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Review: Marlin 917V .17 HMR Rifle
Story Behind the Rifle
Because my recent article reviewing my Colt Rail Gun went well. I decided to talk about my experiences with some of the other guns I own , or have otherwise gotten my hands on. Up today is what I have come to consider the most fun rifle I own. My Marlin 917V rifle.
Awhile back I noticed I was spending copious amounts of my hard earned money on ammunition. Between firing my 7mm mag Model 70, (Look for that review soon) and various other handguns I own. It was getting pricey to have some weekend fun at the range. I decided the time had come to buy a small caliber rifle to increase my fun per dollar potential. Obviously the .22 LR comes to mind. While looking around, mostly at Ruger 10/22s, I started doing a little research on the .17 HMR.
The round intrigued me. A precision round. Small but firing at velocities massively outpacing the venerable .22 LR. Most .22s fly at less than 1000fps. Most common boxes of the .17 say around 2500 fps on the box. Nothing against the .22. I just happen to be a guy who likes to tread off the beaten path a little. This is the same reason I don't own a Glock like the rest of the lemmings. (Nothing against the lemmings, Glock's are good guns)
The .17 HMR is not as cheap as the .22 LR, considering you could trade a loaf of bread for 500 rounds of .22 in some places. That being said most HMR rounds go off for between $10-17 for 50 round boxes. A far cry from $1.25 or so every time I pull the trigger on my 7mm mag. Or even my 1911 at around $25 for 50 rounds. The .17 HMR is plenty cheap enough for the average shooter to have fun with at a low percentage of their income. Especially when factoring in that the round is only available in bolt action. It was deemed unsafe to fire out of an auto-loader. The bolt aspect will slow you down some so you can't just plow through rounds.
Gun Trade Success!
With plenty of internet pondering in my wake I decided to put a Walther P22 I owned for trade on a local gun board. The ad said I was interested in trading for a .17 HMR rifle. I didn't have to wait long. A day or so after the ad went live I got a hit. A man had purchased a new Marlin 917V with a BSA Platinum 6-24x44 scope for his son so they could shoot together. Apparently his son grew tired of the rifle after about 100 rounds. Decided chasing butterflies or something was more fun. So here this man was left with a nearly new rifle slumbering in his closet. He was interested in a straight trade for my Walther and wanted $80 in cash for the scope. The guns were about equal value. We haggled some on the scope. I talked him down to a straight trade with $50 for the scope. We both walked away happy with the deal.
The Gun Review
To this date I have about 10 boxes of ammunition through the rifle. Various brands and loads. Fired in a variety of conditions outdoor, indoor, windy etc, at a multitude of distances. I have had enough experience with the rifle to feel comfortable providing an educated view to other enthusiasts looking at this gun. Some thoughts on the scope as well that I will release in a separate article.
To begin with the rifle is appealing aesthetically. This is a pro for me. I have a hard time shooting ugly guns. Those Henry survival .22s? Wont touch one. The 917V has classic American rifle lines with a blued barrel and dark stained stock. Marlin does offer options to this rifle such as a model with a thumb-hole stock. So if you want a few more bells and whistles they are out there. The rifle also handles well. It has some heft but isn't overly heavy so as to be cumbersome. As you would expect with a small caliber there is very little recoil. The .17 HMR comes out smooth and crisp with Marlin's T-900 Trigger System at a 5.5 lb trigger pull.
Accuracy is where the 917V really shines. Right out of the box at that. Just add scope, load, and stir. While I may not be the worse shot in the world I'm not a notably good one either. I fall where most recreational gun enthusiasts do. Can we hit what we are generally aiming at? Yes. Are we likely to paint Martin Riggs style smiley faces in a target at 50 yards? Absolutely not. This rifle makes me look more like I know what I am doing. Photo right is section of my target. I was firing specifically at the "8" from 100 yard. Outdoor range, mild wind. (15 or so MPH) It may not be OMFG amazing, but its better than Stormtrooper accurate. That "8" is about 1 inch tall. So that grouping is plenty small enough to peg a small varmint. From 100 or more yards at that. Longer than most varmint shots are taken from. I have read that a good shooter with a Marlin 917V rifle in their hands can make a grouping tighter. In reviews I read prior to purchasing the gun, accuracy was one constant in the pro column.
The pros of the 917V rifle outnumber the cons dramatically. Unfortunately one of the few cons is a fire breathing dragon. The magazines. The Marlin magazines for this rifle are horrid. I've performed searches on that net that would make Indiana Jones look lazy in his quest for the Ark of the Covenant. All in search of an aftermarket magazine for the rifle. Nada. Which is an absolute shame because this would easily be an "A" product if not for a small fault. And something that should be an easy fix! What is it with me an garbage magazines? That was the big fault in my Colt review too. Located here.
First off the magazine is easy to mis-load into the rifle. You have to look at it while you go about inserting a new magazine to make sure your doing it right. Like a teenager on prom night. From there your problems have only just begun. Mis-feed of the round into the chamber happens constantly. This is not an isolated case in my gun. I have read numerous reports of others having the same issue with their 917V's. During the bolt cycle as you slide the bolt forward to chamber the next round one of two things will occur. Most of the time the bolt will cycle normally. About 15% of the time however, something goes wrong. Most often the tip of the next round gets caught on the chamber and the bolt jams. With less frequency the bolt completely air balls the round. So you get all scoped in on your target, pull the trigger, and.......... dry-fire.
The fix for both issues is the same. Apply a little upward pressure with your hand, then re-cycle the bolt. The round will then cycle normally. The problem is that its god damned ridiculous to have to do that. How could marlin make such a devastating oversight?! Because what it comes down to is that the rifle is now unreliable. Calling a gun unreliable is the equivalent of calling a woman the "C" word. But hey, sometimes things are true and need to be said. Again it's a shame that a rifle which otherwise performs so well is hamstrung by a shitty yet necessary accessory.
The only other minor note in the Con category is that the bolt is not the smoothest ever. Compared to my Model 70 its even a big sticky. This is caused by tightness in the forward and down position of the bolt as it presses against the body of the gun. Takes a little effort to get it started but not a deal breaker in the least. Also it may loosen up with usage. Still a relatively new gun.
Could I in good conscience recommend this rifle? Honestly I'm torn here. As I have said despite its issues I think this gun is the most fun to shoot out of my modest arsenal. So I will say this. If you get a good deal on a Marlin 917V like I did, go ahead and pull the trigger on the deal. Its a fun rifle to shoot, and I can't recommend the round itself enough. I have fallen in love with the .17 HMR. But with the reliability issues the gun has its hard for me to tell someone they should spend their hard earned money on it. So if you are in the market for a new varmint rifle, and its going to be retail price I would look in the direction of Marlin's competitors. I have had my eye on one of the .17 HMRs CZ-USA makes for a while now. If I get one, I will tell you all about it. =)