SAVAGE A17 SEMI-AUTO
Delayed blowback semi-auto
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
1 in 9 inches, RH
Barrel length: 22 in.
The Next Generation in Magnum-Capable Rimfire Autoloaders from Savage.
The .17 HMR round was introduced in 2002 and became an instant success; with a 17 grain bullet producing speeds of 2,550 feet per second, a new level of performance in the rimfire category was achieved. The hunting world had a true 150-yard rimfire cartridge with plenty of knock-down power.
The .17 HMR is certainly my favorite small game round: not only can it perform at a reasonable range, but it’s exceptionally accurate and relatively cheap to run in comparison to any centrefire rifle. For some time I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a semi-auto .17 HMR but there hasn’t been an affordable option available.
Savage are not the first company to bring a semi-automatic .17 HMR rifle to the market; previously, Remington sold the semi-auto Model 597 in .17 HMR. Unfortunately, there were problems with this gun, and Remington recalled all of the rifles without any repair options. Likewise, rifles made by Magnum Research and others were also pulled from the market. The higher pressure generated by the .17 HMR is such that simply modifying existing semi-auto designs has not been successful.
Currently Volquartsen sells rifles in .17 HMR, using a counterweight system to handle the pressure and bolt velocity; the problem with the Volquartsen however is the price, which is similar to a higher-end centrefire rifle.
The Savage A17
Savage engineers designed the operation of the A17 rifle to account for the pressure by utilising a delayed-blowback system to properly control and use the pressures and bolt velocity generated by the .17 HMR round. A locking lug at the top of the bolt locks it in position for a split second until the pressure drops off, then the bolt cycles.
But not only have Savage designed a system that functions consistently and safely, the rifle is at a price point similar to any other semi-auto rimfire.
It’s about time that a model such as the A17 came on the market, and to say that it is great to use is an understatement.
The combination of a .17 HMR round with quick follow-up shots means more time sighting game and less time working a bolt … resulting in more kills.
The current rifle uses a polymer stock and light barrel but I understand it won’t be long before some variations, including heavy barrels and target-like stocks, will be available here in New Zealand. The A17 uses a 10-round rotary magazine, ensuring there is no protruding magazine to get in the way; and an adjustable AccuTrigger is standard, ensuring that you can consistently let off shot after shot with precision.
Scope to Match - Bushnell Banner A17 3.5-10 x 36mm Super Rifle Scope
I received the A17 with specific optics to match, made by Bushnell. The scope has a custom ballistic drop compensating turret calibrated specifically for .17 HMR ammunition, and providing 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’re ready for any shot within the capability of this cartridge.
The concept is great: a scope with a turret you simply dial for the distance your target is at ... and bang!
The optics are the same as a standard Bushnell Banner scope with Bushnell’s proprietary Dusk & Dawn Brightness multi-coating process for good light transmission in early morning or evening. The scope features a one-inch diameter one-piece tube and is 100 percent waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof, and filled with dry-nitrogen.
The adjustment clicks equal ¼-minute of angle (¼ inch at 100 yards) for windage and elevation. The ballistic drop-compensating turret is easily re-zeroed after sighting in.
But while this scope has proved to be able to do the deed, and although the advanced feature of a ballistic turret is very useful, I still prefer a scope with more zoom on a .17 HMR to add confidence to the longer shots on small game.
Testing on paper- John Herbert
The .17 HMR has a reputation as an accurate little cartridge and in all my years of testing the most accurate load has always been the 17gr V-Max load. I’m a semi-automatic fan, especially when it comes to varmint guns, but the question on my mind was: could the A17 keep pace with my Savage M93? To give the A17 a fighting chance I set it up on my benchrest, and only took shots when there was a lull in the wind. Initially I was disappointed with the accuracy, with groups hovering around the 2 inch mark. As I was unsure whether the rifle was new, or how many rounds it had already had through it, I decided a clean was in order.
Stripping the A17 for cleaning is interesting; the action is accessed by removing the dust cover at the rear of the receiver. This initially required a bit of finesse but the second time I did it, it was a piece of cake. With the dust cover off, the recoil assembly pulls out, then the bolt handle, and finally the bolt itself slides clear from the back of the action. I have to say it’s a nice design as you don’t have to take the barrelled action out of the stock. One tip though – don’t pull the trigger with the bolt out, as getting the hammer back takes further disassembly.
With the barrel clean, groups improved immediately: the first two 3-shot groups were around 1.5 MOA, with groups after that shooting into 1 MOA. And although the Bushnell scope is a good field scope I’m sure with a bit more magnification those groups would shrink even further. If this rifle is anything like my Model 93 Savage, groups seem to improve as more rounds go down the barrel; just don’t forget to give it a clean every 100 rounds or so.
In the Field- Anto
Savage states the A17 rifle will safely and reliably work with any standard .17 HMR load, and it certainly did for me. However, Savage Arms have worked with sister company CCI to develop a special load for this rifle. The new CCI A17 ammunition is 100 FPS faster than the standard CCI 17 grain polymer-tipped ammunition, producing a figure of 2,650 FPS at the muzzle. And while this ammo was not noticeably different on paper or in the field it never hurts to have a bit more speed/knock-down power. Before heading into the field, I fired a number of 10 round groups with this ammo at a 100m target in under 20 seconds to simulate rapid fire on a moving bunny, and the results weren’t too bad at all.
The area I was hunting was loaded with rabbits and within seconds I had identified what was to be my first target. Moving in to 120 yards, I adjusted the turret to the 125 yard mark and with one shot the rabbit was down.
The next few were similar scenarios, but didn’t give me the opportunity to really make the most of the rifle, so I decided to sneak up a wee valley and peek down into the next one. This time a real challenge was presented: 5 rabbits, all next to each other, feeding unaware at around 100 yards. The first bunny was lined up and bang – flipping him onto his back. On to the next: bang, the rabbit tipped up but wasn’t dead; almost instantly another bullet was sent on its way to finish the job. The rabbits were taken by surprise, and after a small run they all stopped and looked at each other in shock – another shot, and a third was down. Now on a roll, I wanted a fourth. But with too much haste I clean missed, sending the rabbits scampering – but not nearly fast enough. With the nil recoil of the rifle I followed the rabbit I was on and began to empty the magazine, with bullets travelling just behind the speeding rabbit producing puffs of dust from beneath his feet before I quickly caught up, and sent a bullet away on target. “Wow! This rifle is just awesome,” I thought to myself.
I continued the evening securing many more rabbits, certainly making the most of the semi-auto feature I was now getting very used to. Some longer shots were taken – beyond 150 yards – however not with the with the consistency of my heavy-barrelled bolt action Savage fitted with a 6-18 power scope, although when you miss at beyond 150 yards the rabbits initially seem not to know what to do, giving an opportunity with the semi-auto to follow up with a quick volley, resulting in a fatality.
Many more evenings were had with the A17, resulting in some awesome shooting; shots were commonly taken on the third and fourth round that would not usually have even been an option. These quick follow-up shots are certainly critical when you’re in area with large numbers of game.
I was impressed with the A17 rifle; it ran well and was accurate. While the lower-power scope that comes with the rifle means it’s not a tack-driver, the semi-auto feature certainly makes up for that. I believe that the A17 rifle is going to change the .17 HMR market, and I certainly can’t wait to get a heavy barrel version, which will result in my bolt action becoming redundant on any future outings.
Copyright 2016 NZ Rod&Rifle Magazine