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Old 09-15-2017, 05:55 PM
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One Man's Long Journey To The .17 WSM



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I started my journey to the .17 WSM right after the cartridge was announced. Honestly, my initial thought was, “Great, now I have to buy another rifle for this new rimfire cartridge.” The problem then was I had no interest in any of the rifles chambered in .17 WSM at the time: B-Mag or 1885 Winchester, the latter due to price, not the rifle itself.

So, being the enterprising gun guy that I am, I decided to make my own. I bought a used 1885 in .17 HMR for about half the going price of the .17 WSM model, planning to rechamber and modify its extractor/ejector. It was such a nice rifle, though, I couldn’t bring myself to tear it apart, so I left it as a .17 HMR. About this time, unsettling rumors about poor accuracy were starting to emerge.

Undaunted, I next bought a BSA Model 13, the most petite iteration of that rifle, intending to re-barrel and re-chamber it. This rifle too, however, proved too nice to butcher but also presented scope mounting issues I did not want to address. It went down the road. About this time, rumors of poor ignition on the nail-gun .17 WSM case were starting to surface.

Notwithstanding, the last attempt at a donor rifle to convert was an Anschutz 1702 barreled action I got for a very good price, along with a like-new Classic stock for same that appeared about a month later. Again, the plan was to rechamber the already correct .17 bore but, in this case, I also bought a spare bolt body, the bolt face and extractors of which I planned to open up and adapt to the larger WSM rim. Unfortunately, the accuracy and ignition rumors were weighing on my mind, coupled with new concern, on my part, regarding the possibly too inset firing pin position. I think I got closest with the Anschutz, since I was most confident in its barrel that shot very well in .17 HM2, but I chickened out and sold that one as a complete rifle to one of our esteemed RFC members here.

About this time, I located an actual .17 WSM 1885 for about what I had paid for the aforementioned .17 HMR version. Additionally, I stumbled onto 300 rounds of ammunition, at a time when rimfire ammo was extremely scarce, so, I sealed the deal. It was a very well-built rifle, with much cleaner execution and better build quality, I feel, than a Ruger No. 1, but the first thing I noticed on the real-deal .17 WSM 1885 was the VERY stiff main spring. It was much heavier, it seemed to me, than even the main springs in a couple of centerfire 1885s I had owned in the past, confirming in my mind my wisdom in not going down the convert-an-existing-rifle-to-.17 WSM route. Had I done it on any three of the candidates, I’m certain I would have had ignition problems with little room for remedy, due to both too-inward firing pin position and weak mainspring issues. So, happy ending, right? Well, not quite.

I had concluded that for me to capitalize on the extended .17 WSM range, the 1885 needed to shoot about as well as my .17 HMR rifles, which is very well indeed. Without that level of accuracy, the extended range would mean little. So, I did a side-by-side comparison, on the same day using the same scope, on both the 17 HMR and .17 WSM rifles. While I was extremely impressed with the laser-like velocity and trajectory, accuracy-wise, it wasn’t even close, even at 50 yards, as this pic attests. In retrospect, I believe it was the early-run ammunition that was the likely culprit, but I let the rifle and ammo go, vowing to never revisit the .17 WSM again.




Many glowing field reports here and elsewhere, however, starting me Jonesing for another .17 WSM. Additionally, the other load options, including the 15 grain non-lead load and ready availability of ammo, conspired against me. The initial issue of poor accuracy seems to have disappeared, and with most reporting under 1” groups @ 100 yards, I decided it was time. This time, however, I had a better, more informed approach to acquiring one.

First, I wasn’t willing to take a chance on a rifle not designed specifically for the .17 WSM, to include proper ignition and rifling twist. Second, I wasn’t willing to take a chance on a mediocre barrel -- I wanted to know for certain the barrel was not going to be the limiting factor. The 1885s are very nice, but I doubt I would get anything but the run-of-the-mill Miroku barrel. Third, I am a trigger snob, so a good, if not great, trigger was mandatory. Fourth, I do truly love semi-automatics for pest control, due to the instant follow-up shot capability. That left the Franklin and the Volquartsen.

If you think about it, the semi-auto approach is unique, as I am unaware of any other .22 Hornet (.17 WSM) class semi-auto rifles in existence. This, in and of itself, fills a niche, I believe. Yes, one might get a .223 AR to function using reduced loads with adjustments to gas porting, but I have no interest in doing that, and what happens when someone touches off a full power .223 load in the modified AR? Plus, I happen to believe the Hornet-class cartridges, especially with the much-improved plastic-tipped bullets, represent the optimum in range and noise level I want in a rifle for shooting vermin.

So, I don’t really like the AR platform and ergonomics for much of anything, though I understand the draw for others, and I wasn’t as confident Franklin would install the best possible barrels on its .17 WSMs. Add to that some recent reports of broken cam pins and magazine issues, and I starting looking for a Volquartsen. The VQ offering, too, has had a few reports on initial problems, but I also know how long Volquartsen took before it brought out the .17 WSM semiauto, so I felt most comfortable going there.

I followed a few VQs at the usual auction houses, bowing out as bids approached MSRP, when a “Classic,” sans superfluous fluting and the McMillan stock, appeared. Though used, it seemed in like-new condition, and no one was bidding. I entered the minimum bid (there was a BIN price, but I rolled the dice) and then won the auction with no other bids; about $1550 delivered with two magazines. That’s not cheap, but it is well below what most are fetching right now. I pick it up today and, with nothing else on my schedule for tomorrow – a rare occurrence – I should be able to wring it out tomorrow afternoon. Pics and range report to follow.

Wish me luck.
TBR

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 08-17-2018 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 09-15-2017, 06:48 PM
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Good luck TBR. I think you picked the best for your roll of the dice.
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Old 09-16-2017, 09:03 AM
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Obviously you have a real interest in what the 17WSM is capable of, in a quality rifle. I'm sure that with your skills this will be very interesting. Good luck.

It took using a second reverse wound spring for consistent ignition in my H&R Sportster . The H&R hammer springs actually are over torqued, losing tension with the first couple full cockings.
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:37 AM
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The Package Has Arrived

So, I picked up the Volquartsen from my dealer Friday evening, but the winds were strong on Saturday, and I didn't feel it prudent to attempt accuracy assessment in those conditions. I will, however, offer some pics and initial impressions.

First, I'm profoundly grateful to Volquartsen for developing this rifle. While the RFC favorites like Anschutz, CZ, and others basically turn a cold shoulder to the .17 WSM, VQ really came through for the rimfire enthusiast. Volquartsen not only stuck to it and took the time to develop a specific platform and magazine for the hottest rimfire, it made that rifle a semi-automatic. This represents a monumental engineering undertaking. Whatever you may think of Volquartsen, you have to acknowledge the company's commitment to rimfires.

Second, though the seller indicated a few minor scratches, I swear I can't find a single mark on this rifle. So, I lucked out again in the condition department:





More important, I can't find any sign that this rifle has ever been fired. I honestly don't know whether or not VQ test fires each rifle, but look at these pics of the inside of the action and decide for yourself. I couldn't even find any fouling in the bolt slots for the extractors:



As someone experienced in cleaning up rifles and restoring them to close to pristine condition, either this rifle is unfired, or someone used a great solvent with tooth brushes, picks, and a lot of time, to clean this rifle immaculately. Again, remember, this is a blow-back semi-auto rimfire rifle chambered for the most powerful rimfire currently made. Fouling tends to get everywhere and in every nook and cranny. Even the magazine shows no sign of fouling whatsoever:


And, speaking of the magazine, it is a beautiful thing to behold. A cursory inspection did not reveal a single piece of plastic on it:


The rifle is extremely solid feeling. No wonder, though, it weighs almost ten pounds. Build quality is absolutely top notch:


Interestingly, the receiver markings show an "SM" roll stamping on the left side. I assume this is for the WSM "Super Magnum", but it appears the newer rifles (mine is in the mid-400 serial number range) are stamped either "SS" or "LW" in the same location, likely for Stainless Steel and Light Weight, respectively. I think I recall the very first rifles exhibiting yet another differing mark, but I don't recall what that was. Go figure.

That was the good. Here is the not-so-good. My biggest problem with VQ is the lack of taste in lines and aesthetics in most of its products. The toothy-looking receiver with abrupt steps and transitions need not have followed 10/22 styling convention, since there's no need to make it fit in all the aftermarket 10/22 stocks out there. Why not round or sculpt the receiver a bit, or add a nice tang? The uninspired faceted VQ trigger guard is still there, too, though I realize that may appeal to some. The most objectionable styling faux pas for me, however, is definitely the awkward looking trigger shape. Oh well. I do tend to have overly elevated aesthetics standards, and I don't mean for these criticisms to detract from the overall desirability of this beautiful machined marvel. It's hard to imagine a more perfect rimfire sniper rifle for PDs, sage rats, or whatever. It's kind of the ultimate BB gun we dreamed of as a kids; a semi-automatic needle blower that can reach out to 250 yards, or more.

More good news. I managed to locate at Walmart and other discount ammunition sellers all the 20gr. and 25gr. ammo I might need, whether in Winchester, Hornady, or Federal boxes. Quite refreshing. They were all under $15/box of 50, just a bit higher than the .17 HMR offerings at the same locations. Absent from the shelves were the 15 gr. "green" load, but I can be patient.

Range report to follow as soon as possible.

TBR

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 10-25-2018 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 09-18-2017, 01:20 PM
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Congrats on your pick up, looking forward to the range report.

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Old 09-18-2017, 02:50 PM
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Old 09-18-2017, 02:55 PM
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The rifle is extremely solid feeling. No wonder, though, it weighs almost ten pounds. Build quality is absolutely top notch:

I'd need a bearer to haul that hunting. Great pics and interesting thread. Looking forward to your results.
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Old 09-18-2017, 02:59 PM
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Yes, accuracy will be the one and only test that really matters...well, it also needs to function well...and hold up to thousands of rounds...and retain point of impact...
On the weight, had it been available in a nice 7 lbs. sporter, I would have been all over it. I could always turn the barrel down; not nearly as iffy a proposition and it is for a .22 LR shooting all lead bullets...or just rebarrel it...and restock it.

TBR

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 09-18-2017 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 09-18-2017, 03:31 PM
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I'm curious, what are your accuracy expectations for this gun, better than, worse than, or on par with say a HB SS Bmag?
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Old 09-18-2017, 03:47 PM
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I think the B-Mag comparison is what led me to the VQ. I have no doubt some of the B-Mags shoot well, but they do seem rather inconsistent. Add to that the less-than-inspiring design, and the VQ just seems like the most likely to realize the .17 WSM potential.

As far as accuracy expectations, I would be disappointed with 5-shot groups much larger than 1" at 100 yards, and 3/4" groups would make me downright giddy. I think I would like to be able to hit an average chicken egg every time at 200 yards, excluding interference from the wind. They are about 2.25"H x 1.75"W, so, pretty challenging.

TBR

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 09-18-2017 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 09-18-2017, 05:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TEDDY BEAR RAT View Post
I think the B-Mag comparison is what lead me to the VQ. I have no doubt some of the B-Mags shoot well, but they do seem rather inconsistent. Add to that the less-than-inspiring design, and the VQ just seems like the most likely to realize the .17 WSM potential.

As far as accuracy expectations, I would be disappointed with 5-shot groups much larger than 1" at 100 yards, and 3/4" groups would make me downright giddy. I think I would like to be able to hit an average chicken egg every time at 200 yards, excluding interference from the wind. They are about 2.25"H x 1.75"W, so, pretty challenging.

TBR
You won't get any argument from me and calling the Bmag a "less-than-inspiring design" is being VERY polite, in my opinion and I own one. lol

It'll be interesting to see what you get for accuracy with yours, I believe the one Eric tested was right around MOA at 100 yards.
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Old 09-18-2017, 06:22 PM
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TBR, do you see any reason the 5 1/2lb Savage A17 platform would not be suitable for the 17WSM? The delayed blowback and thick receiver would seem to be strong enough.

Last edited by Glass37; 09-18-2017 at 06:25 PM.
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Old 09-18-2017, 07:56 PM
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TBR, do you see any reason the 5 1/2lb Savage A17 platform would not be suitable for the 17WSM? The delayed blowback and thick receiver would seem to be strong enough.
As committed as savage seems to the WSM, I'd be surprised if they weren't working on this exact thing.
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Old 09-18-2017, 09:06 PM
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As committed as savage seems to the WSM, I'd be surprised if they weren't working on this exact thing.
I don't know, they seem to have enough trouble trying to keep the Bmags shooting straight. They better keep their focus on that, first.
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Old 09-18-2017, 09:28 PM
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I've always wondered why designers don't use a delayed blow-back design, like the H&K P-7 (squeeze cocker). No lugs needed, it uses propellant gases to temporarily hold the bolt forward, usually with a reversed piston, until pressures are down enough, then allowing the remaining back thrust to push the bolt back. It is a balancing act, but so is any blow-back design.

TBR
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