Savage B.MAG Target .17WSM Rifle and Bushnell Rimfire 3-12x40mm Riflescope
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Winchester (Olin) used their .27" industrial blank case, designed to drive concrete nails, as the basis of the .17 WSM rimfire varmint cartridge. It was 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 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. Winchester's Elite Varmint HV load launches a 20 grain Hornady V-Max polymer-tipped spitzer bullet (BC .185) at a muzzle velocity of 3000 fps with 400 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. The 200 yard velocity is 2058 fps and the remaining energy 188 ft. lbs.
The 20 grain WSM 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.
Winchester also offers an Elite Varmint HE load with a 25 grain V-Max polymer-tipped spitzer bullet (BC .230) at 2600 fps. In addition to Winchester ammo, Hornady and Federal American Eagle brand ammunition is also available, both loaded with 20 grain V-Max bullets at 3000 fps MV.
Thanks to our friends at Winchester, Hornady and Federal ammunition, samples of all four loads were provided for this review. Without their assistance, in depth reviews of this sort would be impossible. Please buy American made ammunition!
The trajectory of the .17 WSM / 20 grain V-Max load, zeroed for a maximum bullet rise of approximately 1.5" above the line of sight, 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 .17 WSM ammo is packaged in 50 round boxes similar to those used for centerfire handgun ammunition and the retail price is about five cents ($0.05) per cartridge higher than premium .17 HMR ammo. However, .17 WSM ammo is well under half the price of .17 Hornet centerfire cartridges.
Savage Arms (www.savagearms.com) and Winchester Ammunition (www.winchester.com) 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 and we recently reviewed the Ruger M77-17 .17 WSM Rifle.
The B.MAG was reported to have been in development for 18 months. The Target Model rifle reviewed here is a new model that comes with a gray, laminated hardwood stock that is a big improvement over the black plastic stock supplied on the original Savage B.MAG .17 WSM Rifle we reviewed in 2014.
B.MAG rifles are based on an entirely new bolt action designed and sized specifically for the .17 Win. Super Mag cartridge. The stainless steel barreled action of our test rifle is supplied with a matte, natural silver 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. This may be so, but considerable force is required to lock the bolt.
Only the bolt's 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 bolt body does not rotate.
Unlike most rimfire rifles, the firing pin is round. The extractor is a small 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. Cycle the action rapidly for best results, making sure to shove the bolt all the way forward before applying 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 set screw and the bolt shroud. The bolt shroud is 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 unattractive. We would prefer a more conventional, flattened oval, bolt knob, or at least the current knob should be cast solid with rounded ends. There is a convenient, rocker type bolt release at the left rear of the receiver.
The B.MAG uses an adjustable, thread-in barrel head spacing system similar to Savage centerfire rifles. Unlike a Savage centerfire rifle, however, there is no external locking collar. Instead, a wide groove is machined into the barrel where the barrel meets the receiver and the barrel is held in place in the receiver by two set screws concealed below the line of the stock. Two more rings of similar width and depth are machined in front of the first groove to disguise the system.
The 22" barrel is button rifled and has a target crown. It is free floated in the stock and, boy, does it ever soar. Seen from the front, the gap between the barrel and stock is huge, the largest we have ever seen.
There is no justification for this unsightly gap between barrel and fore arm, except that the barreled action is attached to the stock only under the receiver. This bedding system allows the full length of the barrel to move around in the stock and needs to be improved to firm things up.
The breech end of the barrel is cone shaped, allowing the rim of a chambered cartridge to protrude beyond the diameter of the chamber end of the barrel and the extractor hook to 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.
The two position safety slider is located just behind the bolt shroud and inletted flush with the stock. A red plastic dot appears when the safety is moved forward to the "fire" position.
The one-piece, laminated hardwood stock is based on Savage's modernistic thumbhole design. Despite its racy appearance, it is shaped to accommodate the average shooter. The Monte Carlo comb is dead straight and there is a cheekpiece for right-handed shooters.
The curved pistol grip flares dramatically at the end. There is no grip cap. Instead, the new Savage block "S" logo is outlined in the wood. Sadly, this politically correct symbol has replaced the original, far more attractive, Savage Indian head logo.
The butt terminates in a Boyds' black rubber butt pad. One steel sling swivel stud is provided in the butt stock and there are two mounted on the fore arm. This allows both a sling and a bipod to be attached.
The fore arm is wide and flattened at the bottom to facilitate shooting from a rest. There are three wide slots cut in each side of the fore arm to allow air circulation. This is intended to facilitate barrel cooling.
Our major complaints about the stock are the excessive gaps around the barreled action and magazine well. We realize these stocks are mass produced by automated cutters, but these gaps are ridiculous. The stock looks like it was inletted by a drunk monkey.
Cartridges are fed from a detachable, center feed, eight-round rotary magazine that clicks into place in the rifle's magazine well. The magazine release is a cheesy looking plastic piece molded integrally 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.
Firm pressure is required to compress this spring when the magazine is inserted. Listen for the latch to click, or the magazine may fall out.
The magazine body is formed from black nylon plastic. 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.
The trigger guard, with its obvious mold line, is also molded from black plastic. It is shiny black and does not match the matte finish of the other black parts on this rifle.
This sort of oversight cheapens the appearance of the whole rifle and makes it obvious that whoever specified these parts simply does not care. Nor does whoever authorized production without correcting obvious oversights, such as the trigger guard, hollow bolt knob and sloppy stock inletting.
We mounted a Bushnell Rimfire 3-12x40mm riflescope (www.bushnell.com) on our B.MAG Target rifle. 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 used on other Savage rifles. We used Millett Angle-Loc windage adjustable steel rings to mount the Bushnell scope on the B.MAG rifle. High rings were required to clear the bolt handle when the bolt is operated.
This Bushnell Rimfire 3-12x40mm scope, produced in Communist China, is a recent addition to the Bushnell scope line. Bushnell claims they maintain, "absolute product integrity and quality control throughout the entire design, production and delivery cycle of these riflescopes."
It features a one-piece main tube, multi-coated lenses, target type 1/4 MOA fingertip adjustment knobs, Multi-X (Duplex type) reticle, fast focus (Euro style) eyepiece and side parallax adjustment from 10 yards to infinity. It comes with replaceable, target type adjustment turrets and extra "ballistic" turrets calibrated for .22 LR and .17 HMR caliber rifles. We used the standard turrets.
Plastic lens caps are provided, but adjustment turret covers are not. Be careful not to accidentally change the windage or elevation settings. The Bushnell Lifetime Limited Warranty covers materials and workmanship for the life of the original purchaser.
The scope's external finish is a smooth matte black that goes nicely with the Savage B.MAG Target rifle. The scope's large zoom ring is easy to turn, but has enough resistance to stay where set. Ditto for the eyepiece focus ring and parallax focus knob.
The eye relief is a constant 3.9", regardless of magnification. The fast focus eyepiece allows +/- 2 diopters of adjustment range and allows a generous eye box, both laterally and forward/backward.
The windage and elevation adjustments use a ball bearing and spring system to reduce wear, extend dial life and maintain accuracy. This dial design allows 100% adjustment range with no loss of motion. The 1/4 MOA adjustment clicks are easy to count when the knobs are turned.
However, when zeroing our test rifle we did not find the adjustments to be particularly precise. Sometimes they delivered the desired correction and sometimes they apparently did little or nothing, requiring another adjustment to move the point of impact. This generally resulted in an excessive change when the adjustment finally took effect.
This sort of thing is not uncommon in many riflescopes and, while irritating, did not prevent us from zeroing the rifle. Once the rifle was zeroed to hit 1.5" high at 100 yards, to take advantage of the maximum point blank range of the .17 WSM cartridge, the scope held its zero throughout our test shooting.
The scope provided clear views of the target and the ranges marked on the side focus parallax adjustment knob appeared to be accurate. Sharpness was good across the field of view, as was contrast and color fidelity.
The optical performance appears only slightly better at low power than at high power, which is very good for a scope in this price range. We used 3x for the initial sighting-in at 25 yards and 12x for final sighting-in and shooting our groups for record at 100 yards.
Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Bob Fleck and Jim Fleck did the test shooting for this review. Rocky thought the reticle should be finer for a target/varmint scope, but overall our shooters liked this Bushnell Rimfire Riflescope. We found it an appropriate choice for our Savage .17 WSM Target model rifle.
We did our shooting from a bench using a Lead Sled DFT rest at the Izaak Walton outdoor gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. For record, we fired five shot groups at 100 yards on Champion Redfield Precision Sight-In targets. The autumn weather was partly cloudy with a high temperature of 61 degrees F. There was, fortunately, minimal wind.
We used Winchester Elite Varmint HV ammo loaded with 20 grain V-Max bullets, Winchester Varmint HE ammo loaded with 25 grain V-Max bullets, Federal American Eagle ammo loaded with 20 grain V-Max bullets and Hornady ammo loaded with 20 grain V-Max bullets. Our thanks to Winchester/Olin, Federal and Hornady for supplying the ammo for this review. Here are our shooting results:
This time out Rocky shot the smallest single groups. We consider the accuracy of this rifle and all brands/loads of the .17 WSM ammunition tested to be very good. The B.MAG Target model rifle proved more accurate than the original, plastic stocked, B.MAG rifle we reviewed in 2013, no doubt due to its heavier barrel and more rigid laminated wood stock.
Functioning was perfect. Evidently Savage has solved the problems we encountered with the B.MAG action back in 2013. (The initial production B.MAG rifles were recalled for bolt replacement.)
Everyone complained about the cock on closing bolt and the force required to rotate the bolt handle down. The downward rotation is what cocks the firing pin. The oddly shaped, hollow bolt handle also drew criticism, as it is less comfortable to grasp than more conventional bolt knobs.
Rocky had no complaints about the magazine, while Chuck, Jim and Bob found it more difficult to load than other rotary magazines. Nor did they like the integral, plastic magazine latch, or the force required to seat the magazine. On the plus side, the magazine fits flush with the bottom of the stock.
Due to its radical thumbhole stock, the Savage B.MAG Target Rifle has a futuristic appearance that should appeal to younger shooters. 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 Target model's best features to be its heavy barrel, Accu-Trigger, precise headspacing, dual locking lug bolt and excellent accuracy. The laminated hardwood stock is a big improvement over the injection molded plastic stock with which the base model B.MAG rifle is supplied. The Target model is well worth its modest additional cost.
Note: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews index page.
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