By Sammy Reese, GUNS Magazine
When the .17 HMR burst on the scene several years ago I was given the opportunity to spend some time with Ruger’s 77/17. I learned that at an appropriate range, with good wind conditions, varmints better beware. The rifle was so accurate and fun to shoot I bought it. I have no idea how many rounds have been put through it over the years, but a conservative guess would be around 5,000 or so. When I’m rolling around the ranch, it’s always in the truck. Quite often I have to fight my son for it!
I thought the 77/17 was the perfect ground squirrel eradication device. Recoil doesn’t exist and the terminal performance of a well-paced 17-grain V-Max leaving the muzzle at 2,550 fps leaves no doubt the problem has been solved.
A Sweeter .17?
But just when I thought I had a favorite small varmint rifle — along came the .17 Hornet. Sure it looked good on paper, but since it was touted as having the same ballistics as the .223 I asked myself why I needed a new rifle/caliber to do the same job. Who was I kidding, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool gun junkie and it’s not always about needing as much as wanting another cool rifle.
The .17 Hornet is another product from the great minds at Hornady. I’ve been to the facility several times and I’ve found the folks there put their passion into every project they work on. The .17 Hornet was designed off the .22 Hornet cartridge and necked down to .17. The results are wicked to say the least. A 20-grain V-Max traveling at 3,665 fps is bad news for varmints and great news for shooters. The Ruger 77 chambered in .22 Hornet was just begging to become a .17 Hornet.
Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder and with firearms I’ve seen personal opinions clash and get to a point where guys are ready to come to blows over defending the honor of their favorite gun/caliber etc.
Wisdom, I’ve learned is wasted on the “older crowd.” I sure could have used a bunch of it when I was younger — might not have as many scars on my face or knuckles. I’ve gotten to the point where I won’t duke it out about guns anymore. It’s like arguing about preferring blondes to brunettes. Sure we have our preferences, but most of us are just lucky we can find a woman who can put up with us, regardless of her hair color.
My point is this, I’ve grown to like the Green Mountain laminate stock on the Ruger 77/17 Hornet. But more importantly, I love the way it shoots. Clean or dirty, it’s a sub-MOA gun if the wind cooperates and the shooter does his part.
The bolt runs silky smooth and the trigger is perfect for the rifle’s mission. The three-position safety has become a need-to-have accessory on my field rifles. Ruger has set the bar really high when it comes to magazines. Their tank-tough rotary 6-shot magazines work perfectly with the necked-down .17 caliber. The rifle had a lot of rounds through it with zero feeding issues. Ruger included their proprietary 1″ rings so all you need is a scope and you are good-to-go.
The bench and paper gets the rifle shooting where you want it, getting out in the field validates the whole package. I would like to report I was giving the ground squirrels all kinds of hell on the first trip to the ranch, but I couldn’t get the rifle away from my son and the ranch owner. I took the first shot at about 150 yards and the resounding wallop it made caused everyone to put their rifles down and come check out the Ruger.
Until the ammo ran out I was stuck on spotter duty. I would find the ground rats — get a range and a few seconds later the Ruger would pop and a ground squirrel would “vape.” Where we were set up, shots ranged from about 75 yards out to almost 300 and I have to say there weren’t many misses. My son did make sure one cow patty was dead and we had fun messing with him for not getting proper target ID and for wasting ammo.
The Ruger 77/ 17 Hornet has made a lot of trips to the field, and rarely do I get back home with any ammo left. It’s a pleasure to shoot with just a smidge of recoil, comparable to a Daisy Red Ryder. It’s laser-beam accurate so misses are often blamed on the wind because cool points are lost if somebody flat-out misses!
My wife got her first ground squirrel with the Ruger at about 100 yards. Her comment was, “That was cool. I saw it all happen in the scope.” You can guess what happened next, right? I didn’t get my hands back on the rifle until she decided she was hungry and we needed to go get lunch.
So, did I really need another rifle? Probably not. But where’s the fun in that? The Ruger 77/17 Hornet has found a place in my safe and truck.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD
A rifle capable of great accuracy is something special, but all the accuracy is wasted if you can’t get rounds on target. Scopes come in all shapes, sizes and range, costing anywhere from garage-sale cheap to as pricey as a fully-loaded bass boat. The cheap scope will most likely fail in its mission. The uber expensive one should work great, but l’m guessing the post-purchase divorce will negate its worth. Somewhere in the middle is where most of us live.
For the Ruger .17 Hornet I selected the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD. I needed to be able to shoot fairly close up and get out to around 300 yards in order to maximize the full potential of the .17 Hornet. The 4.5-14x44mm had the right amount of magnification and the 44mm objective allowed me to find small targets hiding in the grass.
Equipped with a side parallax adjustment helped to quickly get a clear shot on the fast-moving ground squirrels. The addition of the sunshade was a huge help on sunny days. I don’t have a clue how many different types and styles of scopes Bushnell produces, but I will bet they make one for what you need with a price that won’t get you sent to the doghouse.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Scope
Power x Obj. Lens: 4.5-14x44mm
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
RainGuard HD: Yes
Tube Diameter: 1″
Focal Plane: Second
Field of View: ft@100yds/m@100m email@example.com / 6@14x
Click Value: ¼” @ 100 yards
Weight: 18.7 oz.
Eye Relief: 3.6″
Exit Pupil: 9.7 – 3.1mm
Ruger 77/17 Hornet
Type: Bolt-action repeater
Caliber: .17 Hornet
Stock: Green Mountain Laminate
Sights: None. Ruger integral rings/bases included
Finish: Matte stainless
Barrel Length: 24″
Twist: 1:9″ RH
Overall Length: 43.25″
Length Of Pull: 13.5″
Weight: 7.5 lbs.
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