With more rifles each year being chambered in the ultra-fast .17 HMR, the demand for good optics is growing. Unfortunately, the amount of faulty information on this caliber and the appropriate optics is also growing. If you want the best .17 HMR scope, there are a few things you want to consider.
What Makes the Best .17 HRM Scope?
One of the most notable things about the .17 caliber is the small, light round it fires. This means a few things. One, it has a very flat trajectory out to 150 yards and a moderately flat trajectory out to 250 yards. This makes it extremely accurate at those ranges.
Secondly, because the bullet is so light it loses power quickly. So, what does this mean? Well, the round will drop quickly out past 250 yards for one. It also means that the lethal range of the round is somewhat short. Most people agree that against moderately sized game, 150 is about all you want to do. Against small animals like prairie dogs, you can push that to 200. Some will say more but this is the most that is confirmed.
When it comes to optics, your best bet is to get something that works between that 150 and 200 yard range. Its very common for people to have too much scope when with practice something in the mid-teens, say 14-16x is a very good option.
Alternatively, for shooting very small targets, you could go well into the 20x range just realize that you will likely never realize the full potential of that scope in range. This is a tradeoff but one worth considering.
Another good option is to have tower style turrets that you can adjust on the fly. This works very well for contending with range drop but is best used to adjust for wind which can adversely affect the .17 HMR dramatically. Couple this with a reticle that is marked for ranging and you have the best of both worlds.
Outside of that just most durable and optically clear scope you can get. This goes without saying but so many budget options skate by with inferior glass or shoddy construction. Its sad that most people never admit a scope is bad even when it clearly is awful.
If you stick with these very few criteria, there are dozens of scopes that could work. Below are the ones we found to work best. Feel free to shop around but you are going to be hard pressed to beat this selection!
Top .17 HMR Scopes Reviewed
Vortex Optics Diamondback Tactical
There is little doubt that Vortex has become one of the leading optics manufacturers in the world. Though they are often priced far less, they consistently perform as good as if not better than many higher priced optics. Their best optics are now in competition with the best in the world from optics manufacturers that have been in business for more than a century.
For our purposes we are looking at the Diamondback Tactical for a .17 HMR. This is one of Vortex’s mid-range scopes but even with that, it is one of the best suited to our caliber. With a typical power of 4-16x on most models, it fits that sweet spot. Of course if you what something with a little added precision, you can spend a few bucks more and get one that tops out at 26x!
A part of what makes an optic great is the construction and care of the lenses. This is an area where Vortex truly excels with their extra-low dispersion glass and industry leading multi-coat technology. What this means is that you get a crystal clear image out of your scope every single time.
And you get this in any weather with the purged and sealed once-piece tube construction that is waterproof, fogproof, and dustproof. There is nothing getting in this scope! You can use it and abuse it in any weather and it will keep on coming. If something should happen, you have a lifetime VIP warranty! How can it get any better?
Leupold is as much a status symbol for us gun enthusiasts as it is a quality optic. That isn’t to say it’s a safe queen but that the quality is so well respected that every shooter at some point dreams of owning one. Thanks to the new direction in the optics world for more affordable scopes, you can get one now for less money than ever before.
While Leupold offers a wide range of scopes in various price ranges, the real difference is really in the quality control. This is a somewhat moot point as Leupold’s warranty will cover any issues that come up with any of their optics. In the case of the VX-3i you get a high quality scope that is far better than its price lets on and is backed fully should anything untoward happen.
When it comes to the .17 HRM 10x magnification is about as low as is reasonable considering the range and accuracy of that caliber. Anything less and you would be denying yourself. When you combine that with some of the highest quality optics on the planet with exceptional brightness, even in low light, you get one of the best possible scopes around.
Not only are the optics on a Leupold top notch but the machining, precision, and overall quality of each component is the best that can be had. This leads to a scope that is durable with a watertight seal and able to last a lifetime if not more. Investing in one of these scopes is something that will repay you for years. While other scopes are broken and gathering dust, the Leupold will keep on performing.
Athlon Argos BTR
Athlon is a company founded in long range optics, specifically telescopes more than riflescopes. While there are differences, notably in durability, telescopes require far better lenses with perfect alignment to function properly. Athlon carried the quality over and found ways of adding durability along the way.
The Argos is one of Athlons premier scopes and at a max of 34x, it has all the power you could ever need and them some for the normal ballistics of a .17 HMR. This will put you on the tiniest targets with ease at any distance that small caliber is able to hit. Much farther than it would be lethal against even a prairie dog.
Optically the Argos is near perfect. The lenses are multi-coated and of a great base quality to begin with. The view is exceptional in good light and fair in dim light. This is a slight disadvantage to the Argos but not one that makes this less than an amazing optic.
When it comes to durability, the Argos is quite good. IT is made for aircraft aluminum which is the standard for a quality scope but is somewhat less durable than other optics in this price range. You get more power but you lose a true waterproof seal in favor of just water resistant. Otherwise, this scope holds up very well and will last for years with no problems.
Primary Arms Classic Series
Before there was Vortex rocking the optics world with the affordable but high-quality optics, there was Primary Arms. Though they never gained the fame or really had the quality of Vortex they were still quite widely recognized as one of the best budget scopes around.
While the first PA scopes were designed more for the AR-15 platform, the model we suggest tops out at 16x which is a perfect power range for a .17 HMR. Powerful enough to see small and hit far without being so powerful that finding your target is a challenge.
One of the notable features of the PA scopes are their illuminated reticles. Most all PA scopes have them and they are a wonderful addition to a decent scope. Optically, these are quite good if not so good as the premium scopes listed above. This scope is also half the price if you can accept that lower quality.
Normally one of the first things to go on a budget scope is durability but that hasn’t been the case with Primary Arms. All of their scopes are field ready and completely shock, water, fog, and dustproof. You can use them literally anywhere in any environment and even abuse them a fair amount and they will keep coming back for more. On the budget side, this is a deal that is hard to beat!
Nikon has made a number of very successful scopes lines from the Buckmaster to the Monarch. These have been among the most successful budget scopes ever to hit the market. But that was the old Nikon. Now they have extended their lineup into the more tactical world and the P-Tactical is one of the flagships.
There are several models of this optic to choose from ranging from a low end of 4 power to their 12 power models. Some have very specific reticles and some have a standard ranging reticle. The choice is really yours but the 12x model is about the best fit for the .17 HMR. It has the power to get you out past 200 yards with relative ease.
One of Nikon’s trademarks has always been lens quality but what more would you expect from a company that specialized in cameras for years. These already good lenses have been treated to prevent glade and help you see just a little better in imperfect light. While their glass may not be the quality of some of the better brands, its close enough that most people will never see a difference.
Other than optical quality, the P-Tactical has more than a handful of durability features that make it a true field-ready optic. It has the standard construction that is quite durable but adds a pressurized interior to seal against water and dust. It can also take the recoil of most heavy calibers without fail. All in all, the P-Tactical is a scope worthy of the excitement it has sparked.
Bushnell Rimfire Optics
While many other optics companies can claim popularity, all on this list certainly can, but none can claim as much as Bushnell. It isn’t a stretch to say that more deer have been taken through Bushnell scopes than any other brand around. Some may come close but its doubtful that they could surpass.
Like many companies, Bushnell has had to adapt to meet modern trends and that means a more tactically oriented optic. In this case it is one that is specifically geared toward rimfire and other low powered optics. This doesn’t affect the magnification or reticle but gives you turrets that are tuned to what you need.
It is quite durable considering its design for low powered rounds. You get a shock resistant tube with sealed rings that are water-tight. It can stand up to most weather with no issues what so ever. It may lack some of the high-end durability of the other brands but it was never made for the same performance. It does what it needs.
This scope is a little on the low end at 9x but it works very well. It also has a parallax focus that allows you to sight in at closer ranges than you would with larger calibers if you are into varmint hunting and aren’t looking for extreme distance. All in all, it is a great scope for a great price and would do very well on a .17 HMR.
The .17 HMR has its faults as all rounds do but it is a wonderful caliber if applied correctly. A part of this application, if you want to get the most out of your rifle, requires a good scope. There are tons of options but after scouring every option we could, these where what came up as the best. What is even better is that none are over-the-top expensive.