• Savage Arms B17 FV-SR Overwatch in .17 HMR

    Earlier this year at the 2019 NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Savage Arms announced several new mid-year release models that would feature the new Mossy Oak Overwatch camouflage pattern, the official camo pattern of the NRA. One such new model is the one we will be covering here today, the Model B17 FV-SR chambered in .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR).

    The B17 FV-SR Overwatch is based around Savage Arms B-Series bolt-action platform that first launched back in 2017, and mechanically is the same as the Model B22 FV and B22 Magnum G - both of which we have previously reviewed on this site. The design is similar to the older Mark I/II/93 series bolt-action rimfires, but with a few key updates. Those updates include a bolt assembly that is easily serviceable by the end user, a tang mounted two position safety selector, a new 10-round detachable rotary magazine that is flush to the bottom of the stock, and a coned breech face for improved extraction reliability. If you've read my previous B-Series rifle reviews you know I'm a fan of these updates.

    Chambered for the hugely popular .17 HMR cartridge, the Savage Arms B17 FV-SR Overwatch features a 16.5 inch carbon steel heavy barrel with a 1/2-28 threaded muzzle to accept a muzzle device or suppressor. Muzzle diameter just behind the thread protector is roughly 0.800". This shortened barrel makes for a very compact and handy package that would make for a great ATV/UTV, tractor or truck gun. It would also be a great choice for a shooter of smaller stature given it's shorter overall length of 34.75 inches and relatively light weight of 5.6 pounds.

    The B17 FV-SR's stock is the same as used on all of the synthetic stocked B17 and B22 rimfire rifles and has proven to be a very comfortable and ergonomic design for most shooters. In this case however the stock has been treated to a camo dip in the aforementioned Mossy Oak Overwatch pattern, which is probably one of the best "big name" camo patterns I've seen to date. Many of the mainstream patterns from the big name camo companies (Mossy Oak and Real Tree) are generally tend to appeal more to the customer's eye in the catalog or showroom than they are at being effective in the field, but this new Overwatch pattern deviates from that trend.

    Admittedly, when I first saw the photos of this new pattern in Savage Arms' press releases I didn't get too excited about it, but once I saw it in person my opinion quickly changed. The pattern reminds me in some ways of the molded in "marbleized" or "swirl" color pattern you can get with custom McMillan stocks, but the marbleized or swirl pattern is finer and more detailed. It's also not as dark as many popular commercial patterns with large areas of dark colors that generally stand out like a sore thumb in the field. While still a little dark for the terrain I typically find myself hunting in, I can't help but acknowledge that this pattern would be equally at home in an urban setting as it would in the woods given the colors used. I don't know many folks rockin' "Urban Sniper 17 HMR's", but hey - whatever floats your boat!

    For testing I fitted an older Minox ZA5 2-10x40mm optic with a duplex reticle using a set of Burris Signature Zee medium height rings on the included EGW rail. Parallax is fixed at 100 yards on this scope which made the bullseyes on the prairie dog targets I used all but invisible at 50 yards which made keeping a consistent point of aim rather difficult, but the groups still turned out pretty good.

    Weather conditions for testing were ideal for the little .17 HMR as I managed to get two back-to-back dead calm days at the range which is unheard of here in the flatlands of northwest Ohio. Temperature was in the low-mid 80's with clear skies and not even the faintest hint of a breeze.

    Ammunition used for testing consisted of several different types of CCI, Federal and Hornady .17 HMR ammo with bullets ranging in weight from 16-grains to 20-grains. All of the ammo tested regularly shot groups of 1.5 MOA or better at both 50 and 100 yards, though a few standouts consistently shot sub MOA at both distances.

    CCI TNT Green 17gr. HP (left), Federal BYOB Bulk 16gr HP (center), and CCI A17 17gr. V-Max (right)
    All shot at 50 yards off bench with bi-pod

    What surprised me with my initial testing at 50 yards was how much point-of-impact shift there was with these three types of ammo. One wouldn't think the POI would change as drastically with such similarly spec'd ammunition, but it did. Something to keep in mind when changing ammo in your own 17's.

    Both types of Hornady ammunition I tried in this rifle didn't group as well as the two CCI loads, so I opted to omit those targets. The same Hornady ammo doesn't shoot for a hill of beans in my CZ 452 American 17HMR either, so I think that has more to do with those lot's of ammo than it does anything else. Unfortunately I purchased several bricks of it so I'm stuck shooting it for awhile until I run through the supply.

    Moving out to 100 yards I focused solely on the two types of CCI ammo since they were the top performers at 50 yards. The CCI TNT Green 16gr HP load was by far the better performer at this distance with all but one of seven groups being MOA or better. The one group that was over MOA had a called flier and measured in at 1.25 MOA.

    The CCI A17 17gr V-Max load still shot well, but not as well or as consistently as the CCI TNT Green ammo. Most all of the groups shot at 100 yards with this ammo fell somewhere between 1 and 1.5 MOA. There were a couple groups that were right at MOA or slightly better, and a few that were over 1.5 MOA, but the bulk fell into that middle ground. That's still reasonably acceptable accuracy for a little 17 caliber bullet at that distance in my book.

    Functionally the Savage B17 FV-SR Overwatch performed flawlessly during my testing. The AccuTrigger provided a nice clean 3-lb pull right out of the box, the 10-round rotary magazine consistently fed reliably with no issues, and there were no extraction or ejection related issues to speak of. In other words, the rifle did everything it was supposed to with no hiccups or surprises along the way.

    There are a couple of things that need to be pointed out however regarding the B17 FV-SR. They aren't necessarily bad things, but rather things I feel you should be aware of prior to purchasing one should you be inclined to do so.

    First, the stock features a molded in butt plate. With the minimal recoil offered by rimfire cartridges that's not a problem, but it may be a problem if you want to shorten or lengthen the length-of-pull to better fit you or the intended user.

    Second, the front action screw on the B-Series rifles with synthetic stocks is captured, and the means by which it is captured can make it difficult to tell if/when the screw is properly engaging the threads in the action. The screw is pressed through the hole in the stock and has a bit of a friction fit. The threaded portion of the screw is fairly short, and just below the threaded section is a groove in quick an e-clip resides. The e-clip and screw serve as the mounting point for the plastic magazine retention block. Due to the press fit of the screw through the stock that friction between them makes it difficult to feel if the screw is engaging the action or not. I would like to see Savage update this by either enlarging the hole slightly to eliminate that friction, or by installing a metal pillar to accomplish the same.

    Third, like the butt plate the trigger guard is molded integral to the stock. Not a big issue, but should you ever wish to upgrade to an aftermarket stock you will need to also purchase a trigger guard to go with it..

    Aside from those three little things there really isn't anything I can fault on Savage's new B17 FV-SR Overwatch. The accuracy is definitely there with the barrel's preferred ammunition and it's mechanically sound. The $409 MSRP price is quite reasonable, though probably a bit higher than many entry level rimfire rifles which does hurt it a little. The B17 FV-SR isn't an entry-level rifle though, it's a well featured rimfire with the accuracy to back it up and a compact package that offers lots of versatility.

    Special thanks to Savage Arms for loan of this rifle for testing, and to Federal Premium for supplying some of the ammunition using during our testing of this rifle.