It might be the first but it won’t be the last made to chamber the Winchester Super Magnum rimfire.
by Chick Blood
It’s possible I missed them, but I didn’t see rack after rack of rifles chambered for the exciting new and heavily reported upon Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) rimfire at the 2015 SHOT Show. Maybe that’s really not a first. If I’d been attending the first SHOT Show to follow Elmer Keith’s development of the .357 and .44 Magnum cartridges the same might have been said of wheel guns. Once the dynamics of the immortal Elmer’s new rounds had created a rising public demand for revolvers to discharge them, a little grass was allowed grow beneath the feet at Ruger and Smith & Wesson to design, develop, and bring forth revolvers capable of delivering the promised performance of both magnums. I did not attend the SHOT SHOW at which those subsequent offerings appeared initially. Judging by SHOT 2015, they are still going strong.
While that brief history of a cartridge preceding a firearm is true enough, what follows illustrates a reversal in which case a prototype rifle played a significant role preceding the cartridge by suggesting a new caliber. The story begins when I was attending a Ruger Armorer’s Training Program session back in the 1980s. A firm knock at the door interrupted the instructor. When he opened it, there stood William Bannerman Ruger holding a stocked rifle with a heavy barrel. Apologizing for the interruption, he asked to show the class the rifle and stepped into the room. Displaying the small size of the bore hole centered in the one-inch OD barrel he announced to all present that small hole had the potential of housing and discharging the best rimfire caliber ever made. “ So far,” he continued, “ I haven’t been able to convince any (expletives deleted) ammunition manufacturer to make it!” After thanking us for listening, William B. Ruger left the room carrying what most of those present believed to have been a prototype of a rifle chambered for .17 caliber.
As they say, time passed. The persistent “Mr. B.”eventually convinced Steve Hornady, well established producer of ammunition and other gun-related products, to become involved. Inputs from Marlin R&D, a powder maker, and a team of Ruger/Hornady engineers were formed and maintained. The result went public as the .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire.) Since then, some industry wags have often referred to the round as the .17 Hornady/Marlin/Ruger.
Read more in our June 2015 issue. Back issues are available.