Marlin 917s Review - 17 HMR

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  • Marlin 917s Review - 17 HMR

    A review of the Marlin 917s rifle - 17HMR I wrote some time ago...

    The 917s is a rifle in the 17 HMR caliber made by Marlin. And it is a recent addition to my collection of firearms. This is a small review of how I came to acquire it and its subsequent performance first time out.

    Having decided to buy a 17 HMR rifle the decision was Which Brand? Do I get a Savage, CZ, Mosberg, Marlin, Ruger, etc? There are just so many to choose from. So I did my initial research online with the aid of locally published shooting magazines. And I was looking for something within a budget range. So $800 for a CZ onto which I add a scope was out of my range. Not that such cannot be afforded, but from what I Perceived I was getting for my money.

    This essentially narrowed it down to Savage, Marlin and Mosberg. With Mosberg being the cheapie budget entry level firearm - it was quickly discarded as an option leaving just Marlin and Savage.

    The available reviews online show those who own them love them. But that doesn't tell me much I can use. Although, that both shoot accurately meant the decision came down to Feel. How did either of them Feel in the hand?

    A trip to my local gun store to get some hands-on. The Marlin with Varmint barrel felt ok - but - I didn't quite like the action. There was something about it I cannot accurately describe that turned me off it. The non-varmint barrel Marlin felt good. Had a good feeling action. Nice easily dropped magazines (of which you get two when you buy a Marlin). And the weight distribution was good for the field.

    The Savage with Varmint Barrel felt too barrel-heavy for me. So in the field, shooting offhand or from taking a knee, the weight of the barrel would be straining your supporting arm. The action was Rough. And the magazine feed was too fiddly and odd to make work right. So the Savage was ruled out right away. Leaving just the Marlin with normal barrel - because it felt better to Me. So I put a 3 - 9 x 40 silver-colored scope on it and was set.

    To me, getting the most from a firearm without spending additional money on bedding or floating or reinforcing means, ammo must be found which Your firearm shoots best with. Because not all ammo is the same. Some is good in your firearm, some is terrible. It all comes down to finding which type of ammo from which manufacturer, your firearm shoots the tightest groups with.

    I'd heard good things about Hornady V Max so that was on the test list right away. And I also picked up a box of CCI V Max to test as a comparison. This would give me a choice of two. The winning cartridge would be bought again for testing against another brand's rounds. And so it was now time to shoot.

    There is a Lot of debate about Breaking In a barrel. Some say to shoot single shots with a clean between each shot, for the first ten, then every other shot gets a barrel clean. Others say other things. But frankly, I didn't have time for that. Nor did I have enough ammo. I had one box of each. And so, as I've done with all my firearms, it was cleaned before heading to the range - and cleaned & oiled upon return. And the results kind of speak for themselves...

    Sighting In

    There are many methods discussed on How to sight in your rifle. This is the method I use... starting with the target you see pictured, I aim at the middle and shoot a small three shot group. I then adjust Windage only until it lines up pretty close to the vertical line. If my holes allow it I then still aim at the middle and now adjust height only. When I am reasonably close, I then test my ammo. And as you can see by this particular target, I did two-shot-groups for a total of ten shots to get it close enough to shoot test groups of the different ammo.

    The shooting method I used for sighting in as well as the other shooting is... front of the stock was on a flat rest while the back was free - or in my case, supported only by my shoulder as I shot. I did Not use the usual Bench Rest Technique of having a rear sand bag which is Squeezed to elevate the rear of the rifle as may be required, thus giving greater stability.

    CCI V Max - 50 Meters

    Using an Airgun-Target placed at 50 meters, I then shot four shots into each target, for 20 shots in total for the sheet. As you can see, the CCI ammo did fairly well at this distance. And I figured at this stage of the testing, the distance is so close almost any half decent ammo would suffice. And for Hunting purposes, all shots aimed at the head kill zone of say a rabbit or hare would have resulted in a one shot kill - the ideal.

    I did notice, putting some of the spent shells back into the box, that the shells had expanded and they were tighter to push back in. Meaning, a slightly larger powder load or casing imperfection for those particular rounds. One round was so tight in the barrel it slipped out of the bolt's grippers and I had to use a small flathead screwdriver to pry it out. But otherwise, the CCI performed well.

    Hornady V Max - 50 Meters

    I had another sheet set up at the 50 meter range and shot the same four shot groups with the Hornady V Max I've heard such great things about. The holes look more crisp because the Backing Board was of a different material. And measuring the groups, the Hornady V Max in 17 grain gave the tighter groups. With target #2 having a two-shots-one-hole and target # 4 having a very small group with one flyer. Which is pretty good for the windy conditions I was shooting in.

    As with the CCI, I put some spent shells back into the box. But none of the Hornady's felt tight going in. A sign of a difference in their manufacturing processes? Or type/amount of powder? I was also testing the magazine - loading the mag with four rounds at a time to shoot each group. And the Hornady rounds Felt better than the CCI. It's not a feeling I can accurately describe. Just that those rounds felt better in my hand in some way, as if more robust, better quality, etc.

    100 Meters

    I had also set up some targets at the 100 meter range - mine is the one on the left third row. Here you can see a rough idea of what I was seeing through the scope as well as a non-scope look at what it looked like. Behind the 100 meter targets is a 200 meter target zone and the one at the very back is 300 hundred meters. And to give you an idea, the airgun target's roundel is only 50mm (2") in diameter. So at 100 meters it's small even through the scope set at 9x power. And I could not see the holes I was punching into the paper.

    And when looking through the scope, each time my heart beat the scope would make a slight move. Meaning, my point of aim was also shifting slightly. Which doesn't make much difference at 50m, but as the distance increases, the difference is amplified.

    Also, now the wind had started to pick up. And not just a bit. So much so that at times I had to pull off my shot because the target board was swaying back and forth so much - was only secured at the top. Also, sometimes the wind was blowing into my face, sometimes from left to right and sometimes from right to left. Never behind me though. So the strong swirling gusty wind made it Challenging. But, I had heard people complain of Drift in wind with the caliber. So this was a great opportunity to see if that was really the case, and if so, did it matter?

    CCI - 100 Meters

    First cab off the rank was the CCI. The rifle now had a total of 50 rounds through it. And as can be seen, pretty well all shots are left of the aim point and beneath the aim point. As the rifle had not been Properly zeroed at 50 meters, this Downwardness is expected. The leftness of the shots is partly wind - and - partly recoil. As it was around about this time I noticed the recoil was sending the butt to my right, which would point the barrel slightly left. This could be the nature of this particular firearm - or - my shooting position based on how the range benches are set up - they are not 100% square into the target frames. Which resulted in me not being seated at the bench correctly to shoot the target which was off to the left.

    Either way, however, while the groups are Much wider than the 50m groups, all would have resulted in one shot kills if heart/lung shots were taken (say on a rabbit or hare). And while the shots do look wild, the groupings are around 50mm (2"). And you will notice target #5 only has a three shot group. That's because the second round in the magazine looked already fired when I went to feed it in, so I removed it. Later examination revealed the projectile had pushed back into the casing! I subsequently tipped the gunpowder out and put the round with projectile rattling around in the casing, back into the box. Odd.

    Hornady - 100 Meters

    As can be seen here, the Hornady rounds gave Much tighter groups at 100m compared to the CCI groups. With target #4 being sub MOA - sub one inch. And in the strong gusty blustery conditions I was shooting in, that is awesome!

    Target #3 is full of Flyers. And besides the additional wind at that time and moving target board, I was being buzzed by flies - the range is at the back of a cattle farm. So shots were Rushed, others were taken while shooing flies away, or by involuntary head movement when flies land on your ear as you shoot.

    Based on this, the Hornady V Max is the winner out of these two cartridges. Which makes it the Bench Mark to test others against. And at only a buck or two more than the CCI for a box of 50, is well worth the extra.

    The Gun Itself

    The rifle itself performed well. For a non-varmint barrel I was quite impressed. And I figured it would do alright. After all, the varmint barrel isn't really that much thicker. And non varmint 22 magnums have been around for ages.

    The discharge is much louder than a normal .22. To the point that just on sound alone you would think you are shooting something larger than a .17 caliber rifle. The recoil, while greater than a .22 is hardly worth writing about. Even the most frail woman could handle the recoil. And in fact, at the Booth next to me the fellow was shooting a 17HMR Savage with Varmint barrel, and allowing some Never-Shot-Before friends to have a go. And the woman said she liked it - and she'd never fired a rifle before in her life.

    I put 90 rounds through the rifle in this session and my shoulder didn't feel any different. My neck didn't feel jarred or strained. Physically, I felt fine. And if I had the ammo and time I could have kept on going. It was a Pleasure to shoot.

    The Marlin's trigger is not a touchy trigger. Nor is it too hard. I found it Just Right.

    The bolt fed the rounds from the magazine with ease. Smooth. And regarding the magazine... it came with two magazines, a 4 shot and a 7 shot. With both ejecting from the bottom of the rifle without trouble. And also in the box was a breech cable lock - you feed it through the breech and lock it and you are unable to put a bolt into it (different to a trigger lock) - so Marlin is looking after Safety as well.

    It also has sling mounts already attached. So if you have a sling you don't need to drill & tap anything. Just flip open your sling's pins, put them through the holes in the rifle's sling mounts, resecure and your sling is attached.

    The only thing I had an issue with was the spent case ejector. With the CCI rounds, maybe 50% of them did not eject. And I needed to flick them out of the bolt's grip with my finger. With the Hornady, maybe 25% needed manual removal. At the time, as I was examining the problem, it Looked to my untrained eye to be an issue of the ejector pin not even making contact with the casing - the pin being too low down! BUT, further investigation revealed that if I didn't pull back fast enough, then the casing is pushed up slightly by the ejector pin but without enough force to Pop it. The result being, it stays held onto but now Higher than the ejector pin and cycling the bolt back and forth now does nothing. Subsequent testing at home revealed... single feed rounds were ejected without problem - and - magazine fed rounds were also ejected without problem - when the bolt was pulled back with conviction (with slight force and speed). So the only Issue I had was caused by Me not working the rifle correctly.

    For in the field work, this rifle is the bomb. Throw a scope on it for further shots or use the open sights that are part of the rifle. I always go for the scope. And so, in summation, I am pleased with the Marlin 917s. It's accurate, well balanced, has little recoil, was hardly effected by the strong wind at all as many have theorized about and is just plain old fun to shoot. And if you ain't havin' fun there's no point.

    (Next ammo test report will be between the Hornady VMax 17gr (2550fps claimed) and the Winchester 20gr "gamepoint" (2375fps claimed)

  • #2
    Thank you for taking the time to do this, the marlin seems like a great rimfire for the price and for farm work etc.
    i am going to sticky this


    • Throwingbrick
      Throwingbrick commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by S12A" post=3704
      Thank you for taking the time to do this, the marlin seems like a great rimfire for the price and for farm work etc.
      i am going to sticky this
      When it comes to farm work if he'd chosen the savage, its mag release paddle is the most painful thing would prefer walk 5000 miles through lego than endure that mag release in my back for a 30 minute bike ride to way out the back.

  • #3
    Hello all...just joined tonight from the old forum.

    Mister, you put a great deal of time into your post so well done.

    I'm a bit of a fan of the 17hmr so it was good to read. Just come back from a week away with my newbie and tested four different types all up.

    I would suggest you try some Fed 17Vmax in yours as I have found them to shoot the best in about 4 different makes so far. With my new rifle, i am very happy to say its shooting Fed Vmax, Fed 17gHP, CCI17gHP all to the same POI and all cutting holes, as an average group it would be 1/2" or less at 50 so there isn't much between them. The 4th one and most important to me is the CCI 20g JSP. It came out with the same elevation and the windage out at 1/2" to the right and again another 1/2" group or less at 50m. The only exception was Hornady's 20gn xtp which was the only one encountered that produced unacceptable groups for me..allas you can't have everything.

    From the outset, I wanted my replacement 17 to be able to shoot more than one brand and weight..I got that and more, to be able to group so well at the same POI was fantastic. i know others that can shoot only one type very well so they are stuck with just that, thankfully I no longer share that problem.


    • Guest's Avatar
      Mister commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the sticky, S12A

      Thanks Markem for the suggestion. I'll pop into my LGS and see what other options they have available. Testing 4 different types in one hit would be better than two types - if for no other reason I get to shoot more I think some Fed Vmax and CCI 20gr would be good. That way the day's test would have two Vmax and two 20gr comparisons. And I'd like to go on a not-so-windy day.

  • #4
    Yeah the wind must be avoided especially when your trying to sort things out for the long term.

    Have to admit its a pain in the bum testing the different types especially if you buy 1 box and find out after testing its pretty much useless.

    Still once you got your results you can stick with them.

    We all know that the ammo is produced in the same factory, and my understanding is the same powder, but they have to be different in some way to be a legal product to sell. EG: Not all Vmax rounds produce the same result, I thought it may have been a slightly different load charged but others have suggested a slight difference in overall length may be what's responsible. I haven't bothered to check myself.

    Good luck with your testing.


    • #5

      Your review was well written and informative. Dont be shy, do some more when you get the time. I enjoyed it.


      • #6
        Agree the savage HB is a bit rough at first but tricked up and refined it shoots like crazy little groups / hates wind as would be expected.
        I still need to get some real work out of mine but so far I find it`s a cracker on rabbits --also from necessity popped on into a medium sized nany goat at 40 or so meters and it pulled her up for another quick kill shot.
        I mainly use hollow points as they penetrate much better --BT`s will just give animals a nose bleed unless there spot on soft spot skin.
        For clean ups on little left over goats after some culling its economical and very effective out to 100 meters with hollow points.
        I for get the brands now but I tried all and found no real difference in POI or really tried to --just shoot.
        The savage model is fussy about bedding and it must be got right or it will dissapoint.
        Other mods and the acu trigger are fine.
        This group is around 80 meters off the door rest in the ute --I am happy with it.
        Don’t poke the snake, walk around it and come back later with a double-barrelled shotgun and blow its [email protected]#!ing head off!.

        Australia in future, the outcome is the same, a bloody dictatorship run on the whims of a very few ego-centric pathological elitists.


        • #7
          Nice review mate, keep em coming.
          Love your country, love your family, love your sport.


          • Guest's Avatar
            cadet commented
            Editing a comment
            I have a Marlin 917vs (I think that's the model - heavy barrel, synthetic stock). It's a cheap and nasty piece of shit - one of the worst triggers I've ever used, flimsy plastic stock, awful fit and finish - the action ground and grated rather than cycled until I spent some quality time just working the action over and again to wear it in. I also suspect that when I bought it new, the LGS "kept" a set of rings/bases and sold me some separately. Pricks. So I have a sour taste about mine.

            But even before I rasped out the barrel channel to stop the flimsy stock flexing over the bipod under the rifle's own weight, and before I took to the trigger with a biro spring, it shot like stink; after those cheap and nasty garden shed mods, it just got better. For its accuracy, I can forgive a multitude of sins.

        • #8
          Nice review mate my tbolt groups good with 17gr feds its still pretty new its got acouple of foxes , the pic is at 100m
          Attached Files


          • maninorange
            maninorange commented
            Editing a comment
            Fantastic review. I'm currently in the market for a .17HMR and have narrowed my search down to this rifle and the Zastava CZ99. I'm still on the fence.

            I think the Zasty has the upper hand in build quality, but the Marlin has far superior upgrade options such as a thumb hole stock etc.