Savage A17 Autoloading .17 HMR Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
For technical reasons, previous attempts at .17 HMR autoloaders have not been very successful. Remington, for example, had to recall their Model 597 due to cleaning issues. The Hodgdon Little Gun powder originally used in .17 HMR ammo burns slower and is coarser than the super fine powder used in .22 LR rimfire ammo and evidently left more fouling in the action. In addition, the .17 HMR operates at higher pressure than standard rimfire cartridges and requires a stronger action. Instead of attempting to adapt an existing autoloading action, Savage Arms (www.savagearms.com) designed the A17 from the ground up for the .17 HMR cartridge.
Savage, in collaboration with CCI, even developed a new .17 HMR load for their autoloading rifle. Designated CCI A17 ammo, it uses the typical 17 grain, plastic tipped bullet found in most .17 HMR loads. CCI claims a muzzle velocity of 2650 fps, which is 100 fps faster than previous .17 HMR loads, and our chronograph results revealed substantially higher velocity than claimed. Based on our testing in the A17 autoloader, as well as Browning T-Bolt, Remington 547 and Anschutz 1717 bolt action rifles, the accuracy of the CCI A17 load is similar to other .17 HMR loads.
We found the A17 rifle also works fine with standard .17 HMR ammo and the A17 ammo is completely reliable in bolt action rifles. Before we get into a detailed description of the Savage A17 rifle, here are the advertised features and specifications.
The A17 looks like a fairly typical example of an inexpensive rimfire autoloader. Pretty much everything except the barrel, receiver, bolt, trigger and some internal parts is plastic. The carbon steel barreled action and a molded, black synthetic stock are all too common features when a manufacturer wants to keep the price as low as possible, regardless of aesthetics, long term value, or pride of ownership.
However, the A17 incorporates some features that belie its low price and budget rifle look. For example, the sporter weight barrel gets a medium polish before bluing; it is not the usual, rough, matte finish found on budget class rifles. As is normal these days, the tapered, button rifled barrel is free floating for its entire length. It appears to be threaded into the receiver and retained by the usual Savage barrel nut system. At the muzzle, the barrel measures 6/10 inch in diameter.
In addition, there is a case hardened steel receiver (polished to match the barrel), a hard chromed bolt with controlled feed and a receiver mounted ejector, intended to enhance reliable functioning. The plastic bodied magazine is a rotary design, rather than a single stack box. Weaver type scope bases come mounted on the rifle and the stock features steel sling swivel studs. The fire control system is Savage's AccuTrigger, which is adjustable for pull weight.
The A17 action is unlike most rimfire autoloaders. It is a delayed blowback design intended to keep the action momentarily closed against the relatively high initial pressure of the hot .17 HMR cartridge at the moment of firing. This allows a lighter return spring and a lighter bolt than a pure blow-back action, making the action easier to manually operate.
This is achieved by means of a small, retractable lug in the top of the bolt, about an inch behind the bolt face, that mates with a recess machined into the top of the receiver. (The oval locking slot is clearly visible in the top of the receiver when the bolt is open.) This serves to delay bolt opening. If you watch as you manually retract the bolt slowly, you can see and feel the slight initial movement required to retract the bolt locking lug before the bolt opens.
The bolt does not stay open when the magazine is empty. However, If you manually pull back the bolt, there is a small button located about 1/2 inch in front of the trigger guard that you can depress to keep it open. Pull the bolt handle back and release to close.
There is a plastic shroud at the rear of the receiver. In the back of the shroud is a small hole. A punch, or something similar, can be inserted in this hole to remove the shroud, allowing the recoil spring, guide rod and bolt to be removed from the receiver for maintenance.
A cross-bolt safety is located at the front of the plastic trigger guard. It blocks the trigger, but does not lock the bolt closed. Push the safety from right to left for "fire."
Loading the 10 shot rotary magazine is easily accomplished and feeding is reliable. A loaded magazine can be inserted into the rifle with the bolt open or closed. Once in place, it fits flush with the bottom of the stock. The magazine well is integral with the plastic stock, while the magazine catch is a simple plastic flat spring molded into the front of the magazine body.
The design of the A17's black plastic stock is, well, ugly. The lines are poorly drawn and the slightly raised blocks in the forend, intended to provide a better gripping surface, are unattractive. The forend tip is too blunt and has a reverse angle. On close inspection, a visible mold line runs down the middle of the stock. The plastic trigger guard droops to the rear. Even the fluting at the comb is over-done.
That said, the stock is comfortable at the shoulder and correctly aligns the eye with a scope in medium height rings. The pistol grip has a comfortable curve. The comb is straight and level. The curved, rubber recoil pad provides decent traction at the shoulder. The length of pull measures 14 inches. Functionally, the A17 stock gets a passing grade.
The provided Weaver type scope mounting bases on the A17 are much appreciated. Many compatible scope rings of all heights and types are available, making scope mounting simple.
We spent several hot summer days at the Izaak Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon with our Savage A17 rifle, shooting five shot groups at 100 yard targets from a bench rest. We used four brands of .17 HMR ammunition, all loaded with 17 grain varmint bullets. These included CCI A17 with 17 grain Varmint Tip bullet, CCI TNT with 17 grain JHP bullet, Hornady Varmint Express with 17 grain V-Max bullet and Winchester Supreme with 17 grain V-Max bullet. As always, our thanks to CCI, Hornady and Winchester for supplying the ammunition without which our gun reviews would not be possible. The mean average group size for all four loads was 1.63 inches, with the A17 ammo performing best and averaging 1.25 inches.
We would like to see an A17 offered with a varmint weight barrel and a more rigid, laminated hardwood stock. We think these changes would improve the accuracy of the rifle. Unfortunately, the design of the magazine well, which is integral with the plastic stock, may make it difficult to fit a wooden stock.
Note: A full review of the Savage A17, including detailed shooting results, shooter impressions and a rifle review summary, can be found on the Product Reviews index page.
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