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Hornady's .17 Mach 2

Hornady (Dept. ST, P.O. Box 1848, Grand Island, NE 68803; 308-382-1390; has developed a brand-new rimfire cartridge. To announce the new .17 Mach 2, Hornady teamed up with 15 other ammunition and firearms makers for the largest industry-wide product introduction in firearms history.

Based on the .22 Long Rifle rimfire case, the new .17 Mach 2 (.17M2) is necked to seat a 17-grain, .17-caliber Hornady V-Max bullet and is powered to a nominal 2100 fps velocity from a standard SAAMI-reference 24-inch rifle barrel. (That's nearly 70 percent faster than a standard-velocity .22 LR.) Observed velocities from a 5.5-inch auto pistol barrel, incidentally, run about 1640 fps. From a rifle at 175 yards the .17M2 is still going faster than a .22 LR at the muzzle. The muzzle energy of the .17M2's 17-grain bullet (166 ft-lbs) is 18 percent greater than a 40-grain .22 LR (140 ft-lbs). Its trajectory is flat! Zeroed at 100 yards, the .17M2 has only a 0.7-inch mid-range rise at 50 yards; a .22 LR has a 2.9-inch rise.

The overall length of the new .17-caliber load is the same as the .22 LR cartridge, although the length of the necked-down .17M2 case is longer than a .22 LR case, to accommodate the smaller .17-caliber bullet. Still, the matching overall length and case-body dimensions of the .17M2 and the .22 LR will allow the .17M2 to function in standard .22 LR magazine configurations of all types, so any existing .22 LR rimfire firearm manufacturer in the world can adapt any of its existing .22 LR gun models to the new load simply by fitting them with .17-caliber barrels with the .17M2 chamber. Yes, that's what I said: any existing .22 LR rimfire firearm--any bolt-action rifle or pistol, any semiautomatic rifle or pistol, any single-shot rifle or pistol, any revolver, any pump-action, any whatever. The only engineering/mechanical tinkering necessary to the conversion for any of these designs is that the recoil-spring timing of some .22 LR semiautomatic mechanisms will need to be adjusted to take account of the .17M2's different time/pressure curve. The transition will be even easier for gunmakers who are already offering product chambered for the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (.17 HMR), as the .17M2's bore and rifling specifications are also the same.

Taking The Gun World By Storm

The new cartridge was announced simultaneously by Hornady and all other participating manufacturers at the 2004 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 11th. It was the culminating moment of an unprecedented development arc that began soon after the original introduction of the wildly popular .17 HMR in 2002. Hornady engineer Dave Emary, who had conceived and guided the .17 HMR to reality, had actually begun tinkering with the .17M2 concept almost before the final specification and performance proofs for the .17 HMR had been completed. The .17 HMR was based on a necked-down .22 WMR case, and its impressive 2550 fps velocity, incredibly flat trajectory, and superb accuracy immediately led Emary to experiment with the same 17-grain V-Max bullet in a smaller, necked-down .22 Long Rifle case.

Considering the size disparity of the two cases, the results were initially surprising, even to Emary. Using what were essentially traditional-type .22 LR propellants, he had no problem reaching velocities averaging 2100 fps (almost twice the speed of sound; hence, the eventual ".17 Mach 2" name) within pressure levels compatible to the .22 LR case. And the little load's 0.7-inch trajectory profile was in fact quite reasonably close to the bigger .17 HMR, which has a 0.1-inch mid-range rise with a 100-yard zero. In essence, Emary's new invention was 70 percent hotter and 2.2 inches flatter than the parent .22 LR, and only 18 percent slower and 0.6 inch less flat than the faster .17 HMR. By any standard it absolutely "hummed."

The new .17 Mach 2 (L) is based on the .22 Long Rifle rimfire case (R) but is necked to seat a 17-grain, .17-caliber Hornady V-Max bullet.

A design group headed by Emary and Hornady Project Development Engineer Mitch Mittelstaedt then coalesced around the cartridge. The basic development work for the new load was actually completed within six months of the announcement of the .17 HMR--more than two and a half years ago. They decided to call the cartridge the .17 Hornady Mach 2 (because it "hums too," get it?). Hornady took out patents on the design and trademarked the name and then sat back to consider what to do with it.

There were some very practical issues to consider. The most important being the immediate, amazing, unprecedented, overwhelming, and absolutely unexpected success of the .17 HMR--which, as every shooter in America knows, took the entire firearms world by storm. Hornady readily admits it was absolutely unprepared for the .17 HMR monster it had created.

The .17M2 (L) is 70 percent hotter and 2.2 inches flatter than the .22 LR and only 18 percent slower and 0.6 inch less flat than the faster .17 HMR (R).

To date, Hornady has manufactured in excess of 147 million bullets for the .17 HMR, and the ammo is still backor- dered. The .17-caliber Hornady V-Max bullet is not easy to make. Just like a bigger centerfire bullet, it involves a carefully assembled drawn copper cup, lead core, and polycarbonate tip insert, perfectly balanced and concentric. The tiny components are difficult to work with from a manufacturing point of view. And the tolerances are much more critical than with larger caliber bullets: The slightest imbalance will cause massive losses in accuracy and round-to-round consistency. And rimfire shooters simply devour bullets.


So when the developmental work on the new .17M2 was completed, .17 HMR customers were still waiting, sometimes for months, to buy .17 HMR ammunition. Therefore, it didn't make sense for Hornady to introduce yet another .17 rimfire cartridge, using the same bullet as the .17 HMR.

Two things happened. First, Hornady embarked on a crash program to increase its .17-caliber bullet production capacity. Second, Steve Hornady decided to make the .17M2 available to the industry as a whole from the outset.

Beginning just over a year ago, Hornady began providing cartridge specifications and prototype .17M2 ammunition loads to a long list of SAAMI-member U.S. firearms and ammunition manufacturers and selected other companies and overseas ammo and gunmaker

s. Many prototype firearms were quickly developed, and several other rimfire ammunition makers signed on to produce the load.

On the ammunition side, under agreements established thus far, .17M2 ammo will be loaded by Hornady, Remington, and ATK/Speer in the U.S. and Eley in Europe. On the firearms side, Hornady initially supplied specifications and ammo samples to Ruger, Marlin, Thompson/Center, Taurus, Savage, Remington, North American Arms, Browning/Winchester, and Smith & Wesson. In Europe, under the continent-wide shooting industry organization C.I.P., Eley has shared the specifications with Anschutz and CZ, which will also soon be offering .17M2 guns.

A Marlin prototype rifle carried an impromptu barrel stamping of the new .17M2.

Along the way, there was a slight name change. New ammunition under the Hornady label will have the trademarked .17 Hornady Mach 2 designation, but so as not to impose his name on the whole industry, Steve Hornady, in a generous gesture, agreed that the official SAAMI designation should be simply .17 Mach 2. The .17HM2 loads from Hornady will carry red-tip V-Max bullets. Bullets loaded in Remington .17M2 ammo will have green tips. The V-Max bullets in Eley's .17M2 loads will have blue tips, and the loads will be marketed as "Blue Streak." The ATK loads will feature the TNT hollowpoint bullet. Part of the whole deal, as you might surmise, is that Hornady will remain the sole .17 rimfire bullet supplier for these other ammomakers, at least initially.

(TOP) Thompson/Center is chambering its Classic semiautomatic rifle for the new rimfire round.

(BOTTOM) Taurus has added a snubnose

double-action revolver in .17M2 to its lineup.

At the SHOT Show .17 Mach 2 unveilings in February, production-ready .17 M2 rifles and handguns were shown by Taurus, T/C, Browning, Marlin, and Anschutz. Eley displayed its Blue Streak ammo. Several other manufacturers announced intentions to join the parade in the coming year, including Ruger and Remington. Spokesmen for the major-name companies involved in the .17 Mach 2 project, including Hornady's competitors, are uniformly delighted with Steve Hornady's decision to make the new load available industry-wide and expect it to be a significant addition to the shooting sports community worldwide.

Tony Aeschilmann of Marlin (which officially unveiled two Marlin bolt-action rifle models plus a single shot in the New England Firearms line) says, "We regard this as a major introduction. We have worked closely with Hornady since their development of the .450 Marlin cartridge for us, and we expect additional Marlin models will follow soon."

Taurus had a snubnose .17 M2 revolver all ready to go, and Taurus COO Bob Morrison observed, "The huge success of the .17 HMR is clear evidence the even-more-economical .17 Mach 2 will be a huge success. Its place in history is assured. It will become the rimfire of choice for anyone interested in velocity and power."

Scott Grange from Browning, which added the .17 M2 to its Buck Mark semiautomatic line, says, "This is a natural evolution of the .17 HMR the same way the Winchester Super-Short WSSM centerfire cartridges have been a natural evolution of the WSM line. There's already as much excitement over the Mach 2 as there was over the HMR; we expect it to be a tremendous success."

A Hands-On Look

In late January, Hornady invited Shooting Times to visit the Hornady plant for an advance look at the .17M2. Editorial Director Jim Bequette, writer Wayne van Zwoll, and I had the opportunity to shoot the new load with a variety of prototype guns. It was an illuminating experience. Under the guidance of engineers Emary and Mittelstaedt, along with Hornady marketing executives Wayne Holt and Steve Johnson, we received a full briefing on the history and development of the load and fired the .17M2 in prototype rifles and handguns from Browning, Marlin, Ruger, and Thompson/Center. We also were able to fire the tiny round into ballistic gelatin to assess its penetration and expansion characteristics.

The weight of the recovered, deepest penetrating lead core and heel jacket was 9.50 grains, a retention of 56 percent of its original weight.

The first thing I noted is that the .17-caliber V-Max bullet is phenomenally accurate in the .17M2 loading. The first five-shot group I fired through a T/C G2 Contender rifle at 25 yards punched a single hole. Van Zwoll's best five-round groups were 0.98 inch for the T/C Contender rifle, 1.17 inches for a T/C Classic semiautomatic rifle, and 1.06 inches for a Marlin Model 795. That's exceptional 100-yard accuracy for any rimfire rifle, particularly considering that these were rough, function-proving engineer's prototypes and not tuned for final-production performance.

The terminal impact performance of the little 17-grain V-Max bullet also exceeded my expectations. Fired into 10-percent gelatin at 15 yards, the bullet expanded explosively, with large jacket fragments cutting wicked channels to the side of the primary wound channel line and the main core and jacket heel penetrating bonded together to 8.5 inches. The total weight of the recovered fragments came to 12.92 grains, with the weight of the recovered, deepest penetrating lead core and heel jacket at 9.50/9.49 grains. A fragile bullet at high velocity that still retains 56 percent of its weight at its farthest penetration is a good bullet by any standard. And with that level of observed penetration and a retained velocity of 1530 fps at 100 yards from a rifle, it will be excellent medicine on any small varmint well beyond normal .22 LR rimfire range.

There's never before been a product introduction like this in the history of the shooting sports, and I agree with all those cooperating industry leaders who believe the .17M2 will be one of the most instantly popular firearms and ammunition inventions of all time--even more so perhaps than the .17 HMR. And that's saying a lot. After all, it has nearly the same level of performance as the .17 HMR, and at a guesstimated street-level, real-world retail price of about $5.50 to $6 per box (of 50), it will cost a lot less. Hornady says it expects to begin quantity shipments of .17M2 ammunition in September. The other ammunition makers will follow quickly; all are projecting quantity shipments before the end of this year. The gunmakers will doubtless have rifles and handguns ready and waiting, as they did for the .17 HMR. If this cartridge interests you (and how could it not?), I'd say you should all be emailing, calling, and writing to your favorite

.22 LR firearms maker and telling them which of your favorite .22 rimfire rifle and handgun models you want to see chambered for the new .17 Mach 2!

According to Dick, there has never before been a product introduction like the .17M2 in the history of the shooting sports.

Steve Hornady deserves immense credit and thanks for the way he has handled and guided the .17M2 product development and introduction. Yes, he'll make a lot of money from it.

But for any ammunition manufacturer to enthusiastically share an exclusively patent-protected and trademarked invention with the entire industry, including his direct competitors, from the starting line is totally unprecedented.

I asked him to share his thinking: He said, "The concept for the Mach 2 was really there at the same time as the HMR, which was kind of an experiment. We didn't really know how successful it would be, but its extra performance compared to the .22 WMR has clearly justified its extra price. The Mach 2 is also a lot more cartridge than a .22 LR. As for reaching out to other manufacturers, we realized that the installed base of .22 LR guns is far more vast than it is for the .22 WMR, and look what happened there. So we wanted to give them a heads-up:--'Hey guys, here's what's coming, you can be ready if you want.'

"We worked closely with ATK on the HMR, and we also wanted Eley to know about the Mach 2 so they could make a choice about pursuing any independent development--other ideas about a little .17 have been around for a long time. Everybody agreed it would be very difficult for two different cartridges of this type both to survive, so everybody sort of naturally coalesced around the Mach 2, built on the proven success of the HMR.

"One thing to realize about the price of the Mach 2 is that you'd actually have to pay more to get a box of ultramatch-grade .22 LR ammo to get the same level of accuracy to 50 yards that the Mach 2 gives you all the way out to 100 yards. So in performance terms, the Mach 2 is cheaper than the .22 LR. Together, the .17 HMR and the Mach 2 have truly doubled the number of high-performance options available to rimfire shooters. I feel kinda good about that."

So do we. Bravo, Steve.

Ballistics Comparison
50 Yards
100 Yards
150 Yards
200 Yards
.17 Mach 2, 17-Gr. V-Max
Velocity (fps)
Energy (ft-lbs)
Trajectory (Inches)
.17 HMR, 17-Gr. V-Max
Velocity (fps)
Energy (ft-lbs)
Trajectory (Inches)
.22 LR HV, 40-Gr. Solid
Velocity (fps)
Energy (ft-lbs)
Trajectory (Inches)
.22 WMR, 40-Gr. Solid
Velocity (fps)
Energy (ft-lbs)
Trajectory (Inches)
ballistics data courtesy hornady

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