Savage B-MAG 17 Winchester Super Magnum Rimfire Bolt-Action Rifle

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 24th, 2013

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

Cartridge comparison (left to right): 17 HM2, 17 HMR, 17 Hornet, and 17 WSM.

 

 

 

 

Savage's AccuTrigger is adjustable without tools.

 

 

 

 

Safety is right on top, exactly where it belongs.

 

 

Eight-shot rotary magazine.

 

 

 

 

It was almost twelve years ago that Hornady introduced their 17 HMR cartridge, and that little jewel has almost single-handedly turned thousands of shooters on to the seventeen caliber. Before that, the 17 Remington had been around for many years, along with several wildcat seventeens, but those had only a dedicated cult following. The new Hornady cartridge pushed a spire-pointed seventeen grain bullet to over 2500 feet-per-second (fps). The introduction of the rimfire seventeen, along with some very accurate and affordable rifles and handguns built to fire it, put the seventeen caliber within the reach of most shooters who desired one, and the 17 HMR has become very popular over the past decade. Later, Hornady introduced the shorter and less-powerful 17 HM2 (Mach 2). It has met with less popularity, but is still with us, for those who donít feel the need for the high velocity of the 17 HMR.

Now, Winchester has introduced their 17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) cartridge. It is based upon the 27 caliber industrial fastener blank, and sends its twenty grain bullet out the muzzle of this Savage B-MAG rifle at around 3000 fps. This performance is closing in on the 17 Hornet, yet the WSM is a rimfire cartridge, offering high velocity at a much lower cartridge cost, compared to the centerfire Hornet cartridge. Looking online at one of the reputable supply companies, meaning one that has not jacked up prices during this shortage, a box of fifty 17 WSM cartridges starts at $13.99 US, while a box of twenty-five 17 Hornet cartridges costs $18.49. The translates into a per-shot cost of 28 cents for the WSM, and 74 cents for the Hornet. That makes the Hornet 150 percent more expensive to shoot than the WSM. In other words, you can shoot five of the 17 WSM cartridges for the cost of two 17 Hornet cartridges. Iím not saying that you will save any money shooting the 17 WSM over shooting the 17 Hornet, as you will probably just shoot a lot more. On the other hand, the Hornet case can be reloaded, while the WSM cannot, but if you figure in component costs, die costs, and time, the 17 WSM is still a real bargain. There it is. I have made the case for you to convince the wife that the 17 WSM is a solid financial decision. Youíre welcome.

Savage has introduced a new rifle purpose-built to fire the 17 WSM cartridge, and they got it right. Too often, a varmint rifle is too cumbersome and too heavy. Savage really held back on the weight of this rifle, while still giving it a substantial barrel. The B-MAG rifle shown here weighed in at a fraction of an ounce under four and one-half pounds, yet has a barrel that measures twenty-two inches in length. The barrel tapers from 0.85 inch at the receiver to 0.514 at the muzzle. The barrel has a one-in-nine inch right-hand rifling twist, is made of carbon steel, and is finished to perfectly match the black matte finished steel receiver, which is unique to the B-MAG, and has a bolt with two locking lugs placed to the rear of the receiver. The bolt cocks upon closing. The bolt handle and knob are uniquely-shaped, but worked very well for me. The B-MAG has Savageís wonderful AccuTrigger, which is adjustable without tools, once accessed. The trigger on the test rifle adjusted down to a crisp one pound, fifteen ounces. Perfect. The B-MAG has a detachable eight-shot rotary magazine that fits flush with the bottom of the black synthetic stock. The stock wears a synthetic rubber butt pad, and is fitted with sling studs, as any hunting rifle should be. The overall length measures forty and one-half inches.

Winchester has three different loadings for the 17 WSM; a 20-grain polymer-tipped bullet, a 20-grain hollowpoint, and a 25-grain polymer-tipped bullet. I had both tipped-bullet loads, but could find no hollowpoint loads in stock anywhere. The 20-grain tipped load leaves the muzzle at an advertised 3000 feet-per-second (fps). The 25-grain load has an advertised velocity of 2600 fps. Both loads slightly exceeded those advertised velocities when fired from the Savage rifle, measured at ten feet from the muzzle at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of ninety-four percent. Velocity spreads between the high and low readings seemed a bit excessive, and the result is that the accuracy of the ammunition is not quite up to the potential of the rifle. I base this upon the results of firing many five-shot groups at one hundred yards on paper. For accuracy testing, I mounted a Leupold Mark 4 8.5 to 25 power scope, set to its highest magnification. Groups were fired with the rifle rested in a Target Shooting, Inc, Model 1000LP rifle rest. I would get three or four shots with bullet holes touching, then the group would open up on the next shot. With some shots, I could feel the difference in the recoil. Checking velocities, the occasional shot would give a velocity reading as much as 150 fps faster than the lowest velocity, and as much as 85 fps above the average. The higher pressure also resulted in harder extraction (bolt lift) and a slightly concave case head. Still, accuracy was very good. The groups shown are typical of the accuracy displayed by this rifle/ammunition combination. If Winchester gets the ammo a bit more consistent, I think that this Savage rifle will shoot half-minute groups all day long. The eight-shot rotary magazine fits flush with the bottom of the stock, making carrying the rifle very comfortable. The magazine fed flawlessly, and ejection was positive, throwing the empty cases to the right of the shooter. There were no malfunctions of any kind.

The Savage B-MAG rifle offers shooters a varmint cartridge that bridges the gap between the rimfire 17 HMR and the new centerfire 17 Hornet cartridges, with performance that is closer to the Hornet, but with ammunition cost that is closer to the HMR. The cost to get into the game is also much less, with the new B-MAG rifle selling for $236 US less than Savageís lowest priced 17 Hornet rifle. Put another way, you can buy the new B-MAG and about 850 rounds of 17 WSM ammunition for the cost of just the 17 Hornet rifle, and in doing so give up very little in practical performance, compared to the Hornet. Of course, if you are a hand loader, you can save quite a bit of money by reloading the Hornet cases, but the tradeoff is in time spent doing so. The 17 WSM is the flattest-shooting, highest-velocity commercial rimfire cartridge ever built, and offers rimfire shooters a lot of performance for the money spent.

The Savage B-MAG bolt-action rifle has a suggested retail price, as of the date of this review, of only $349 US.

 For more details and specifications on the new B-MAG, go to www.savagearms.com.

  For the location of a Savage dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the Savage B-MAG rifle online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

Scope bases are not the same as used on other Savage rimfire rifles.

 

 

Barrel is free-floated into the synthetic stock.

 

 

Accuracy was tested with the rifle wearing a Leupold Mark 4 8.5 to 25 power scope, rested into a Target Shooting, Inc. Model 1000LP rifle rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empty case on left shows normal pressure, but the one on the right shows excessive pressure, accompanied by stiff extraction and higher velocity.