The Comprehensive Guide to 17 WSM Ammo

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17 wsm ammo

The .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM), introduced in 2013 by Winchester, represents a significant development in the realm of rimfire ammunition. Built to offer performance surpassing older rimfire cartridges, the 17 WSM delivers impressive velocity and energy, positioning it as a preferred choice for varmint and small game hunters. This comprehensive guide delves into the characteristics, uses, and impact of the 17 WSM Ammo, offering enthusiasts and new users alike a detailed understanding of this potent ammunition.

Historical Background and Development

Historical Background and Development
Historical Background and Development

Prior to the advent of the 17 WSM, the .17 caliber lineup included popular options like the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) and the .17 Mach 2. The introduction of the 17 WSM marked a significant upgrade over these cartridges, especially in terms of velocity and range. The development of the 17 WSM began as an initiative to create a rimfire cartridge that closely mimicked the performance of a centerfire cartridge, but at a lower cost and with less recoil.

Winchester achieved this by adapting the casing from a .27 caliber nail gun blank, a choice that provided the necessary volume to handle more propellant, thereby driving bullets to higher speeds. This innovation led to the production of a rimfire cartridge with unprecedented performance metrics.

Technical Specifications

The 17 WSM fires a 20-grain bullet at approximately 3,000 feet per second (fps), or a 25-grain bullet at around 2,600 fps. These speeds result in muzzle energies of 400 foot-pounds for the 20-grain bullet and 375 foot-pounds for the 25-grain option. Comparatively, these figures significantly surpass the capabilities of the 17 HMR, one of its closest competitors.

Bullet Design and Ballistics

The bullets typically used in 17 WSM cartridges are either polymer-tipped or hollow-point, designed for maximum accuracy and explosive expansion on impact. This makes the 17 WSM highly effective for its intended use in controlling populations of varmints and small game, where clean, humane kills are necessary.

Ballistically, the flat trajectory of the 17 WSM aids shooters in making precise shots at longer ranges. The cartridge maintains a flatter trajectory up to 200 yards compared to many other rimfire cartridges.

Applications: Hunting and Target Shooting

Applications: Hunting and Target Shooting
Applications: Hunting and Target Shooting

Varmint and Small Game Hunting

The primary use of the 17 WSM is in hunting small to medium-sized game, such as prairie dogs, coyotes, and rabbits. Its high velocity and terminal ballistics ensure that it can effectively dispatch these animals at distances beyond those typical of other rimfire cartridges. This capability allows hunters to take shots at greater distances without needing to calculate as much for bullet drop.

Target Shooting

While primarily designed for hunting, the 17 WSM also finds a place in target shooting, particularly where shooters wish to practice at longer rimfire ranges. The cartridge’s high velocity and flat trajectory make it an excellent choice for practicing precision shooting, helping shooters hone their skills without the higher cost of centerfire ammunition.

Advantages of the 17 WSM Ammo

Superior Range and Accuracy

The standout feature of the 17 WSM is its range and accuracy. With effective ranges extending to 200 yards and beyond, it surpasses other rimfire cartridges, offering an experience closer to shooting a low-caliber centerfire round.


Despite its high performance, the 17 WSM remains more cost-effective than many centerfire cartridges. For regular shooters, this can mean significant savings over time, especially for those who practice frequently or consume large quantities of ammunition.

Lower Recoil

The 17 WSM provides substantial power with significantly less recoil compared to centerfire cartridges, making it an excellent choice for younger shooters or those sensitive to recoil. This reduced recoil also aids in maintaining accuracy, as shooters can maintain their focus and positioning through the shot.

Comparisons with Other Cartridges

Comparisons with Other Cartridges
Comparisons with Other Cartridges

17 WSM vs. 17 HMR

The 17 HMR, while older, is often compared to the 17 WSM due to their similar calibers. However, the 17 WSM outperforms the 17 HMR in both velocity and energy, providing a 20% increase in speed and nearly double the energy at 100 yards.

17 WSM vs. 22 LR

The .22 Long Rifle (LR) is perhaps the most popular rimfire cartridge, known for its versatility and low cost. While the 22 LR is adequate for many types of small game and target shooting, the 17 WSM offers a substantial improvement in performance for long-range shooting and hunting scenarios where the .22 LR might struggle.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite its many benefits, the 17 WSM does face some challenges. The availability of ammunition and firearms chambered for this cartridge can be limited compared to more established cartridges. Additionally, the cost per round is higher than that of most other rimfire ammunition, which may be a consideration for high-volume shooters.


The 17 Winchester Super Magnum represents a significant advancement in rimfire technology, offering unprecedented performance in terms of range, velocity, and energy. Its development provides shooters with a powerful, cost-effective alternative to small caliber centerfire cartridges for both hunting and precision target shooting. As the availability of firearms and ammunition for this caliber grows, it is poised to become a staple in the arsenals of varmint hunters and precision shooters alike.

Last Updated on April 14, 2024 by

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