Over the past few summers I’ve noticed a trend with the local wildlife agency, to regularly publish press releases alerting residents to the dangers of rabies among the urban wildlife populations. Skunks and raccoons seem to be the major carriers, with the occasional rabid fox thrown in for good measure. Less than a mile from my home just south of Nashville, Tenn., I’ve recently watched motorists nearly wreck their cars to avoid a hydrophobic raccoon staggering down the middle of a busy street during rush hour. Suburban skunks are earning a reputation that now goes beyond just wandering around asking folks to pull their finger.
When a pair of striped stinkers decided to take up residence under my cabin, I decided it was time to do a little personal pest control. I learned a long time ago while running a trap line that skunk dispatching is a simple, yet careful, task if you don’t want to set off a “stink bomb.” Shot placement is key or you will have to vacate the area for a few days. Heart-shot skunks behave differently than head-shot skunks. One rimfire bullet behind the shoulder and through the heart greatly reduces the likelihood of the little buggers releasing their smelly act of final revenge.
About the time I discovered the little pest problem on my farm, I got the editor’s nod to test and review a new rimfire AR produced by Alexander Arms. When I learned that it was chambered in .17 HMR instead of the .22 LR, I started to get curious about several things.
When I began discussing the .17-caliber topic with Bill Alexander, I had my eyes opened to several things related to this cartridge and the guns that shoot them. With a well-established reputation for building AR rifles in .50 Beowulf and 6.5 Grendel, I was curious as to why he would want to chamber his new rifle in .17 HMR. “When you design rifles you go from peaks to bloody lows,” Alexander said. “I had just finished the Grendel and started looking at the .22 rimfires. I built my own .22 long rifle AR. Then I went to Walmart and bought some .22 ammo. When I shot at 50 yards and 70 yards it did very well, but when I shot at 100 yards the groups went to hell when the round went subsonic. I asked myself, ‘Why not shoot a .17 HMR to extend the range?’ It was the first pick because it had good performance and customers wanted it.”
Since the .17 HMR was introduced in 2002, a wide range of guns have been chambered for the popular round. The .17 HMR was the first new rimfire cartridge since the ill-fated 5mm Remington launched in 1970. Previously, the last successful rimfire cartridge was the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire in 1959.