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For many years, Anschutz rimfire rifles in sporter and highly specialized target configurations have been built on their famous Model 54 and 64 bolt actions.

Anschutz target rifles have been consistent medal winners in international and Olympic competition. The two series of rifles are known as the 1700 and 1400/1500 series, respectively depending on whether the action is the Model 54 or 64.

Anschutz target models have dominated small- bore competition, and the accuracy of both sporters and target rifles is outstanding. Anschutz was one of the first European companies to pioneer by chambering a rifle for the .17 HMR.

In recent years Anschutz has been using the well-proven Fortner straight-pull repeating action to build biathlon rifles. Now they’ve adapted it for a new Model 1727F .17 HMR sporter.

The massive (for a rimfire) Swiss-made Fortner action which forms the heart of the rifle is going to be the pinnacle of interest to gun fanciers everywhere.

Machined from stainless steel the cylindrical heavy-walled receiver has a length of 200mm and an average wall-thickness of 4.36mm. A beneficial side effect of this thickness of course, is a stiffer-barreled action whose rigidity is an aid to accuracy.

The inside walls of the receiver are smooth allowing ease of operation with no chance of the bolt binding during travel. The tube is solid except for slots cut for the bolt handle, magazine access, trigger sear and bolt stop/release.

The bolt body is fabricated in five pieces: the bolt head, a familiar half cutaway rimfire design, the bolt cylinder which backs it up and houses the firing pin mechanism, a locking sleeve which carries seven hardened ball bearings which act as locking lugs, a cocking arm and the bolt handle.

The bolt handle and bolt knob are separate items made of polymer.

The seven ball bearings are small in diameter, yet they combine for a locking system of exceptional strength. They protrude into a circumferential groove milled into the receiver approximately 55mm ahead of the angled rear end of the action as the bolt is closed, are retracted as the bolt handle is pulled to the rear.

The bolt is removed by pressing on the rear end of the release catch which impinges on a release catch on the end of the bolt handle, and then pulling back on the handle.

To replace it, the bolt is simply inserted into the action, and while holding the handle back with the forefinger, the thumb is used to push against the rear of the bolt cap. In actual use, the bolt is ideally opened with the forefinger and closed with the thumb.

The Fortner action was developed in Switzerland in 1984 when the Home company was formed to produce a patented straightpull biathlon rifle action.

The company enjoyed such early success that it was obliged to hire six employees and move from the basement of a residential building to a modern building complete with its own 100 metre rifle range.

The company has been in the Register of Craftsmen since 1986. In ensuing years models for hunting were developed and the company was granted six patents, some of which were licensed to other companies for use in their production, including J.G Anschutz.

Nearly 10,000 biathlon rifles have been manufactured and sold worldwide. More than 90- percent of biathlon athletes participating in international competitions use rifles with the Fortner action.

Fortner’s proven Biathlon straight-pull action can be effortlessly operated with the index finger to pull it back for recocking and then pushing it forward again with the thumb to chamber a fresh round.

Fast repeat shots are available with the rifle held firmly against the shoulder and the hand wrapped around the grip.

The rear lock-up has several practical advantages. Rimmed cartridges feed much better without locking cavities to travel over. It also results in a shorter bolt stroke and contributes materially to bolt stability.

The ball bearings locking circumferentially give a more balanced locking support, eliminating non-uniform strains which result from using the root of the bolt handle as the sole locking lug in a turn bolt action.

An evenly spaced array like the 17/27’s gives the most stable and uniform support possible, while the small ejection and magazine ports allow greater bolt encirclement.  

The bolt face is recessed in the standard way, and houses dual steel extractors. The firing pin is round instead of chisel- nosed which is the better kind. Firing pin fall is very short and locktime is very fast for a rimfire rifle - 3.5 to 4 milliseconds, which puts it in the class of many short action centrefires.

The  excellent  Anschutz two-stage match trigger  is adjustable for weight of pull from 90 to 650 grams. On my test rifle weight of pull and overtravel were set at the factory. Most unusually the trigger shoe is canted 11mm to the right.

The safety catch is attached to the side of the trigger housing and blocks the sear, but allows the bolt to be opened to clear a loaded round from the chamber. Anschutz warns against trying to adjust this trigger yourself and advises taking it to a gunsmith.

The barrel is button-rifled. The blanks are cut to length before being passed to the driller. The long drilling machine takes two blanks at a time and oil is squirted through the tubes to remove the steel shavings. After drilling the borehole is reamed to an exact drawing pass.

The grooves and lands are formed by a hardened steel button which is forced down the barrel. It forms the rifling and at the same time hardens the inner surface. Then a barrel truer peers up the bore against a light and makes any necessary corrections before the unit is placed on the copying lathe.

In the copying lathe the turning tool runs parallel to a “master” barrel, hence the new barrels all take on externally the same appearance. After this stage, the barrels are sent to the chamber reamer.

The 1727’s barrel is 560mm long and appears to be pressed and pinned into the receiver. There are two long retaining screws passing through the front of the receiver from top to bottom. The recoil lug is a separate part blanked from heavy steel plate and clamped between receiver and barrel.

This bracket system which originated with the Savage Model 1920 was carried over to modernday Savage 110s. The Anschutz bracket has a large face. It  measures 180mm wide by 10mm high with a thickness of 4mm. The barrel has a diameter of 27mm just in front of the bracket, reduces to 24mm ahead of the chamber section and then tapers off to reach 18mm at the dished muzzle.

The magazine well together with release latch is attached to the underside of the receiver with a screw at the front and a dovetail at the rear. The pressed steel detachable box holds four rounds of .17 HMR ammo.

The stock is dense walnut with an attractive tigertail figure. The grain has been properly filled and the wood given a dull satin finish. Continental styling has a high, gently curved hogsback comb with a deep dish on the right side for the base of the shooter’s thumb, English style pancake cheekpiece and thick, tightly curved pistol grip with a wundhammer palm swelling. There are panels of checkering in a point pattern on forend and grip. The inletting is close and neat and coated with the same waterproof finish as the exterior. The stock is fitted with a solid black recoil pad and Q/D sling swivel bases.

The stock is attached to the barreled action with two screws through the floorplate/trigger guard that thread into two holes drilled and tapped in the receiver bottom. A wood screw secures the rear end of the floorplate.

For testing the rifle had a Leupold VX-3 4.5-14x40mm scope attached using Weaver rings and bases. No other cartridge ever achieved such immediate popularity, generated so much publicity and printed articles or sold so many thousands of rifles and millions of rounds of ammo in such a short time as the   .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (.17 HMR) when it was introduced in 2002.

The .17 HMR is nothing more than the .22 WMR case necked down to shoot the Hornady polymer-tipped V-Max 17gn .172-inch bullet at 2550fps giving a muzzle energy of 245 ft/lb. The slim sharp-pointed bullet which has a ballistic coefficient of .125 holds up well in flight resulting in a rather flat trajectory that makes hits on small varmints possible out to as far as 175 metres.

Light 17gn bullets shed their velocity rapidly and velocity at 100 yards is down to 1900fps - a loss of 650 fps or 25.5 percent. After some shooters experienced failures with a bullet that light on larger predators like foxes and dingoes, a load employing a 20gn hollow-point bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2375fps was introduced. CCI offers their 20gn Game Point and 20gn Hornady V-Max. The heavier bullet reduced the load’s explosiveness and gave deeper penetration, but the .17 HMR was never really intended for use on larger predators and it proved to have only marginal effectiveness.

Some writers have credited the .17 HMR with tremendous “shocking” power, but it just isn’t so. Factors necessary for reliable killing include the ability to penetrate deeply enough to reach vital organs, as well as creating a large deep wound channel. The more damage to vital organs and the greater amount of tissue destroyed, the higher the level of incapacitation and the quicker the kill. The lightweight highly frangible 17gn bullets do not penetrate very deeply, and they break up almost immediately after impact creating a shallow, often superficial wound.

Personally I find the .17 HMR an outstandingly accurate little round and prefer to use the 17gn load and confine the rifle’s use to picking off rabbits and small pest birds within its effective range.

Because the .17 HMR is simply the .22 WMR case necked down any rifle made for the latter can easily be rebarreled to handle it. Since case and rim diameter and rim thickness is the same for both calibres, magazines that handle the .22 WMR feed .17 HMR cartridges just as smoothly.

However, with the exception of Ruger M77/.22 WMR rifles which have easily interchangeable barrels held by a pair of screws, most shooters preferred to buy a new rifle - and boy did the manufacturers ever strike a problem with keeping up the supply? At least for the first two or three years.

Over the past eleven years, I’ve tested a number of new .17 HMR rifles as they appeared, but never such an exotic rifle which establishes a new standard for quality as the Anschutz 1727F.

And of course, it is in the upper price bracket. It’s heavy, weighing 4kgs all-up with scope and mount, placing it in the category of a varmint rifle.

I found early in the piece that a 100 metres zero does not take full advantage of the higher velocity of the .17 HMR. Between the muzzle and 100 metres there’s no more than 9mm difference between the line of sight and the bullet path. The difference is so small that there is little likelihood of missing even the smallest pest bird, but with that sighting the bullet will land 88mm low at 150 metres, and 288mm low at 200.

The Anschutz 1727F can be zeroed for 125 metres which gives the most practical trajectory for small game. Sighted in 26mm high at 100 metres, the bullet is 22mm high at 50 metres, and drops 49mm at 150. That’s flat enough to ensure a hit on a rabbit at the longer distance. The bullet drops off fast after the 150 metre mark and curves sharply downwards to be 236mm low at 200.

If the rifle is sighted-in for 150 metres the bullet will strike 38mm high at 50 metres, 59mm high at 100, and drop 170mm  at 200, which is a larger deviation than one wants for a rifle intended for sniping at small varmints. All trajectory figures are for the 17gn V-Max bullet.

However, it pays to bear in mind that striking energy is only about 100 ft/lb at 150 metres and only 80 ft/lb at 175. This means that even on a rabbit at this distance, the bullet would have to be precisely placed in the head or heart to effect a clean kill. Conditions in the field in order to do this must be calm without the slightest trace of any breeze for the tiny bullets are extemely wind sensitive.

Just how sensitive I found out on a day when there was a 16kph crosswind blowing and I tried to hit a target at 200 metres. My targets are at least 30cm wide and not one bullet landed on the paper. This is not surprising when you consider that the amount of defelction would have been 248mm at 150 metres and 477mm at 200! This is one gun I’d leave at home on day when there’s even the mildest zephyr at play.

Where the .17 HMR really shines is in the accuracy department. The 1717F will deliver sub-MoA groups at 100 metres. Under ideal conditions, 1/2-minute groups are possible. The 560mm barrel  features  conventional 6-groove rifling with a 1:9” twist.

The trigger released at a consistent 1.36kgs which is the weight of pull all of my personal rifles have. Recoil is practically non-existent.

Testing was carried out during November 2013 and the weather was sunny with intermittent breezes running 8 to 16kmp. I was obliged to wait nearly two weeks to get a calm day. Accuracy was good with all of the six different loads tried, but CCI’s load with the 17gn V-Max took out the honours. The results are shown here:

Accuracy is the .17 HMR’s main strength, but I’d limit its use to nothing larger than rabbits. A fox was standing facing me at about 100 metres when I landed a 17gn V-Max in the centre of his chest. He straightaway spun around and got the hell outa Dodge. Although I searched high and low I was unable to find him. However, I’ve heard of other shooters who’ve enjoyed great success on foxes that they brought in close with a decoy whistle and hit with Hornady’s Varmint Express 20gn HP/XTP load. The lower velocity wouldn’t handicap those luring reynard closer with a decoy whistle, and the extra penetration gets the job done in fine style.

While the Anschutz 1727F is a fine rifle, maybe the finest of them all, its price may deter all but the most fanatical devotee of the .17 HMR calibre. Touted for the last nine years as “the fastest rimfire cartridge” the .17 HMR has recently been deposed and relinquished that title to the new .17 Winchester Super  Magnum which lofts out a 17gn bullet at 3000fps.

New cartridges and new guns come and go. But a hot starter, the .17HMR has already become so well established that the .17 Winchester Super Magnum will face a hard task to make up enough ground to catch it up, let alone pip it at the sales post.

The Anschutz is the Rolls Royce of .17 HMR rifles for the guy who wants the very best.

Anschutz 1727 Fortner .17 HMR
Manufacturer: J.G Anschutz, Ulm/Donau Germany
Calibre: .17 HMR
Barrel length: 556mm
Overall length: 1354mm
Weight: 2.24kgs
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
Trigger: two-stage match; weight adjustable from 90 to 650 grams
Stock: European walnut, checkered on grip and forend
Stock Dimensions: length of pull, 36mm, drop at comb, 115mm; drop at heel, 25mm
Special features: Fortner straight-pull bolt; 11mm canted trigger blade
Likely price: $3585.00
Contact: Nioa: www.nioa.com.au

This article was first published in the Sporting Shooter March 2014 issue.

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