April 2014

Rimfire Showdown: CZ-USA and Savage Get Down on the Bench

Rimfire rifle ammunition was used as far back as the U.S. Civil War to launch big, big bullets. But in today’s modern era, we think of much smaller rounds, with 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) and 17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) topping the list in power and effectiveness. The 17 HMR was developed by necking down the case mouths of 22 WMR shells to accept more sophisticated VLD bullets that fly with less drag, producing a flatter trajectory and greater terminal performance. The purpose behind both cartridges was to provide greater versatility, range — and in our view — fun. But they are now challenged by the new 17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) rimfire cartridge. This new cartridge breaks many a mold because it was developed not from a traditional rtifle round but from a nail-gun cartridge commonly used in the construction industry.

For a three-cartridge test we found two bolt guns and an autoloader to shoot side by side. We were curious to see how a magazine fed semi-auto, the $510 Model 512 22 WMR from CZ-USA, would fare in a varmint-cartridge test. There’s nothing wrong with more output if an autoloader is accurate and not too finicky. There are precious few 22 WMR autoloaders in production, due supposedly to reliability issues and, of course, demand. Our second test gun was the $527 Savage Arms 93R17 BRJ 17 HMR bolt-action rifle with spiral fluted barrel. Our third test gun was the $359 Savage Arms B.Mag bolt-action rifle chambered for the 17 WSM.

Finding 17 HMR test ammunition was no problem. Test rounds included Winchester’s 20-grain Super X rounds and two choices from Hornady. These were the 15.5-grain NTX rounds and the rounds topped with V-Max bullets featuring a pointed red tip and weighing 17 grains, the traditional bullet weight for this caliber. Winchester Magnum Rimfire ammunition was scarcer, but we bought 45-grain Hornady Critical Defense, 40-grain Speer Gold Dot hollowpoints, and 40-grain Maxi-Mag TMJ rounds from CCI. Our Savage 17 WSM was limited to only one round, Winchester’s Varmint HE with 25-grain polymer-tipped bullet. This posed a question outside our tests: Would we buy a rifle for which only one commercially loaded round was available?

We shot each rifle for accuracy from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Centers in Houston using a Harris BR (bench rest) bipod up front and a beanie bag from Triad Tactical beneath the stock. For optics, we stayed with the Nikon Monarch 4-16X23mm BDC scope purchased from Brownells in December 2012 and jumped it from gun to gun. By the time we completed this test, the Nikon had been mounted and readjusted more than 34 times. Here’s how the rifles performed:

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