June 04, 2020
By David M. Fortier
Savage’s B series consists of some five different models including a light barrel model, one with iron sights, a heavy barrel, stainless steel heavy barrel and one threaded for sound suppressor. Calibers offered consist of .22 LR, .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) and the quick stepping .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR). It’s well known that I’m a .22 LR kinda guy. I love the snot out of that tiny, archaic rimfire cartridge. But for this review I decided to do something a bit different, and so tested one of their .17 HMRs.
In my book the .22 LR is a great cartridge. It’s capable of Olympic level accuracy, is fun to shoot and a dandy small game cartridge. Performance though is ho-hum with typical bulk pack loads plodding along at some 1,250 fps. In comparison the .17 HMR is a completely different animal. Developed by Hornady and launched in 2002, the .17 HMR was designed to fill the shoes of the obsolete 5mm Remington Magnum Rimfire. Design wise it’s basically a .22 WMR case necked down to accept .17 caliber projectiles. Where the rubber meets the road is in its ability to drive a 17 grain bullet at about 2,550 fps. Trajectory is flat, accuracy usually quite good and terminal performance on small critters is visually exciting. I have a couple friends who are huge fans of this cartridge, so I decided after all these years to see what all the fuss was about.
From Savage’s B-series I chose their B17 FV to review. This is a bolt-action repeater with a heavy barrel and synthetic stock. The rifle arrived nicely packed and I began with a cursory examination. The heart of any bolt-action rifle is its receiver. Each Savage rifle receiver begins its life as a piece of plain round stock. These are cut to length and then bored in a number of processes to shape it. Each receiver is contoured in steps as its cut for the magazine and ejection port. As it slowly takes shape the various slots and holes are cut, drilled and tapped and then it’s threaded for a barrel. After it is fully machined the front and rear of the receiver are induction heat treated. The last procedure is polishing and bluing.
The B17 FV’s receiver is milled externally to give it a bit of character, which I liked. This model comes without iron sights but has factory installed scope bases. A large ejection port is milled into it along with a slot for the bolt handle. The bolt itself is fairly simple in design and it sports an over-size handle with a nicely knurled knob. The safety is placed on the tang making it very easy to manipulate.
Feed is from a detachable 10-round rotary magazine. While a bit blocky, the magazine is simple to load and it fits flush with the stock. Of note is the magazine catch is integral to the magazine and not the rifle. I have heard some point out the design’s similarity to a design Ruger is famous for. While this is certainly true, it must also be remembered Savage’s use of rotary magazines predates Sturm, Ruger and Company’s existence by almost 60 years. The first Savage rifle to feature a rotary design was the Model 1892 followed by the 1895 and then the famous Model 99. One of the features the popular Model 99 was famous for was its distinctive rotary magazine. So the use of a rotary magazine on the B17 FV can be viewed as a return to Savage’s roots.
Mated to the front of the receiver is a fairly heavy match grade barrel. Savage is justly proud of the quality of their barrels. These are manufactured at their Westfield, Massachusetts plant. Like their receivers, each Savage barrel starts its life as a piece of 20 foot stock. Barrels are then cut to length before having their bores drilled. Then they are finished to their final dimensions in a three-step finishing process. After the bores are drilled and finished the unturned blanks are then rifled. At this operation a button is pulled through which forms the rifling in one quick pass.
Next the heavy barrel blank is turned down to its final dimensions. This is accomplished in separate steps to its final dimensions and then crowned. During this time the barrel will be checked for straightness and straightened if required. At this point all it needs is to have its chamber cut. This is accomplished in a five-step process via automated equipment. Metal is removed in the first two preliminary processes. Then the chamber is reamed. Next a finish reamer is inserted, and finally the new chamber is polished. After this step the barrel's exterior is polished and blued. The end result is a barrel 21 inches in length which measures 0.80 inch at the muzzle.
The barreled action is then dropped into Savage’s distinctive B-series stock. This black synthetic piece features a 13.5 inch length of pull and is contoured to make it comfortable. I have to say it DOES feel good in the hands and it shoulders nicely. I like the contour of the fore-end but wish it was a bit wider. I found the size, shape and angle of the pistolgrip to be very comfortable. The comb is also high enough to work well with a low mounted optical sight. Plus it comes with factory installed sling studs. Does it feel or look like an expensive stock? No it doesn’t. But it does perform well.
To get the most out of any rifle you need two things, a good barrel and a good trigger. Savage’s B17 FV has both. The B17 FV comes standard with an adjustable AccuTrigger. This single-stage design is easily adjusted to provide a pull weight from a heavy six pounds down to an ultra-light 1.5 pounds. Better still, the release is very crisp. You apply pressure and then it just breaks with very little travel. A proven and trouble-free design, the AccuTrigger is another feature to really like about this rifle.
I did not have any .17 HMR ammunition in my bunker but I did manage to scrounge 700 rounds for testing. I was able to source two loads, both from CCI. The first is their TNT Green 16 grain hollow point load. This has an advertised velocity of 2,500 fps which delivers 231 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle. At 50 yards it retains 2,119 fps and 159 ft-lbs of energy. All the way out at 100 yards it retains 1,754 fps and 109 ft-lbs of energy. CCI’s TNT Green load demonstrates what a standard .17 HMR load can do.
I also acquired some of CCI’s A17 Varmint Tip load. As its name implies this load is optimized for use in Savage’s A17 semi-automatic rifle. It features a 17 grain tipped bullet with a claimed velocity of 2,650 fps. CCI claims this load is 100 fps faster than any other .17 HMR load. With a muzzle velocity of 2,650 fps it generates 264 ft-lbs of energy. It retains 2,331 fps and 205 ft-lbs of energy at 50 yards and 2,050 fps and 159 ft-lbs all the way out at 100 yards. I have heard great things about CCI’s A17 Varmint Tip load so was interested to see how it would perform from the B17 FV.
To find out I did a quick bore-sight and trundled my shooting gear out to my range. Conditions were sunny, 30 degrees F and breezy with gusts of 10 to 12 mph. While less than ideal for testing ultra-light .17 caliber projectiles you play the card Mother Nature deals you. I initially set up shooting from a rest at 50 yards. I wasn’t sure how the Savage would perform and thought this prudent. After firing groups with both loads though I quickly decided I was being too conservative. My initial groups at 50 yards were impressive, with holes tightly clustered together. One five-shot group using CCI’s A17 Varmint Tip load measured just 0.25-inch center to center. Even being sloppy netted good results.
So I decided to move back to my standard 100 yards. Even at this distance the Savage strived to impress. Shooting off the bench between wind gusts I found the stock to be very comfortable. With the Bushnell mounted low the stock provided a good cheekweld. The pistolgrip is nicely angled but the fore-end is a bit narrow to work really well off a rest. Rounds load fairly easily into Savage’s rotary magazine after you’ve done it once. The magazine inserts easily with a simple upward push and it locks securely into place with no rattling. Just push back on the magazine release and it pops right out.
My measure of a bolt-gun is always how fast and smooth the action is. I am not a fan of clunky actions. Having a lightning fast follow-up shot can be critical when hunting. Plus I simply find a fast bolt-action much more enjoyable to shoot than a clunky one which shifts like an early 1960s GM manual transmission. In this regard Savage’s B17 FV gets high marks. The bolt handle is nicely shaped and easy to grasp at speed while the handle is long enough to provide plenty of leverage. The rotation is quick and the throw is short. Feeding from the rotary magazine is extremely smooth; a trait Savage’s M99 was famous for. Thanks to all these features the B17 FV provides very fast follow-up shots if you do your part.
How does it shoot? The B17 FV proved a real darling from the bench. Firing four five-shot groups with each load showed the rifle to have a slight preference for the 17 grain A17 Varmint Tip. This posted a best of five shots which measured .6 inch center to center. It averaged a very respectable .8 inch at a whopping 2,718 fps. CCI’s TNT Green 16-grain load also shot well and posted a best of five shots which measured .68 inch at 100 yards. It averaged .9 inch at 2,574 fps. I have little doubt with more time behind this rifle and better conditions I could cut my group size down even further.
Next I moved to shooting from traditional positions which included offhand, kneeling, sitting and prone unsupported. I did this shooting at reactive targets at 100 yards. Again the B17 FV performed very well. It is a bit barrel heavy which makes it fairly stable, especially offhand. At just 39 inches long and weighing in at only 6 pounds without optic or rings the B17 FV is easy to carry and quick handling. But with the weight slightly forward of the center-point it hangs nicely. I found the B17 FV to be a very enjoyable rifle to shoot. The trigger is excellent and weighed in at approximately three pounds out of the box. There is no recoil and the report is fairly mild. You can get sloppy and still post good results. Plus the flat trajectory, especially with the A17 load makes hitting in the field fairly easy.
What don’t I like about Savage’s B17 FV? The stock is a bit ugly. To be honest, I really don’t dig the integral plastic triggerguard. I think it looks cheap and it detracts from the looks of the rifle. I will also say the .17 HMR is much more destructive on small game than the .22 LR leading, which puts less meat in the pot. As always, load selection is critical especially if shooting slightly larger animals where some penetration is required for a quick kill.
When all was said and done I came away impressed by Savage’s B17 FV. With a MSRP of $329 it is not expensive, yet shoots sub-MOA out of the box. The stock’s not the prettiest but it would make for a fine working gun or truck gun. The action is smooth and the rotary magazine is a return to Savage’s M99 roots. If you are looking for a .17 HMR bolt gun, here is one to consider.
Savage Arms; 800-370-0708; www.savagearms.com
CCI; 800-379-1732; www.cci-ammunition.com
Savage Arms B17 FV SpecsAction:
Manual turn-bolt repeaterCaliber:
.17 Hornady Magnum RimfireBarrel:
21 inch MatchOverall length:
39 inches Trigger:
AccuTrigger adjustable from 1.5 to 6 poundsFeed:
10 round detachable rotary magazineStock:
Synthetic with 13.5 inch LOPWeight:
6 pounds w/out opticFinish:
Savage Arms; 800-370-0708; www.savagearms.com
Savage Arms B17 FV Accuracy Chart