So you’ve got a 17 HMR rifle and now you need a scope to go on top...which one are you gonna go with?
As shooters we’re almost spoiled for choice these days when it comes to optics, which is great until you realize just how many options there are out there when it comes time to choose the perfect one.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve tested and reviewed a wide variety of scopes to find the best ones out there for 17 HMR rifles.
Let’s get started with...
A Little Background on the 17HMR
The 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) which came out in 2002 is a true advance in shooting. It took the rimfire cartridge to more than 2,500 feet per second, which exceeds the performance of the .22 mag and the .22 long rifle.
Because of this, traditional rimfire scopes will not allow you to realize the full potential of this round. In general, the .22 long rifle is useful under 100 yards. The .17HMR doubles that range. Eric Conn, writing for Mossberg, compares the two rounds if you’d like to know a little more.
Choosing the Best Scopes for 17 HMR: How to Not Pick A Lemon
The 17 HMR generally does not deliver sub MOA groups. At 100 yards, having MOA groups or close to an MOA group is possible.
This means red dot scopes are not a good choice as most red dots are 2 MOA across.
In the hands of an expert, this may not matter. For the average shooter, it matters a lot. At 100 yards, that dot covers two inches and the bullet paired with the right rifle is capable of one-inch groups. When hunting small game, two inches can be bigger than your target at 100 yards.
The 17 HMR is also a fairly flat-shooting round. Hornady’s own ballistics chart shows an 8.5-inch drop at 200 yards with a 100-yard zero. The tiny 17 does not handle wind well, which is another reason for a scope with windage markings, be they mil-dots or specific 17 HMR drift hash marks.
And because this round can reach out to such a long distance, things like parallax adjustment and repeatable reset turrets aren’t a bad investment either.
Here are our top choices for the 17 HMR.
Hawke Riflescope Vantage IR
BSA Optics Sweet 17
Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn
Pard Night Vision Camera
Pulsar Core Thermal Monocular
Pulsar Thermion XP50
1. Bushnell Prime
The Bushnell Prime scope comes with several turret system options including one for the 17 HMR and a 17-grain bullet. This ability to dial in is why it takes the No. 1 spot on our list of best scopes for the 17 HMR. It also has turrets for .22 LR, muzzleloaders, 12 gauge and the 450 Bushmaster.
The one-inch tube has a 40mm objective lens and a side focus that goes down to 10 yards. The 3-12x delivers a 7.5 foot field of view at 100 yards.
It has 50 MOA of adjustment for windage and the same for elevation. Presumably it has 1/4 MOA clicks, but even the Bushnell website doesn’t say for sure.
2. Leupold VX-6HD 2-12x42mm
Leupold’s VX-6HD 2-12x42mm is No. 2 and someone could argue it deserves first place. It does not get the top spot because the Bushnell above has the 17 HMR specific turret.
Really, almost any list of “best scopes” that does not list a Leupold should be suspect.
Yes, Leupold is expensive. It also comes with one of the best warranties in the industry; it breaks, send it in for a replacement or repair, period. They also have the best (and harshest scope testing process in the industry.
Simply put, the Leupold is worth the money and it should be the last scope you ever buy for the rifle it sits on.
This Leupold has a 30mm tube made of aircraft-grade aluminum and comes in a variety of red reticle configurations. To get the most from the rifle and the scope, definitely choose the BDC reticle.
With an eight-inch drop at 200 yards on a 100-yard zero, you will need the dots. The fast-focus eyepiece doesn’t hurt either.
At max magnification, the field of view is 10.2 feet at 100 yards. Again, given the capabilities of the 17 HMR round and the critters you shoot with it, this level of magnification is needed. At 150 yards, a squirrel head is a tiny target. With low magnification, crosshairs can obscure the whole squirrel.
Adjustments are 1/4 MOA. The scope is also waterproof and has a special matte coating that also helps it shed rainwater rapidly. It is a second focal plane scope, which means the reticle stays the same size as the zoom increases.
Finally, it has 70 MOA of windage and elevation adjustments giving you plenty of room to try and make a go of “long range” rimfire shooting.
3. Hawke Riflescope Vantage IR
Some people can’t afford to drop $1,000 on a scope. The Hawke Vantage will not break the bank, and it does the job well.
This scope is designed for the 17 HMR with an illuminated X-ACT lighted reticle set for the 17 HMR performance. The company says set the zero at 100 yards and the rest of the reticle dots are preset.
What does that mean?
Basically, once you get the scope zeroed, you’re all dialed in for even the longest ranges of 17 HMR shooting. Reach out to 350 yards without guesswork!
It has a 4-12x magnification. The field of view at 100 yards is 8.7 feet. It is waterproof and has a one-inch tube. The reticle has five lighting settings. The turret adjustments are 1/4 MOA and it has an impressive 100 MOA of adjustment.
Overall this won’t compete with the true high-quality optics out there, but it’s up there with your Barska and BSA offerings in a lot of ways, and it is absolutely a good value for the price coming in at cheaper than even a basic Nikon Prostaff.
4. BSA Optics Sweet 17
Having a scope specifically designed for the 17 HMR lets you take full advantage of the round’s capabilities. The BSA 3-12x40 Sweet 17 is built with that in mind. It comes with a plain Jane reticle, but do not let that concern you.
Between this one and the Hawke, we really had to work to decide which was third and which was in fourth place. This one and the Hawke could easily swap places depending on your personal preferences and sighting requirements.
The third turret is a bullet drop compensator. Check your distance, dial it in and you are on the money. It’s good out to 300 yards with rimfire ammo. A BDC is not needed here and BSA’s multi-grain turrets make adjustments quick and easy.
Beyond that, the BSA Sweet 17 rifle scope has a one-inch tube and is waterproof thanks to some excellent o-rings. It also has a 3-12x magnification, one of the best magnification ranges on the list. The field of view at 100 yards is a tight seven feet. Adjustments are 1/4 MOA.
5. Bushnell Engage
The Bushnell Engage, while not specifically designed as 17 HMR scope, has a nice tactical reticle that puts it on this list. Bushnell says the hashmarks are set one MOA apart.
They go three-quarters across the windage lines and almost to the bottom on the elevation line. Reaching out to 300 yards with this scope is not a problem. Once you know how your ammo performs, this is pretty much “if you see it, you can hit it”.
It is a 6-24x scope with a 50mm bell. The field of view at 100 yards is 7 feet. The tube is 30mm. Elevation and windage have 50 MOA of travel and adjustments are 1/4 MOA click adjustments.
The lens is multicoated with an Exo Barrier™ that sheds water, oil and is dust and scratch resistant and aids light transmission and target acquisition in sub-optimal low light conditions (dusk-time prairie dog hunting anyone?).
6. Vortex Optics Crossfire II
No. 6 on the list of the best 17 HMR rifle scope is the Vortex Crossfire II. This scope is designed for rimfire rifles. It comes with two reticles, plain mil-dot or Dead-Hold bdc reticle. This second option takes the guesswork out of holdover and lets you focus on the target (as long as you know the range).
It has a one-inch tube and a 2-7x magnification. Given the capabilities of the 17 HMR, that is on the low end of magnification needed. Field of view at 100 yards is 12.6 feet. It has 60 MOA of adjustment, dialed in at 1/4 MOA at the time.
Overall though, it’s a good scope in this price range, and one of the best for casual target shooting/plinking. It just isn’t great for those longer range shots, but of course it has Vortex’s excellent lifetime warranty even if you get it on Amazon.
7. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn™
The Bushnell Banner is waterproof, shockproof, and fog-proof and pegs at No. 7. It has a Dusk & Dawn Brightness™ lens coating that Bushnell says improves the light-gathering capability.
If you are a small game hunter, especially a night time varmint hunter, you will appreciate this. You don’t have to put the light directly on the target. Get the animal at the edge of the light circle and the scope will give you enough image for a safe shot.
The click value is 1/4 MOA and the field of view is 9 feet at 100 yards which gives you a fairly open sight picture. The scope is a 3-9x and has a one-inch tube.
This scope does not rank higher on our list because the reticle is a simple crosshair, no BDC dots. You’re going to have to learn where to put the crosshairs at distances past 100 yards from experience on the range.
The thicker crosshairs also mean this scope is not useful past 200 yards on the 17 HMR, but the Multi-X reticle is very popular with shorter range hunters and target shooters.
8. Sightron S-Tac
The Sightron S-Tac is not specifically designed for the 17 HMR, but It functions well on rifles shooting this caliber.
Of all the scopes in this list, the Sightron comes with the widest array of options. To start you have the choice of Minute of Angle adjustments or Milrad measurements. MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards and a Mil, in this case is 3.6 inches at 100 yards. Mils convert to MOA by multiplying by 3.43.
It has three reticle types, Mil-Hash, MOA, or the classic duplex reticle. It has 12 Milrads or 40 MOA of adjustment windage and 22.2 to 80 MOA elevation all in a 30mm tube. The lighting is red only.
You can choose a second or first focal plane option and the field of view at 100 yards is 4.4 feet.
Going Dark: A Quick Word About Night Hunting
As the 17 HMR is designed for small game and varmints, a look a night hunting is certainly in order. Night hunting, without spotlights, can be done with night vision or thermal vision.
Thermal has pretty much taken over as it requires less ambient light, does not need an infrared illuminator and higher end models have much greater range. The drawback is thermal vision is considerably more expensive than night vision.
So far, no scope maker has made a night vision or thermal scope specifically for the 17 HMR. Hunters are taking the thermal and night vision scopes on the market and then adapting them to their rifles and shooting needs.
1. Pard Night Vision Camera
The PARD is not a scope. It mounts to a 17 HMR rifle scope to give it night vision capabilities. It mounts to most scopes. You do not have to re-zero your scope when you put it on or take it off. This portability means it can be used on most any rifle with a scope in your collection with ease.
Sounds great, right?
The drawback is it mounts to the rear of the scope. If your scope is set precisely for your eye relief or doesn’t have a focus eyepiece, then you have to either move your head back or remount the scope farther forward to fit the optic or get the eye box right.
You will also need an infrared illuminator to get the most from this scope, especially on cloudy or new moon nights. While the promotional material says it’s good out to 200 meters, that is on a full moon night across an open field. Under most shooting conditions, you will not get that range.
2. Pulsar Core Thermal Monocular
This Pulsar Core Thermal Monocular can be mounted to the front of a 17 HRM rifle scope. No need to adjust your scope. It is waterproof when the battery pack is in place. It’s powered by the battery or a USB cable.
The drawback is the price. The scope costs as much as a custom-made rifle. If you can get past the price, then you have a thermal vision device that will mount to many scopes with an adapter.
3. Pulsar Thermion XP50
The Pulsar Thermion is a one-piece thermal rifle scope in a 30mm tube. It has a manual focus of 1.9-15.2x and a 2x, 4x, and 8x stepped digital zoom so it can really zoom in. The click value is 1 MOA, giving this scope the least amount of fine tuning of any 17 HMR scope in the list. It does have a 193 MOA adjustment range.
Factory specs say it has a nearly 2,000-yard detection range. Under hunting conditions with brush, trees and grass, the range will be shorter and certainly vary by whatever is between you and your target.
Again the drawback is the price. It also costs as much as a custom-made rifle.
The 17 HMR is certainly a serious advance in rimfire rifles. Based on the short history of this round, it is destined to hang around while several other 17 rimfire variants are dying a slow death. The .17 HRM’s popularity is based on two factors.
1) It is a rimfire. This allows it to be used on small game and other shooting activities that do not allow centerfire.
2) It reaches out easily to 200 yards, something even the .22 mag can have trouble with.
Under 100 yards, the 17 HMR delivers a serious punch, suitable even for coyotes with proper shot placement. Past that, foxes are the biggest game that should be ethically taken with this round. It is certainly adequate on prairie dogs under 250 yards.
To get the most from this round, you do need a scope that can bring a prairie-dog sized target into enough relief to reliably take the shot out to 250 yards. Can you hit a water bottle-sized target at 250 yards with iron sights and a 17 HMR? Certainly. Can you do it regularly? Probably not.
If you are a fan of the 17 HMR or plan to get one, do the right thing and get a scope that will match this round’s potential.
What do you think of these 17 HMR scopes? Is there one you like better than the others? Is there one you think we missed? Let us know in the comments! And for more rimfire goodness check out our guides on best scope for 17 wsm and best .22 mag scopes. Oh, and once you get your scope, be sure you know How to Mount a Rifle Scope.