.17 Winchester Super Magnum: 3,000 FPS Rimfire

.17 WSM

Well the new rimfire cartridge is here and it is a smoking hot round:  the .17 Winchester Super Magnum.  The new rimfire promises “pinpoint accuracy” and the “downrange performance of a centerfire cartridge.”

Ok, let’s cut to the chase:  the new Winchester cartridge is pushing a 20 grain bullet at 3,000 fps.  That is an amazing feat for a rimfire.  Energy measures right at 400 ft-lbs (399.6 if my math is correct.)  A 25 grain bullet screams along at 2,600 fps for 375 ft-lbs of energy.

Initially, Winchester will make the .17 Super Mag in three loads.  The first is a 25 grain Varmint HE with a plastic tip bullet, and the other two are 20 grain loads:  a Varmint HV with a plastic tip and a Super-X with a conventional JHP.

According to the press release, engineers have been developing the .17 WInchester Super Magnum for more than three years, suggesting a lot of R&D went into this new round.  Pressures must be significantly higher than the .17 HMR and .22 WMR to make these kinds of speeds.

It will be interesting to see how the obvious battle between the .17 HMR and .17 WSM will play out.  The .17 HMR has been a success, and for all of the same reasons that the new Winchester cartridge claims.  Without the substantial increase in velocity, I would have said the .17 WSM had no chance…but 350 – 400 fps is a big jump.

.17 Winchester Super Magnum

The new round will dump more than 150% more energy into the target when compared to the .17 HMR according to the Winchester product information.  Also, the company claims the new .17 Super Mag is much more accurate in long range shooting due to improved wind drift and bullet drop characteristics.  For varmint hunters, this can be a really big deal.

Winchester states the new .17 Super Mag should be on dealer’s shelves by April.  MSRP has not been announced, however, the company makes several references to the affordability of the ammunition when compared to centerfire cartridges.  Nothing will be as cheap as .22 LR, but I imagine the .17 Winchester Super Magnum will be significantly cheaper than comprable centerfire rounds.  50-round boxes and 1,000-round cases will both be available.

At this time, there is not any announcement of a rifle chambered for the new cartridge.  I expected to hear something from a gun maker at the same time Winchester Ammunition rolled out the cartridge, but I haven’t heard or seen anything yet.  I expect to see something at SHOT of course.

So, what do you guys think?  Are you interested in a new rimfire, especially one blazing along at 3,000 fps?

Hornady 20 gr V-MAX

Hornady 17 WSM

At the 2014 NASGW show, Hornady announced they were now loading a .17 WSM load using their popular V-MAX bullet. The load uses a 20 grain bullet that is rated at 3000 fps from the muzzle. The trajectory is pretty flat for such a light bullet, staying within 4.1″ to 200 yards. At 200 yard, the bullet is still moving at 2,000 fps.

The ammo retails for less than $22 for a box of 50 rounds. I would expect that actual store prices would be less than $20/box. For prairie dog hunters, that can put a lot of ammo using a top shelf bullet in your hands.

Older Tease Article

Winchester’s new rimfire caliber will be introduced at the 2013 SHOT Show and the company released a new teaser video today.

Winchester Ammunition first teased to this new rimfire round in December 2012 when they put a video on YouTube mentioning this cartridge.  However, that video was quickly taken down for reasons that are not known.  That video was a teaser, much like this one.  In fact, this video may be the same as this one.

Winchester Ammunition claims that this new caliber will be the “world’s fastest modern rimfire cartridge.”  According to Cartridges of the World (12th Edition,) the Hornady 17 grain .17 HMR load makes for 2550 fps, making it the “fastest rimfire commercially available.”  It would seem that the new Winchester rimfire will have to top 2600 fps to take the title from Hornady.  If, by some chance, the new rimfire pushed into the 3000+ fps range, it will be a competitor to centerfire rounds.

While going with a smaller, lighter bullet might help increase velocity, a larger rimfire cartridge design is not impossible.  There are many obsolete rimfire rounds that used bullets much larger than .22.  For example, the .32 and .38 Short/Long/Long Rifle/Extra Long cartridges existed in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Multiple larger-than-half-inch rimfires were made by Spencer.  Of course, none of them had velocities approaching 2600 fps.  With modern metals, powders and manufacturing techniques, however, a larger rimfire rifle round is not impossible.

What benefits might a .223-like rimfire round bring?  A 50 grain bullet at 3200 fps would definitely be an attention-getter.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

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