The .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire load, known as the .17 HMR, was introduced in 2002 and became an instant success. With an ultra-lightweight 17-grain bullet and use of new progressive-burning propellants, it produced 2,550 feet per second muzzle velocity, which brought new levels of performance to the rimfire category. The hunting world finally had a true 150-yard rimfire cartridge.
The cartridge has proven itself on small game like squirrels and rabbits and smaller predators like foxes and bobcats. It’s also great for ground squirrels and even for prairie dogs at reasonable ranges. I once shot a prairie dog at an honest 300 yards with a .17 HMR, and I have used it on critters that may seem too large for it, like turkeys, coyotes, and even a big Texas hog.
Some gun companies that tried to chamber their existing rimfire semiauto rifles for the .17 HMR ran into trouble. This hot new cartridge proved to be too much for the straight blowback designs of those rifles. Because the .17 HMR has higher pressure than other rimfire cartridges, and uses new propellants that maintain high pressure for a longer duration, the cases would eject prematurely and rupture. So, for a long time, the market was missing an affordable semi-auto .17 HMR rifle.
Enter the Savage A17
That changed when Savage introduced the A17, a semiauto chambered in .17 HMR, earlier this year. The Savage A17 has proven to be functional and safe, with an affordable price tag—suggested retail price is $465. Savage made it work by using what is called a “delayed blow-back” action. When the action closes on a loaded cartridge, a bar in the bolt is pushed up to fit into a slot in the receiver to lock everything in place. This bar has an angled cut on its back—the load bearing side. When the cartridge fires, pressure pushes back on the bolt face until this angled lock cams down out of the slot in the receiver. This delays the action from opening just long enough for the bore pressure to drop to a safe level. All this allows the .17 HMR to work in a semiauto rifle. It is simple, safe, and very effective.
The Savage 17 HMR has a removable 10-shot, rotary magazine. Each cartridge fits into its own slot in a rotary drum inside the magazine. Another big issue with semiauto guns feeding from a removable magazine is that the rimmed cases do not behave when stacked on top of each other in the traditional design. This Savage magazine solves a lot of feeding problems associated with rimmed cartridges.
The A17 rifle has an injection-molded, black synthetic stock. It has a 22-inch carbon steel barrel with a black finish. The bolt is hard chrome lined to prevent wear. It has what Savage calls a “dual controlled round feed.” That means that the extractor captures the case as it exits the magazine and controls it as it feeds into the chamber. The “dual” aspect is that there is another “stabilizing” arm opposite on the bolt face that works with the extractor to control the cartridge. Controlled-round feed is usually found on big-game rifles, particularly dangerous-game rifles for which proper function can be a life-or-death matter, and is very unusual for a rimfire rifle. However, it works extremely well on the A17, and I only had one malfunction in just less than 200 rounds I fired while testing this gun. Considering that any new gun needs a little break-in time, one failure in 200 rounds with a new semiauto is outstanding.
The charging handle is big enough that you can operate it even with gloves on. There is a lever in front of the trigger guard that allows the bolt to be locked open. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases, which are included.
The A17 uses the famous user-adjustable Savage AccuTrigger. I have the trigger on my gun set t break at 3.5 pounds, measured with a Lyman electronic trigger scale. The pull is clean and crisp. There is a cross-bolt safety above and in front of the trigger.
The A17 rifle has a 22-inch, button-rifled barrel that proved to be very accurate. I tested the gun at 50 yards and fired three-shot groups as small as .15-inch. The gun averaged less than one minute of angle (MOA) with three out of the four ammo products I tested. The fourth was slightly over minute of angle, and was still very accurate.
The best of the four types of ammo I tested is a new round by CCI called the A17, which, as you might suspect, was developed for this rifle. My 50-yard groups with the A17, 17-grain .17 HMR ammo averaged .28-inch, or just over half MOA–outstanding accuracy in any hunting rifle. The new A17 ammo is also about 100 feet per second faster than any other 17-grain ammo I tested. This is a substantial increase—particularly for so new a cartridge. It’s easy to improve on an old cartridge that’s been around for a century and was developed before the newest powders hit the market. But adding100 feet per second to a cartridge that’s only 13 years old is an engineering feat.
Optics for the A17
A rifle is only as good as your ability to aim it. The .17 HMR cartridge and the new Bushnell Banner 17 3.5-10x 36mm Super Rifle Scope were designed to work as a team, and that’s what I had on my A17.
The optics are coated with Bushnell’s proprietary Dusk & Dawn Brightness multi-coating process for good light transmission in early morning or evening. The scope has a duplex-style, Multi-X reticle. It features adjustable parallax, which can aid in precision shooting.
The Multi-X reticle is teamed with a custom ballistic, drop-compensating turret that is calibrated specifically for .17 HMR ammunition.
The turret provides dial-up points for 125, 150, 175, 200, 225, and 250 yards. With the flat-shooting .17 HMR, a 100-yard zero is also nearly dead on at 50 yards so you are ready for any shot within the capability of this cartridge.
The one-inch diameter tube is one-piece for strength. The scope is 100 percent waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof and is filled with dry-nitrogen.
The adjustment clicks equal ¼-minute of angle and require no tools, only your fingertips to adjust for windage and elevation. The eyepiece is fast-focus so you can adjust focus very quickly from 10 yards to infinity.
I found that the adjustments were clean and correct for my rifle. The optics are very clear and provide an excellent view of the target with no edge distortion. Retail price is $148.95.
I was impressed with the A17 rifle. It ran well and it is extremely accurate. I believe that the A17 rifle is going to change the .17 HMR market, and have other manufacturers trying to catch up for a few years to come.
Savage A17 Specifications
Type: Semiauto, delayed blowback action
Chambering: .17 HMR
Load Tested: CCI A17, 50 gr.
Magazine: Detachable rotary box magazine, 10-round
Barrel: Carbon steel, button rifled, 1:9-inch twist rate, right-hand twist
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Trigger: Savage AccuTrigger
Pull weight on test gun: 3.5 pounds
Sights: Drilled and tapped for scope mounts (bases included)
Safety: Button crossbolt, forward and above trigger
Stock: Matte black, injection-molded polymer
Overall Length: 42 inches
Length of Pull: 13¾ inches
Drop at Comb: 1¼ inch
Drop at Heel: 1¾ inch
Weight: 5.41 pounds
Metal Finish: Gloss black
Accessories: Owner’s manual, one detachable 10-round box magazine