• Savage A17 Revisited

    For those who ready my first review of Savage’s new A17 semi-automatic .17 HMR rimfire rifle, you already know that it had some issues and accordingly my review of the rifle was less than favorable. Upon returning that first sample to Savage I expressed that I would be more than willing to review another one once they got the “bugs” worked out of the magazines. Much to my surprise Savage sent another out almost immediately and as such I wasn’t holding my breath that this one would be much more reliable than the last one.

    The first thing I did before I even attempted to zero the scope was to hit the range and just run several full magazines through the rifle to see if it had the same failure to feed (FTF) issues the first one had. After running 20 rounds through each magazine without a single FTF I deemed it worthy and moved on to getting it sighted in.

    The Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x40mm AO scope that came on the first rifle had a frozen magnification ring so I never even bothered with it. The one on this rifle works as intended so we can give it a good look this go-around.

    While a budget optic, the little banner seems to have pretty decent glass for its price point. It’s not going to light the world on fire, but it’s on par or slightly better than other makes/models in the same price point (Barska, Swift, BSA, etc.). Some scoff at Adjustable Objectives as they prefer a side-focus, but the truth is that when comparing apples to apples an AO is superior to a SF in terms of fine tuning and holding its setting. I personally prefer AO’s, but most high end modern scopes have gone the way of side-focus so I digress.

    The other key feature of this particular Bushnell Banner, and the reason Savage will be packaging it with the A17 in the near future is that it comes with a number of elevation turret rings calibrated for various different rounds. The idea is that you look at the chart Bushnell provides in the manual, select the cap that most closely matches the ballistics of your ammunition, and then once zeroed the pre-marked distances on the cap should match or be real close at those distances.

    The only problem with this setup is that not one of the pre-calibrated caps is even remotely close to the 17 HMR’s ballistics. The manual lists several 25 and 30 grain .17cal bullets at centerfire velocities, but nothing for the 17-20 grain bullets at rimfire velocities. Bushnell does include a blank turret cap that you can put your own marks on once you figure out where you’re rifle/ammo is shooting at each distance, but that kind of defeats the whole point and purpose of this package deal does it not?

    This is why I generally do not like calibrated turrets as you’re locked into one specific type of ammunition (i.e. Nikon’s M-223 scopes calibrated for .223 Remington ammo loaded with 55gr bullets traveling at 3250fps). For this reason I prefer a ballistic reticle with the spacing of the dots or stadia lines clearly expressed in the manual so one can easily determine at what distance their bullets path will intersect each of them.

    Back to the Savage A17, this second sample has proven to be 99.2% reliable with only two failure to feeds (FTF). Both FTF’s came while shooting older CCI TNT ammo in the same magazine and failed to strip the last round from the magazine which to me indicates that maybe the magazine spring is a little light. Other than those two instances however I had zero issues – no jambs, no magazines falling out after each shot, nada.

    This second sample also showed a great willingness to shoot well, but between the gusty wind on both trips to the range and my frequently losing the battle with the less than rigid synthetic stock it doesn’t really show in my 5-shot group sizes. However, if you look at most of the groups in the targets below you’ll notice that in over half of them there are three rounds in one tiny hole with two outliers. On a calm day and with a good solid laminate stock I have no doubt that this particular sample could shoot half MOA groups quite consistently.

    The trigger on this second sample wasn’t as good as the first, and the first wasn’t all that great either. This one has a substantial amount of creep to it, and it’s very gritty/course feeling as you pull through that creep. Once it does finally break it does so cleanly with a good crisp feel with just a bit of over-travel being present.

    Like many of the Savage rifles I have reviewed in the past this one seemed to shoot best with a well warmed barrel. Let it cool for even just a few minutes while you reload your magazine and the first shot will go astray by a half-inch or better. It’s extremely frustrating – especially when the next several shots stack into one small hole a bit away from it.

    So the big question is whether or not this second sample vindicates the Savage A17 or not. As I said in my previous write up, the design is solid and both rifles definitely wanted to shoot well, but there seems to be an issue with the consistency in the magazines. Out of the six different magazines I have used one was a complete failure, three fed properly about 80% of the time, and two were pretty much 100%.

    With that being the case I would look at it this way: If you are really stoked about this new rifle and really want one just go buy one, but do so knowing you may or may not need to work with Savage to get a magazine or two that work as they should. Savage’s customer service has always been excellent so it will take little more than a phone call to get a replacement magazine if the one that comes with your rifle is a dud. If the A17 peaks your interest but it’s not a “must have” for you I would say wait a little while and let Savage get this little kink sorted out before you buy.

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