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Super .17 WSM: Savage B-Mag Review

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  August 6th, 2013 21

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.

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