Guns & Ammo Network


Collapse bottom bar
Subscribe
Hunting Reviews Rifles Rim Fire

Super .17 WSM: Savage B-Mag Review

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  August 6th, 2013 13

Neck down a .270-diameter, concrete-nail-driving industrial rimfire blank to accept a .17-caliber jacketed bullet and what do you get? The fastest rimfire cartridge in the world, that’s what. Combine that with a lightweight, quick-handling bolt action of completely fresh engineering and you end up with what could be the ultimate 200-yard varmint and small-game rifle.

Winchester Ammunition and Savage Arms have done just that. You’ve likely caught wind of the blistering .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) rimfire cartridge—it shoots a 20-grain, polymer-tipped projectile at over 3,000 fps—that has been making ripples across the shooting community. Bigger in body than other current rimfire cartridges, it doesn’t fit in popular rimfire actions.

Working together with Winchester, Savage Arms engineered the sleek, new caliber-specific B-MAG action for the .17 WSM. It’s just as extraordinary as the new cartridge it houses. Shooting Times managed to obtain one of the first production samples to come off the line. Here’s a close look at it.

All-New, Cartridge-Specific Design
Weighing in at less than 5 pounds, it has a 22-inch, matte-blued barrel that is press fitted into the front of a unique action and secured with setscrews. Not quite like a Ruger 10/22, but in the same spirit. Measuring 0.525 inch at the muzzle and 0.650 inch 4 inches in front of the receiver, it’s a slender, very lightweight stalking-type barrel contour.

The bolt has dual, opposing rear locking lugs; a rocking, plunger/spring powered extractor; and a plunger-type ejector. Unlike many rimfire bolts that are flat across the face, this one encloses the base of the .17 WSM cartridge on three sides, open only on the bottom, and is of nonrotating design. In a departure from typical engineering, it is a cock-on-close bolt, and only the bolt handle, racy-looking shroud, and locking lugs rotate.

Typical rimfire firing pin springs have to be strong to crush the folded rim of a cartridge case and detonate the impact-sensitive priming element inside, and the massive, thick rim of the .17 WSM requires a very strong firing pin spring to ensure reliable detonation. As the bolt handle and locking lugs are rotated into battery, an angled slot cams a pin forward, compressing the firing pin spring from the rear. According to Savage’s Bill Dermody, the system acts in similar fashion to the cams on a compound bow, enabling the shooter to easily cock the piece.

A classic, rocking-type bolt release lever is on the left side of the action, which allows the bolt to be withdrawn easily for cleaning or whatnot. It’s a welcome departure from the multiple-finger-required, contortionist bolt release system on typical Savage centerfire rifles.

To help shooters milk the best accuracy possible out of their B-MAG rifles, Savage specced the model with the AccuTrigger. As most shooters know by now, the Accu-Trigger is a light, crisp, two-stage design that houses a safety lever within the trigger shoe, helping reduce negligent discharges and, specifically, accidental detonations from violent blows—for example, if dropped. From the factory, the B-MAG’s AccuTrigger measured an average of 2 pounds, 4 ounces, with a variation of less than 4 ounces over a sequence of five measurements. Delightful.

A tang safety resides at the rear of the bolt shroud and is actually incorporated into the rear of the AccuTrigger housing. Forward for “Fire” and rearward for “Safe.” A small red “danger dot” shows when the safety is disengaged.

In a notable departure from conventional current Savage design, engineers went with a rotating, detachable magazine. Containing eight rounds, it clicks smartly into place and is removed via a plastic latch at the forward end of the magazine, which is integral to the glass-filled nylon magazine body.

The “bottom metal” trigger guard and magazine housing is also made of glass-filled nylon, like the stock and magazine body, and is held in place by a tab at one end, which fits into a mortise in the stock, and a latch at the other. Similar to the magazine, the latch is integral to the housing, but is hidden within the magazine well and can be released only with a screwdriver or other tool.

In order to access the action bolts and remove the barreled action from the stock (the only reason I can think of to do this would be to adjust the AccuTrigger, and it’s tuned pretty well from the factory), the nylon trigger guard and magazine housing must be removed. Take the magazine out and stand the rifle on its muzzle on a piece of cardboard or whatnot to protect it. A yellow dot can be seen at the inside front of the magazine well. Press gently on it with a screwdriver and lift on the trigger guard. The housing will pop out, allowing access to the two captured Torx screws that secure the action to the stock.

The B-MAG’s stock reminds me of the Savage Axis stock; it’s slender, ergonomic, and aesthetically proportioned. Panels reminiscent of molded-in stippling at the grip and fore-end provide gripping texture, and proper metal sling-swivel studs are found fore and aft. The buttpad is thin—no real recoil being present to necessitate a cushy pad—but is of slip-reducing rubber, minimizing the chance that your leaned-in-the-kitchen-corner skunk-getter will come clattering to the floor when the cat brushes against it in the wee hours of the night.

In keeping with classic rimfire versatility, I would like to see iron sights on the B-MAG. There are none, and it’s not hard to figure out why. It really takes a magnified optic to tap into the potential of the .17 WSM cartridge, so Savage opted out of the irons. On the plus side, Weaver rail-type scope bases come factory-mounted on the B-MAG. I mounted a new Burris 4.5-14X 42mm C4 scope (see the accompanying sidebar) for accuracy testing.

In the Field
Old-fashioned bore sighting—peering through the tiny .17-caliber bore—got me on paper at 100 yards, and with a slight windage and elevation adjustment, I was soon shooting nicely centered five-shot groups. Right from the start the rifle preferred the 20-grain projectile, averaging right at 1 MOA. The 20-percent heavier 25-grainer turned in more consistent standard deviation and extreme spread numbers, but just didn’t group as well. Unfortunately, I had only two of the three Winchester loads available; I lacked the 20-grain hollowpoint Super-X load.

In a pleasant turn of events, the two Winchester loads I did test gave chronographed velocities slightly above factory ratings: 3,017 fps for the lighter bullet and 2,633 fps for the heavier one. The high (for .17 caliber) ballistic coefficients of these two bullets (.185 for the 20-grain version and .230 for the 25-grainer) enables them to hold on to energy better than any other cartridge in its class, including the .22 Hornet, which it outperforms as distances stretch. The .17 WSM even nips at the heels of Hornady’s new centerfire .17 Hornet out to 200 yards or so.

I did experience a couple of functional issues while shooting. Some 28 rounds into my accuracy testing, a burr apparently left on the tip of the extractor while machining rolled below the tip and prevented the extractor from engaging the rim of a cartridge. I completed my accuracy testing by dropping the magazine after every shot and removing the spent case with my fingernail. The burr was easily removed by careful use of a needle file when I returned home, and the extractor once again heaved the empties out and aside with perfect reliability.

Shortly after the extractor hiccupped, the rotary magazine went awry. Though still partially loaded, the follower failed to roll the remaining fresh rounds up to feeding position. Being something of a gunsmith, I had my tool kit along, and a careful dissection of the magazine revealed that the preloaded follower spring had slipped and the follower no longer had any tension. Two minutes later I had engaged each end of the coil spring in the appropriate slot, rotated the magazine end plate into position, loading the follower spring by doing so, and replaced the two screws that hold the assembly together.

I haven’t had a problem with either the extractor or the magazine since. The issues were minor, but could have required returning the gun to the dealer for inspection and either remedial gunsmithing or a return to the factory. On the other hand, most gun guys are handy with tools and could have accomplished the fixes I performed each in just a couple of minutes.

When I picked up the gun—a writer’s sample on loan—I had to pry it away from the guys at Gunnies Sporting Goods in Orem, Utah, the FFL dealer I transfer guns through. Luckily, I had time to spare, as the rifle got passed around between most of the guys behind the counter before I managed to escape with it.

The rifle handles well; carries comfortably in the hand; and shoulders, points, and balances quite nicely. Recoil is very civilized, allowing the shooter to spot impacts through the scope with ease, and it’s quiet in a non-neighborhood-disturbing way. I can think of no better rig for stalking Eastern groundhogs in the hedgerows, Western pot-gut gophers, or river-going nutria in the Northeast.

I’m more excited about the B-MAG rifle—and the cartridge it houses—than I have been over any new Savage rifle in many years. It’s different, it’s innovative, it’s pleasant to shoot, and it’s a very capable deterrent to furry nuisances. At less than $350 and chambered for a fairly inexpensive cartridge that outperforms anything short of hot centerfire .17s, it deserves a place on the gun rack of every serious varmint shooter. 

  • Greg Boarhunter

    Some states don’t allow you to hunt hogs with a rimfire, some could care less. You can get all the state specific hunting requirements for wild boar at http://www.HuntWildPig.com and what specific hunting weapons you can use

  • CONWAYMECH

    I’ve had mine for a couple months but haven’t fired it yet. I am currently enthralled with with a bull barrel Rem 700 sps in 223 and a Mossberg 715 m-4 toy. I have them both scoped and they are factory tack drivers. I have never had less expensive toys this accurate and just plain fun to shoot.

  • JHANCOCK

    Excited to get the new B-Mag I ordered from my local dealer– sad to say not so excited after some range time. Things that need change — not enough room to work the action because of the short bolt handle– 3 misfires in 35 rounds, not enough firing pin impact to activate the rim-fire primer — poor accuracy, 10 rounds with a leup. 7×40 scope in a 2.5 in. circle at 50 yards with a 3 point rest from a bench– I think I have me a new canoe paddle!

  • PGangwer

    Sorry to say I have to agree with JHancock, found same problems myself, misfires, poor groups with both loads, difficult bolt and safety. Does not compare to my 17HMR Savage, or my 22mag Savage.

  • prarie hunter

    bought one – after 15 shots – gun ejected 2 – the rest were pushed from barrel with cleaning rod – bolt release is now broken due to working bolt too hard to try to eject and get bolt open in order to push spent shell out with rod – gun has to go back to savage – not very impressed !

  • Eric Paulsen

    With great anticipation I began to sight in my brand new bmag this afternoon. After the second round each subsequent round had to be extracted by means of a cleaning rod. I could not even pull the unlocked bolt rearward after a round had been fired. As if this weren’t enough the group it produced was pitifull at best turning in a 4moa performance. This rifle will be sent back to Savage for remediation. I’m really not sure why a product with so many flaws would be allowed to enter the marketplace. Disappointed to say the least.

  • Kermit Miller

    I bought the 17 B mag, and did find about 20% of the time it would not extract the casing. My dealer Sportsmans Unlimited, has quick to suggest sending it back. Savage sent a new rifle. This one operates perfect, and is the most accurate rife I have owned. Shooting dime size groups at 50 yards. Just love it, Thank you Justin and Thank you Savage.

    • Chase Colgrove

      Same problem with mine. Did you have take it to your dealer or send it to Savage?

  • LLS

    The
    .17WSM looks like a great firearm on paper, it’s to bad that you can’t find
    ammo anywhere. The Savage rifle is a joke in my review of having the gun since
    August. First round down the barrel and the firing pin dislodged, would fire a
    second round. So after pre-ordering the gun 8 months before to use during predator
    season, I was less than impressed. Sent the gun back and received gun two first
    of October. Second gun had the safety malfunction after three shots. The safety
    would not go back to the safe position. Sent the gun back again and received
    gun three mid-December. After having to meet UPS at my house and having to take
    the gun to a FFL UPS store twice. Savage offered me a magazine for all my trouble,
    which was all they could do. They decided they could send me two since I had to
    drive 46 miles to UPS twice and be home from work to receive two firearms.
    Received my package with only one of two promised finally got the second one on
    Jan 16th. What a JOKE their customer service is, after 6 calls (you never get
    anyone for 20-25 mins) and hours on the phone they still screwed this up. The
    gun after shooting the “good” one for a month is not what they have
    made it out to be. I was able to hold a 2″ pattern off rest but not what
    they have claimed so far. I wouldn’t waste my money on this cheap firearm
    again, and I will not buy another Savage period after the three legged horse
    race it is to deal with their customer service. Garbage

    • Eric Sotelo

      LLS,

      I got mine two months ago. I have done some small adjustments to the stock, to the trigger, and I have a fairly good scope (4-16×50 Mildot IR) and bipod. Using the 25 grain with a cross wind of 9-11mph, I still managed to hit four 2 liter bottles of orange soda, from 200, 400, 450, 530 yards.. first shots too. The gun is flimsy on the stock, but the gun is dead on. I didn’t have to compensate too much to get out to 500+ yards either.

      I’m very excited that I have found my sweet spot shooting this gun. It’s cheap, and very accurate. The farthest kill to date is a possum at 298 yards.. dead center in the chest. nasty round.. LOL

      • Eric Sotelo

        Heres a pic of my 2 liter bottle of orange soda before and after I shot it…. 400 yards..

        • Eric Sotelo

          615 yard shots at a 21″ x 49″ corrugated pipe..

  • L Cavendish

    Magazines do not readily/reliably load rounds properly…6 of 8 I tried had same problem.Had to remove and tap to have round properly presented.
    New BSA Sweet 17MAG scope needs super high mount to avoid bolt scraping scope…and damage to your hand.Burris Signature Zees don’t work so well.

back to top