Taurus Adds Hot .17 HMR To Tracker Revolver Series
Photos & Story
by Phil W. Johnston
Taurus has been in the gun business for over 60 years now and they've learned their trade well. Today, anything wearing this brand gives the competition something to shoot at, quite literally.
Taurus introduced the stainless steel Tracker line of wheelguns at the 2002 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas. In a nutshell, this is one of the slickest double-actions that we've had in our hands for quite some time, regardless of caliber.
The Tracker is constructed from hammer-forged stainless steel and is available in centerfire or rimfire chamberings. Currently the line includes models chambered for .357 magnum, .41 magnum, and .45 Colt rounds with barrels ranging from 4 to 6° inches. The initial rimfire offerings consisted of 7-shooters chambered for .22 Long Rifle and .22 WMR. New this year is another Tracker, this one a 7-shooter set up for the new rimfire kid on the block, the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (.17 HMR).
The new .17 HMR Tracker sports a one-piece, 6°-inch stainless steel barrel equipped with 6 lands and grooves that make one turn in 10 inches. The overall length of this neat rimfire is 10 inches and it weighs 40.8 ounces, empty. Based on a double-action design, the pistol features a good trigger that averaged 5 pounds, 3.5 ounces, single-action. Double-action (DA), the trigger weight was in excess of my Lyman digital trigger gauge. Suffice it to say that if DA is your kick, this one is pretty darned good, out-of-the-box. I was surprised to learn that the single-action pull was over 5 pounds, simply because this trigger is perfectly clean with no take-up or overtravel and it breaks like ice. This trigger makes it as a hunting trigger, as is.
Featuring seven charge holes, the cylinder rotates counterclockwise and locks up at the yoke and breech. The cylinder is opened by pushing the release, on the left side of the receiver, forward. The release is nicely shaped to miss the thumb on a rig that recoils, but that's not the case here.
The Tracker line features a great black rubber "Ribber" grip that feels great in the hand and again, if recoil was stout, it soaks it up like a champ. The black grips look great on the matte-finished stainless steel Tracker.
In keeping with the times, Taurus equips the Tracker with their novel and foolproof Security System. Consisting of a screw that is rotated half a turn out to lock, the system makes the pistol totally inoperable in one fell swoop. Only the included key will fit the lock to turn it in either direction. We didn't rely on firearm locks around here when the kids were growing up, rather relying on education. I'd still rather rely on education because hunting for the special Taurus hex key in the middle of the night could be nerve wracking to say the least. While a .17 HMR probably won't be in the bedstand, other Trackers might. Still, if you want to lock a rig up without putting it in a safe, this system works.
Sights on the Tracker are great, too. The fully-adjustable rear sight is easy to operate and it took but a minute or so to get this rig into the middle of a 3-inch Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target at 25 yards. Open-sighted, I managed to run up a bunch of 5-shot groups that averaged just over an inch. These 56-year-old eyes don't do open sights justice any more, so for this piece I decided to slip a vintage Burris 5 X IER pistol scope on the rig.
Slipping a scope on a Taurus Tracker takes but minutes, as well, and the only tools necessary come with the mount. In a nutshell, the system relies on three stainless steel blades that slip through each vent in the barrel to be engaged by a pair of hex screws, each. The base features enough relief at the back to clear the rear sight, so it's easy to put the base on and take it off without affecting the open sights. I relied on titanium and bulletproof rings from Excel Industries Inc. (4510 Carter Ct., Dept. GWK, Chino, CA 91710). Slightly overkill on this rig, I like the rings because nothing will move in them and their T1HDH rings are set up for a Weaver-style base to boot. The Excel rings are the most solid ring system I've found and I use them often.
If the Tracker was a shooter open-sighted, it is a tack-driver when scoped! With all three loads (all coming from one source, however) I managed to run 15, 5-shot groups down range that averaged .60 inches center-to-center at 25 yards. The smallest of them measured a scant .3-inch while the largest went just over an inch and was shooter induced, to be sure. Gophers aren't safe in these parts, regardless. Shooting dime-sized groups with such small holes is fun, indeed.
The .17 HMR cartridge is causing quite a stir and, after working with several so-chambered rigs this year, I've got to say that it is a sweet cartridge. Like all the rimfires, you don't have to pick up your brass nor do you have to think about reloading. Just grab a box of ammo, your pet rig and head to the range. Like the other rimfire offerings, the .17 HMR is reasonably quiet (ear protection is still a must) and recoil is, well, non-existent for lack of better words. This little .17 is fun.
How Good Is It?
How good is the .17? Does it outwork a good .22 WMR, for instance? The .17 HMR regardless of the load, launches a 17-grain, .17-caliber bullet from a necked-down WMR case. Out of a pistol with a 6°-inch barrel, this round will hit about 1,900 feet-per-second (fps), generating 135.8 found-pounds of energy (fpe). At 25 yards the three sister loads account for 1,830 fps or so, churning out 127 fpe.
The best .22 WMR load I have in the locker consists of Federal Premium loads stuffed with 30-grain Sierra JHPs. This is a sweet load indeed and out of my pet Freedom Arms (FA) .252, this load shoots into one hole as well. It'll leave the 7°-inch FA single-action doing 1,620 fps, generating 175 fpe. At the 25-yard target, this load accounts for 1,477 fps, generating 145 fpe. While the .17 gets close at 25 yards, it never passes a good WMR and I don't see the .17 HMR as a replacement for a good .22 WMR.
The WMR is a great round in its own right and none of mine are for sale. Comparisons aside, if you don't have a magnum rimfire in your camp, the new kid on the block seems like a winner to me. It is deadly accurate and out to 50 yards or so it is quite spectacular on prairie dogs out of a rifle. I'd hold it to 25 yards or so out of a pistol.
The Taurus Tracker .17 HMR carries a suggested retail price of $406 and like any of the other Trackers we've worked with, it's a steal. For more information about this Tracker or any of the other Taurus offerings, check them out at: www.taurususa.com, or you can contact them at: Taurus International, 16175 NW 49th Ave., Dept. GWK, Miami, FL 33014; phone: 800-327-3776. I don't think you'll be disappointed in any of their current offerings. Now, if they'll just forget where they shipped this neat little .17.
Velocity/ES/SD @ 15 feet
Smallest 5-shot group @ 25 yards
Largest 5-shot group @ 25 yards
Average 5-shot group @ 25 yards
|CCI 17-grain JHP||1,897/128/38 fps||.480"||.640"||.56"|
|Hornady 17-grain V-Max (Red plastic insert)||1,897/119/35 fps||.37"||.92"||.63"|
|Remington 17-grain V-Max (Golden plastic insert)||1,956/384/83 fps||.30"||1.03"||.61"|
|Average of all 3 loads:||.60"|