When we first received the new Savage A17 rifle back in May, we decided to publish our hunt report, before a full review. The reason for this, is that we like to use the product we are reviewing in the field for a while before giving our full opinion. Now that we’ve been shooting this for a while, it’s time for our review of the Savage A17 Semi Auto 17HMR rifle. As always, in this review we will show some hunts on video with this rifle, as well as some short clips showing some of the testing we performed while checking the function of the A17. Although I will be writing the review, this rifle was shot by a few of us, so I will include some brief opinions in our final thoughts at the end of the article.
Click Below to Watch The Video Portion of This Review:
In our first article, we took the A17 to the range, but did not put a lot of rounds through it, before taking it hunting. It performed well, with our groups using the new CCI A17 ammunition being the best of all the ammo we shot. I used the A17 ammo for the remainder of that trip here in California for ground squirrels, then again in Arizona when I went after prairie dogs. The only time I used different ammo while hunting, was when I had to switch over to the Winchester lead free ammunition, shooting a 15.5 grain non-toxic bullet. This was also the only time I had an issue with the A17 rifle failing to feed ammo consistently. This was something I expected, but hoped wouldn’t happen. The rifle would cycle, ejecting the round and sometimes loading the next round, but sometimes it did not. More on this later.
Range Testing – 350 Rounds Fired:
Because this article is being written in conjunction with a video, I won’t bore you with all the different group sizes of each brand/type of ammunition I shot. I will go ahead and list the ammunition below, along with the best, and worst groups, from each box of 50 rounds that I shot. (Clarification – I shot #10 groups, of 5-shots each at 100 yards, for a total of 350 shots – so fatigue may have been an issue on some groups.)
While shooting the groups, I had no failures to feed (outside of the lead free ammunition), out of the 350 rounds fired for groups. I did not stop to clean the rifle while shooting these groups, so it went 350 rounds without a cleaning. As you can see by the groups listed, the best groups were from the last 100 rounds shot. After shooting the groups, I sat down and shot 50 rounds of the CCI A17 ammunition in rapid succession. I did not have any failures to feed, misfires, or any other function issues (other than a magazine popping out, once – see below for more information) during this 50 rounds of the A17 ammunition (see video).
Prairie Dog Hunting:
Before this last range trip, I took the Savage A17 rifle out for some prairie dog hunting. Day one found us in a prairie dog pasture first thing in the morning, so the wind was light and the prairie dogs were lit up nicely by the morning sun, making spotting them pretty easy. I mounted the A17 to the Kopfjager Industries Reaper Grip that we had been using with our AR15 rifles. Some quick information on the Reaper Grip. Although many folks use it for their AR15s, any rifle can be mounted in the grip. It attaches to the top of your heavy duty tripod, and pans from side-to-side with ease, as well as tilts up and down with a quick turn of the of the locking control arm. Check out the portion of the video where I show how well it holds on to the rifle. With the A17 attached, I began to look for targets. I had a few within range (<200 yards), and a couple that were a bit far. I decided to shoot the prairie dogs that were 100 to 150 yards out, then move to the ones at the 220+ yard mark.
Prairie dog number one was feeding at 120 yards, facing away from us. I panned over to where he was, and lined up the crosshairs on the back of his head, as it bobbed up and down. Right after grabbing a paw-full of grass, he sat up to eat. I verified that my cameraman had him, and took the shot. The 17 grain bullet hit right where I aimed, dropping him immediately. I did not have to put a follow-up shot into the prairie dog, but I was ready on the trigger, just in case. I shot a few more prairie dogs, then I started reaching out to 200+ yards to see if I could kill anything that far with this rifle. I was able to take some shots at the longer ranges, but with a breeze picking up, and the tendency for me to rush shots while shooting this rifle (what can I say, it’s fun to shoot!), I did not do so well. I eventually hit one that I missed a few times, but it was a upper back shot, and the bullet blew right through it. It easily dropped into its hole, so I was not able to retrieve it.
As the wind picked-up during the day, having an immediate second shot really helped my kill rate. But, even with the stiff wind, my first shot normally did the job with ease! Case in point, is the clip, just before the last shot in the video portion of this review. The wind was really strong, with a storm blowing into the area. While I am trying to get steady to make the shot on a prairie dog, you hear me comment, “It reminds me of Texas!”. When I was in Texas last year, the wind blew the grill off my truck, so that will give you an idea of what I was dealing with while shooting.
I knew when I hunted with this rifle back in May 2015, that I liked it. Savage seems to have come up with the recipe to make this rifle function well, while shooting a very small diameter, dirty round. Even after shooting close to 1000 rounds through this rifle, I never ran into any of the issues that plagued the 17HMR semi-auto platform back in the early 2000’s. Savage’s A17 rifle is a well thought-out approach, that works well. The rifle we received from Savage, was covered with some type of protectant (not really the cosmeline I am used to), which was difficult to remove, but the ease of tearing the A17 down and cleaning it, made the process much easier. Making the removal of the bolt and recoil assembly simple, with just one tool, will make it more likely that shooters of the A17 will follow Savage’s recommendations on cleaning and lubing the bolt, as well as cleaning the chamber and barrel (from the rear!). The lubing of the bolt, with the proper type of grease, will ensure that it functions as designed. However, as evident by some of the posts I’ve read on the net, or comments I’ve seen on YouTube, not all shooters are following this important advice.
The only short-comings I feel this rifle has, is what has become evident in many of the new rimfire rifles from the major manufacturers, more plastic, and less attention to detail. I ran into some slight annoyances while shooting this rifle, and though many of my groups were sub-moa, I feel some simple upgrades would bring more consistency to the accuracy. Some of the best and worst groups listed above were inflated due to an occasional flyer. This could be caused by a number of things, but my first inclination would be to replace the plastic stock with a wood stock (*see update below). Secondly, there will need to be some adjustments made to the trigger, beyond what the Accutrigger offers. Although I am familiar with the Accutrigger, the one in the A17 is nothing like the ones I am used to. It is rough, and needs some work. I was not the only shooter to experience this. The other folks who shot this particular rifle had the same issue.
When I first began to shoot the A17, I ran into the magazine drop issue. I quickly found that popping the magazine into the rifle, while the bolt is open, resolves this issue. But, there were a few times when I was in the midst of some great shooting, when I didn’t think to open the bolt, before putting in the magazine. That resulted in a magazine dropping onto my shooting bench, and a few times, into the dirt while out in the field. I’ve got video of my cameraman, Tom, shooting the rifle in the field, with the magazine falling out. I forgot to let him know the “bolt-open trick”. Lastly, which I don’t fault the A17 for, is the inconsistency with cycling the lead free ammunition. The reason I don’t fault the A17, is that the timing is set to shoot the 17 grain and heavier bullets, so before I shot the 15.5 grain loads, I did not expect the rifle to function reliably while shooting lead free.
These short-comings, are really minor once the rifle is on your shoulder and you start shooting. Once again, the A17 performed well in the field, and I was able to kill many, many prairie dogs with it while in Arizona. I have always wanted a semi-auto 17HMR rifle, that functions well and is accurate enough for hunting situations. This rifle is that, and more. Even if I am heading to the range for other things, I will put it in my truck, just to shoot a few magazines at various targets. The Savage A17 really has put the fun back into shooting the 17HMR, especially while out in the field hunting. Btw, two other Varminter contributors, who had a chance to shoot the A17 rifle, enjoyed shooting it, and feel the same way I do. One of these shooters felt that the rifle balanced well, and made for a nice walk-around rifle for hunting. The other plans on purchasing one before next spring.
11/19/2015 Update: Boyd’s Gunstocks has announced 7 new stocks for the Savage A17, including some left-handed versions. Check them out over at BoydsGunstocks.com.