Most enthusiasts get behind a rimfire .22 during their baptism on the firing line. The diminutive cartridges are a pleasure to shoot, accurate with practice and relatively inexpensive—virtues tailor made for fostering a lifelong passion for firearms and marksmanship. It doesn’t take long, though, before the more powerful centerfire cartridge’s allure proves too hard to resist.
As a result, many rimfire rifles and handguns are relegated to second-tier status. Hornady changed that in 2002 when it introduced the .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) cartridge. “Its trajectory is twice as flat as its .22-cal. sibling over 150 yards, and it carries nearly two-and-a-half times the energy as the .22 LR cartridge,” Dave Campbell reported for American Rifleman. “Velocities in the 22" barreled rifle were nearly 2,400 f.p.s. with Hornady 20-gr. V-Max ammo, and the 14" barreled G2 generated a consistent 2,100 f.p.s. Accuracy from both rifle and handgun were sub-3/4 m.o.a., as long as there was no wind.”
Manufacturers quickly designed and offered guns for the new cartridge, but when it came to producing a reliable semi-automatic for the rimfire there were problems. “…[O]ften the action would open while the pressure was too high, endangering the shooter. A couple of companies attempted to market such a semi-automatic .17 HMR but had to quickly recall the rifles and shelve the project because of this very problem,” Campbell explains in another story. “Along comes Savage, and its solution to the bolt-opening problem is remarkably simple: Delay the opening of the bolt until the bullet has left the barrel and pressures have decayed to a safe level.”
The delayed-blowback system of operation the Savage A17 semi-automatic line—introduced in 2015—works extremely well and has a proven safety and performance record. The rifles have quickly become some of the company’s most popular. They are chambered in .17 HMR, feature a 10-round rotary magazine, wear the company’s famed user-adjustable Accu-Trigger and are available in seven different models.
The basic version, the A17 seen above, has a 22" free-floated barrel in black, with 1:9" rate of rifling, black synthetic stock, sling studs and high luster finish on the receiver. Weight is 5.63 lbs. and MSRP comes in at $519.
Other models have nearly identical features, with the exception of the stock and even barrel profile. Savage currently offers the standard A17, but also Overwatch, Pro Varmint, Sporter, Target Sporter Laminate, Target Thumbhole and heavy barrel versions. Whether you want camouflage, a thumbhole or laminate for furniture, it’s available from Savage.
The A17 Pro Varmint, which has a rail atop its receiver for mounting optics, is the most expensive in the line. Its MSRP is still only $709. All other models ship from the factory with two-piece bases installed.