one kind of ammo. The wind was blowing about 30 mph so I didn't try it at 100.
I proceeded to spend my fathers day shooting various varmints. I only remember missing once, when I hit a stick between me and my target.
Pros: Bolt feel, magazine, looks OK, accurate, light weight, iron sights are functional, good trigger.
Cons: the magazine release sticks out a little. I bumped it once and the mag dropped out. You have to bump it forward, though.
My brother has the Marlin in 17 HMR. When the 17 WSM came out his reaction was a yawn. I can see why, now that I have a rifle that I think I will love in 17 HMR. Ammo will be cheaper. Performance may be reduced, but really, the 17 HMR is a good round. The WSM is pretty attractive, but if I need a serious gun, I have those. I think I will wait and see if the 17 WSM makes it as a cartridge. They will also have to chamber it in a good rifle. I haven't seen one yet.