Speaking of scope & red dots, I have done both on rifle and hand guns and found that red dots are a real pain on anything but pistols. The use of the HUD type on rifles are only (to me) useful from about 25 to 50 yards but are almost PIA in the woods because of dirt and easily damaged. The tube red dots are fine on pistols but on must conventional rifles like the 96, and bolt rifles just are hard to use for me. I have 4x32 on my 96 and 4x16x50 AO on the Marlin '94 22 magnum, but the 357 & 44 magnum's are peep sights.
But the little 17HMR are such flat shooters that anything but a scope does the round a disservice and that HMR even in the '96 is an exellent small game (squirrel sized) round out to 50 yards easy, and maybe 75 yards even if the little carbine is given a little tunning & trigger work.