Reviewing a Savage B17 FV rimfire rifle reminds Mike Powell why he fell in love with the .17 HMR calibre in the first place
Since the first .17 HMR rifle appeared on the British market, it would be fair to say this calibre has had its share of ups and downs. The downs came mainly, it has to be said, where the ammunition was concerned.
All started off well, with new owners extremely pleased with the accuracy and the extended ranges this round gave them over the other rimfires.
Unfortunately, after a while problems with ammunition started to appear with misfires and other problems – having the potential to cause disastrous occurrences. This continued for too long, with rifle manufacturers laying the blame at the door of ammunition makers and vice versa.
However, things now appear to have been resolved as far as I am concerned, using a .17 HMR of my own and not having heard of any problems for some time. I think all is as it should be. This is a welcome situation, as the .17 HMR calibre is a very good round indeed.
For small vermin control, the feisty .17 HMR round excels, and for me it is the ideal rabbit control tool. It is also capable of dropping the odd fox at a sensible range, which I would put at around the 100-yard mark. However, in its own right I certainly wouldn’t class it as a foxing round.
There is a wide choice of rifles available in this calibre and for the first-time buyer this can be confusing to say the least. A trip through some of the websites will have everyone singing the praises of their particular favoured rifle, which really isn’t surprising as there are really very few poor rifles made today.
Recently, Edgar Brothers, the importer of Savage Arms, sent me one of this maker’s rifles in .17 HMR for review. It was the B17 FV, a synthetic-stocked, bolt-actioned, 10-shot model.
On opening the box, the first thing that struck me was that Savage has certainly raised its game where the appearance of its rifles is concerned. Along with other American makes, the emphasis in the past has been on functionality rather than the aesthetic look of the rifle.
Now it is clear that effort has been made to not only produce a hard-working, long-lasting tool but to make it a pleasure to use as well. Taking the stock as a prime example, the B17 has a higher comb, a more sharply angled pistol grip and a nicely sculpted forend, all of which not only looks better but makes for a more ergonomically effective unit altogether.
Stippling on the pistol grip and on the finger grip channels on the forend gives a positive feel and grip. Together with these essentials there are also a variety of decorative designs on the stock that make for a rather attractive overall appearance.
The stock, though hollow, is extremely rigid with no hint of flex, and the butt plate is straightforward synthetic with not a hint of rubber. This is not to everyone’s liking, but for a hardworking vermin control tool I didn’t have a problem with it.
The 16in, button-rifled, free-floated, heavy barrel has a straight profile and has a flat target crown. The rifle comes factory-threaded for a moderator ½in UNF. Edgars provided a Sirocco moderator for the test.
I really like this make of mod – it’s light, effective and above all it can be stripped for cleaning, and as any rimfire user will tell you, rimfire ammunition can be messy! The barrel has a 1-in-9 twist rate, which is about ideal for the HMR.
The rifle comes fitted with a full-length Picatinny rail as standard. This is ideal for the sort of use this type of rifle will be put to – for example, if you are using add-on night vision, to be able to accurately reposition your scope for perfect eye relief can be a real asset. You will need to know of any change of zero when moving the scope, but once known, you shouldn’t have any problems.
The bolt has a nice knurled knob and, for a new rifle, operated smoothly. Extraction is effected by two claws and ejection was positive.
As you would expect with a Savage, the trigger was one of their well-known Accutrigger units. For those not familiar with this trigger, basically it is an adjustable (for weight) single-stage trigger but has a slim blade protruding through the trigger itself that, in use, acts as a first stage that turns the unit in effect into a two-stage unit.
The Accutrigger has several built-in safety features that make it not only an effective trigger but also one of the safest. I know that not everyone likes the Accutrigger, but I have never had a problem with it and find it one of the best I have come across.
The safety on this model is thumb-operated and is mounted, shotgun-style, behind the bolt shroud – a big improvement on the old side mounted system safety on/off indicated by a red dot.
Underneath is the 10-shot box-type rotary magazine, similar to the well-known Ruger 10/22 mag. Though to start with I found it a bit of a fiddle to load as the spring was stiff, it did ease up a bit after a few loadings. There is also a knack to how you actually load the mag, but once mastered, it was fine.
I have to say that to have a 10-shot magazine for a rifle that will frequently be use as a night shooting rabbit control tool was ideal. I could never understand why more rimfires don’t have high-capacity magazines as having to constantly reload, particularly in the dark, can be a real pain.
Next up was to see how the rifle performed on the range. I was using one of my Hawke scopes for the test, which was one of the Endurance range, a 4-16×50. This is a particularly good scope for use at night. I was using Winchester and Remington ammo, both in 17gn format.
There was precious little difference in the results, but if there was a slight preference, it was for the Winchester offerings. Savage rifles have always had a reputation for consistent and more than acceptable accuracy, and the B17 was no exception.
Again, with a new rifle it’s not always possible to get perfect results to start with – many new rifles improve after having a decent number of rounds through them. This rifle was quite capable of producing one-inch groups at 100 yards, though – providing I did my bit!
I took the rifle out for a trip one evening round some recently cut hay fields in the hope of finding a few rabbits. Few, is definitely the operative word here – not only have the two VHD viruses wreaked havoc on the rabbit population, but just as a few were beginning to appear again, myxi has made its annual appearance.
In the event, all I managed was a crow at 140 yards, a magpie at 50 or so, and a pigeon at around the 130-yard mark. The only rabbit I saw, I missed! Total user error there, and the outing was enough to satisfy me that the Savage B17 would be a useful rifle for anyone thinking of buying a .17 HMR for both vermin control and some fun shooting.
In the case of the latter, I did spend some time getting rid of some old .17 HMR ammo belonging to a batch I’d had issues with a year or so ago. They all went without a hitch.
I liked the Savage. It is a practical, well made and accurate rifle and, priced at around £470, won’t break the bank.
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