Following closely on the heels of their A17, Savage's successful .17 HMR semi-automatic, the company is introducing a complete family of new bolt-action rimfire rifles chambered for the .17 HMR, .22 LR and .22 WMR. In terms of sheer numbers of models, Savage commands the .17 rimfire world today, as well as being the first company to chamber the hot .17 Winchester Super Magnum.
The new B-Series sports 12 models, including the heavy barreled, silencer-ready B17 model featured here, a completely stainless steel, heavy-barreled version and several sporter-weight barreled variants. All models in the new series utilize a 10-round rotary magazine and Savage's AccuTrigger.
The B17 appealed to me for a variety of reasons. First, if you're in the market for a new rimfire rifle, I'd highly recommend a model with a factory-threaded barrel. I may not be the greatest reader of tea leaves, but it looks like the current Congress may remove silencers from the burdensome National Firearms Act of 1934. This requires you to pay a $200 tax on top of the cost of the silencer and wait months for the bureaucracy to approve the purchaser's Form 4: Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm.
Surprisingly, even the BATFE has recently floated the concept it might be useful to consider reclassifying silencers as non-NFA items. Bolstering this trend are the state game departments, which are increasingly removing restrictions on the use of silencers for hunting, although there are still lingering laws at the state and local level restricting ownership.
Note I use the term "silencer" rather than "suppressor." Why? Because the NFA of 1934 and ATF Form 4 refer to the item as such instead of "suppressor." Even more accurately, its inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim (son of Hiram Stevens Maxim, inventor of the Maxim machine gun) also called his invention a "silencer." So silencer it is.
Savage's B17 is factory fitted with a Picatinny-type rail for optics. This has evolved as the most flexible, secure mounting system available for rimfire and centerfire firearms which lack integral bases. In my circle of rifleman hunters, everyone is switching over to a rail as a base mount--even epoxying it to their receivers for absolute security and rigidity.
Mounted on the rail of my test rifle in Leupold quick-detachable rings is Weaver's 3-9x40mm "Kaspa Series" variable with interchangeable, calibrated elevation turrets for the .22 LR, .22 WMR amd .17 HMR. The elevation turret for the .17 HMR reads "100-125-150-175-200-225-250-275-300" yards.
However, 300 yards is a stretch for a wee 17-grain bullet. In fact, ammo company ballistic tables for the. 17 HMR stop at 200 yards. And for small-game hunting, I'd even recommend keeping your shots inside 125 yards because this little round does not pack a lot of energy downrange.
Elevation turrets are interesting to play with but don't necessarily align with your rifle and your load. You simply have to shoot in the elevation scale at the specified ranges and take some notes about the results. The Weaver's a neat scope, but I don't use adjustable turrets very often because I always, always end up losing the turret caps. (They should supply 2 or 3 extras with every scope!)
The B17 weighs in at 6 pounds. Adding the scope and mounts brought the weight up to 6 pounds, 13 ounces, which makes for a very stable platform for offhand or off-the-bench shooting. Weight can be a real asset in a rimfire. Most are too light and flighty.
Savage's new B-Series lineup features a completely new synthetic stock design. The high comb line is ideal for optics. The pistol grip is more vertical--much like a target stock grip--to provide better trigger control, and there's a user-friendly tang safety right there under your thumb where it should be. The sharp, angular lines molded into the new stock are eye-catching. The stock designer obviously had a free hand to do something modern, different and a bit radical.
Savage's flush-fitting 10-round rotary magazine has been around some time now and functions as it should. Like the magazine of a Savage Model 99, each cartridge loaded is compartmentalized in its own cradle (I find if you roll the cartridge in, rather than trying to stuff it down vertically, the magazine loads more easily).
Finally, what more can we say about Savage's revolutionary AccuTrigger? The weight of pull can be owner-adjusted from 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 pounds with complete safety. Once the barreled action is separated from the stock, adjusting the trigger is simply a matter of turning the trigger return spring in or out with the tool provided to set the poundage (Savage offered this design at no cost to the whole firearms industry. Enough said!).
How did the B17 do on the range? Vista Outdoor, Inc., which owns Savage, Weaver and CCI among others, provided the test ammunition which included CCI A17 loaded with a 17-grain polymer Varmint Tip bullet, CCI TNT Green, sporting a 17-grain, lead-free HP and CCI FMJ with a 20-grain "solid." Test targets were fired at 50 and 100 yards.
The B17 shone with the TNT Green--not the first time this load has taken first place honors. It's consistently super accurate. The B17 didn't perform well with the FMJ load and I didn't test it at 100 yards. The A17--designed for Savage's .17 HMR autoloader--did all right and took the honors for the highest velocity.
A COUPLE OF CAVEATS
There are a couple of peculiarities about the B17 (and .17 HMR) we need to mention. They are as follows:
(1) The thread protector nut at the muzzle must be kept tight or else accuracy will be degraded. If not using a silencer, I suggest securing it with LocTite Blue 242 Thread Locker.
(2) The .17 HMR chamber must be kept clean. I experienced several failures to extract during the test--a problem resolved by periodically cleaning the chamber with a solvent-soaked cotton swab. When inserting the 2-piece bolt into the receiver, the index lines on the bolt must be perfectly aligned or else the bolt won't slip into place.
(3) Finally, .17 HMR ammunition is loaded with copper jacketed bullets, so the barrel must be cleaned using centerfire cleaning techniques. I have settled on the 4-4.5mm Zimmerstutzen cleaning rods, felt cleaning wads and cleaning wad adapters stocked by International Shooters Service in Fort Worth, Texas. Nothing is faster or better.
The .17 HMR is a fascinating small game cartridge and a hoot to shoot. Savage's introduction of the B17 family, complemented with CCI ammunition, really puts the .17 HMR on the map.
MAKER: Savage Arms, 100 Springdale Rd., Westfield, MA 01085 (413) 568-7001, www.gunsmagazine.com/index
ACTION: Bolt-action repeater, CALIBER: .17 HMR, CAPACITY: 10, BARREL LENGTH: 16.25 inches, OVERALL LENGTH: 39 inches, WEIGHT: 6 pounds, FINISH: Matte black, SIGHTS: Picatinny-type rail, STOCK: Polymer, PRICE: $364
CCI, 2299 Snake River Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501, (208) 746-2351, www. cci-ammunition.com, INTERNATIONAL SHOOTERS SERVICE, 2319 E. Loop 820 N., Fort Worth, TX 76118, (817) 595-2090, www.issinternationalshootersservice.com, WEAVER OPTICS, 1 ATK Way, Anoka, MN 55303, (800) 379-1732, www.weaveroptics.com
Caption: The B17 in .17 HMR proved its small-game and varmint credentials with CCI loads.
Caption: Although the elevation turret is calibrated to 300 yards (right) that's a lot of distance to ask of a tiny 17-grain bullet (above).
Caption: Using International Shooters Service cleaning felts (above) is the way to go for cleaning the .17 HMR bore. Savage's 10-round, flush-fitting, rotary magazine (right) functioned flawlessly during testing.
.17 HMR FACTORY AMMO PERFORMANCE LOAD VELOCITY GROUP SIZE GROUP SIZE (BRAND, BULLET (FPS) (50 YARDS, (100 YARDS, WEIGHT, TYPE) INCHES) INCHES) CCI A17 17 Varmint Tip 5,663 0.61 1.56 CCI TNT Green 17 LF HP 2,575 0.53 0.87 CCI 20 FMJ 2,348 1.47 * NOTES: Groups measurement best 4 of 5 shots. * Not measured.