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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Overall Length: 42 inches
Twist Rate: 1:9
Receiver Material: Carbon steel
Stock Material: Synthetic
Stock Type: Sporter
Weight: 5.6 lbs.
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.