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17 Hornet

17 Hornet

By now you might have read my initial article on the new Hornady 17 Hornet cartridge and the first rifle chambered for it to hit the UK - Savages Model 25 Walking Varminter. Part 1 was in the January 2013 edition and for me it threw up questions as to the rifle design. To recap the calibre is modified 22 Hornet necked down to .17” firing a 20-grain V-MAX bullet at a quoted 3650 fps/592 ft/lbs of energy.

The M25 Walking Varminter has a basic synthetic stock and a 22” barrel unlike the two other models, which have more stable laminate furniture in a choice of standard or thumbhole (TH) layout and 24” barrels. The profile is the same being what has to be described at heavy given the bore diameter. Though built on a rimfire-like chassis they are not overly heavy though weighted at the front due to the bulky tube.

Though none of these models offers Savage’s internal alloy bedding block (AccuStock) build they do feature their excellent AccuTrigger. Which offers an easily adjustable pull that cannot be set too low, as it will go into a ‘fail safe’ mode, which is equally easy to get out of.

ACCURACY OK

Accuracy was good with the M25 capable of shooting a good ¼” with a solid ½” average; however, the forend is very flexible on the synthetic stock, which can cause consistency issues given where the forend bears and what it’s supported on. Real time figures showed the 22” barrel of the M25 was producing 3598 fps / 581 ft/lbs, which is pretty good in relation to what Hornady says.

Stock material/build aside I had two other mechanical issues with the Model 25. First was the overly heavy bolt lift, which did cause the rifle to rotate left in the shoulder if operated in that way. Second and more vexing was the feed. Initial testing showed between 2 to 3 misfeeds per mag. Importers Edgar Brothers supplied a second unit, which was not a lot different. Apart from accuracy testing most of my initial ammo allocation went to seeing if more use would improve things.

I am glad to say they did, with the bolt lift starting to run in. I would imagine here it’s a case of metal surfaces not being properly polished so they create more friction as the pass over each other to re-set the mechanism. Likewise the magazines also improved with both giving far better function with just the occasional hiccup. However, in both cases I tend to be more aggressive when I cycle the action too.

FOX-CAPABLE?

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For me where the 17 Hornet fits in is a bit confusing as it was really made as a light and cost effective small varmint cartridge for the US market, were they are mad for that sort of thing. However, we don’t have masses of prairie dog towns with unlimited targets as the Yanks do. This being the UK the big question is, is it enough gun for foxes? Something I have yet to prove as I have been out with it a few times and not seen a single animal; typical!

Testing so far has been restricted to hares. Given the velocity and frangible nature of the V-MAX bullet I was expecting serious destruction on an engine room shot. I use my 17HMR for hares and where possible, and up to 150-yards head shoot so as not to damage the meat. I can push my rifle out to 200-yards (little to no wind) on body shots with good effect and no serious flesh damage. There’s little doubt the 17 Hornet kicks the HMR’s butt in terms of range ability.

The test was simple a 100-yard hare body shot. At this distance the Hornet is doing around 3000 fps/400 ft/lbs, my 17 HMR gives 1921 fps/ 139 ft/lbs, which is significantly lower. I put the bullet behind its shoulder and unsurprisingly down it went with barely a twitch.

ROAD SIDE AUTOPSY

Recovering the animal I expected to see it torn apart, but far from it! Whipping out my knife I did a quick road side autopsy! A tiny entry hole and no exit like an HMR, inside the chest cavity the ribs (both sides) were shattered, the heart had a big chunk out of it and other organs were suitably shredded. There was less meat damage than I expected though I doubt if the butcher would give you anything for the carcass… Given a fox is probably three to four times bigger than a large hare and tougher too, I wondered about the lethality as the range increases?

OK foxes are vermin and there’s little love lost between them and most hunters. However, as a matter of course we should be aiming to do the job as humanely as possible regardless. A head shot is advisable, but not always possible, especially at night, and as the distance steps out not everyone can guarantee that. So think on!

MOVING ON

Personally I feel the 17 Hornets metier is the aforesaid small varmints and corvids, probably out to around 300-yards. Distance testing proved its accuracy potential. With a 3-12x56 Zeiss Victory HT with ASV (ballistic turret) with a 17 Hornet-matched ballistic ring on top accurate and consistent first round hits were recorded out to 300-yards shooting off a bag. Windage is a bit more than my ballistic programme would indicate. At 250-yards in a 10 mph wind @ 3 o’clock the 20-grain pill should be shifting 6.7”. In the field an average 3.4 mph blow coming from 9 o’clock pushed it right by around 4”, so a bit of difference.

I now have both 20 and 25-grain V-MAX bullets for reloading and just waiting for the dies from Hornady. I have never loaded anything in .17” before so it should be interesting. A quick look at their website shows that the rumour I picked up of a lighter weight is now a fact. As they now show the 15.5-grain NTX (non-lead) load, the same as with the 17HMR. This tiny ballistic tip uses a compressed copper and tin core with a spec of 3870 fps/515 ft/lbs. In the HMR I found they do not expand well but I have used the 35-grain 223 Rem version to good effect and assume that the added speed of the Hornet will get over that problem.

Final comment goes to the 17 Hornet-dedicated Hardy Mk IIII moderator. It really is the perfect companion for the rifle and calibre. Light and very efficient and as I said last month with its own distinctive signature, which sounds neither rimfire nor centrefire it does a superb job. Time is running out for me to get a fox for this issue but I will keep trying and get back to you when I do.

  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

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  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

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  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

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  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • 17 Hornet - image {image:count}

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