GUNS Magazine June 2013 Digital Edition - Page 8

Tiny Bore, Tiny Groups Handloading tHe .17 Fireball and .17 remington. n the late 1960s, Remington turned two old wildcats into factory rounds. Both the .22-250 and .25-06 sold well, and by 1971 Remington decided enough interest existed in .17 caliber wildcats to bring out their own. They used the .223 case with the shoulder pushed back a little, to avoid problems with existing rifles chambered for the wildcat .17/223. The .17 Remington had the smallest bore of any commercial rifle cartridge, and with a 25-grain bullet at 4,020 feet per second was only the second factory round to break 4,000 fps, 36 years after the .220 Swift. Reaction was mixed. Elmer Keith firmly stated that he’d never own a cleaning rod or even look through the barrel of a rifle under .22 caliber, and many hunters who bought .17 Remingtons reported the tiny bore fouled very quickly. However, some prairie dog hunters appreciated the extremely flat trajectory, and fox and coyote hunters liked the tiny holes .17-caliber bullets made in pelts. Over 30 years passed before Hornady introduced another commercial .17, at the time the only other major company to offer .17 bullets to handloaders. The cartridge was the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, the .22 Magnum necked down, and it quickly became very popular. Two side effects of the “Hummer’s” success were a more favorable view of .17s and lots of skinny cleaning rods. Both caused the market to grow, and soon Hornady and Remington introduced new .17 rounds, Hornady’s .17 Mach 2 (the .22 Long Rifle necked down) and the .17 Remington Fireball (the .221 Fireball necked Many fox and coyote hunters like the Remington .17s because of the small holes they make in pelts. I John Barsness down, known to wildcatters as the .17 Mach IV). The Mach 2 never became anywhere near as popular as the .17 HMR, but the .17 Fireball did OK. .17 FIREBALL Like many shooters, my first .17 was the HMR, and my new cleaning rod provided an excuse for more .17s, especially after going on a Remington prairie dog hunt and shooting a .17 Fireball considerably. I really liked the super-flat trajectory and light recoil, allowing me to spot my own shots through the rifle’s scope. The rifle never got cleaned over the 2-day shoot, and despite lots of rounds down the barrel kept shooting minute of prairie dog. By the end of the shoot I started to wonder about the .17 Remington’s reputation as a super-fouler, since the factory Fireball load was a 20-grain “AccuTip” (greentipped Hornady V-Max) bullet at a listed 4,000 fps. My fate was sealed when the Remington folks presented me with a leftover case of .17 Fireball ammo they didn’t want to ship home. An Internet search found a slightly used, synthetic-stocked Remington 700 sporter. With no modifications other than a trigger adjustment, it averaged 0.6-inch for 5-shot groups at 100 yards with the factory ammo, and the bore didn’t copper foul much. After a thorough cleaning, I treated it with Dyna Bore-Coat and made a search of available loading data. Ramshot TAC looked perfect, and Eileen Clarke checks out the prairie dog capabilities of the .17 Fireball and .17 Remington on a May day in Montana. 8 W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • J U N E 2 0 1 3

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