Savage .17 Hornet Model 25 Walking Varminter – New Gun Review

by GunsAmerica Actual on June 25, 2013

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The Savage Walking Varminter Model 25 in .17 Hornet has an MSRP of $585 to $635 for this Realtree camo version. Here we have mounted a 4-16 Leapers/UTG SWAT scope and a Caldwell long bipod for kneeling or sitting shots. She is a lean mean varmint machine.

The .17 Hornet is a centerfire cartridge, not a rimfire like the .17HMR. It was designed by Hornady after a wildcat of the same name that has been around for about 50 years, developed by famous wildcatter P. O. Ackley.

This is the .17 Hornet next to a .17HMR. It is not all that much bigger, and much smaller than the .223 based .17 Remington.

We clocked the 20 grain Hornady bullet at just under the box velocity of 3650, which makes sense out of a 22” barrel. This is part of the Hornady Superformance Varmint line.

A very unassuming but formidable varmint gun. Our resident hunting guide Dwayne Powell shot this large meat hog at 50 yards with the Savage and it went through both lungs and dropped her within yards.

But contrary to what you may read elsewhere, from people who didn’t actually hunt with the gun, there was an exit wound, and a significant one at that.

The accuracy of the Savage Model 25 with this ammo was phenomenal, and remember, this is with a cheap Chinese scope. At 100 yards all of our groups were inside 1/2”, and some groups were in the ¼ inch range like this one on the left, shown next to a dime. That’s 5 shots, not 3. 4 of the 5 went through a hole less than ¼ of an inch.

If you use the gunfinder on the Savage website you will find 4 models listed under .17 Hornet.

All of them have a recessed muzzle with a 1:9 twist.

All of them come with the adjustable Savage AccuTrigger, factory set to under 3 lbs.

The trajectory of the .17 Hornet, bottom, matches the 55 grain Hornady Superformance .223 round almost exactly. If you have a .223 specific optic for your varmint rifle, you can use it on the .17 Hornet Savage Model 25 as well.

If you click to make these pictures bigger, they are a pretty good color match to how the gun looks in person.

Savage Arms
http://www.savagearms.com/

Not all gun enthusiasts are gun nuts, so when the firearms industry comes out with a new “official” caliber, a lot of us just shake our heads and ask “why?” The .17 Hornet is the latest caliber to come into primetime. It was designed by Hornady after more than five decades of the cartridge living in the “wildcat” world of those who design their own calibers. The Hornady version of the .17 Hornet is slightly different than the original .17 Hornet designed by P.O. Ackley which was a necked down .22 Hornet. This .17 Hornet pushes a 20 grain bullet at over 3600 feet per second, and early tests showed great potential for the round not only in downrange performance, but also in extreme accuracy. Savage Arms, the company known more than anything for affordable out of the box accuracy, has teamed up with Hornady to introduce the round with 4 models in their Model 25 line. We were able to test the $635 MSRP camo version of the Savage “Walking Varminter” Model 25 in .17 Hornet and it is an insanely accurate tack driver, as well as being deadly on game. The interesting thing about the .17 Hornet is that it has nearly the same trajectory as the 55 grain .223 Remington, so you can use caliber specific reticle scopes meant for the .223, for the .17 Hornet. This isn’t a rimfire like the .17HMR. You can reload the .17 Hornet and handload it to tune the round to your rifle. Good luck trying to find the rounds or brass right now, but by mid-summer we’ll probably be able to get it, and the rifles are out and available.

The .17 Hornet isn’t the first centerfire .17 to come out in a SAAMI approved cartridge, and it isn’t the fastest either. The .17 Remington, introduced in 1971, is based on the .223 Remington case and drives a 20 grain bullet at over 4000 feet per second. It has languished just outside of mainstream use because it tends to be dirty, and the accuracy on the cartridge is only fair to midlin with factory ammunition, which is only made by Remington …nuff said there. And though Hornady .172 bullets have always been preferred by handloaders for the caliber, Hornady doesn’t make a .17 Remington in their ammunition line. That left them with a gaping hole in .17 centerfire, while dominating the .17 rimfire market with .17HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire). Enter the .17 Hornet, but to go back to the original question, why do you need it?

One reason for the .17 Hornet is the same for any self respecting fishing enthusiast. It is funner to catch a 10 pound bass on 4 pound test line. If you are shooting prairie dogs, or crows or rats or raccoons, or dozens of other nuisance small animals, it is more fun to hit them with a tiny, fast little .17 caliber bullet fired from a small little elegant case than it is from a boring old .223, or a full fledged rifle cartridge like a .22-250. The other reason is for people who want to sell or mount the pelts of their animals. The .17 Hornet makes a clean little entry hole, and theoretically it doesn’t make an exit wound on coyote sized game, though we didn’t see this with the one large hog we shot with the Savage. As you can see in the pictures, our resident hunting guide Dwayne Powell from Kissimee River Hunt & Fish shot the hog at close range, 50 yards, and the bullet went through the hog, taking out both lungs and dropped her in her tracks with a significant exit wound. At under 200 yards the .17 Hornet will most likely explode a prairie dog like a can of soup, but it will run out of gas over 300 yards, and even a blade of grass will probably throw your shot off significantly. It is perfect for calm, open range shots under 300 yards at small to medium sized game.

For our test gun we paired the Savage Model 25 Walking Varminter with a Leapers/UTG 4-16 SWAT scope , mostly because of the base price of the rifle. Very few people are going to put a $2,000 Trijicon on a $500 rifle (Jeff), so we put a more realistic optic on it, and it still absolutely smoked all expectations. At 16 power, the rifle easily repeated 5 shot cold rifle groups in the .5 inch range, and we didn’t have enough ammo to test longer strings. Hopefully ammo will become more available soon, and by then we’ll have the new .17 WMR rimfire to test from Savage as well, so we’ll do some head to head tests to show you the differences in the calibers. Shooting a lot of shots in a row in this rifle is an important test because we have tested $300 Savage Axis rifles holding close to MOA at 20 shots. If this baby can do anything close that that at yardage it should take over the varmint/predator market in its class.

Our chronograph measured the speed of the .17 Hornet through the 22” barrel of the Walking Varminter at just under the 3650 fps on the box. That would figure about right because the box velocity is through a 24” barrel. As with most of the Hornady ammunition we test, the .17 Hornet Superformance Varmint 20gr load had standard deviation from shot to shot in the single digits, which is the second reason for the superb accuracy, next to the gun itself. If you are a careful handloader you should be able to get similar or even better accuracy with some tuning, but check with your powder company before you begin to reload. The old Ackley data was based on a cartidge with a slightly heavier bullet and a slightly different shoulder than the SAAMI .17 Hornet, and that data has not be pressure tested in the new guns.

The Savage Model 25s in .17 Hornet also have a slightly different twist than the old wildcat guns. They seem to all be 1:9, not 1:10. Our test gun weighs just under 7 lbs and the Savage AccuTrigger comes in at just under 3 lbs, and is adjustable. The Walking Varminter comes in both black and Realtree Extra camo, and two higher end guns have walnut stocks. The polymer magazine holds four rounds, and a completely irrelevant recoil pad is included. The guns also come with scope mounts pre-attached to the receiver. The barrels are free floated, and for now the guns only come in blued steel models, in right hand only.

With a trajectory almost exactly the same as a .223 and tack driving accuracy from an inexpensive bolt gun, the .17 Hornet probably has a bright future. The crazy ammo demand will eventually boil down to a simmer at least, hopefully soon, and we should be able to get .17 Hornet again. Expect to see our Model 25 on some coyote hunts with Dwayne in days ahead, if we can get ammo of course. If you are one of the early explorers with the .17 Hornet, on prairie dogs and what not, please share your experiences in the comments below. It sure looks like a nifty and useful addition to mainstream varmint hunters. Once we can get the ammo again, the only thing now is to get out there and try it.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

skm June 25, 2013 at 9:10 am

OK, so if I have a .17 hornet now,
cases made from the .22 hornet case,
how is that different from the new case?

Will they cross chamber in guns chambered for each other?

Can I use the same chambering reamer for the new cartridge?

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Administrator June 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm

No way. The shoulder is different on the SAAMI cartridge than the wildcat. That isn’t to say you couldn’t re size them with new dies.

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Robin 'Roblimo' Miller June 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

This .17 round sounds as if it would be ideal for small, concealable pistols. An innovative gun maker (are you reading this, ZiP people?) could make one heck of a self-defense device using the .17 round…

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marlin sisco June 25, 2013 at 11:28 am

I bought this little rifle a few months back(the cheapest one) and love it, It is my favorite rifle now and so much fun to shoot, very accurate. I put a Vortex Crossfire II 4x12x44 and I think it’s a perfect match. I kill a coyote last week at 100 yds , very small entry wound and no exit but very dead. I would not have a second thought shooting a coyote at 200+ yds. If you buy one, you will love it, just need the ammo to be more available .

Happy hunting from southeast AZ.

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Larry BELCHER June 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I bought the savage 17 hornet a couple of months ago, it shoots very well but to me it is front heavy…i think it would shoot just as well with a shorter and lighter weight barrel and would be better balanced…

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l.r.goble June 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

have had a 17 ackley hornet,and now have a17 savage mod. 25 hornet and love both. the new hh17 is much more convenet as ammo is more avalabl. they are both death on prarie dogs,and ground squirrels. love the round and the rifle. thanks hornady and savage.l.r.goble

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Doc June 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Just checked Horniday (http://www.hornady.com/store/17-Hornet/) where I found this:

“Sting ‘em with the 17 Hornet
Based on the 22 Hornet cartridge case, the 17 Hornet propels the 20 gr V-MAX at 3,650 fps. Fueled with Superformance propellent, the 17 Hornet Superformance Varmint is economically priced, and delivers the trajectory of a traditional 55 gr 223 load, but is a pleasure to shoot with the felt recoil of a 22 WMR. The 17 Hornet – an economical, fun .17 caliber centerfire cartridge that puts the STING on varmints out to 300 yards!

3,650 fps muzzle velocity with a 20 gr. V-MAX bullet
Same C.O.L. as the 22 Hornet – uses the existing action
Trajectory comparable to a traditional 55 gr 223 Rem, but the felt recoil of a 22 WMR
Less fouling, barrel wear, powder and pressure compared to the 17 Rem
Lower cost and comparable quality to the 17 Fireball and 223 Rem”

They even have a trajectory chart — and talk about matching the .223! I’d call it an exact match or close enough that at 200 yards I can’t see a difference. Looking at their energy there IS a difference, but out to about 100 yards I’d bet the rifle I could drop a deer using a bi-pod and good scope.

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Mike June 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm

How does the .17 Hornet differ ballistically compared to the .204 Ruger?

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Administrator June 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

If you go to the Hornady website all of their ammo has stats on it and you can compare them side by side.

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Bill June 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I have the .223 Remington, .204 Ruger and .17 Remington and really enjoy shooting all of them. They are all very accurate with hand loads. After reading this article about the .17 Hornet, I’ve got to get one just to see for myself. The ballistics are very impressive.

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Wink June 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

How long do we have to wait for a semi-auto with this new .17?
Wow… A rimfire .17wmr @ 2500 f/s to centerfire .17 @ 3500 f/s….
Dam…. gotta go change my shorts…. lol

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Jamesppp July 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I’d love to have one. I’m getting the rimfire .17 WSM first…..3000fps for now

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scott young July 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I’d love to get either one, the .17 wsm &/or the .17hornet but I’d be afraid that I’d fall in love with them and then they’d cut back on ammo production or stop making one of them all together! Anyone gettin’ the hint? 2004 .17mach 2 & the .17hmr! I have a mach 2 that is my favorite gun for trapping & fur harvesting but if you want to buy ammo it’s scarce. The .17 aguilla is now extinct so there’s no true hunting round left for the mach 2 heck’ you can’t even get a .20gr. Bullet! I love honady & I love all there .17′s, I love them so much that I have probably $2,000 into a gun that they barely make ammo for.. every one I know has a mach2 & we fight to get rounds so there’s no reason why all the gunstores can only get 1 or 2 boxes of ammo & why I can’t get a 20gr. Or hollow point…

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scott young July 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I’d love to get either one, the .17 wsm &/or the .17hornet but I’d be afraid that I’d fall in love with them and then they’d cut back on ammo production or stop making one of them all together! Anyone gettin’ the hint? 2004 .17mach 2 & the .17hmr! I have a mach 2 that is my favorite gun for trapping & fur harvesting but if you want to buy ammo it’s scarce. The .17 aguilla is now extinct so there’s no true hunting round left for the mach 2 heck’ you can’t even get a .20gr. Bullet! I love honady & I love all there .17′s, I love them so much that I have probably $2,000 into a gun that they barely make ammo for.. every one I know has a mach2 & we fight to get rounds so there’s no reason why all the gunstores can only get 1 or 2 boxes of ammo & why I can’t get a 20gr. Or hollow point… I wont be first inline to buy a new calibre, I’ll be the first to sit back and see what happens..

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Ed Wald August 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Given that ammo for the 17 hornet is so hard to get as well as just the brass in 17 hornet at least here in Canada, can a guy simply run 22 hornet cases through the 17 hornet dies and use them, has anyone done it, given the diferent shoulder angle and straighter wall on the 17 will the 22 cases buckle ????? any help would be apreciated

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Administrator August 7, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Theoretically you could, but the ammo has been popping up all of a sudden. If you anneal the case before you neck it down and you use lube and do it slowly, it should be fine. Note that this is a reloading question you pervs.

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Francis Toml August 21, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I took my Savage 25 Walking Varminter 17 Hornet prairie dog hunting at the end of June – July 4th, 2013. Using Lil’Gun powder and 26gr Hi Precision bullets (no longer made – wish I had the Ballistic Coeff)) it shot those little critters great all the way out to 340 yds when the wind was less than 5mph or so. Love the fact you have no recoil and can see hits and misses easy. Only problems I had was the feeding of the hollow points which would catch on that rear extending ring on the back of the chamber and they’d hang and not go into the chamber. After almost 100rds, the extractor broke and flew out in the dirt or grass – didn’t realize it at first. Two of us hunted for the pieces for 30 min with no luck so had to drop back to my .20 Practical AR-15. These little rascals are accurate.

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Ed September 11, 2013 at 8:21 am

finally got my hands on some brass and loaded ammo for the 17 hornet, tough to do here in Canada, already had the scope mounted on my CZ 527 varmit, couldn’t wait to sight it in and head for the gopher pastures, the factory ammo 20 gr superformance shot to about a .680″ 5 shot group on average, not bad, had 4 different loads loaded 2 each with nosler varagon, and 2 each with hornady Z-max, need to play with the loads a bit more for the noslers as they shot about the same as the factory loads, but the Z-max with 10.0 gr of Lill Gun shot lights out first 3 shots went .210″ the 4th opened it to .280″ and the 5th opened it to .460″ which I believe is the as good as my old eyes can see and shoot.
Anyway to say that I am pleased would be and understatement, have now run about 500 rounds through it in the pasture what a gun, it literally tears gophers / sod poodles apart, longest shot so far is 264 yds but suffice to say most are in the 150 yd range give or take.
Am sure glad that I waited and bought the CZ, had planned to buy a savage but really didn’t like the feel of the walking varmiter, the bolt felt a little sloppy and the action was rough, I have a savage in 17 HMR which I was using and will keep but the CZ will be the gun of choice in the pastures for sure.

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Ethan September 23, 2013 at 7:06 am

I bought this rifle a few months back (model 25 lightweight varminter T) and I absolutely love it. The ammo was a little expensive ($18.99/box) but well worth it but once I put a Bushnell Legend HD 4-16×44 and it is an extremely deadly combo, I can sling 5 rounds at 100 inside a dime like I said it is an extremely accurate little gun. I reload the brass now (not gonna tell you my recipe :]) and they are a little more accurate than the factory rounds thankful it’s a centerfire cartridge. Havent been out yote huntin with it yet a little early here in Nebraska but when i do this fall and winter im guessin is going to be a very convienient varmint round. Great job Savage and Hornady!! Keep up the good work i expect great products from you in the future!

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Rob October 6, 2013 at 4:25 am

Just picked up my model 25 walking varminter with the black synthetic stock and have ammo being shipped to my home as we speak so hopefully I’ll get to shoot her soon. Right now she’s set up with a Swarovski 6-18X-50mm with the basic plex reticle and it looks/feels so good when you raise it in a free-hand standing or kneeling position. Once the ammo arrives I’ll give you guys an updated take on how I thought the rifle performed.

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Scott December 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

Picked up a Savage .17 hornet about 6months ago and 1 box of ammo and mounted a Vortex 4-12 x44 scope. After
mounting and 20 rounds thru gun I was at .50 groups at 100yds. I was really stoked and then tried to find ammo. 5 months later finally bought some at auction on gun broker for 2 times the $. Considered selling the gun while waiting but glad I didn’t now! Found more ammo at Cabelas recently by chance so I think ammo issue is working itself out. I love Hornady,s ammo but I was constantly given a line of bull when I called them various times about ammo issues. I would have expected better from them given their reputation. I knew from sources in industry there were primer problems at first but should be fixed now as they are shipping again finally. The truth will set you free. I do love the gun and plan on dialing in better this weekend at my range. For the $ the Savage is hard to beat and love their triggers!

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mathew December 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

After a year and a half of searching for a .17 hornet, I finally bought one yesterday. I wasn’t even able to find ammo online or in stores until now. Funny part of the story is that the gun shop owner had no idea what he had. I’ll try and make this as short as possible. While talking to a friend at work last week about how I would love to find a hornet for myself as a christmas gift, he said to try Eymard’s Guns in Galliano La. He said if they didn’t have one that they would find one. Now let me mind you, Eymard’s is in the middle of nowhere in down south louisiana where the roads turn into marsh land. It is a very small gun shop inside a family owned tire repair center. So I walk in and start browsing the selection. As i get near the smaller caliber “varmint” rifles i notice twin Savage 93R17 BTV .17hmr’s sitting side by side. But something catches my eye. one has a 24” barrel! i was extatic and at a loss for words. The only employee, Blair, was sitting at her desk serving a couple who were buying a .243 for their son for christmas. I couldn’t wait for her to finish. When she was finished I asked to see the .17hmr with the longer barrel. I immediately check the barrel caliber stincel. .17 HORNET!!! I really didn’t know what to say but, “I”LL TAKE IT”! But do you have ammo? when she returned from the rear of the store she was holding a brick of ten boxes and had no idea they were back there! The owner of the store had no idea he purchased it from his supplier. He thought it was an hmr which is why he had it tagged as one. They didn’t even know that they had bullets in the back! lol. Needless to say I am the proud new owner of a Savage Model: 25 Lightweight Varminter-T! Can’t wait to start knocking down coyotes! Which leads me to my question, what scope would you guys recommend for shooting at an average between 100-300yrds without breaking the bank? anything under $300.

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nick leodes December 21, 2013 at 11:11 pm

looking for magazines for my savage m-25 17hornet, thanks

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Administrator December 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

call Savage on that one.

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nick leodes December 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm

i have a savage 17hornet, looking for spare mags cant find them

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Scott January 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Tried loading my .17 hornet (Savage 25) with 9.7 grains of lil gun and 20 grain dog town hollow points. Way too hot to my limited knowledge. Once fired cases stuck in chamber and primers blew out. Am down to 9.3 grains and gonna drop more. Can guns be that much different? This is the load I keep finding on different sites. I am not a reloading expert but it almost scares me the way it smokes out of the gas ports and the primers blowing out.

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Teresa January 29, 2014 at 10:43 pm

This is a great gun.. But the problem runs into not being able to get ammunition for it once u run out.. I have searched high and low for 17 Hornet center fire, every place I call can’t or has no idea when they will get some.. So if u own this gun and can’t get the shells, u pretty much have just wasted your money..

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Juan April 5, 2014 at 12:38 am

I just picked up a .17 hornet a few days back, an was wondering if anyone else is having any problems with the rifle ejecting to spent cartridge? Shoots fine just having a lot of issues with it ejecting the round. I have cleaned it on almost every time I fire a (1) round to see if that was the problem an it still continues to have the problem? Thanks in advance.

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