The Savage A17 – the First Commercially Viable Semi-Auto 17 HMR?
Russ Chastain 01.29.15
Savage‘s main attraction at the 2015 SHOT Show was the all-new A17, touted as the first truly viable semi-automatic rifle chambered for 17 HMR.
Almost every shooter has experienced the fun of shooting a 22 LR semi-automatic rifle. They are by far the most-fun plinking gun ever made and are not difficult to design. Many different types of them have been made and marketed over the years.
But when it comes to magnum rimfires, things aren’t so simple. Ruger very briefly offered a 10/22 Magnum in 22 WMR back around the last turn of the century, but it was reportedly undependable and was only made for a short time. Many others have tried to produce semi-autos for magnum rimfire cartridges, but to date Savage is the only one to have brought forth what is apparently a dependable auto designed specifically for the 17 HMR from a company that can mass-produce them to keep costs down.
The secret, they say, is the delayed-blowback action. Straight blowback, as used for 22 LR, allows the bolt to open too quickly for hotter magnums. An interrupter lug slows the opening of the bolt just enough to allow the pressure in the barrel to dissipate so the empty shell can be reliably extracted.
The A17 is described as having a completely new action “with multiple patents pending.”
The new A17 is priced around $465 (MSRP) and will likely have a street price around $400. This old country boy feels like that’s pretty steep for a rimfire semi-auto, but it is considerably lower than others available, such as the Volquartsen TF-17, which I’ve seen priced at a whopping $1,175. The Alexander Arms model R-17-ST, made in the style of an AR, is listed on their website for $1,210.
Both of these make the new Savage A17 seem like a bargain.
CCI, also owned by the conglomerate ATK that owns Savage, offers a 17 HMR load tailored specifically to the A17 rifle, although they said it should work with other 17 HMR ammo.
In handling the A17 at the 2015 SHOT Show, I noticed a few things about it. The bolt handle is made of plastic and is oddly oversized. It works fine and offers a large area to grab when you need to cycle the action manually, but it also sticks out farther than I personally prefer.
The magazine is a 10-round rotary type. Only time will tell how dependable it will be in field use – but it looks good.
The barrel uses the locknut for which Savage bolt-action rifles are known, which allows for fast and accurate headspacing when the guns are assembled. Unlike many bolt guns, though, the locknut on the A17 is smooth and fairly attractive.
The safety is in the best spot for a trigger-guard-mounted safety, and that is in front of the trigger at the top of the guard. This works well for right-handed shooters because you can slip the safety off with your trigger finger before moving it into the trigger guard. While I prefer a tang-mounted thumb safety, this one certainly beats those that are located on the rear of the trigger guard.
The black synthetic stock appears to be nothing special, but it does have some style and doesn’t look bad.
I did notice an unusual gap in the stock at the top front of the forearm, indicating that the stock was made in two pieces and wasn’t fitted together particularly well. Strangely, the Savage rep I spoke with about it denied the existence of the gap, then walked away. Perhaps her expertise was in some other field…
I didn’t find the A17 listed on the Savage site or in their latest press releases, so specs are scarce. But the rifle felt good in my hands and shouldered well. The one I handled at SHOT had Weaver-style bases and no iron sights.
If you’ve been waiting for a more-affordable semi-auto 17 HMR rifle, it appears that your time has come–or it will when the A17 begins shipping, reputedly in March 2015.