.17 HMR, or .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, is best known for its effectiveness in shooting small varmints and game. This is due to its rather flat trajectory and high expansion rate. Head shots are a must for edible small game within 75 yards, as the .17HMR tends to destroy a huge chunk of meat.
It’s a bit expensive for plinking, but if the shooter wants more accuracy for longer range, .17 HMR is very capable.
The best scope to go with .17 HMR must enhance the shooter’s ability to hunt varmints. I have compiled scopes that fit nicely with this function from my experience.
To summarize, here’s my list of the Best Scope for 17 HMR.
Best Scope for 17 HMR
Prior to exploring each scope in detail, let’s discuss what works for .17 HMR scopes.
What makes a good .17 HMR scope ?
Since the main purpose for .17 HMR is to hunt small varmints and game, a scope must have sufficient magnification power. Varmints are considered small targets. Plus if you want to do head shots to preserve edible meat, you want to be able to zoom in and pinpoint your target. Furthermore you want a wide field of view to scan the perimeters before zooming.
However due to .17 HMR limited effective range, choosing a scope with magnification over 16x seems a bit overkill.
Depending on your intended range, I suggest a power of 5-10x for scanning and 9-14x for taking a shot. Thus an ideal scope would have variable power of 3-9x and 4-16x.
Objective Lens Diameter
Objective lens diameter, coupled with magnification power leads to exit pupil size. This is define by : Exit Pupil Size = Obj. Lens Diameter / Magnification Power
A larger exit pupil size means fuller image through the tube and better light transmission. This is critical when hunting game during low light when they are most active.
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That said, the downside of too big objective lens are higher price and heavier weight. In some case, it’s also higher mounts.
Glass and Lens Coating
Every quality scope needs good glass and lens coating. This is especially true on high magnification scopes with wide range of zoom. Since these are the main factor contributing to image quality and light transmission. Durability is also enhanced due to waterproofing and scratch resistance coatings.
Here are some normally quoted jargons for lens coating.
- Coated: A single layer on at least one lens surface
- Fully Coated: A single layer on all air to glass surfaces
- Multicoated: Multiple layers on at least one lens surface
- Fully Multi Coated: Multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces
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Eye Relief and Eyebox
Eye relief = Space between your aiming eye and the scope for optimal sight image
Due to .17 HMR’s low recoil, eye relief shouldn’t be an issue. Low eye relief scopes of 2.5-3.5” is still acceptable.
Eyebox = Amount of wiggle room for your aiming eye placement
A small eyebox scope can mean less than half an inch room for optimal eye placement. When people complain about “small sweet spot”, it’s equivalent to small eyebox. This results in much slower target acquisition and frustration during field use. The issue normally magnifies itself on higher magnification scopes.
For .17 HMR recoil, a larger tube for higher durability is generally not needed. 1 Inch tube should sufficiently do the job. It has the advantage of lighter weight and cheaper price.
There are 3 main groups of reticle pattern
- Simple – Duplex, NikoPlex, V-Plex, Dot, etc.
- Mil-Dot, MOA – Crosshairs
- BDC – Bullet Drop Compensation calibrated to particular rounds
This is a matter of preference. However if you plan on shooting beyond 200 yards, a BDC, Mil-dot or MOA reticle might come in handy.
Turrets and reticle matching
If you choose Mil-dot or MOA reticle, you would want to check whether turrets markings match the reticle. For example, a Mil-Dot reticle should go along with Mil-dot turrets. Or MOA reticle and MOA turrets. That way you don’t have to do unit conversions in the field.
If you choose other reticle type or don’t care about long range shooting, this isn’t a thing to consider.
Desirable turrets are precise and repeatable. Each click must be tactile, audible and exact as shown on the markings. Turret caps are nice to have, as they prevent unintentional adjustment especially when out hunting. Zero reset and zero stops are a plus.
Parallax adjustment is useful for close and longer range shots. It help reduce the need to perfectly align your eye to the scope and raise the odds for precision shots. Preferred position is the side knob for ease of use.
That said, if you don’t shoot under 25 yards or beyond 250 yards, there’s no need for parallax adjustment.
Although the .17 HMR recoil is not going to be an issue, one wants a scope that will last for years to come. And it must be able to withstand field conditions such as pouring rain, extreme cold or extreme heat and lots of bumps from your truck.
Reliable warranty is another factor. Luckily, the scope industry is in an intense competition. Each business tries to outdo their rivals, so intensely that they offer very generous warranties. Easily, you can find Full Lifetime warranty that even covers for scope damage by your fault, such as dropping. Some warranties are even transferable if you ever need to sell the scope.
1. Tasco World Class 4-16x40mm
The Tasco brand is not very well received by the public. They are related with lower end scopes made in China. But for the money, Tasco World Class 4-16×40 is a choice worth considering for people with tight budget.
This is a budget option for 4-16x magnification. It’s magnification range is good for varmint hunting. However since this is a lower end scope, image higher than 10x tend to be not very clear and blurry on the edges. On other magnification it’s usable but not that great.
The Tasco World Class features Vital Zone reticle which is essentially a BDC reticle from Tasco. This makes long range shootings and holdover possible. The crosshairs are a bit thick but that’s ok to live with.
The biggest downfall for this scope is that the turrets are not finger adjustable. They are also not very precise and not repeatable. Zero reset and zero stops are not available with this scope.
The scope is heavy (16 ounce) and is not very durable (as expected from its price). However it comes with a Limited lifetime warranty. Which means that they’ll fix the scope as long as you’re the original owner if they honor their guarantee. Well, Tasco might not be very reliable, but it’s better than no warranty.
|✓ Very low price||✗ Image quality is just usable|
|✓ Good magnification range||✗ Less clear on high magnification|
|✓ BDC Reticle||✗ Turrets not finger adjustable|
|✓ Limited Lifetime Warranty||✗ No zero resettable and no zero stop|
|✗ Not very durable|
Price : $
2. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme X30 4-16×44 Scope with DOA LR600 Reticle
The Bushnell Trophy Xtreme is a good hunting scope with high enough magnification for your varmint hunting needs. Image quality is crisp and clear. No noticeable blurry edge even on highest magnification. With its fully multi-coated lens, light transmission is high and if you dial its power down a bit and will allow 30 minutes of extra hunting time after sundown.
The scope is well built that it can hold zero from the recoil of .300 Win Mag. Elevation and windage turrets adjustment are 1 inch at 100 yards per click and they are repeatable. Turret caps are also provided as the model is made for hunting purpose. It is also zero resettable with a jeweler screw.
This model features the DOA LR600 reticle which is a kind of BDC reticle with windage marks. Note that the reticle is in second focal plane, meaning that the it will not resize according to magnification and is accurate only on the highest magnification. My advice is to use it along with the Strelok App, then the holdovers should be easy to master.
One complain is that it’s a bit heavy at 20 ounce but that makes it quite durable and can be used in the fields without worries. It is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. The scope also comes with transferable No Question Asked Warranty from Bushnell, which is considered reliable.
|✓ Good at varmint shooting||✗ Heavy|
|✓ Good glass that can see well in low light||✗ Second Focal Plane|
|✓ Durable, weather resistant and holds zero|
|✓ Turrets are finger adjustable, repeatable and zero resettable|
|✓ No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty.|
Price : $$$
3. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-9×40 Second Focal Plane Riflescopes
For budget-minded people, the Crossfire II 3-9×40 is a nice choice to look at. Now a major brand in rifle scopes industry, Vortex Optics has converted many big name fans to their own in just a period of less than 15 years. Most seasoned hunters cited Vortex as quality with affordable price scopes.
Durable and holds zero well, the Crossfire II is unlikely to fail you in the field. Magnification power is for closer range if you feel that 4-16x is overkill for your situation. The scope is an 1” tube and is not too heavy. Glass and lens coating is good at the price. Elevation and windage turrets work very well. They are repeatable and zero resettable. Eye relief is nice at 3.8”-4.4”, thus one can use higher rounds with a peace of mind. There are 2 reticle choices, BDC or V-Plex (Vortex version of Duplex).
The scope could use an improvement on low light vision, but that is to be expected at scopes of this price range. Another downside is that the scope is made in China, and Quality Control is a bit low. So on an off chance, you might get a broken one. Luckily, Vortex Lifetime Warranty is deemed one of the best and they will fix/replace your scope no matter what and when. This makes Vortex Crossfire a much safer bet.
Admittedly, the scope is not the best one out there, but it’s value per dollar is very high, and is one of the best starter scope out there in the market.
|✓ Budget scope||✗ Not very good in low light|
|✓ Durable and holds zero||✗ Medium image quality|
|✓ Reliable Lifetime Warranty||✗ Made in China|
Price : $$
4. Mueller APV AO Rifle Scope, 4.5-14 x 40mm
The Mueller APV AO 4.5-14x is a compromise between affordability and quality. It has suitable magnification range and good entry level glass quality. There are some distortion and wash out on high magnification, but the scope is still usable. Low light capability is decent especially on lower magnification.
It can be used on any caliber up to the .300 Win Mag and will handle the .17 HMR with no trouble.
Adjustable objective, the parallax adjustment, is also available with this scope, which is rarely seen for scopes in this price range. That said, the scope is a second focal plane scope and has simple reticle, which makes it not suitable for serious long range applications.
Turrets are finger adjustable with audible clicks. However it’s not that precise, as is with every scope at this price point. Eye relief is rather small but will not be an issue for .17 HMR. What matters is the eyebox, which is also a bit tight for my taste.
This Mueller APV AO is not very durable in field conditions. But it should withstand rain and fog well enough. Plus it’s offered along with a transferable Lifetime Warranty from Mueller Optics.
|✓ Good entry level glass||✗ Distortion and washing out on higher magnification|
|✓ Holds zero on .300 Win Mag||✗ Simple reticle|
|✓ Budget scope||✗ Small eye relief and tight eyebox|
|✓ Has parallax adjustment||✗ Second Focal Plane|
|✓ Transferable Limited Lifetime Warranty||✗ Not very durable|
Price : $$
5. Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9×40 BDC
Nikon is a well-known optics manufacturer from Japan. They are very famous for cameras. Using their knowledge of lens, they also manufacture quality rifle scopes. This Nikon Buckmasters II is a budget option for people who feel that 4-16x is a bit overkill.
The glass and lens coating is not too shabby. Image produced during broad daylight is decent. On high magnification image quality deteriorates but is still acceptable. However in low light conditions, the buckmasters II doesn’t fare very well, but that’s to be expected from scopes in this price range.
BDC reticle coupled with Nikon Spot On App, an application which shows bullet trajectory of many calibers including the .17 HMR on it’s BDC reticle, makes quite a useful combo for mid range shots.
Eye relief is good at 3.6”. Turrets are finger adjustable and have max internal adjustments of 80 MOA which is quite nice. However the clicks doesn’t track well and is not repeatable.
This rifle scope would hold zero for .17 HMR caliber easily but it’s not very durable in field conditions. Fortunately, Nikon offers transferable lifetime warranty which they normally honor it.
|✓ A budget option||✗ Not very durable|
|✓ BDC reticle and Nikon Spot On App (Ballistic app)||✗ Not good in low light|
|✓ Decent image quality||✗ High magnification image is not great|
|✓ Generous eye relief||✗ Turrets are not precise nor repeatable|
|✓ Nikon transferable Lifetime Warranty|
Price : $$
The Bushnell Trophy Xtreme 4-16x opinion the best scope for .17 HMR. You can easily scan for varmints on low magnification then zoom in for the kill. Glass and lens quality is very good for its price. Low light hunting is also easily done with it. The BDC reticle is also useful for longer range shots, if you ever need one. Turrets are repeatable, albeit not that precise but it will be more of set and forget turrets anyway. The optics is designed for hunting purpose and is durable enough for most .17 HMR work. In addition to that, Bushnell warranty is also quite reliable.
Granted the scope is not the cheapest, but it’s not that expensive either. If you buy it and have a happy hunting time, it will be totally worth it.