The Savage Model 93R17-BVSS Varmint Rifle
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The Savage Arms Model 93R17-BVSS is Savage's medium priced rimfire varmint rifle, with a 2005 MSRP of $324. It comes with a stainless steel barreled action and a laminated hardwood stock, chambered for the .17 HMR cartridge. And, for 2006, the fabulous Savage AccuTrigger was added.
The nice folks at Savage Arms were kind enough to supply Guns and Shooting Online with a Model 93R17-BVSS rifle to review for this article, and also for inclusion in a comparison article featuring .17 HMR rifles. That article, "Compared: Marlin, Ruger and Savage .17 HMR Varmint Rifles" can be found on the Product Review Page.
Included with the rifle was a gun lock, Instruction Manual, One Year Limited Warrantee, some safety literature, and a 5-shot test target fired at 100 yards. The test group measured 3/4".
I don't know if targets are included with all new Savage rifles, but they seem to make it a point to send a test target along with the rifles they consign to gun writers for review. Perhaps to let us know what the rifle can do, even if our modest talents do not allow us to get the most from the test rifle. Probably a wise policy.
A Savage 93 action is the heart of the BVSS rifle. This is a cock on opening design that features dual extractors, a fixed blade ejector, and a cocking indicator. The bolt locks closed when a square lug at the root of the bolt handle is turned down into a deep notch in the tubular receiver, just like the original 19th Century bolt action rifles. Bolt rotation is approximately 90 degrees. The bolt is removed for cleaning or other purposes by simply pulling the trigger all the way rearward and sliding out the bolt. The rimfire version of Savage's outstanding AccuTrigger is adjustable from 2.5 to 6 pounds and puts Savage rimfire rifles onto a higher plane than the competition.
Cartridges are fed from a removable 5-round box magazine. The two-position safety (push forward for "fire") is located immediately behind the bolt handle at the right rear of the action.
The "bottom iron" is blued sheet metal and the trigger guard is plastic, complete with a lengthwise mold line; both are simply screwed onto the stock, not inletted. These production short cuts no doubt reduce manufacturing costs, but they are so obvious that they look out of place on what is otherwise a decent rifle.
And, while we are on the subject of the trigger guard, the Guns and Shooting Online staff agreed that it was too small, not leaving enough room for the finger of a shooter wearing gloves. Then Jim Fleck took a close look at the trigger guard and concluded that it was mounted front to back. So I removed the two wood screws securing the trigger guard to the stock, turned it around, and replaced the screws. Lo and behold, Jim was right. The trigger guard, now correctly installed, was suddenly adequate for a gloved trigger finger.
The Monte Carlo stock is made from laminated hardwood, stained an attractive gray/black that goes well with the stainless steel barreled action. This stock has cut checkering panels at pistol grip and forearm. The butt plate is black plastic, and studs for detachable sling swivels are provided.
The BVSS comes without iron sights, but with Weaver style scope mounting bases, which is a nice touch. The heavy contour barrel is 21" long. The rifle measures 39.5" in length and weighs only 6 pounds.
This relatively short length and light weight makes the BVSS a practical stalking rifle for small game hunting if equipped with a scope of moderate size. A good example of such a scope is the Leupold VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR that we mounted on our test rifle.
This premium rimfire scope features a fine Duplex reticle, fast focusing eyepiece, adjustable objective, and brilliant optics. At 3-5 power it has adequate field of view for small game hunting and at 6-9 power it has sufficient magnification for varmint hunting. Even though the Leupold is a modest size scope by modern standards, I was forced to use high Weaver rings to get the scope's adjustable objective to clear the Savage rifle's fat barrel.
I have written extensively about the .17 HMR cartridge elsewhere on the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page, so I will not repeat myself here. Suffice to say that with a 17 grain bullet at a MV of 2550 fps the .17 HMR is the flattest shooting, longest range rimfire cartridge on the market. It also appears to be the most accurate. The cartridge's only real drawback is that the light .17 HMR bullet is notoriously sensitive to crosswinds.
Our test shooting was done at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers 25, 50, 100, and 200 yard target positions. After first sighting-in the BVSS at 25 yards we then refined the zero at 100 yards. All subsequent shooting was conducted at 100 yards on Outers Score Keeper targets. Guns and Shooting Online Technical Consultants Bob Fleck and Jim Fleck assisted in the shooting chores.
We were fortunate that the air was cool and there was very little wind on our range days. But keep in mind that conditions are never 100% calm outdoors. Had we been shooting down a tunnel or at an indoor range our groups would doubtless have been somewhat smaller.
For record we shot 5-shot groups at 100 yards from a bench rest using a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest. Four brands of ammunition were employed for this testing, CCI, Federal, Hornady, and Remington. All loads used 17 grain varmint bullets. The CCI and Federal ammo was loaded with Speer TNT-JHP bullets, while the Hornady and Remington brands used the Hornady V-Max plastic tip bullet. Unlike our usual Guns and Shooting Online testing protocol, we did not let the barrel cool between shot strings. A total of some 70 rounds were fired in 5-shot strings--deliberately, but without intentionally allowing any down time, either. We felt that this would best simulate real world varmint shooting conditions.
The shooting results were gratifying. The test rifle proved to have a slight preference for Remington ammunition, with which it was very consistent. 5-shot groups at 100 yards using Remington Premier ammunition averaged 1", and the best group was only 13/16" center to center. The worst group with this load measured a pretty decent 1 5/16".
Hornady Varmint Express ammunition also provided consistent accuracy in the Savage BVSS. 100 yard 5-shot groups averaged just less than 1 1/4" with Hornady ammo, with the best group measuring 1" and the worst 1 7/16".
Federal ammunition produced a similar average, but the individual groups were somewhat more erratic. Groups shot with the Federal Premium V-Shok load averaged a hair over 1 1/4", but one exceptional group measured only 9/16", while the largest measured 1 1/2".
CCI ammo had the poorest average group size, at 1 1/2", as well as the largest variation in group size. The best group measured a tiny 9/16", but another group fired with the CCI-TNT load produced our largest group, at 2 1/4".
The overall average group size with all brands of ammunition proved to be only 1.19".
The Savage 93R17 is included in the article ".17 HMR Rifle Accuracy Test Results," which can be found in the "Rifle Information" section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page. There you can compare its range results with other .17 HMR rifles tested by Guns and Shooting Online.
The BVSS rifle functioned and fed cartridges reliably throughout our testing. The action was comparatively smooth and easy to operate. There was only one instance of a failure to feed, and that may have been caused by a magazine that was not fully seated by the shooter.
The heavy barreled Savage Model 93R17-BVSS is one of the most accurate Savage rimfire hunting rifles. Our testing confirmed that a groundhog who reveals himself within the 165 yard maximum point blank range (+/- 1.5") of a varmint hunter equipped with one of these rifles is in mortal danger. Despite its chintzy bottom iron and plastic trigger guard, the BVSS is a very practical combination varmint/stalking rifle.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2005, 2006 by ChuckHawks.com. All rights reserved.
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