Shooting Off at the Mouth: Bill Dermody

Shooting Off at the Mouth: Bill Dermody
Bill Dermody, director of marketing at Savage Arms, explains how and why the A17, chambered in .17 HMR, came to be.

It’s been more than a decade since the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire cartridge—which sends a 17-grain bullet more than 2,500 feet per second muzzle velocity—was first introduced. The .17 HMR became an instant rival of the .22 LR, but there was a complication: When some gun companies tried to chamber semiauto rifles for .17 HMR, they had trouble getting the cartridge to cycle properly, as this hot little load was too much for their straight-blowback rifle designs. And, they had trouble keeping the rifles at competitive price points—models that could compete with the .22 LR.

That changed when Savage Arms introduced the A17 this year. It is a semiauto rifle chambered in .17 HMR that uses a “delayed blow-back” action that cycles the .17 HMRs, and is available at an affordable price—MSRP is $465. (See a review of the A17 here.) http://www.range365.com/savage-a17-22-killer

We asked Savage Arm’s director of marketing, Bill Dermody, about the details of the A17’s creation.

Range365: How did the A17 get its name?

Bill Dermody: Its name ties with the fact it's an autoloading .17-caliber rifle. We went through a long list of possible names, but this one stuck. I think it's catchy—something people will remember. Plus, the format lets us potentially expand the line with other calibers.

Range365: What's different about this new rifle?

Dermody: The A17 is the first high-performance semiautomatic rimfire specifically designed for the .17 HMR cartridge. There have been a limited number of other autoloaders chambered in the caliber, but they haven't been built around it like the A17. So it's not just a new rifle for Savage, it's a new rifle for the world.

Range365: How is the A17 different from the competition?

Dermody: It is important to note the A17 was not simply adapted to fire a magnum rimfire round. Other manufacturers have tried adapting straight-blowback actions over the years to convert their standard rimfire rifles to shoot magnum rimfire loads, but those guns never flourished. In fact, some of those old, adaptive designs even had safety issues. As a result, there isn't much for competition in a .17 HMR semi-automatic, especially at this $465 price point.

Range365: Why release a semi-automatic .17 HMR, and why now?

Dermody: Experienced rimfire shooters know the .17 HMR cartridge's power and flat trajectory make it easier to place accurate shots at long range compared to the .22 LR. So we felt this popular cartridge deserved a semiautomatic platform. We had been throwing around this idea at new products meetings for seven years. The project finally kicked off in fall of 2012, and it took us 2½ years to finalize it. We also knew the time was right because we'd sat down with ammunition engineers at CCI and product managers at Bushnell to partner the rifle with optimized ammunition and smart accessories to create a complete shooting system.

Range365: What makes A17's design different?

Dermody: The .17 HMR cartridge is just too hot for the straight-blowback action—a design that typically does not allow enough time for gases to escape down the barrel before cycling, which causes performance issues and even safety concerns. The A17's unique delayed-blowback action is specifically designed for high-performance magnum rimfire cartridges to ensure safe, reliable cycling. The delayed blowback is a completely new design that solves the old problems of a semiautomatic .17 HMR.

Range365: What features of the A17 are you most excited about?

Dermody: Besides the action, the hard chrome bolt, case-hardened receiver, 10-round rotary magazine and button-rifled barrel boost performance even further, while the user-adjustable AccuTrigger provides a crisp, light pull for the best possible accuracy. The bolt also has two hooks on the bolt face—one is the extractor, the other is a stabilizer. Together, both keep the cartridge pointing straight ahead for reliable feeding. They're all excellent features that make this rifle a great value at its relatively low suggested retail price.

Range365: Does the A17 require specific ammunition?

Dermody: No, the A17 provides safe, reliable operation with standard 17 HMR loads. That said, its unique delayed-blowback action performs to its peak with new CCI A17 Varmint Tip ammunition, which CCI developed specifically for the rifle. These rounds are hotter than standard ones, providing 100 feet-per-second higher muzzle velocities over existing .17 HMR products. The rifle will work with any .17 HMR ammunition, but the faster CCI A17 loads will get the most from it.

We are very excited about this product launch—it’s huge news for us. From here, the future A17 product line is only going to get bigger and better with new offerings that might feature a heavy target barrel, laminate stock, and other options.

To learn more about the A17, visit the Savage Arms A17 page and see a video about the rifle here.