Gun Review: Marlin 17VS

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I’m a big fan of the .17HMR no question about it. I’ve owned several rifles in this caliber and enjoyed every one. My favorites are the Savage and the Marlin 17VS. My 17 VS is stainless steel with a laminated grey/black stock and 22 inch heavy varmint barrel.

When I bought my 17VS and took it to the range the first time I was not happy with the trigger. Saying the trigger was terrible would be an understatement. It came in at almost 6 pounds and not even close to being smooth. I seriously thought about trading it in but after some thought I starting searching for a replacement trigger. This rifle is just too nice other wise to give up on right away.

I settled on a Rifle Bazix trigger from E. Arthur Brown Company. The trigger is adjustable using two screws that adjust for sear contact and trigger pull distance. Adjustment is from 1—2 ½ pounds. Granted it’s touchy but a great trigger that’s easy for even a novice to install. The trigger can be found for approx. $75.00. It’s certainly worth it if you have one of these rifles.

The next item of business was to replace the old scope I temporarily used. I mounted a Nikon Pro Staff Rimfire 4X and called it done. If I had it to do over again I’d buy a 3-9X scope since the 17HMR has an accuracy range greater than the ability of the 4X scope to provide adequate magnification at 200 plus yards. This is especially true for small targets.

After these photos were taken I also added a Harris 6-9 inch bi-pod. There are cheaper copies of the Harris but none as stable or durable. If you shop around the Harris brand can be found for $65.00.

Marlin has since discontinued the VS. The new version is the 917VS. The only difference between the two is the new Marlin T-900 trigger system. This trigger group is supposed to be a competitor to the Savage Accu-Trigger. Well, they didn’t get that close to the Savage system.

I tried one of the new Marlins with this trigger and it’s too heavy. The range of adjustment is also limited. If you like these Marlin 17HMR’s it better to just buy either model and replace it with the “Rifle Basix” trigger group. There’s no doubt it’s far superior to the new T-900 trigger.

As much as I hate to say it with a trigger like mine it will beat my Savage 17HMR with the Accu-Trigger. That isn’t a knock on the Savage because it is a fine rifle.

The new Marlin 917VS

Speaking of shooting past 200 yards with the .17HMR it is very wind sensitive. Even at 2550 FPS a 17 grain bullet is going to be a bit erratic in a significant wind. Practice in all conditions is very important to achieve consistent results. However on a calm day the accuracy is especially amazing. I’ve read the .17 HMR holds most of the rimfire records and I can believe it.

This little wildcat can take down a Coyote pushing 250 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and 90 foot pounds at 175 yards depending on bullet weight. Where I shoot 200 yards is about the max distance available for varmint hunting.

The property belongs to the small town where I live. The city lagoon is on this property and it seems to draw varmints for some reason. All the better for me since the city asked me to do some varmint control for them. The little pest dig holes in the walls of the lagoon, which cost the city a good deal of money. They buy the bullets and I take care of the problem.

Specifications
Caliber .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire
Capacity 4-shot and 7-shot magazine included 917VS. 2×7 Round magazines with 17VS
Action Bolt action; thumb safety; red-cocking indicator.
Finish Stainless
Barrel Heavy 22″ stainless steel (4 grooves)
Twist 1:9″ r.h
Stock Monte Carlo laminated gray / black hardwood with nickel-plated sling swivel studs
Overall Length 41″
Weight 7 lbs
Sights No sights provided, but receiver is grooved for scope mount; drilled and tapped for scope bases (scope bases included).

Conclusion

Even if you don’t varmint hunt the 17HMR is just enjoyable to shoot. Target shooting with the Marlin can be challenging whether it’s shooting paper or improvising by shooting eggs at distance.

Deciding on which rifle is right for you partly depends on whether you want to spend the money on a match trigger or just shoot your rifle right out of the box. For me it’s pretty simple. I’ll stick with the Marlin with the Basix trigger. This Marlin is the most accurate I’ve shot.



Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • J.T.

    Seems like a nice little prairie dog gun. I could probably get good use out of one in .22LR, just personal preference. Coyotes though? They must be small if you can drop them with a .17HMR. I wouldn’t try that with the big ones we have here in Ohio. I don’t try for ours with anything smaller than a .223.

    • Phil White

      J.T.,

      Ours usually aren’t all that large so no trouble dropping them with the 17 so far. I sometimes use the 20 grain XTP Hornady which has a bit more punch.

  • Graham2

    I’m glad you like the rifle, but 190 ft/lb at 175 yards?! That’s some energy retention.

    Where are you getting your figures from? You’ll be lucky to get 80 ft/lb at 175 yards.

    • Phil White

      Graham2,

      It depends on which bullet from the 17 grain up to the 20 grain. Bullet weight in grains X velocity squared divided by 450400 = ft lbs. This is the general formula. I have a ballistics program I use which shows velocity at 175 yards 2157.5 with the 17 grain bullet. One online program says 152.8 while my program says 189.8. The 17 grain drops 2.3 inches at 150 yards with the 20 grain XTP dropping almost 5 inches but retaining over 200 fp of energy. My ballistics program was downloaded to my phone which is easier to use in the field.
      My ballistics program is called Gun Sim which is free if you use it online. You have to pay for the Blackberry phone version which is what I have. You have to use another online program for foot pounds.
      http://www.gunsim.com/index.html

  • Nathaniel

    How are you figuring that it retains 190 ft-lbs at 175 yards?

    • Phil White

      Nathaniel,

      Hiya–I posted the answer to Graham. The darn program better be right since I paid for the app:-)

  • Sean

    I have one of the Marlins in .22 magnum. I assume the trigger groups are the same. Thanks for the info

    • Phil White

      Sean,

      Yours has the Pro Fire adjustable trigger on the new models which is different than the .17HMR T series trigger. Here is the link for the Rifle Basix trigger. There is a download link for all Marlins. I looks like there is one for yours. They sure are nice! http://www.riflebasix.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=68……

  • drewogatory

    I’m sorry, there is no way you should be advocating hunting coyotes with a .17HMR despite your rather spurious claims of energy retention. Varmint or not, it’s your duty as a hunter to kill cleanly and humanely and a 17 grain bullet is simply inadequate. You need to plan for the near misses, not count on perfect shot placement every time.

    • Phil White

      drewogatory,

      If you go to any varmint hunting website this is a subject that gets a lot of attention not to mention heated arguments. Kinda like the 9MM Vs 45 debate. Range, weather conditions etc. will have a lot to do with whether I take the shot or not. As far as energy retention I rely on the information from the ballistics program. It may be considered spurious or false if I figured this information by hand and intentionally posted what I knew to be incorrect. That’s not the case here.
      Should anyone have a high quality ballistics program and supply detailed information to the contrary I will be more than happy to change the posted figures with my thanks. I want accuracy in all information posted. If I had a location where ranges were much longer I would use my .223.

  • howlingcoyote

    BSA makes sweet 17 scope, 2 to 7 power, for the 17HMR. Have you tried that?
    I see the rocking chair coyote shooters say you can’t shoot a coyote with less than a 223 Rem. (Maybe one needs to use a 300 Weatherby!)
    In PO Ackleys book, shooters were hunting deer with 17 caliber rifles 50 years ago, long before these writers were born.

    • Phil White

      howlingcoyote,

      Yep I have used the sweet 17. Pretty good scope for not much money. I had one on my Savage 17. It’s very easy and fast to adjust as well. I read something a couple of weeks ago about Ackley and the 17’s history. That was way back when it was a for real wildcat cartridge. I was trying to remember what velocity he got out of the 17?? I was thinking it was a bit over 3000fps.

  • drewogatory

    The .17 Ackley Hornet was usually loaded to 3500+ fps with a 25 grain bullet. The improved version was pushing 4000 fps. Huge difference. BTW, I apologize for throwing “spurious” in there, probably not the best choice of words.

    • Phil White

      drewogatory,

      Ah well no big deal, think nothing of it. I appreciate the information on Ackley’s .17 work:-)

      Thanks!

  • Graham2

    Sorry Phil, but your figures are wrong.

  • peter
  • Graham2

    I don’t want to rain on your parade Phil, but you don’t know much about ballistics.

    Have a look on the Hornady website if you doubt what I say. If you do, you’ll see that the .17 HMR starts out with 2550 fps at the muzzle, with 245 ft/lbs. At 100 yards it is doing 1901 fps with 136 ft/lbs. By the time it gets to 200 yards it is only doing 1378 fps and has 72 ft/lbs.

    I think you need to do the calculations again…

    • Phil White

      Graham2,

      No you’re not raining on my parade in any way:-) Like I said I want to know the facts and if I’m wrong I’ll freely admit it and guess what I am wrong. I just spoke to Lonnie at Hornady. Lonnie has been doing this since 1967 so he’s very knowledgeable and a heck of a nice guy as I just found out.
      I do have some information for you and the other readers which explains the extreme difference in results from these assorted ballistic programs. Lonnie told me that the primary cause is the people who write these programs don’t know the BC of the .17 because Hornady doesn’t publish it. This makes a big difference in the results of any calculation of energy. He figures they are just guessing. So, that’s the cause and the real energy for the .17 at that distance is 90 foot pounds. I’m going to edit the article right now.
      You can count on my talking with Lonnie the next time I need information rather than relying on a ballistics program.

  • drewogatory

    Darn it Phil! A little snooping around has discovered my new project; Converting a Ruger 77/.22 Hornet into a .17 Ackley improved! Can’t wait to work up some loads for that little screamer.

    • Phil White

      drewogatory,

      Oh man I want to hear about that one when you finish it! I’ll send you my email:-)

  • Graham2

    Hi Phil,

    Glad you got it sorted.

    • Phil White

      Graham2,

      Well it’s one of those lessons learned which is usually a good thing and certainly is in this case. If you want the truth contact the company not depend on an Internet program!

  • When it comes to hunting and being ethical, I don’t believe you should worry about “margin of error”. You should NEVER count on near misses. It isn’t ethical to pull the trigger unless you have the perfect shot. The 17 is a great varmint round (varmints include coyotes)….You just need to know your range and not be over confident.

    I’ve seen the 17 take out coyotes, bob cats, and even the occasional hog. Every single time, the animal was DRT.

    • Phil White

      Sean,

      Where I hunt them range is limited. I have the luxury of a very accurate rifle and I will not shoot if the angle or distance is wrong. I want a side on shot with them standing still. I never ever shot if they are moving along pretty fast.