Alexander Arms .17 HMR

Semi-automatic rifles chambered in .17 HMR have a history of poor performance, but the latest offering from Alexander Arms provides superior reliability and great accuracy.

By Bryce M. Towsley (RSS)
November 14, 2011

When other companies were running away from the idea of a .17 HMR semi-automatic rifle, Bill Alexander charged in headfirst. But then, that’s typical of Alexander—where others see problems, he sees opportunity.

Bill is the “Alexander” in Alexander Arms, a company that makes AR-15-style rifles designed for hunting. He engineered his .17 HMR from the ground up for the AR-15 rather than try to make the cartridge work in an existing rimfire platform. Attempting to fit the cartridge in an inadequate rifle is what he believes resulted in some of the problems other companies experienced.


For detailed photos of the Alexander Arms .17 HMR, click here.

One thing Alexander stresses about a semi-automatic .17 HMR is to have a lot of steel around the case for safety. The AR-15 was designed for the 5.56 NATO cartridge, so if anything, it’s overkill for a rimfire. Other important parts of his design are a large firing-pin “footprint” and an oversize extractor that do not stress the case rim as much some other designs. Moreover, Alexander says the recoil spring is also important, so his is wound to aerospace specifications. It fits in a “recoil cassette,” which contains the spring and buffer. This fits into the rifle’s buffer tube and is designed to block a standard centerfire upper from operation until the cassette is removed from the buffer tube.

The result is a blowback action, semi-automatic rifle that seems to work. I ran several hundred rounds through the .17 HMR rifle and did not experience any of the problems that caused other companies to abandon chambering their semi-automatic rifles for the cartridge. Sure, it’s a high-maintenance cartridge and can be a bit finicky. Show me a .17-caliber that isn’t. It jams more than I would like when it’s dirty and you need to keep any .17-caliber bore clean to maintain accuracy. But keep the gun clean and lubricated and it will reward you with reliable performance and superb accuracy.

Thanks to its blowback action, the Alexander Arms .17 HMR uses a much different bolt than a standard AR-15.

So why cover a .17 HMR in a tactical magazine? Well, I could say there is a tactical application, but my mother taught me not to lie. I suppose if the bad guys were kicking in the door and this rifle was the only gun available, I would use it to stop them, but the truth is, the .17 HMR is not a world-renowned man-stopper. Nor is it a target cartridge, but chambering an AR for it speaks volumes about the platform’s versatility.

One of the hardest things for a new shooter to learn with an AR-15 is a precision shot at close range—say 0 to 30 yards. The design of the platform keeps the sights well above the bore, which means the bullet path and line of sight are well separated, particularly at close range.

One sure sign of an inexperienced AR shooter is when they try close-range, precision head shots. The “A” zone on the USPSA target is only a couple of inches tall. A lot of shooters aim right at it, thinking they can’t miss, and wind up hitting too low.

For all intents and purposes, the close-range bullet path to line of sight relationship is the same for the .17 HMR as a .223 Rem. With a 100-yard zero, the difference is only a few tenths of an inch at most. If you spend some time hunting small game like squirrels and rabbits with the .17 HMR, particularly if you stick with head shots, you will master the holds.

An oversize extractor and larger firing-pin “footprint” eliminate many of the reliability issues encountered in semi-automatic rifles chambered for .17 HMR.

For hunting, you don’t have set ranges and there is no time to run the numbers, so you must learn to do the math in your head and on the run, just like in real life. In the end, there are two benefits: squirrel pot pie—which is delicious—and learning the holds on small, precision targets, which translates to your full-size AR-15.

The Alexander Arms .17 HMR rifle I have for testing has an 18-inch, fluted barrel. The barrel is button rifled with a 1:10-inch twist. The muzzle is threaded for 1⁄2-28 accessories. Mine has a birdcage flash hider, but you could add a brake easily enough or even a suppressor where legal.

Its free-floating fore-end tube is lightweight G10 composite with several embedded nuts to add accessory rails. Of course, there is no gas block or gas tube on the rifle.

As for the lower receiver, the magazine well contains an aluminum insert held in place with a setscrew. It also uses a proprietary, longer magazine release, which allows the use of the 10-round acrylic .17 HMR magazines that are much smaller than a standard AR magazine. Its fixed ejector sticks up off the top of this magazine insert. The bolt is a blowback design, and the charging handle is standard. The rifle has an adjustable buttstock and a standard plastic A2 grip.

Threaded for standard ½-28 accessories, the muzzle can accept a wide variety of aftermarket devices.

Unfortunately, the trigger on my sample was a bit tough and crusty, so I replaced it with a popular target model. In doing so, I learned a valuable lesson: Some brands of ammo had a very high incidence of misfires with the new trigger. I spoke with Alexander, and he told me it’s important to use a full-power hammer spring with rimfire guns as they require more firing-pin energy than a centerfire.

Alexander Arms sells complete rifles or you can buy an upper receiver assembly, which comes with the conversion parts for the lower.
The .17 HMR cartridge is well established in the hunting world and this chambering in the Alexander Arms AR-15-style rifle is a good choice for training or small-game hunting.

Manufacturer: Alexander Arms; (540) 639 8356
Action Type: Blowback-operated, semi-automatic
Caliber: .17 HMR
Capacity: 10 Rounds
Barrel: 18-inches, stainless steel
Rifling: 6 grooves; 1:10-inch RH twist
Trigger Pull Weight: 7 pounds
Sights: None; Picatinny rail for mounting optics
Length: 37 1⁄8 inches
Weight: 6.88 pounds
Accessories: Two 10-round magazines, manual
MSRP: $1,175

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28 Responses to Alexander Arms .17 HMR

  1. Pingback: Alexander Arms .17 HMR | Shooting Illustrated

  2. Pingback: Alexander Arms .17 HMR | Front Sight Productions | Scoop.it

  3. pete kenneally says:

    Bill Alexander has a .22 WMR version of this rifle on the way too.

  4. mike lane says:

    i’m certainly no expert by any means.. but if as you say.. the .17 is such a notoriously dirty cartridge why would a gun manufacturer even start a build like this without considering a piston driven system to keep it clean?..or is it just me?

  5. Matt says:

    Why would you use a piston setup in a blowback system you idiot. There is no gas block! Hahaha Some peoples stupidity amuses me

  6. steve says:

    Mike Talk to Ruger and ask them about the 10/22
    I know this is a dirty 22lr.
    But this is also the most popular 22lr Rifle ever built and it is a blow back system, so why would you change something that is working.
    I own Three of them and they need no more cleaning than other rifles I own. Remember the .17 HMR is just a necked down 22 Mag
    and the .17 HMR Mach 2 is just a necked down .22lr
    All rimfires are dirty and they all work.
    And with only 10 round mags this gun will work for a long time. This is my only bitch on this rifle and I will not buy one until a 30-50 round Mag comes with the rifle or can be purchased.

  7. martin says:

    i like it may buy one

  8. martin says:

    make the magizen look like the sw mp 15 22 then i will buy one 25 rounds

  9. Chuck says:

    Where can you buy the Alexander Arms .17HMR AR 15 in the Eugene Oregon market.

  10. Chuck says:

    Where can you buy the Alexander Arms .17HMR AR 15 in the Eugene Oregon market.

    • WTF, says:

      I am glad too see all the opinions that you all have, but. I would really like to know after ready all of your comments…. If you keep the Alexander Arms .17HMR AR 15 rifle clean,is it safe to own & operate. I also agree with the comments that the magazines should be a std 30-50 round capacity and should come with a auto feeder…

      • Dan the man says:

        Just want add to the comments, I have just picked up a Ruger SR22. I love the thing and I have had no issues with it. I no there is no comparison between the two except that there are a blast to use.. The only beef i’d have to say is, the accuracy sucks with the SR22. peace.

    • dave says:

      Is it California legal?

  11. arleigh says:

    I have a bolt marlin, next purchas is a smith 17 hmr revolver,.next best thing to semi auto

  12. Steven says:

    Too expensive I think it should be little bid cheaper

  13. Steven says:

    Look like there is no carry sling on it right?

  14. sandmountain outfitters says:

    needing some info on your 17ar customer looking for a time frame on this ar ..

  15. jerry m says:

    I purchase a complete 17hmr rifel. What is needed to convert the 17hmr to the 5.56 full power loads other than the upper?

  16. Gary says:

    Does anyone make a HMR .117 pistol

  17. Robert Morgillo says:

    My Brother and I bought some of the very first uppers they day AA begain advertising. We waited over a year for them. Bill sent us some of his first uppers. It is a good thing that my Brother is a good gunsmith and I am no stranger to working on guns. Given time I belive AA will get all the bugs out. Right now don’t expect to buy it and go. The first uppers. were fussy to say the least. Sent the uppers back to Bill and he sent 2 back. They were updated in many areas some, cosmetic. The new uppers fixed little. Bill sent us new mag addapters. That mad it worse. The ejecter on the addapter hits the bolt hard enough to actauly hold the bolt half open after the first shot. I have never been able to get the action to function for 10 shots. It’s a great idea. It is not a dirty round. I have no idea who started that. They use “Little Gun” .410 shotgun powder. It is fast predictable and modern. The bullets are jacketed. The 22 rim fire is out clased. I own a few .17′s. they are incredably accurate to 150 yards. Don’t buy an AA .17 unless you are willing to tune it. So far bill has replaced the upper, sent a diferent clip adapter, sent a new buffer assembly and a lot of gunsmithing on my end. We have been tuning for quite a while and it took almost exactly one year to get the upper originally. Manipultion can keep you shooting but count on many jams many double feeds missfires and more. t is extreamly accurate and single fed will put every shot in the same hole if you do your part. Bill’s consept is awsome and worth the efort to get it right. I would not expect it to shoot right out of the box. This is as honest as I can be. We are working on the bolt extracter issue now. I really like the concept the gun is well made. It is worth the time it will take to make it work and I do belive it will eventually work. With an ACOG sight it is the fastest rifle I own for target aquisition.

  18. jerry m says:

    My alexander arm 17 hmr complete 17hmr rifle had a shell kato. Bent the extractor, almost blew the whole rim off the federal case! I like the rifle and don’t want to get rid of it. Is there any ammo that has a thicker case? I tried hornady, federal, and. Remington

  19. Rob says:

    I just picked up a box of Winchester .17 hmr 20 grain. The first shot miss fired. I tried it again and it fired and split the casing. The second shot fired and split the casing. Had to pry it out of the chamber. CCI and Hornady I had good luck with.

  20. WX9DX says:

    I was web browsing for an AR15 in a .17 and found this site. I’d buy one but only if it had something other than a 10 round clip like the H&K AR15 in a 22LR. So you come up with a gun as good as the H&K 22 LR in a .17 and I would buy it right away…But remember to come out with a 25 round mag that looks full size like everyone else does.

  21. Charly says:

    I am looking for one of this AR15 style rifle in .17hmr and would like to get one badly but surfing in the internet and found many negative reviews concerned about the gun safety and not safe to operate due to many reasons. I will definitely purchase one when it be come more reliable to use.

  22. Eddie says:

    I was thinking about getting the .17 but after reading this comments about the gun I don’t think I will be investing in one right now, looks like a lot of bugs in it right now, gun safety first.

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