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Shooting sports can be enjoyed in all seasons, but for many spring is a time to turn to varmint hunting. As a youngster, I dispatched a bunch of rats in the corncrib with an airgun. It was not uncommon for an occasional starling to bite the dust from the same Benjamin Model 310. As I got older, I had occasion to dispatch a few groundhogs from a pasture with a .22 LR, but I found that unless the bullet placement was just right, the .22 LR was not always up to the job.
My next varmint rifle was a Mossberg Chuckster in .22 Winchester Rimfire Magnum (WMR) and it performed well. In accord with the old saying “more is better” I graduated to a Remington 700 in .222 Remington caliber. That meant that the .22 WMR was not used much so I let it go for something else that is long forgotten. In the intervening almost 60 years, other varmint rifle have come and gone. However, the world is much different now and there are varmints in places where there are evidences of human activity that makes the use of a centerfire rifle unwise or dangerous. Moreover, as I have gotten older, I have rekindled my love of rimfires and the .22 WMR is at the top of my list, at least for now.
When the .17 Hornady Rimfire Magnum (HMR) was introduced in 2002 it was given enough press coverage to wallpaper the Empire State Building. Loaded with a 17 grain polymer tipped bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2550 ft/sec or a 20 grain bullet at 2350 ft/sec, it shot much flatter than the .22 WMR. However, the widely publicized comparisons were with a 30 grain bullet in the .22 WMR which loses velocity rapidly. The muzzle energy of the .17 HMR loads is approximately 250 ft lbs. After it was introduced, the .17 HMR was used on varmints with varying degrees of success. One coyote hunter of my acquaintance used it for a while then went back to his .22 WMR. The very small 17 and 20 grain bullets in .17 just did not dispatch coyotes with regularity. Of course with well place shots at reasonable ranges it will work. The general consensus is that the .22 caliber bullets weighing twice as much as those for the .17 HMR do a better job.
The allure of a fast, potent rimfire is strong. In the old days, rimfires in large calibers were quite popular so given the components available today, why not produce a .17 caliber rimfire that delivers high performance? Well, that is just what Winchester did. Starting with a larger case that was the basis for a nail gun, the case was necked to hold .17 caliber bullets and there you have the .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM). This rimfire drives a 20 grain bullet at 3000 ft/sec for a muzzle energy of 400 ft lbs or a 25 grain bullet at 2600 ft/sec for an energy of 375 ft lbs. Moreover, for .17 caliber projectiles, the bullets have high ballistic coefficients and they retain velocity well. When it is to be found, the cost of .17 WSM ammunition is very little more that of either .17 HMR or .22 WMR. Last summer I found a store that was well stocked with the Browning 25 grain load so I added a good supply.
The .17 WSM with a 20 grain bullet has a remaining energy of 278 ft lbs 100 yards whereas the 20 grain load in .17 HMR retains 137 ft lbs at that distance. The .17 WSM is simply a much more potent cartridge, especially with the 25 grain load, a bullet weight that is not available in .17 HMR. With the heavier bullet, the 17 WSM is much more effective on larger varmints. For species as large as coyotes, it is still not a superb choice and any of the .22 centerfires are better.
With that said, I have every intention of trying to conduct sniping operations on coyotes with my Savage B-Mag .17 WSM. When I got the rifle, there was a choice of standard weight or heavy barrel in stainless steel, but no choice in stocks. I selected the heavy barreled version. Savage now offers four versions of the B-Mag.
It is superbly accurate, but it came with a flimsy polymer stock that was not only unattractive, but also lacked the needed stability. Such problems are easy to fix and I wanted a rifle that looked as good as it shot. The solution was a beautiful Boyds walnut stock with fleur de'lis checkering. Other than adding the superb Leupold 3-9X32 AO rimfire scope, that is the only modification that I have made because the B-Mag comes with Savage’s AccuTriggerTM.
My love for elegant sporting rimfire rifles goes way back to when a cousin had a Winchester Model 75 Sporter. Following that acquaintance, there have been others that include an Anschutz 141 and a Ruger 77/22. As it is now, my Savage B-Mag can take its place alongside almost any rimfire sporter. With level of potency, it should be a varmint’s worst nightmare.
The .17 Winchester Super Magnum provides the varmint hunter with a potent rimfire.
In its factory configuration, the Savage B-Mag has a utilitarian look.
Savage uses a dual lug bolt action on the B-Mag series.
The Savage B-Mag has been converted into an elegant sporter.
Beautifully grained and finished walnut are readily apparent in the Boyds stock.
Outstanding checkering is functional and attractive.
The understated cheek piece adds a touch of elegance.