The .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, also called the .17 HMR, is a relatively recently developed cartridge; it was first launched in 2002. Designed by Littleman Mitchell, the .17 HMR is a rimfire cartridge that takes the general shape of a necked-down .22 Magnum cartridge case, but which has a .17 caliber projectile. Due to this load, most.17 HMR cartridges produce muzzle velocities above 775 m/s.
Due to its small size and low recoil, the .17 HMR is best used with rimfire rifles used for varmint hunting, general target shooting, or even backyard plinking with friends. The .17 HMR’s maximum effective range is only about 150 yards or so under most circumstances, although experienced shooters can push this out to potentially 200 or 300 yards, especially if they change the grain load inside the cartridge.
Given that more companies are offering .17 HMR ammunition these days, it’s a good idea to find a suitable scope for .17 HMR cartridges. Your rifle may be able to take these cartridges already, or you might be able to modify an existing rifle or purchase a new one in the near future.
Regardless, your shooting efforts with .17 HMR cartridges will be more effective if you have a quality scope to use with them. So let’s break down some .17 HMR scope recommendations.
What to Consider When Buying a Scope for .17 HMR
There are literally dozens of different scope models you can combine with a .17 HMR rifle, especially since this cartridge doesn’t need scopes with particularly high magnification powers. Still, there are some things you should look for in your search for the ideal optic for your needs.
Naturally, many .17 HMR rifle owners are looking for an optic on a budget. The .17 HMR cartridge is great for general property defense and for varmint hunting, such as for hunting coyotes, due to its small caliber and light weight. Luckily, there are lots of scopes that effectively straddle the line between being effective and affordable at the same time.
Still, expect to pay a little bit more when you get a top-tier optic with the best technology, highest quality materials and lenses, and so on. But since the .17 HMR cartridge doesn’t produce a ton of recoil with each shot, you may not need to replace your scope all that often, even if you use your rifle regularly.
We still recommend looking for .17 HMR scopes that are durable and can withstand wear and tear through frequent use. The most durable scopes will usually be made of aircraft-grade aluminum or similar polymers, which can provide durability without increasing the weight of the optic too much.
But durability also applies to the lenses and the potential coatings they may come with. Certain coatings, like Armortek coatings, can protect your lenses from dirt or debris damage, which may otherwise cause scratches to accrue on the lenses’ surfaces.
Bottom line: if you want your scope to really be worth what you pay for it, be sure to get a durable model that will last for some time to come.
Lens Color Contrast
Lastly, we recommend investigating the lens sight picture quality and color contrast in a scope for .17 HMR before making a purchase. High color contrast will allow you to better pick out small animals and varmints from their background, making it more likely you’ll hit your shot when you pull the trigger.
Plus, better lens quality overall is always a good thing to look for, as it directly contributes to the accuracy a scope can lend you while in the field.
What Magnification Do You Need Based On Your Shooting Distance?
As mentioned above, the .17 HMR cartridge was designed primarily for varmint hunting or small game shooting at relatively short distances (i.e. sub-200 yards). Therefore, this cartridge is not a good choice for long-distance or even medium-distance hunting.
Fortunately, the .17 HMR doesn’t produce lots of recoil with each trigger pull. So you don’t need especially long or bulky scopes to make the most of this cartridge.
Since the .17 HMR is really only used for relatively short-range shooting distances, your scope magnification needs are straightforward. Scopes that can magnify up to 6x or so are perfectly fine – and anything that goes above is technically a waste.
While you might still be able to make use of 8x or higher magnification ranges while shooting very small varmints or small game species, odds are it’ll feel like overkill. Fortunately, many scopes, including those that go up to 12x or so, have lower magnification ranges you can also take advantage of.
If you do pick up a scope with higher zoom factors, remember that you may be able to combine it with other rifles or cartridge loads.
The 5 Best Scopes for .17 HMR
Good news – there are plenty of excellent optics for .17 HMR rifles on the market already. Let’s take a look at five of the best scopes for .17 HMR up close.
1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 SFP Riflescope
Vortex Optics makes some of the most affordable rifle scopes in the industry, and this Crossfire II model could be the best scope for a .17 HMR rifle for several key reasons. For one, it’s incredibly affordable, so even hunters on a budget will be able to pick one up for their varmint hunting or property defense.
For another, this Vortex .17 HMR scope magnifies between 2x and 7x, meaning it’s only suitable for relatively close to mid-range shooting. In other words, it’s a perfect complement for the short effective range of the .17 HMR cartridge itself.
Even better, this scope comes with three different reticle types: a dead hold bullet drop compensating reticle, a simplistic V-plex reticle, and a V-Brite illuminated reticle for helping you hit targets when they blend in with their environments. Any of these reticles can be great, but they will all fit well with the .17 HMR cartridge’s intended use.
The other aspects of the scope are solid, if not particularly amazing. The Crossfire II comes with capped finger reset turrets that feature zero-reset functionality, plus excellent eye relief and a forgiving eye box. Additionally, the lenses on this scope are fully multicoated to ensure adequate light transmission and fantastic durability.
Lastly, the scope is relatively durable and weatherproof, although the quality of the lenses does tend to degrade after several months of consistent use. Given the asking price, however, that’s as well as you can expect from an optic like this.
- Has good windage and elevation turrets that can zero reset
- Made with durable and weatherproof materials
- Has three different excellent reticles to choose from
- Very affordable
- Lens quality degrades over several months
The Crossfire II is a solid and affordable rifle scope for .17 HMR users. While it isn’t the fanciest or the most advanced of the bunch, this can be a great choice if you don’t have a lot of scratch to spare for a new .17 HMR scope.
2. Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9×40 Riflescope
Leupold’s VX-Freedom rifle scope is fairly affordable and a great match for .17 HMR rifles.
Use this Leupold .17 HMR scope, and you’ll benefit from the scope’s proprietary Twilight Max Light Management system. In a nutshell, this gives you a few extra minutes of shooting light during dusk and dawn. For .17 HMR rifle users, this could allow you to hit varmints hiding in the shadows a little more easily than you would otherwise.
This scope is also great for the typical effective range of the .17 HMR, as it can magnify between 3 and 9x. With a 40 mm objective lens, it can easily collect all the shooting light you need to hit your targets accurately. It weighs less than a kilogram and is made from durable, lightweight materials that should last a long time to come.
While the scope is equipped with windage and elevation adjustment turrets, these are not particularly sticky or tactile. So keep in mind that you won’t be able to zero reset these turrets instantly after making a few adjustments. Aside from this minor downside, the VX-Freedom scope is a solid piece of equipment through and through.
- Lenses are excellent and can collect extra shooting light
- Very durable and lightweight
- Totally weatherproof
- Windage and elevation turrets cannot be zero reset
This innovative rifle scope is best used in conjunction with your .17 HMR when hunting small game targets or shooting varmints on your property in the earliest hours of the morning or the latest hours of the evening. The lens quality and overall durability of this scope should make it a great workhorse optic for years to come.
3. Bushnell Banner 3-9×40 Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle Riflescope
Bushnell’s Banner series of riflescopes are well known for their affordability, and the Dusk & Dawn model above is particularly cheap at the time of this writing. But there’s a lot to like about this scope despite its relative affordability.
For example, it can magnify up to 9x, though this is a little high for most .17 HMR cartridges. That being said, this optic features fully multicoated lenses and is built for waterproof functionality from the ground up. It’ll be perfectly fine in inclement weather and can stick with you for property defense or varmint hunting purposes.
This Bushnell .17 HMR scope also utilizes a Multi-X reticle that can help you acquire your target, even if they are small and moving quickly. This reticle is on the second focal plane, which pairs well with the relatively short range of the .17 HMR cartridge and its suitable rifles.
Further emphasizing this aspect is the fast focus eyepiece, which will again help you acquire your target very rapidly compared to other scopes. The Banner Dusk & Dawn lastly has a pair of zero resettable windage and elevation adjustment turrets, though these are unfortunately not marked on the outside.
Of course, the materials used to make this scope are not the best. But given the asking price, this is a much of a downside.
- Very cheap
- Has a fast-focus eyepiece
- Good SFP reticle for the .17 HMR cartridge
- Not super durable
- Windage and elevation turrets don’t have markings
This super cheap rifle scope pairs excellently with the .17 HMR cartridge, so consider it if you are on a tight budget and won’t mind too much if you need to replace your scope in a year or so.
4. Burris Optics Fullfield 4.5-14x42mm E1 Riflescope
Burris Optics offers an affordable and well-matched scope for .17 HMR rifles in the Fullfield E1. This scope can magnify between 4.5 and 14x and features a 42 mm objective lens. While this is more tailored toward longer ranges than you would typically use a .17 HMR rifle for, it’s still a great pick for a few key reasons.
For example, it includes a long-range MOA reticle, which will help ensure that you get the fine details of your target even if it is a little outside the 200-yard range or so. Furthermore, this reticle is bolstered by special cascading dots and trajectory compensated technology. These points will let you compensate for wind drift easily, especially when combined with the windage and elevation adjustment turrets.
You can alternatively pick a scope with the Ballistic Plex E1 reticle, which is a variation on the basic Burris hunting reticle and which focuses more on simplicity and providing a clear sight picture.
Furthermore, this optic is built with very durable materials, so it can withstand heavy recoil and exposure to the elements. Each scope comes backed by a lifetime warranty for manufacturing and materials defects, so you really get your money’s worth should you pick up this scope.
- Very affordable overall
- Excellent lens quality
- Good materials quality
- Comes with a lifetime warranty
- A little long-range for .17 HMR cartridges in general
- No markings on windage and elevation turrets
All in all, the Fullfield E1 is best used by .17 HMR rifle owners who want to push the effective range of this cartridge on as much as possible. It can also be a good pick if you hunt varmints that are very small and skittish, as the improved magnification and excellent reticles should allow you to pick out your target from the brush even if they’re being stealthy.
5. Athlon Optics Neos 4-12×40 SFP Riflescope
Athlon Optics’ Neos scope is another great match for .17 HMR rifles.
For starters, it includes a second focal plane or SFP reticle that comes in three different varieties. The first is a 22 rimfire reticle etched on the glass, which provides excellent resistance to recoil and which won’t shudder or move around when you pull the trigger. The next is a bullet drop compensating reticle which is ideal for hitting targets at a distance. The last is a “Center-X” reticle, also etched on the glass for additional support and shock resistance.
No matter which reticle you choose, this scope comes built with durable and lightweight materials; the body is made with a heat-treated and nitrogen purged tube, ensuring weatherproof functionality. The lenses are also all multicoated to boost light transmission and ensure you can hit even small varmints or targets in lowlight environments.
You’ll also appreciate the low weight of this scope, which ranges between 17 and 18.1 ounces depending on the model you choose. Regardless, each of these scopes provides at least 3 inches of eye relief at maximum magnification: more than enough for the low recoil performance of the .17 HMR cartridge.
The only downside is its maximum magnification, which is 12x. Most .17 HMR users won’t need magnification powers that high. However, having the flexibility to shoot that far with this optic may allow you to use the scope with other rifles in your armory.
- Very affordable
- Good lens quality and coatings
- Made of lightweight and durable materials
- 3 different reticles to choose from
- Good eye relief
- Max magnification is a bit high for .17 HMR cartridges
The Neos 4-12x scope is a sturdy and high-performing optic with several different reticle options to choose from based on your preferences. Consider it if you tend to use your .17 HMR rifle for specific needs, in which case you can choose the perfect reticle for those needs, or if you want a scope that you can use on multiple guns.
Ultimately, the ideal .17 HMR rifle scope for your needs will depend on your budget, the magnification range you are most comfortable with, and the scope’s other features or design aspects. Our advice? Check out each of the above scopes in more detail and consider your options very carefully before proverbially pulling the trigger.
That way, you can be sure you’ll be happy with your new scope for years to come and won’t waste money on a subpar model you have to replace within a year or so anyway. Good hunting out there!