by Ron Spomer - Friday, October 30, 2015
The high-velocity, high-energy .17 Winchester Super Magnum rimfire is a welcomed cartridge for many wishing to engage everything from destructive rodents to marauding coyotes, especially in regions where centerfires are noisy, frowned upon or even illegal. But finding a rifle to shoot the world’s fastest rimfire has been a challenge.
Not anymore. Volquartsen, the Iowa gun maker that pioneered the 10/22 custom rifle revolution and then began producing its own high-end, rotary magazine autoloading rifles and handguns, has released its 17 WSM rifle, and it appears ready for prime time.
After cleaning the barrel of our test rifle, a Deluxe model, I mounted a trusty old Bushnell Elite 3200 3-9x50mm scope atop the rifle’s Picatinny rail and hit the bench with high hopes. They weren’t dashed. Winchester’s 20-grain and 25-grain Polymer Tip loads both punched sub-MOA, 5-shot groups at 50 yards. The best cluster went .304”, the worst .528”. At 100 yards the best group opened to .730”, the worst expanded drastically to .905”. How refreshing to see an out-of-the-box rifle perform like that.
Mechanically, everything worked flawlessly. It took a bit of wrestling to figure out how to most easily stuff the 8-round, rotary magazine, but once I mastered that, I was sailing. Through 200 rounds of both bullet sizes, slow-fire or fast, the rifle never hiccuped or even slowed. With the barrel fouled, my last 5-shot group went .730”. I picked up all the brass and found all intact. No split necks or cases. Powder fouling around the breech and bolt face were comparable to that of a 10/22 Ruger after equivalent firing.
Obviously this new auto-loader is built right. Volquartsen engineered it from the ground up, but it will look familiar to Volquartsen shooters because it has the same basic contours and functions as the company's other blow-back rimfire autos. The beefy, rectangular receiver is machined from a block of stainless steel. The bolt is machined from tungsten alloy. It rides on a center-mounted recoil rod and spring and is cushioned by a translucent, polyurethane rod across the rear of the receiver.
The heavy, no-contour, .930-inch diameter stainless barrel is threaded to the receiver with all the serious intent of a centerfire. Free floating, it stretches 20-inches from the breech to the end of the rifling with the last half inch threaded to accept a 2-inch muzzle brake. The rifling twists once every 8.25 inches, and six straight flutes down the middle of the barrel relieve its bulky look. Set in a laminated stock with a full pistol grip and wide, flat fore-end, this 10-pound rifle looks like a serious bench gun and performs like one, yet it is eminently suited for predator calling and picking off pasture and hayfield rodents. Rings and scope brought test rifle weight to 11-pounds, 6 ounces.
With this much mass, a muzzle brake might seem laughable, but it isn’t there to protect sensitive shoulders. It’s there to minimize muzzle flip. You can watch holes appear in paper and see tiny specks of flying grass during near misses on ground squirrels. I was able to stay on the bags and on target shot after shot with barely a nudge to reacquire a precise hold.
The Voquartsen is fitted with a comfortably contoured and smooth type III hard anodized aluminum trigger that breaks consistently a 3.5 pounds. It is blocked by a common cross-bolt safety housed in the front of the trigger bow. The magazine detach lever just behind the magazine well protrudes a half inch below the stock belly. It’s nicely contoured to fit an index finger pushed forward. The 4.3-ounce metal magazine drops out nicely. Two magazines shipped with the rifle.
A high, rising comb Monte Carlo cheek piece raises well above the bore to better fit scope/eye alignment. A thin, solid rubber butt pad is ribbed to prevent slipping off the shoulder.
The 17 WSM Deluxe model ships with an MSRP of $2,035. For more information, go to Volquartsen.com.
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