Gun Review: Savage 93 .17 HMR with Accu-Trigger

A few years back I started rebuilding my gun collection. I never got “out” of firearms, but my interest dwindled when I went for my undergraduate degree. Living on campus was required until senior year. Firearms were – of course – strictly forbidden in the dorms. The local sheriff would  temporarily “hold” a long-arm for those in college. You could only pick up your gun or guns on certain days of the week at certain times. Since pheasant and deer seasons were smack in the middle of mid-terms and finals weeks, I decided it wasn’t worth the bother. I gave up on the idea of getting much hunting done . . .

Less than two weeks after graduation, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I were getting ready to make our move across the country. Preparing for the trip, I gave away, sold or traded my firearms for what we needed: money for gas and rent, and furniture for our new desert home. As I slowly started acquiring firearms again, my wife acclimatized herself to my collection. While not immediately interested, a spark caught and a fire grew. My safe now shelters a half-dozen or so firearms purchased specifically for “her.”

But not really. Most were guns that she may have liked; in reality, they were guns I kind of wanted anyways. I tried some smaller 9mm’s, a compact this, and sub-compact that. As it turns out, my wife’s favorite gun is a 6” S&W 586 that has been refinished and action-tuned by S&W Performance Center. Go figure.

My most recent acquisition: a Savage 93R17-GV in .17 HMR. Luckily for me, I don’t think my wife will have any surprises in store for me and my guess is that she will likely leave my 7mm Magnums alone for a while. You see, unlike pistols, my wife can’t hold a long arm up for more than 15 seconds. She is also a squint over 100 pounds. Even the kick from my AR is a “bit much” as she puts it.

Out of the Box…

The Model 93 is one of Savage’s rimfire line. The 93R17-GV is the .17 HMR variant. It leaves the factory with a heavy barrel, a walnut-stained stock, a 5-round detachable magazine and scope bases pre-installed. The nicely shaped stock with its hard plastic buttplate has it going on, although purists should note that it’s made from “walnut stained hardwood” not “stained walnut.” Enthusiasts seeking classier companionship would be better off with one (or more ) of the BVSS, BTVS and BV 93 variants.

The Savage 93’s heavy contour barrel has a 1-9” twist. It’s 21″ long, bringing the rifle’s overall length right up to 39.5″. Thanks to the relatively long (for a rimfire) and heavy barrel, the 93 tips the scales at around six pounds (sans scope, rings, and sling). It’s a bit “nose heavy,” but not uncomfortably so. Nor does the balance impose any irregular handling characteristics.

The Savage 93’s box magazine is a single-stack design that holds five rounds of ammo, allowing a 5+1 loadout. Push the release and the magazine drops free. Counterintuitively enough, you have to push the release button significantly harder when the 93’s bolt is left open (it is what it is).

Initially, I had some trouble manipulating the magazine. When fully loaded, the magazine would “release” all of the rounds in an embarrassing, jack-in-the-box manner. After a quick inspection, I simply “pressed” the feed lips down a bit on the shooting bench. Problem solved.

The magazine felt “rough” at first when being loaded into the rifle, but it has smoothed out some. However, it still takes a bit of force to insert. With a little practice, a fresh magazine can be inserted without unshouldering or moving the rifle (great for varmint hunters). Also, the magazine capacity of five is a bit of an annoyance and I wish Savage offered a 10-rounder. I’d suggest that anyone who purchases one of these get an extra mag (or two, or three, maybe four).

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Savage’s Accu-trigger is an amazing innovation; the 93R17’s go pedal is no exception. [Click here for Shooting Times’ excellent explanation of its operation.] Using my new Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge, the trigger break is clean and consistent. An average of 10 trigger pulls showed a trigger weight of 2lbs-9.5oz with a standard deviation of only 2 oz. Obviously, Savage built this trigger to inspire accuracy and precision and I can’t imagine anyone needing a lighter trigger for hunting purposes.

Other than the magazine quirks, my only gripe about the rifle is the safety. Having used many Savage rifles in the past, I always appreciated the tang-mounted safety. The 93R17 models have a push button safety located on the upper right-hand portion of the receiver, similar to those on Remington 700’s. Due to its location (and to the fact that my thumb isn’t made of the same stuff as Gumby’s) I found it easier to use my trigger finger to manipulate the safety. Unfortunately, this requires removing my grip from the stock – not something I’m fond of in a hunting rifle (or any rifle for that matter).

At the range…

The holiday season is upon us; I had a heck of a time getting .17HMR ammo. My local gun shop, Big 5, Dick’s, and even Wal-Mart had a limited supply, both in quantity and diversity. Eventually, I was able to secure three different types of ammo: Winchester Supreme 17-grain, Hornady V-Max 17-grain and CCI TNT JHP 17-grain.

After mounting a spare 4-12×40 Leupold Rifleman scope, I bore sighted the best I could and headed to the range. I was close, about 8” low and 2” left. With a few tweaks I was hitting the center dot at 50 yards. After letting the barrel cool down for 10 minutes, I got to work.

All three types of ammunition claim 2550 f.p.s. and I had every intention of verifying that. Unfortunately, in my new-gun excited state, I forgot my tripod at home and couldn’t find a volunteer to hand-hold my chrony. D’oh! For accuracy testing, I shot 10-round groups at 50 yards. When calculating groups, I only used the best 9 shots from each set. I like having a little “wiggle room” and I feel that eliminating one shot per set (as opposed to “calling flyers”) allows me to relax a bit. John Taffin feels the same, so I can at least say I’m in good company.

Using my new Caldwell Lead Sled Plus, I set up three color-changing targets at 50 yards. Of the three, the Hornady V-Max 17-grain rounds were the most accurate, punching clovers in my 8” Dirty Birds. However, all rounds proved to be quite accurate. Assuming the winds are calm, one can extrapolate the data below to calculate 100-yard accuracy from this rifle to be in the 1.5”-2.5” range. Not bad for any bone stock rifle. And pretty exceptional considering that this is a rimfire. The only other rimfire that I’ve shot that comes close to this type of accuracy costs over $1000.

.17HMR Cartridge

Hornady V-Max

CCI TNT JHP

Winchester Supreme V-Max

Vertical Spread (in)

0.578

0.953

1.5468

Horizontal Spread (in)

0.703

1.078

0.703

Extreme Spread (in)

0.766

1.141

1.5468

Avg Spread (in)

0.6823

1.0573

1.2655

Testing Notes – 9 rounds, 50 yards, cold barrel, Lead Sled, Savage 93R17-GV

[Note:  I measure Vertical Spread as the furthest distance that can be measured between any two points along the vertical axis of the target (i.e. how far apart of the two farthest holes up and down). Horizontal Spread is the furthest distance that can be measured between any two points along the horizontal axis of the target (i.e. how far apart are the two farthest holes side to side). Extreme Spread is the furthest distance that can be measured between any two points (i.e. how far apart are the two farthest holes). Average Spread is the average of the three spreads (horizontal, vertical, and extreme).]

One thing I wasn’t expecting: misfires. Overall, I had 12 misfires out of 100 shots during the day of testing – nine of which came from the Winchester Supreme ammo, two from the CCI, and one from the Hornady. Upon inspection, the primer strikes were strong and distinct. I still don’t know what to make of it, but I’ll be sure to report any updates as I shoot this rifle more.

Back at home…

One tidbit that didn’t dawn on me until I got home: I didn’t have a cleaning rod for this rifle. My smallest cleaning rod was a 28” carbon-fiber Tipton that barely fits down a .223 barrel. No worries. A quick trip to the gun shop and I was back in business.

Cleaning the Savage 93R17 is no different than cleaning any other bolt action: remove bolt, run a couple solvent patches through the barrel, a patch or two of oil, a dry patch and you’re done. To say the Savage cleaned easily would be like saying it shoots straight. Based on how the patches looked, had little copper fouling.

Conclusion…

The “GV” in Savage 93R17-GV doesn’t stand for “Great Value.” It should. The 93’s MSRP sits at around $280 (real-world pricing is between $250 and $275). Luckily for me, the SKS market has sky-rocketed lately (relatively speaking). I happened to have had an extra one sitting in the back of the safe collecting dust. A quick trip to Buck’s Guns here in Casa Grande and 20 minutes later I walked out with the Savage and a box of ammo in hand.

As for the caliber . . . .22LR deserves a spot in everyone’s gun safe. My first rifle was chambered in .22LR, as will my son and daughter’s first rifle. For varmint hunting, the .17HMR is the hands down winner. It has double the speed (2550 f.p.s. vs 1250 f.p.s), packs 245 ft-lbs of energy (vs 150 ft-lbs), and can effectively reach out to 200 yards. Prairie dogs don’t stand a chance…

As for my wife, she’s excited to finally have a rifle to shoot alongside me. However, I still haven’t let her shoot it yet. I know, I know . . . I’ll let her eventually. As it turns out, I enjoy shooting the 93R17 as much as she likes shooting my (her?) S&W 586. I guess I’ll just have to go out and get my own.

Specifications

Brand: Savage Arms
Model: 93R17-GV
Caliber: .17HMR (Hornady Magnum Rifle)
Sights: No sights, pre-installed scope bases
Barrel Length: 21” w/ 1:9” twist (Heavy Contour)
O/A Length: 39.5”
Weight: 6 lbs
MSRP: $280 (November 2011)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * *
The wood looks better than any of the 93-series synthetics, but could be better. Then again, that probably would jack the price over $300.

Ergonomics * * *
The stock is short, as is common with most rimfire rifles. While the Savage 93 fits and shoulders well, I’d prefer a different safety. The comb is a bit low considering that the gun is specifically designed for scope usage, necessitating the need of a chin-weld. One of those foam, stick-on cheek pads would help.

Reliability * * * *
I’m not sure if it is ammo-related or gun-related, but I had 12 misfires out of 100 rounds. (FWIW most of misfires involved Winchester ammo.) I’ll post an update as my wife shoots this rifle more; I’ll add that star back if necessary. The magazine needs some tweaking right out of the box, so I dinged it another half a star.

Customizable * *
I don’t consider a scope and rings “customizing,” so only two stars. You could certainly put on an OEM laminated stock or perhaps one of the custom “Stocky’s Rifle” stocks, but that would be done for aesthetic reasons only.

Overall Rating * * * *
Dollar-for-dollar the Savage 93 is one of the best rimfire rifles [small] money can buy.