Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

For a lot of us who love to shoot rimfire, the .17HMR has been the go-to round for varmint hunting and target shooting since it came out 16 years ago. Not that I mind, but we’ve been relegated to bolt action rifles in that time. That is, until Savage came out with the semi-automatic Savage A17, their .17HMR target/varmint rifle.

For those of you unfamiliar with the now 16-year old-cartridge, the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) is product of Hornady Manufacturing Company and their work with Marlin and Ruger. The goal was to create an accurate rimfire cartridge that would extend ranges beyond that of the venerable .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire.

The .17 HMR wasn’t made to compete with the .22LR. There’s just no comparison there. With muzzle velocities over 2,600 fps and muzzle energy around 250 ft/lbs, the .17 HMR is completely capable of humanely taking ground hogs and other small varmints out to 150 yards.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

CCI A17 ammo and A17 rotary magazine (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I absolutely love the cartridge. The price has gone down a bit from when it was first introduced, and you can get ammunition at anywhere from 25 to 32 cents per round. Yes, .22LR is much cheaper, but the .17 HMR significantly outperforms it, and they really take up different niches. I love to plink and practice with my .22 LRs, but when it comes to varmints, or even just longer range rimfire shooting, the .17 HMR is where it’s at.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 fore stock (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

 

The A17 is an inexpensive target/varmint rifle. The stock has a 13.8″ length of pull and is non-adjustable. The entire fore and aft ends are covered with a raised texture for gripping with the hand or a bag. The fore stock has dual sling swivels for the use of a bipod and a sling and is flattened for use with a bag.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 butt stock (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The butt stock is flattened to sit comfortably on a bag as well, but is a little bit narrow for this use. It fits well in a standard rest, but a split-wing type bag would work better with this stock than just a thick pillow style.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 rail (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

There’s no adjustment for comb height. It fits me well with low rings, but most will probably like medium height rings, depending on your objective.

A Weaver type rail is included and attaches to the receiver via two screws. This one shipped from the factory screwed in. but loose. Always remember to check your mounts prior to putting an optic on a rifle. In this case, as in many others, it will end up saving you some time. There are no iron sights included with the gun.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 stock gap (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The 22-inch heavy contour barrel is set solidly into the composite stock. The barrel has deep fluting and is finished with a higher polish than you’ll find on most rifles sold today, especially those at this price point.

The barrel is free floated, and then some. There’s way too much space around the barrel and the stock. In fact, you can see the inside bottom of the stock with the rifle completely assembled. There’s no need for that, and it’s a place where debris can get lodged while moving through brush. It’s one of the few missteps on the A17.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

There is no bedding block, but the action is set into the gun better than many of the budget bolt action center fire rifles I’ve seen on the market, including Savage Arms’ own Axis line.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 muzzle (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The only other real miss here is that the barrel isn’t threaded. I use one of my .22 caliber suppressors on my .17HMR bolt gun and I absolutely love it. That silencer is especially important for new shooters and varmint hunting.

I consider any rimfire rifle line that doesn’t include a threaded barrel a serious misstep these days. In this case, it’s the only thing that kept me from buying the rifle. I’m just not interested in unsuppressed target guns.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 crossbolt safety and trigger (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The trigger on the A17 is the same as most of the other Savage Arms rifles offered now, their adjustable AccuTrigger. I don’t particularly like the long safety blade on the trigger, but otherwise the user-adjustable trigger is outstanding. You can dial it down to 2 lbs, it breaks cleanly, and has a short lock time. It’s definitely one of the better triggers on the market, and it’s nice to see Savage put it on a low priced rimfire like the A17.

At the range, the recoil of the A17 can likely be measured with scientific instruments, but it’s pretty hard to feel it. Even the most recoil-averse shooter will have no issues with this gun at all. I would say that it’s ideal for children, but this gun’s fixed length of pull is set up more for grownups.

The 10-round rotary magazine performed perfectly. It was difficult to seat for the first portion of the review. I had to pay close attention to get the magazine to lock in place. However, by the end of the review, the magazine locked right in with surety and without the previous unsure squishiness I felt when I started shooting the rifle.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

17 HMR ammo (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The A17 was perfectly reliable with any round I tried. I put 200 of CCIs A17 cartridges through the gun, a couple hundred more of Federal Premium’s 17gr Hornady V-Max rounds, and 100 of Hornady’s ammunition topped with the same bullet. I had no issues of any kind throughout the review.

No round failed to load, fire, or eject. I lubed the gun with some EEZOX CLP prior to shooting, and never cleaned or disassembled the gun again during any portion of the shooting. The firearm was boringly reliable, as it should be.

That’s not always the case for rimfires, and especially not for the few folks who have tried to produce a semi-auto .17 HMR. Hornady originally designed the .17 HMR with Hodgon’s Lil’ Gun powder, and fellow reloaders will know it runs hot and it’s bigger than some of the super fine rimfire powders.

If we look at the SAAMI Specs, we’ll see that the .17 HMR has a maximum average pressure just a little bit higher than the other rimfires, with the obvious exception of the .17 Winchester Super Magnum.  It’s easy to see how a reliable semi-automatic has been a bit more of a challenge for manufacturers than previous .22 caliber rimfires.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 action (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I didn’t know squat about this gun before this review. When I pulled it apart, I was pretty surprised at what I saw. Gun nerds will recognize what’s above, a delayed rimfire blowback action. I think this is the only one out there. According to the Savage instruction manual, “The A17 and A22 MAGNUM feature a patent-pending delayed blowback action, which prevents the bolt from opening prematurely.”

That patent-pending delayed blowback action is certainly the reason for the rifle’s perfect reliability. It performs flawlessly and is still simple to clean and disassemble.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 groups (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Customers expecting a large target style rifle to deliver small groups on paper will not be disappointed. Shooting from a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest and with a US Optics custom 10X optic, the A17 delivered .8″ five-shot groups averaged over four shot strings at 100 yards with CCI A17 ammunition. CCI claims this ammunition, made just for the A17 rifle, is as much as 100 fps faster than other .17 HMR loads.

When comparing it to the other two rounds I fired, it moved about 80 fps faster. It was also more accurate than the other two. The Federal round averaged 1.1 inch and the Hornady round averaged 1.2 inch-groups at 100 yards under the same conditions.

Gun Review: Savage A17 in .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle

Savage A17 on the bench (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I was really hoping for a wood laminate version of this gun and I bet I wasn’t the only one. If you would like all of the same great function as this gun, but in a much more attractive package, Savage now makes the A17 in two different laminate stocks. They are significantly more expensive, but they look worth it.

This model of the A17 has an MSRP of $473. I easily found it online for well under $400 at multiple retailers. That’s an awesome value. This model is functional, but not particularly attractive. It looks like Savage was going for a well performing, inexpensive semi-auto .17HMR. That’s exactly what they produced.

Rating (out of five stars):

Specifications: Savage A17 .17 HMR Semi-Automatic Rimfire Rifle 

Action: Semi-Automatic
Barrel Color: Black
Barrel Finish: High luster
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Barrel Type: Sporter
Caliber: .17 HMR
Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
Length of Pull: 13.8 inches
Magazine: Rotary
Overall Length: 42 inches
Twist Rate: 1:9
Receiver Material: Carbon steel
Stock Material: Synthetic
Stock Type: Sporter
Weight: 5.6 lbs.
MSRP: $473

Style and Appearance * * *
The polished barrel is nice, but the yawning gap around it is not. The fat bolt knob sticks out like a sore thumb, but it’s also perfect in its practical execution. The gun was made to be an inexpensive target rifle, and it looks the part.

Customization * *
I’d bet more options are in the works. As for now, there are a few different stocks you can get. There’s no rail for a bipod, but there are dual swivel studs. The only real disappointment was the lack of a threaded barrel.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect reliability with any round.

Accuracy * * * * *
Show me another semi-automatic rifle in .17 HMR that prints better groups, especially for under $400.

Overall * * * * 1/2
The American-made Savage A17 is an exceptionally well performing rifle. Superbly reliable and extremely accurate. It’s easy and fun to shoot, and crazy cheap for what you get. Half a star off for the barrel-to-fore-stock fit and the lack of a threaded barrel.

comments

  1. avatar egghead says:

    mmmm this or my 240.00 savage bolt gun that shoot sub moa ?

  2. avatar Dr. Mark says:

    When they dropped the Indian logo, I sold my 45 year collection and never looked back. I have two new in the box looking for some PC person to buy them.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      i stopped driving pontiacs when they ceased to place illuminated injuns on the engine teepee.
      darn redskins images were the demise of hendee manufacturing as well.
      at least chief illiniwek continues to mock and insult sacred native american rituals.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Feel free to send them to me. I’ve got rifles without Indian head logos on them, rifles with Nazi logo’s on them, Commie logos on them, stuff written in Japanese, stuff stamped “Property of United States Army” and everything in between.

  3. avatar FantaSea says:

    That was a really informative and educational article. Thank you.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      You’re welcome.

  4. avatar Clifford tedder says:

    What’s the difference in the ruger 579 semi auto mechanism and the rest of the semi autos the ruger I had the shell split and blower the clip apart and knocked the injector off come to find out there was a recall on the 17 semi autos because of it

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      you gotta keep an eye on those injectors. ya just never know. like bond’s db5.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Can you post a link to the rifle you are referring to? I don’t know that model.

  5. avatar Ted Stoner says:

    I have a A17. The trigger works half the time when pulled. It’s a jammomatic when using Hornady ammo and the round won’t go straight with any amount of cross wind. Not impressed by this caliber. I’ll stick to my CZ in 22mag.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Do you find that the .22Mag has less wind drift than the .17HMR?

  6. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    I’m glad yours cycled with “any round”. I’ve shot two A17 rifles and was very disappointed that they were single shots, unless using the A17 ammo. The rifles I shot were both from when the riles were new to production. I loved my 93r17, but I couldn’t get behind an A17 and feel confident I’d be able to take more than one critter if needed.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      That sucks. I looked online last night and I could find a few people in forums with the same experience as you, but the vast majority of people raved about the gun. I’ve now shot 2 versions of this gun with the same 100% reliable experience, and now with 4 different brands of ammunition. Maybe I got lucky, maybe you didn’t, or maybe they changed something.
      I sell or give away unreliable guns. Just won’t have them.

      1. avatar John says:

        I waited 2 years after they came out to buy one. After shooting a friends Remington 597 in 22WMR I was skeptical about cycling on a magnum rimfire. I started to experience problems feeding and extracting after 1200 or so rounds, but I had not cleaned it, wiped it down, not even oil on the internals. At 1500 rounds it was obvious that it was time to clean. We couldn’t believe a semi-auto rimfire would even slightly function after this abuse. The 17HMR is great on prairie dogs in the wind out to 300 yards, after that bullet drop is huge. I have taken p-dogs out to 600 yards with Kentucky windage. Never thought we would need a rangefinder for a rimfire. This rifle is amazing and dangerous! Get the 25 round mags they function great. The only thing I don’t love about the rifle is I have to get the barrel threaded and the plastic tab that you have to depress to eject the magazine, I’m sure that piece of plastic will eventually break.

    2. avatar 2A says:

      Exact same problem, had to get another magazine for the gun, works better.

      1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

        We tried another OEM magazine, but if it was anything but the A17 ammo it wouldn’t go. It would eject the spent casing but didn’t have enough push to reset the bolt enough to grab the next cartridge.

        Again, something may have changed as one rifle was from the 1st month of production and the 2nd was about 6 months later(my father in law stocked up on the A17 ammo before he passed away)

  7. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    bought mine out of the trunk of a car in front of a starbucks on irving park rd. wide eyed frappalappadingdong drinkers staring out the window at a legal transaction.

    i really enjoy that thing.

  8. avatar Carbon says:

    I bought a thumbhole version of the A17 last fall. I had read up on them and saw that earlier versions had lots of jamming problems (~2015) so I thought I was safe.

    Nope.

    With A17 ammo, the stuff that is recommended, jam jam jam. I lubed cleaned lubed cleaned lubed etc. started to feel like an adult movie!

    I watched the official Savage YouTube disassembly/cleaning video. Used gun grease in the specific spot they recommend. I tried different ammo. The trigger made springy “sprong!” noises. Disgusted, I sent it in to the factory. Cost me $50 to ship, as savage doesn’t pay for shipping to the factory.

    It came back with a new, slightly different and quiet trigger. And now it only jammed every third round! Clean lube clean lube GAAAAHHHHH!

    Nothing worked. Got rid of it and bought a bolt action CZ.

    Garrow Development makes a roller-locked 17 hmr AR-15 upper that is (obv) gas operated/DI and supposedly works. I think I’m moving on to center fire 17 Hornet, however.

    1. avatar Carbon says:

      I forgot to mention Volquartsen makes a semi-auto 17 hmr too. No idea on that one, but feels nice in the shop (Scheels in Fargo ND).

  9. avatar Nigel the expat says:

    Boyd’s Gun Stocks makes a plethora of laminate gun stocks for the A17 in both style of stock, and colors.

    Savage uses quite a few Boyd’s stocks on some factory version of their Mark II and 93R rifles with laminate stocks. Looking at Savage’s A17 page I can see a few different Boyd’s stocks being offered in factory configs.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I posted a link to them in the article.

  10. avatar LKB says:

    I played around with a neat .17 HMR, roller-delayed blowback AR upper a while back (https://garrowdev.com/), but while it was fun I guess I just don’t get the point of .17 HMR.

    If you just want to plink, .22LR is dramatically less expensive (heck, cheap .22LR ammo in bulk is now cheaper than precision .22 airgun pellets). If you need longer range than what .22LR can do, bulk .223/5.56 ammo isn’t that much more than .17 HMR, and will give longer range,less wind drift, and more terminal energy.

    If .17 HMR ammo was under $0.10 / round, I might see the allure. But if it costs about what cheap .223 ammo costs, why not just use that?

    1. avatar ACP_armed says:

      On the price, where I’m at the price of .17 HMR is $12-15 for 50rds and the cheap .223/5.56 that’s not steel case is no less then six dollars and change on sale for 20rds. Unless you know of a ultra cheap .223/5.56 load that will shoot 1 MOA or better I’ll go with .17 HMR.

      1. avatar LKB says:

        SG Ammo has new brass Fiocchi 55g FMJ BT for $264/1000, and there were tons of Black Friday deals where you could get quality brass-cased ammo for well under $275/1000 (with mail-in rebates, I saw some for as little as $235/1000). That’s about or below the price / round for .17 HMR.

        But if you enjoy .17 HMR, by all means go for it.

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