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17 Remington

17_rem

Introduced in 1971, the 17 Remington has a birthright reminiscent of the heritage of the 220 Swift.  The Swift used a case originally designed for a Military round, the 6mm Lee Navy.  The 17 Remington uses a case in the 222 Remington, 222 Remington Magnum family, both of which were developed for consideration as chamberings for the M-16 along with the 5.56 NATO (223), which was ultimately selected.

Introduction of the 17 Remington might have had a similar purpose to introduction of the Swift a generation earlier.  The Swift had allowed Winchester to use a warehouse full of partially finished 6mm Lee Navy cases that became surplus when the U. S. adopted the 30 U. S. Army for all Military branches.

Winchester shortened the case and necked it down to 22-caliber, called the resulting cartridge the 220 Swift, and advertised it as launching a 48-grain bullet at 4140 fps!  This was a sensation in an era when folks were still getting used to cartridges launching bullets at 3000 fps!


Similarly, in the 1950s, the U. S. Military was poised to adopt a lengthened version of the 222 Remington, which Remington later standardized as the 222 Remington Magnum.  Instead, perhaps to get better packaging for transport of ammunition cans, it adopted a case with a shorter body, neck, and overall length we know as the 5.56 NATO (AKA 223 Remington).

The 222 Remington Magnum was never more than modestly successful for two reasons: first, it was competing against an oh-so-similar Military chambering (the 223); second, for entirely mysterious reasons, Remington deliberately set the SAAMI pressure limit for the 222 Rem Mag lower than the pressure limit for the 223, so the longer round could do no better than match 223 performance.

Remington later introduced the 17 Remington, with a case length between the 223 Remington and the 222 Remington Magnum, perhaps to use a small mountain of partially finished cases it had made for the longer case it believed would be adopted by the Military (refer to the discussion on the 220 Swift).  Interestingly, in common with the 220 Swift, the 17 Remington has a very long neck, which is beneficial.  However, that one redeeming design feature could never offset the problems with this cartridge.

First, Remington could not get any available propellant it could use to meter into the cases (as a subsidiary of the same corporation that owned IMR Powder Company, the Remington Ammunition company was required to use IMR propellant whenever possible).  So, IMR developed an extruded propellant with performance characteristics matching IMR 4895 but with much finer granulation.

To have a similar burn rate, the finer granulation of this product required a much higher deterrent concentration.  As such, the custom 17-Remington propellant generated far more propellant fouling.

Second, Remington could not consistently make 17-caliber barrels with a bore of sufficient finish quality.  Many guns fouled so fast it was impossible to establish a zero before the bore was so fouled with copper and propellant residue that it damaged bullet jackets and bullet failures occurred before those reached the target.  As bore fouling progressively retarded bullet acceleration chamber pressure progressively soared until case-head failure occurred.

With a high-quality modern barrel and superior modern propellant, the 17 Remington can offer significant performance with usable accuracy and a reasonable bore-cleaning interval.  In my opinion, it is best used for occasional long shots on vermin and for use on predators where you want to minimize pelt damage.

When loaded to the same pressure, smaller rounds such as the 17 Fireball and the wildcat 17/23 SMc LN, can almost match 17 Remington performance using far less propellant, with much less barrel heating, and with much longer barrel life.  For those looking for a high-performance factory 17, this is the only option now available.

As with any high-performance round, barrel heating is a significant concern.  Allowing plenty of time for cooling can significantly increase barrel life.  Conversely, overheating the barrel by rapid firing can render a barrel uselessly inaccurate after surprisingly few shots.

The heritage of this case dates to the 38 Colt cartridge of the 1860s and before that with the 1839 introduction of the 36 Colt Paterson cap-and-ball Revolver.


The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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