Alexander Arms 17 HMR AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

March 2nd, 2017

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

Telescoping buttstock.

 

 

 

 

Alexander's own match trigger.

 

 

Picatinny top rail.

 

 

 

 

Spiral-fluted stainless barrel.

 

 

Flash suppressor.

 

 

Free-float handguard.

 

 

 

 

Alexander Arms of Radford, Virginia is a producer of some very interesting and useful AR-15 style rifles. My first experience with Alexanderís rifles was with their 50 Beowulf about fifteen years ago. I was then, and continue to be, impressed by this dandy cartridge and the rifle which fires it. Following the Beowulf, Alexander introduced their 6.5mm Grendel cartridge, and I immediately took a liking to that as well. It is a superb whitetail deer killer, extremely efficient, and is also well-suited for long range target shooting.

In addition to these proprietary cartridges, Alexander also builds rifles chambered for the 223/5.56x45 mm and 300 Blackout cartridges. Rounding out the upper end of the power spectrum is Alexanderís new Ulfberht rifle chambered for the 338 Lapua cartridge.

At the opposite end of the power spectrum lies the Alexander AAR17 AR-15 style rifle that is chambered for the dandy little 17 HMR cartridge, and that rifle is the subject of this review. The Alexander AAR17 looks and feels like an AR-15 rifle, but internally, it is quite different, necessitated by the diminutive cartridge which it fires. Instead of utilizing the direct gas impingement system of the AR-15, the AAR17 uses a direct blowback system. The buffer inside the stock tube also differs from the AR system, and of course, the magazine is designed around the little 17 HMR cartridge.

The AAR17 wears an eighteen-inch heavy stainless barrel that is rifled one turn in ten inches. The standard configuration barrel wears straight flutes, but for a small upcharge ($11 US at the time of this review), one can specify the spiral-fluted barrel as shown here on the test rifle. The muzzle is threaded one-half by twenty-eight (1/2x28) threads per inch, and is fitted with a standard cage-type A-1 flash suppressor. The pistol grip and telescoping buttstock are standard AR-style. The free-float handguard is a G10 composite non-vented smooth tube, which proved very comfortable in use. The standard trigger for the AAR17 is pretty much AR-15 mil-spec, but Alexander offers optional triggers, and the test rifle wears Alexanderís excellent Tactical Blade Trigger, which is available when ordering the rifle, at an additional charge.

The polymer magazines for the AAR17 are of really good design. Instead of trying to adapt a standard 223 magazine, Alexander built a dedicated ten-round mag for the 17 HMR cartridge. The magazines load easily, are rock-steady when locked into the mag well, and the rifle ships with two of them. The AAR17 weighs in at six pounds, fourteen ounces with an empty magazine in place. The buttstock is the familiar telescoping type, allowing the rifle to fit the shooter, regardless of size or wardrobe.

For accuracy testing, I mounted a Trijicon 5 to 20 Power AccuPoint scope atop the AAR17 receiver using Trijicon rings. This might seem like a lot of scope for such a rifle, but I like to use as much magnification as possible when accuracy testing from the bench, and the Trijicon has the power and quality that I need. People read my reviews and watch my videos to learn about the gun. They don't care how well I can or cannot shoot. Therefore, I want a scope that will allow me to show the full capabilities of the rifle's accuracy, so from the bench, I want to eliminate as much of my influence as possible. In the field, a good 3 to 9 would be plenty, but for shooting tiny groups at 100 yards, I like a bigger scope.

I had three types of 17 HMR ammunition available to me for testing in the AAR17; Hornady and Winchester 20-grain hollowpoint loads, and the new CCI A-17 load with a 17-grain polymer-tipped bullet. Over the chronograph at twelve feet, the three loads clocked an average of 2336, 2405, and 2726 feet-per-second, respectively. All loads were chronographed at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of 69 degrees Fahrenheit, and a relative humidity of seventy-eight percent.

Accuracy was very good. I was expecting this rifle to shoot minute-of-angle at one-hundred yards, but it did better than that. I think the results would have been even better with more-consistent velocities from the ammunition. Reliability was excellent. Every cartridge of every brand tested fed, fired, and ejected flawlessly. While there have been a few previous attempts to chamber semi-auto rifles for the 17 HMR cartridge, most have been discontinued; some because of the bolt opening too soon upon firing. With this AAR17, there were no signs of such behavior. I shoot left-handed, and if a rimfire is opening the bolt too soon, I can feel it as granules of burnt powder pepper my face. None were felt while firing this Alexander Arms 17. Perfect. Alexander Arms got it right.

The 17 HMR is a dandy little cartridge. I took to it immediately when it was first introduced many years ago. It is a great little cartridge for small vermin and predators within two hundred yards, and in calm winds, its range can be stretched a little farther. I have used the 17 HMR on prairie dogs, and within its range, it is devastating. Same for other small vermin. I have a friend who has cleanly taken several wild hogs with the 17, but I have not used the cartridge on anything larger than a groundhog. The 17 HMR has very mild recoil and report, and is a thoroughly pleasant cartridge to shoot all day long. The bullets loaded into the 17 HMR by the ammunition makers are very explosive on target, as they should be. On animals as large as fox and coyote, the bullets do not exit, but enter with a clean hole at create massive tissue destruction inside for a quick, clean kill, with very little damage to the hide. On small vermin, such as ground squirrels or crows, the little bullets literally cut the animals in half at distances within one hundred yards.

The Alexander Arms AAR17 is a very good, reliable, and accurate platform from which to fire the 17 HMR cartridge. It is a semi-automatic 17 HMR that works, and works well.

MSRP of the AAR17 starts at $995 US as of the date of this review, and Alexander offers many optional triggers, brakes, and other accessories, as well as a huge variety of finish options.

Check out the extensive line of Alexander Arms rifles, ammunition, and accessories online at www.alexanderarms.com.

For a look at the high quality Trijicon optics, go to www.trijicon.com.

To order quality 17 HMR ammunition, go to www.midsouthshooterssupply.com and www.luckygunner.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

Rifle comes with a soft padded case and two ten-shot magazines.

 

 

Ten-shot polymer magazine.

 

 

100-yard groups are representative of the rifle's fine accuracy.

 

 

 

 

Ejector.