Q: I shoot rabbits with an air rifle, but am now thinking of applying for a firearm certificate to buy a rimfire. I have been told that a .17 HMR is safer than a .22 but I thought it had a longer range. Why is it considered safer?

A: The conventional hollow point lead bullet fired by the .22 rifle has stood the test of time and is still immensely popular. However, it is known to have a tendency to ricochet if it hits a flint or stone. The .17 HMR, on the other hand, fires a lighter, polycarbonate-tipped bullet at a considerably higher velocity. This means that the bullet is likely to break up immediately upon contact with any hard object such as a stone and so is far less prone to ricochet. For this reason, it is regarded as being safer. Because the .17 bullet is travelling at a higher velocity, it strikes the target closer to point of aim, farther downrange than a .22, and this is why the smaller calibre can be so accurate at longer ranges. Being a smaller bullet, however, it is also more affected by the wind, and it is also prone to de ection by the smallest obstacle, such as a grass or nettle stem. GD