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Rifles Rim Fire

Savage A17 Review

by G&A Staff   |  June 25th, 2015 0

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What if we told you that a Savage-built semiautomatic .17 HMR rifle with the company’s AccuTrigger could be had for less than $470? What if we also told you that it has been factory mounted to accept your favorite optic? This might truly be the deal of the year.

Why .17 HMR? After utilizing a .22 Long Rifle to teach new hunters the fundamentals and safe gun-handling practices in a controlled range environment, a .17 HMR sounds like the next step when transitioning them into the field in search of small game. The .17 HMR is low-recoiling, just like the .22LR, but it fires a bullet that travels more than twice as fast. This faster bullet results in extended range and accuracy, and the rifle still maintains a high fun factor due to the lack of intimidation that often results when jumping to more powerful cartridges before a shooter is comfortable.

Those familiar with the .17 HMR are already aware that in the past this one has been happiest when fired from a bolt gun. Most of the semiautomatic platforms offered by other companies are traditional blowback-operated rifles. This means that the self-loading/semiautomatic firearm obtains its ability to cycle and eject a spent case from the actual motion of the shell being pushed rearward by the expanding gases. Previous attempts by other companies to produce a self-loading .17 HMR have been hampered by the cartridge’s extreme energy, which overcomes the traditional blowback operation’s ability to cycle reliably. Most shooters have been restricted to bolt-action rifles while really desiring the enjoyment and capability that an autoloading .17 brings to the table.

Savage_A17_review_12Enter the A17
To overcome the Achilles’ heel associated with semiautomatic .17s, the new Savage features a unique delayed-blowback recoil operation that will handle the higher pressures associated with the .17 HMR.

The system features an interrupter lug that has been integrated into the bolt assembly. This lug locks the bolt down when firing, providing as much accuracy and control as a traditional bolt-action rifle, while resulting in a much safer system than a traditional straight blowback provides. This is because you have a locked-down bolt that can handle the .17’s increased pressure.

Savage worked closely with sister company CCI to produce a load that was tailor fit to the A17. The new ammunition is screaming-fast, averaging around 2,650 feet-per-second, about 100 fps faster than a standard .17 HMR load with the same bullet weight. This faster, higher-pressure ammunition assists in reliably cycling the bolt regardless of temperature, elevation or field conditions. However, the Savage A17 is fully capable of digesting a diet of any .17 HMR ammunition you currently own. Parent company ATK basically took its own ammunition brand and charged it with optimizing a load for use with this new platform. Rimfires can be finicky when it comes to ammunition they prefer, so ATK took point on experimentation so that you don’t have to, saving you time troubleshooting, money and aggravation.

The A17 rifle is constructed using 2140 chrome-moly steel with a hard-chrome bolt for easy cleanup. A 22-inch-long button-rifled barrel does its job in placing bullets exactly where you’re aiming. The rifle tips the scales at 5.41 pounds, so it’s not as feathery as some single-shots, but it weighs far less than a comparable centerfire rifle.

Savage_A17_review_7While the A17 is certainly value packed, the inclusion of Savage’s AccuTrigger will seal the deal for most at the gun counter. The AccuTrigger was introduced by Savage in 2002. It was designed to have a crisp, creep-free trigger pull while being user-adjustable from 1½ to 6 pounds without the user having to disassemble the rifle. Even at its lightest trigger-pull weight, it also had to withstand being bumped without unintentionally going off. Within the trigger is a long, silver-colored AccuRelease lever mounted within the trigger shoe that shares the same pivot point within the housing. When at rest, the forward upper end of the AccuRelease is positioned directly behind the sear, blocking it should there be any external force that could jar it out of the trigger notch. To use it, the trigger finger will first take up and depress the AccuRelease lever so its forward tip drops out of the path of the sear, allowing the sear to move fully rearward when released by the trigger at whatever weight you have adjusted the trigger pull to be.

The synthetic stock is lightweight and nicely textured in a rib pattern, allowing a positive grip even in inclement weather. Sling swivels are positioned fore and aft, and the forward swivels will accept a bipod. And the action is attached to a steel barrel nut.

Savage_A17_review_8The rifle is fed by a 10-round detachable flush-fitting rotary magazine. We’ve heard through the grapevine that larger-capacity magazines are forthcoming, guaranteeing a long line of smiles at the range or a heap of prairie dogs at the bottom of a hill.

Guns & Ammo staff evaluated the new A17 by mounting Bushnell’s 3.5-10x 36mm rimfire optic. Once mounted and boresighed, all that’s needed is a target and a box of ammo to fine-tune it at the range. The optic provides a large, knurled magnification adjustment for quick power changes, which allowed us to zoom in for those long-range targets. Capped turrets ensure that windage and elevation changes occur only during zeroing, and not when the rifle is incidentally bumped on the ride out.

Performance testing was conducted on a brisk Midwestern morning last February. While the temperature was low, the wind was almost nonexistent. The new A17 was a shooter, consistently producing sub-three-quarter-inch five-shot groups at 50 yards — even after several hundred rounds were fired.

Just as you would expect, this rifle is a lot of fun for the whole family to shoot. It reliably cycled CCI’s new A17 17-grain Varmint Tip rounds as fast as shooters could pull the trigger. Be advised, however, that G&A staff experienced several failure-to-eject malfunctions during our testfire while using Hornady’s .17 HMR load. Otherwise, shooting Savage’s new rimfire autoloader is just like shooting a .22, but with a far more accurate and reliable platform given two rifles with similar features. We longed for more magazines and dream of an aftermarket to develop shortly with optional stocks, magazines and who knows what to let each of us personalize it in a unique way. And if you’re one of us who like shooting our Ruger 10/22s, there’s little doubt that you’re going to fall in love with the A17.

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