The .17 Hornet: Powders and Primers for Reloading

Redding makes excellent die sets for the .17 Hornet. Photo by Rab Cummings

Over the last few years, I've spent quite a bit of time at the reloading bench and in the field with the .17 Hornet, and I've have had a great time getting to know this fun little round.
My rifle, a CZ-527 Sporter, shoots very well. Hornady factory ammunition established a benchmark that was tough to improve on—groups in the .6- to .7-inch range with velocities of about 3,650 fps.

With careful experimentation, I was able to achieve slightly better accuracy, and to keep the velocity at or above 3,600 fps.

Top Powders
The powder du jour for my rifle has been AA1680. I like this propellant because of its consistent metering and easy flow through a powder measure. It has also provided the most consistent results when throwing charges rather than weighing—a big deal when you're loading hundreds of rounds for a varmint shoot. Three other powders worthy of note are the Vihtavuori N120, Hodgdon 4198, and Reloader 7. Each of these has provided good accuracy and pretty fair velocity, and might be solid choices if you choose heavier bullets—particularly 25-grainers.

I’ve stuck primarily to 20-grain bullets, and in my rifle, both the Nosler Varmageddon Tipped and the Hornady V-Max provide the pinpoint accuracy and rapid expansion I want for varmints. I’ve also tested Berger and Hornady hollowpoints, and while they have shot well, I haven’t taken them into the field yet.

One consideration with tipped bullets is overall length of the round and feeding from the magazine. My rifle requires an OAL of about 1.720 inches to feed properly, and for this reason, I use a combination of a Redding full-length sizer (adjusted to partially full-length-size cases for easy feeding) and a Hornady seater. This allows for the correct seating depth and delivers exceptional accuracy.

Primer Choice
The only real surprise I have found with this caliber is with the primers. Initially, I bought into the idea of mild primers being best for such small charges of powder. As I experimented, however, I found that hotter primers such as the CCI BR-4, Federal 205, and Remington 7.5BR shot better and provided more consistent internal ballistics.

The .17 Hornet has a lot going for it. It’s economical, accurate, flat shooting, fairly quiet, and, with proper bullet placement, it will handle anything from ground squirrels to coyotes.

Read more on the .17 Hornet: How I Discovered the Perfect Predator Round