Savage B.Mag .17 Win. Super Mag Rifle

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Savage B.Mag Rifle
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The .17 Winchester Super Mag (WSM) case comes from an unlikely source. Winchester (Olin) used their .27" industrial blank case designed to drive concrete nails. Reinforced with a stronger case head and body to operate at higher pressure (33,000 psi), necked-down to accept .172 caliber bullets and given a sharp shoulder, the .17 WSM was born. The maximum cartridge overall length is 1.59" and the body diameter is 0.269".

The .17 Winchester Super Mag is the fastest rimfire cartridge ever. It launches a 20 grain bullet (BC .185) at a muzzle velocity of 3000 fps with 400 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. (This is approximately the same energy as a 230 grain .45 ACP bullet!) The 200 yard velocity is 2058 fps and the remaining energy 188 ft. lbs. The 20 grain bullet is traveling faster at 225 yards (1973 fps) than the 17 grain .17 HMR bullet is at 100 yards (1901 fps) and faster than the 40 grain .22 Magnum bullet is at the muzzle (1910 fps). Compared to the .17 HMR, trajectory is much flatter and wind drift is halved.

The 20 grain bullet used in the Winchester Elite Varmint HV ammunition we received for this review is a Hornady V-Max spitzer. Winchester is also offering a somewhat less expensive .17 WSM Super-X load using a 20 grain hollow point bullet (MV 3000 fps) and an Elite Varmint HE load with a 25 grain polymer tipped bullet at 2600 fps. However, it is the Elite Varmint HV 20 grain load that delivers the highest performance in .17 WSM and we expect this to be Winchester's best seller in the caliber.

The trajectory of the Elite Varmint HV .17 WSM / 20 grain V-Max load, zeroed for a maximum bullet rise of approximately 1.5" above the line of sight for varminting, looks like this: -1.5" at muzzle, -0.32" at 25 yards, +0.59" at 50 yards, +1.52" at 100 yards, +1.06" at 150 yards, -1.08" at 200 yards, -2.88" at 225 yards, -5.25" at 250 yards.

This stellar performance comes at a price, literally. Winchester Elite Varmint HV .17 WSM ammo is packaged in 50 round boxes similar to those used for centerfire handgun ammunition and the 2013 MSRP is reported to be $17.99 ($.36 per cartridge). The current discount retail price is $14.99 at Midway USA ($.30 per cartridge). For comparison, Midway's price for a 50 round box of Hornady .17 HMR ammo is $12.49 ($.25 per cartridge). However, .17 WSM ammo is well under half the price of .17 Hornet centerfire cartridges. ($18.49 for a box of 25 from Midway, or $.74 per cartridge). The cheaper .17 WSM Super-X 20 grain hollow point load retails at Midway for $13.99 ($.28 per cartridge).

Savage Arms ( and Winchester Ammunition ( cooperated on the .17 Win. Super Mag project, with Winchester developing the cartridge and Savage developing the first rifle to shoot it. Winchester reports that practically every major rifle manufacturer has requested and received the specifications for chambering the new cartridge. Winchester Arms is scheduled to introduce an 1885 Low Wall falling block rifle in .17 WSM in November 2013 and we have already requested one for review.

The B.MAG is the first rifle introduced since ATK purchased Savage Arms, but it was reported to have been in development for 18 months. We have seen quite a bit of incorrect information published about this action, apparently based on pre-production samples released to certain favored media outlets, particularly Shooting Times magazine. (American Rifleman managed a more accurate description of the B.MAG action.) The rifle reviewed here is the standard production version sold over the counter by Savage dealers at the time of this review. If you buy a B.MAG in October 2013, this is what you will get. Our B.MAG rifle came with a 100 yard, three shot test group that measured 0.6" center to center.

The B.MAG rifle is based on an entirely new bolt action designed and sized specifically for the .17 Win. Super Mag cartridge. The barreled action is supplied with a matte black finish. The round receiver measures 5.8" long and 0.95" wide. The B.MAG action is unusual in that it uses dual, opposed, rear locking lugs and cocks on closing. Savage claims the latter was done to give the shooter better cocking leverage against the strong firing pin spring required for reliable ignition.

Only the bolt's cast aluminum alloy rear shroud, cast steel handle and locking lugs (all at the rear of the bolt assembly) rotate when the bolt is locked or unlocked; the silver bolt body does not rotate. Unlike most rimfire rifles, the firing pin is round. The extractor is a small, sharp hook at the front of the recessed bolt face. A receiver mounted ejector kicks fired cases out to the right through the receiver's oval ejection port. A heavy spring is required to drive the firing pin forward with sufficient force to reliably crush the rim of the strong .17 WSM case, which means that plenty of force is required to compress the spring when the cock on closing bolt is locked.

We found it easy to inadvertently short stroke the action when closing the bolt. Once the bolt lugs (located in front of the bolt handle) reach the slot molded into the stock for the bolt handle, the bolt handle can be rotated downward with the action open. Cycle the action rapidly for best results, making sure to shove the bolt all the way forward before applying any downward pressure on the bolt handle.

The bolt handle and bolt knob are cast as one piece. This piece is kept in place around the rear of the bolt body by a small set screw and the bolt shroud. The bolt shroud is cast aluminum (not steel) and located immediately behind (pressed tight against) the bolt handle. It is fastened by a larger machine screw through its rear end. The shroud prevents the bolt handle from slipping rearward.

The bolt knob is an unusual tubular (hollow) shape that tapers toward the rear. We found the shape of the bolt knob satisfactory when opening the bolt, but somewhat uncomfortable for closing. Aesthetically, this hollow, semi-cylindrical bolt knob is not particularly attractive. We would prefer a more conventional, flattened oval, bolt knob, or at least the current knob should be cast solid with rounded ends. A longer bolt handle would increase the shooter's mechanical leverage and make closing the bolt easier.

The B.MAG uses an adjustable, thread-in barrel headspacing system similar to Savage centerfire rifles. Unlike a Savage Centerfire rifle, however, there is no external locking collar. The B.MAG barrel is held in place in the receiver by two set screws concealed below the line of the stock. A wide groove is machined into the barrel where the barrel meets the receiver; this hides the unavoidable (small) gap between receiver and barrel inherent with this type of headspacing system and two more rings of similar width and depth are machined in front of the first groove to further disguise the system.

The light contour, tapered, sporter type barrel is button rifled and 22" in length with a radius (hunting) crown. It is free floated in the stock. We would have preferred a heavier contour barrel, since the .17 WSM is primarily a varmint cartridge.

The breech end of the barrel is cone shaped, allowing the rim of a chambered cartridge to protrude slightly beyond the diameter of the chamber end of the barrel and the extractor hook to (barely) catch the case rim. There is no conventional notch cut at the end of the chamber to allow the extractor a full bite on the rim.

The excellent Savage AccuTrigger is user adjustable from about 2.5 to 6.0 pounds. Our test rifle's trigger arrived set at the minimum pull weight of 2.5 pounds. The trigger housing is cast of some non-ferrous metal, although the trigger itself is steel. There is a rocker type bolt release at the left rear of the receiver. The two position, steel safety slider is located just behind and beneath the bolt shroud, which is cut away on its underside to allow thumb access to the safety. A red plastic dot appears when the safety is moved forward to the "fire" position.

The black, one-piece, synthetic stock is commendably slender and generally well shaped. It is said to be made of some sort of Nylon plastic. The fluted comb is straight with very little drop at heel. The curve of the pistol grip is a segment of a circle. Instead of checkering, there are four-panel, molded-in gripping areas at that we found non-functional. The grip cap, naturally, is plastic with an embossed Savage Indian head design. The black rubber butt pad assembly snaps into the butt stock; it is not secured with screws in the conventional manner. Instead, there is a small, square hole in the top rear of the butt that serves as a mortise into which fits a plastic catch that secures the butt pad in place. This system works, but the square hole is unsightly. Steel sling swivel studs are provided.

This stock looks and feels much like a Rubbermaid outdoor trash can, which is durable, but not exactly beautiful. It is very light and so flexible that the forend can easily be twisted or warped by hand to contact the barrel. (Shades of the old Nylon stocked Remington Nylon 66 .22 rimfire rifle, which suffered from the same problem.) Nylon is tough stuff, but it lacks rigidity.

We found that the source of the flex in the stock was not the forend itself, but the very thin area of the stock where the action is bedded. It is like there is a hinge in the middle of the stock.

Previous experience has shown us that flexible stocks are detrimental to accuracy. Any attempt to use a shooting sling on the B.MAG rifle, even a "hasty" sling, will pull the forend against the barrel and change the point of impact down range.

To remove the barreled action from the stock, which is necessary to adjust the Accu-Trigger, you first remove the magazine. Then remove the one-piece plastic trigger guard / magazine well by putting the rifle muzzle down on a carpet or pad and using the tip of a screwdriver blade to press on an integral plastic catch (marked by a spot of yellow paint) at the forward end of the magazine well; the front of the magazine well will pop up. Pull the trigger guard outward to detach it from the stock. (To replace the trigger guard, insert the tab at its rear into the matching notch in the stock and press the front of the magazine well down until it clicks into place.)

Once the trigger guard housing is removed from the stock, you can remove the two machine screws that hold the stock to the barreled action with a 5/32" Allan wrench. This is a unique and clever design that is obviously intended to minimize manufacturing costs.

The plastic jigsaw puzzle construction of the B.MAG magazine, trigger guard unit and stock would make restocking the rifle difficult and more trouble than it is worth. This is a shame, as the flimsy stock is the first thing we would like to replace.

Cartridges are fed from a new, detachable, center feed, eight-round rotary magazine that clicks into place in the rifle's magazine well. The magazine release is a plastic latch integral with the front of the magazine. A small "mousetrap" type coil spring is mounted at the top of the metal magazine guide rails at the rear of the magazine well. This spring is partly compressed and bears against a small ramp molded into the magazine's metal rear panel when the magazine in inserted fully into the magazine well. It helps to start the magazine out of its well when the magazine release is pressed.

The magazine body, as well as the rifle's one-piece trigger guard and magazine well, are formed from the same synthetic material as the stock. The rear panel of the magazine is metal to resist wear from the magazine spring and guide rails. The magazine's red plastic rotary cartridge follower is powered by a central, coaxial coil spring that is "wound-up" as cartridges are loaded into the magazine. Two small screws in the rear of the magazine allow disassembly, but we recommend leaving the magazine alone unless a problem develops that requires taking the magazine apart for repair.

Aesthetically speaking, the B.Mag's lines are good, but the matte metal finish and synthetic stock are low-end features. The .17 WSM deserves a polished blue action and a walnut stock. A laminated stock, heavy barrel version for serious varmint shooters would also be nice.


  • SKU: 96901
  • Caliber: .17 WSM
  • Magazine: Detachable rotary
  • Magazine capacity: 8
  • Barreled action material: Carbon steel
  • Barreled action finish: Black matte
  • Barrel: 22" long, light sporter contour, radius crown
  • Twist: 1:9", right hand
  • Trigger: Adjustable AccuTrigger
  • Trigger pull as received: 2.5 pounds
  • Safety: 2-position tang safety
  • Sights: None; drilled and tapped for scope mounts with Weaver type bases included
  • Stock material: Synthetic
  • Stock finish: Matte black
  • Length of pull: 13.9"
  • Drop at comb: 1.0"
  • Drop at heel: 0.75"
  • Overall length: 40.5"
  • Actual Weight: 4 pounds 7 ounces per our digital scale
  • 2013 MSRP: $349

We mounted a Leupold VX-I 4-12x40mm riflescope on our B.MAG test rifle. (The link to a review of the Leupold VX-I 4-12x40mm can be found on the Scope and Optical Sights Reviews index page.) The factory mounted scope bases on the B.MAG are of the cross-slot (Weaver) type. These bases are supplied, because the B.MAG receiver's mounting hole pattern does not match the scope bases use on other Savage rifles. We used Leupold's steel PRW rings to mount the VX-I on the B.MAG rifle.

The scope and rings added 1 pound 1.6 ounces to the weight of the rifle, for a total empty weight of 5 pounds 8.6 ounces. This is too light for steady holding from unsupported positions, so we suggest a bipod with telescoping legs attached to the front swivel stud would be a useful accessory. This ultra light rifle must be fired from a bipod, shooting sticks or other rest to take advantage of its intrinsic accuracy. A semi-heavy contour varmint barrel and a stiffer stock would certainly be advantageous.

We did our test shooting from a bench using a Lead Sled DFT rest at the Izaak Walton outdoor gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. The weather was partly cloudy with rain showers, heavy at times, and a high temperature of 60-degrees F. We waited for the rain to cease before firing our groups for record. We also had a variable velocity cross wind, estimated at a maximum speed of 10-12 MPH, so we tried to shoot between the gusts.

Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Bob Fleck, Rocky Hays and Jim Fleck did the test shooting. We fired three shot groups at 100 yards on Hoppe's "Crosshair" targets using Winchester Elite Varmint HV ammo loaded with 20 grain V-Max bullets. Our thanks to Winchester/Olin for supplying the ammo for this review. Here are our shooting results:

  • Smallest group = 3/4"; Largest group = 1-3/8"; Mean average group size = 1.0"

This time out Chuck shot the smallest single group. We regard the accuracy of this rifle and the .17 WSM ammunition to be good, particularly considering the inclement weather conditions.

Very noticeable to anyone shooting a B.MAG rifle for the first time is the excessive force needed to lock the bolt. Rotating the bolt handle down cocks the heavy firing pin spring and requires an unusual amount of effort. The B.MAG action is never going to be smooth or fast to cycle compared to Savage's conventional cock on opening bolt actions.

Unfortunately, we experienced serious extraction problems during our test shooting. Lacking a notch for the extractor at the end of the barrel, the extractor simply does not get a sufficient grip on the rim of a fired case to pull it from the chamber when the bolt is opened. Interestingly, the extractor will reliably withdraw unfired cartridges from the chamber, but firing these high pressure rimfire cartridges subtly changes the shape of the hollow case rim, slightly fattening the rim and increasing the radius of the edge of the rim. This allows the extractor hook, which at best has a very tenuous hold on the edge of the rim, to slip off the expanded case rim when the action is opened, leaving the fired and expanded case stuck in the chamber. We had to pry every fired case from the chamber with the blade of a jeweler's screwdriver.

This failure to extract made the B.MAG into a very slow firing single shot rifle. We ultimately resorted to manually loading every cartridge directly into the chamber and picking every fired case from the chamber with our little screwdriver.

Actually, the B.MAG became a crew served weapon, with the shooter sitting at the bench rest and an assistant standing to his right to load a fresh cartridge into the chamber and pry out the expanded case after firing. Most of the time, after we got the hang of prying out the fired cases, it wasn't too difficult, but occasionally a case stuck in the chamber and was a hassle to remove. Needless to say, this was a frustrating and time consuming process. At least there was plenty of time for the barrel to cool between shots!

As an experiment, we removed the bolt from the rifle and placed a fired case in the recessed bolt face, which allowed the extractor to get a full bite on the case rim. We then tried to pull the case forward from the extractor hook, but were unable to do so. This demonstrated to us that if the extractor were allowed to get a full bite on the rim, it is plenty strong enough to yank a fired case from the chamber.

Since the B.MAG is relatively inexpensive, we decided to purchase our test rifle for experimentation and have Rocky Hays, our G&S Online Gunsmithing Editor, cut a small notch for the extractor hook at the end of the chamber. After carefully examining the action, we believed that this simple remedy would cure the extraction problem.

Savage B.MAG extractor cut
New extractor cut viewed through ejection port. Photo by Rocky Hays.

The new extractor notch was hurriedly cut to be ready the next day, which found us back at the range for reliability testing. The B.MAG extracted perfectly following Rocky's minor surgery on the chamber end of the barrel. We inspected all of the fired cases and are pleased to report no case head bulging, rim distortion, or other problems following surgery. Savage definitely needs to follow our lead by adding an extractor cut on all future B.MAG rifle production. Otherwise, they are going to be receiving a great many rifles returned by irate customers with fired cases stuck in the chamber.

The B.MAG is a sleek looking rifle and its action is obviously stronger than previous Savage bolt action rimfires. It is economically priced and chambered for the highest velocity and flattest shooting rimfire cartridge ever offered. We found the B.MAG's best features to be its Accu-Trigger, very accurate headspacing, new action properly sized for the cartridge (rather than adopted from an existing action), rotary magazine and dual locking lug bolt. Its worst features are its inability to reliably extract fired cases out of the box, the excessive force required to close/lock the bolt, a flexible plastic stock, very light contour barrel and ultra light weight. Savage will need to immediately take steps to solve the extraction problem, at a minimum, if the B.MAG is to be successful in the market place.


  • Make and Model: Savage B.MAG
  • Type: Hunting rifle
  • Action: Bolt, repeater
  • Stock: Black synthetic
  • Caliber Reviewed: .17 WSM
  • Best Features: Adjustable Accu-Trigger; Precise headspacing; Rotary magazine; Dual locking lug bolt; Good accuracy
  • Worst Features: Extraction problem; Stiff bolt closing; Excessive stock flex; Very lightweight barrel; Ultra light weight
  • Overall Grade: F (Failed due to inability to extract fired cases; Grade "C" after extraction modification)

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