Nailing a target is generally a figurative term, right? Not always. In the case of the .17 Winchester Super Magnum, the term “nailing” is somewhat more literal. Back in 2012, Winchester Ammunition developed this speedy little rimfire based on the cartridge case of—you guessed it, a nail gun blank.
The Volquartsen .17 WSM Semi-Auto Rifle is certainly not a nail gun, but it is capable of nailing targets at unheard-of ranges for a rimfire rifle. That’s because it fires a smoking-hot cartridge.
To appreciate the uniqueness of the new Volquartsen .17 WSM Semi-Auto Rifle, you have to first understand the cartridge it fires. The .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) was originally designed to fire a 20-grain, Spitzer-type projectile at 3,000 feet per second. That’s almost three times the speed of sound, or 2,045 miles per hour (which is 36 percent faster than an F-22 Raptor fighter jet, just in case you were wondering). However, most ammo companies like to tinker, so now you’ll find .17 WSM cartridges with projectiles ranging in weight from 17 to 25 grains. Of course, the heavier projectiles won’t hit 3,000 feet per second. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Varmints and Long-Distance Plinking
This gun would be right at home hunting prairie dogs, ground squirrels, coyotes, or other small to medium-sized varmints. Accordingly, most of the ammo currently on the market for .17 WSM features fragmenting, tipped projectiles. Filling a gap between the .22LR and centerfire varmint calibers like the.22-250, this rimfire still travels at over 2,000 feet per second past 200 yards. Of course, this rifle is also a long-distance plinker if you prefer busting tiny targets from far, far away.
When you first look at the .17 WSM Semi-Auto, you might think it’s an upsized and highly tweaked-out Ruger 10/22. While there are some visual and functional similarities, it’s a different animal. Volquartsen builds this rifle from the ground up for the .17 WSM cartridge, so everything is sized accordingly, including the custom CNC machined receiver. The Picatinny rail is machined from the same block of steel as the rest of the receiver—no screws to shake loose over time.
The .17 WSM Semi-Auto Rifle also uses rotary magazines, as does the 10/22, but these are noticeably larger to fit the .17 WSM cartridge. They’re constructed of steel and aluminum, at least according to my refrigerator magnet. The rifle ships with two rotary magazines with eight-round capacity.
Volquartsen currently offers three varieties of the .17 WSM Semi-Auto Rifle: Classic, Deluxe, and IF-5. The Classic is the basic model, relatively speaking, and has a stainless 20-inch bull barrel. The IF-5 barrel has full-length flutes and a Forward Blow Compensator. My sample rifle was the Deluxe model, and the word only begins to describe this rifle. Fluted segments cover the full-length of the stainless barrel, which is capped by a 32-hole compensator.
One of the things I like about Volquartsen gear is the attention to detail. At first glance, you’d think the compensator is machined right into the barrel as there is no visible seam. Not so. Both Deluxe and IF-5 model barrels are threaded with a 1/2×28 pattern for the addition of a suppressor if you so like.
Volquartsen offers laminated Monte Carlo-style stocks for all three models in your choice of brown, gray, and brown/gray. The stock is a target style, with a wide and flat forend for easy supported-position shooting. More importantly, it’s gorgeous.
This is no lightweight. While the .17 WSM has minimal recoil, this rifle is heavy and suitable for volume shooting. It weighs in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces. The overall length of the Deluxe model shown here is 41 inches.
One of a Kind, Almost
If you’re looking for a unique rifle, this is it. As far as I know, there are only two semiautomatic rifles chambered for the .17 WSM cartridge: this one and a Franklin Armory AR-pattern rifle. A number of companies are making bolt-action models for the cartridge, but for high-speed varmint hunting, a magazine-fed semi-auto is hard to beat.
To understand the uniqueness of this rimfire rifle, consider this: An “average” .22LR will launch a standard high-velocity bullet out of the muzzle at somewhere around 1,200 feet per second. A whopping 450 yards down range, the WSM projectile slows down to that velocity. Clearly, this cartridge is not intended for ¼-mile shots, but it’s an interesting comparison.
A fast bullet is generally going to yield a flat trajectory curve, and this rifle is no exception. I mounted a Redfield 3-9x optic, which put the optic exactly 2¼ inches above the bore. With a 50-yard zero, a 20-grain bullet is only going to drop 1.08 inches at 200 yards. Even at 250 yards, the drop is just 5.06 inches. For larger varmints such as coyotes, this gives you point blank-aiming out to 250 yards. To put those “flat shooting” numbers into perspective, the exact same setup with a 38-grain .22 LR would have a 74.65-inch bullet drop at 250 yards.
I shot three different types of .17 WSM ammo from the Deluxe: Federal Premium’s American Eagle Tipped Varmint 20-grain, Winchester’s Varmint HE 25-grain, and Hornady’s V-Max 20-grain. All functioned perfectly, so I elected to do some basic velocity and accuracy testing with all three.
To check actual velocity from the Volquartsen versus the published figures on the box, I set up a Shooting Chrony chronograph 15 feet down range and fired 10-shot groups to calculate averages. Here’s what I found:
Federal American Eagle Tipped Varmint 20-grain averaged 2,943 feet per second
Winchester Varmint HE 25-grain averaged 2,581 feet per second
Hornady V-Max 20-grain averaged 2,961 feet per second
To test accuracy, I set up both 50 and 100-yard targets. The 50-yard performance of all three ammo types could be described as single-ragged-hole accuracy. At 100 yards, I had little trouble shooting groups under one inch. That was surprising considering that those light 20-grain bullets are going to get pushed around by the wind.
Just for kicks, I unscrewed the muzzle brake and added a SilencerCo Sparrow suppressor for one of my range outings. The function remained perfect. Of course, the supersonic crack of the bullet remained, but the noise from the muzzle blast was significantly subdued.
This is not a rifle I am anxious to send back. It’s a piece of art that shoots. Its MSRP ranges from $1,875 to $2,108.50, depending on the specific model.
(See a first look at the new bolt-action Savage Arms B.MAG bolt-action rifle in .17 WSM here.)