Freedom Arms Model 97 in .17 HMR


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

January 8th, 2004




Since its introduction about two years ago, the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire cartridge has achieved outstanding acceptance from shooters and hunters. I cannot remember another cartridge which has become as popular as quickly as the .17 HMR. I have tested several rifles and handguns chambered for the little magnum, and each has exhibited very good accuracy. The .17 HMR is most commonly compared to the popular .22 Magnum, a cartridge which has been around since 1959. While the .22 has a heavier bullet, the little seventeen beats the velocity of the former cartridge by a large margin. The seventeen magnum also has a flatter trajectory, and is less affected by the wind. I believe that it is safe to say that the .17 HMR is a rousing success, and will be with us for a long time.

Another great success story is that of Freedom Arms, a manufacturer of quality handguns based in Freedom, Wyoming. Freedom Arms makes what are arguably the finest production revolvers in the world. We have tested a few Freedom revolvers, and have found each to be a superbly executed and very accurate handgun.

Freedom Arms is now preparing to produce their great little Model 1997 (commonly referred to as the Model 97) chambered for the .17 HMR cartridge. As I have reviewed three other model 97 revolvers earlier, I have come to have a great respect for the accuracy of the small-framed handgun. The model 97 is, like all Freedom guns, a beautiful example of hand-fitted precision. Available in several other chamberings, the compact Model 97 is perfectly sized to the little .17 HMR cartridge. Freedom is planning to offer the .17 in barrel lengths of five and one-half, seven and one-half, and ten inches.

The sample Model 97 received for testing has a slightly tapered ten-inch barrel, measuring .705 inch at the frame and .675 inch at the muzzle, where it wears a recessed target crown. It is supplied with an excellent adjustable rear sight, coupled with an interchangeable front. The entire revolver is finished in a satin stainless, except for the blued sights and laminated grip panels. The six-shot cylinder has a diameter of 1.575 inches, and a length of 1.625 inches, which is plenty long for the .17 HMR cartridge. The Model 97 action has a hammer-mounted transfer bar safety that allows the cylinder to be safely carried with a full load of six cartridges.  Alignment of the chambers with the ejection rod was perfect for easy ejection of the spent cases.  The rimfire Model 97 has dual firing pins for reliable ignition. Timing of the cylinder with the bolt was excellent, with the latter dropping into the lead of the cylinder notch, and lockup was precise and tight. As I have come to expect on a Premier Grade Freedom, fit and finish was perfect, which is an adjective that can seldom be used to describe the fit and finish on a gun these days. The trigger pull measured a crisp two-and three-quarters pounds.

For accuracy testing, I requested one of the excellent Lovell scope mounts from Freedom Arms. The Lovell is machined to precisely fit into the recess atop the frame for the rear sight. I mounted a Charles Daly two-power scope in the Lovell mount. I had ammo available from Hornady and CCI, and set up targets at fifty and one hundred yards, which I think is appropriate for a hunting revolver. I usually test handguns at twenty-five yards, but longer ranges are better suited for a scoped revolver built for hunting small pests and vermin, as is this Model 97.

Range conditions were cold and breezy, but as can be seen in the accompanying photos, the accuracy of this handgun is amazing. One inch groups from a rimfire rifle using factory ammo would be excellent. This Freedom Arms revolver shot groups measuring less than half of that, and would most likely group even tighter with a better shooter pulling the trigger. The Model 97 would consistently group three shots into less than one-half inch at one hundred yards using a good rest.  Velocity was measured at a distance of ten feet from the muzzle, using a PACT chronograph. The velocity of the Hornady ammo was 2296 feet-per-second, and the CCI ammunition clocked 2238 feet-per-second.  These are the highest velocities that I have recorded from a .17 caliber handgun, and is not far behind the velocities obtained from a twenty-two inch barreled bolt action rifle.

Pricing for the .17 HMR Model 97 had not yet been set at the time of this writing, but it should be close to the price of their .22 caliber revolvers. Check out the full line of Freedom Arms products at:

If you are looking for a revolver chambered for the .17 HMR, and want the best built and most accurate, this is your baby.

Jeff Quinn

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The great little .17 HMR cartridge has just taken a big step forward with the introduction of Freedom Arms' new Model 97 in .17 HMR.



As with all Freedom Arms Premier Grade sixguns, the Model 97 .17 HMR exhibits flawless craftsmanship throughout.



The Model 97 features a hammer-mounted transfer bar safety mechanism, allowing the revolver to be safely carried with all six chambers loaded.



Sights consist of Freedom Arms' superb fully-adjustable rear sight and interchangeable front sight.



For maximum accuracy, the excellent Lovell scope mount is available from Freedom Arms.



What sort of accuracy can you expect from the Model 97 in .17 HMR? Superb! Author has found the .17 HMR to be a very accurate cartridge, and many rifles are unable to keep up with the Model 97 for accuracy. The little .17 has really found a home in the Freedom Arms Model 97!