Savage Model 25 Walking Varminter Chambered for the Fast-Stepping 17 Hornet Cartridge

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

September 8th, 2012


Click pictures for a larger version.
















Low bolt lift.





Four-shot polymer magazine.



Free-floated barrel.











Lagging behind in popularity for many years, the little 17 caliber has been coming on strong ever since the introduction of the rimfire 17 HMR cartridge a few years ago. I know that I have certainly sent my share of the diminutive bullets downrange, and have had a wonderful time doing so. Wildcatters have played around with .177 inch diameter bullets for decades, and the 17 Remington has had a loyal following for a long time.

When I first learned a few months ago that Hornady was going to legitimize the 17 Hornet, I knew that I had to have one. At least one.

Based upon a slightly-shortened 22 Hornet cartridge case, with the taper reduced and wearing a modern shoulder design, the little 17 Hornet was advertised to send a 20 grain seventeen caliber V-Max bullet out the muzzle at 3650 feet-per-second. I like it already. Also, according to Hornady literature, the 17 Hornet mimics the trajectory of a 55 grain spitzer bullet fired from a 223 Remington, so it should reach out to serve as an effective varmint cartridge.

Knowing already what the bullet from a 17 HMR will do to small vermin, I expect the V-Max performance to be spectacular, within range.

When I found out that Savage was going to offer the new seventeen in their Model 25 rifle, the little cartridge really piqued my interest. The Model 25 is a rifle that is sized just right for a varmint rifle. The receiver is slim, has a low-angle bolt lift, two-position safety, and it wears their wonderful AccuTrigger. The particular version of the Model 25 featured here is their Walking Varminter, and it is perhaps the perfect launch vehicle for the new 17 Hornet cartridge.

The Walking Varminter is the lightest in weight of the Model 25 Lightweight Varminter series. The Walking Varminter comes in at about one and one-third pounds lighter than the other two variations of the Model 25. This lighter weight is achieved by using a lightweight polymer stock instead of the laminated wood stock, and by fitting a twenty-two inch barrel instead of a twenty-four inch barrel. The Walking Varminter weighed in at six pounds, fourteen ounces on my scale. The black polymer stock of the Walking Varminter is comfortable to hold, is well-textured where needed, wears sling studs, and has a soft recoil pad. While no one any larger than an embryo would consider the recoil of the 17 Hornet to be fierce, the soft pad is a nice feature, and keeps the rifle stock well-planted on the shoulder.

The twenty-two inch heavy barrel tapers from .978 inch just ahead of the tubular receiver to .708 inch at the muzzle. The barrel is carbon steel, with a good-looking matte black finish that goes well with the rest of the rifle. The bolt is jeweled, with the Savage name and logo etched on the side, to be seen in the ejection port when the bolt is closed. The detachable box magazine is a smooth-working single-stack polymer unit, and holds four cartridges, for a fully-loaded capacity of five.

Savage thoughtfully supplies the Model 25 with Weaver-style scope bases attached. For testing, I mounted a superb Trijicon 5 to 20 power mil-dot AccuPoint scope. This scope has very clear optical quality, side focus, and finger-adjustable target turrets. The AccuPoint has tritium illumination, backed up with adjustable fiber-optic illumination for the center of the mil-dot reticle. This scope might seem like overkill for the 17 Hornet, but I don’t think so. Small target out to 300 yards are this cartridge's business, and the Trijicon makes those targets easy to see, and easy to hit. I mounted the AccuPoint atop the Model 25 using Trijicon steel rings, and proceeded to the bench, as I was anxious to start shooting.

The only ammunition that I had available to me is the Hornady 20 grain V-Max load. I ordered dies and bullets, but they have not yet arrived, so I went ahead without them. The Hornady load proved to be extremely accurate, after the barrel got seasoned a bit by shooting. The AccuTrigger, after a small adjustment, released crisply at two and one-quarter pounds, down from the two and one-half pounds as delivered. That trigger makes the rifle easy to shoot very well off the bench. After bore-sighting, I loaded the rifle, and got everything set at twenty-five yards, then fifty, before moving out to one hundred yards. Savage shoots every rifle for accuracy before it leaves the factory, and the enclosed target had a group that measured under an inch, so I knew that this rifle would shoot. My first group out of the Model 25 measured just seven-eighths of an inch, for three shots, and it got better from there. As the bore became “seasoned” a bit, the groups started shrinking. All firing was done from a solid bench. There was no breeze stirring at all, except for the ceiling fan over my shooting bench, and the sun was at my back, lighting the target very well. Everything was just right. At the end of the day, I decided to shoot a ten-shot group, and it proved to be the tightest group fired from this rifle. Everything was just right. I had the rifle resting in a Target Shooting Inc. Model 500 rifle rest, and with the extremely light recoil, I had to barely touch the rifle to fire. Looking through the Trijicon scope, I could see the rhythm of my heartbeat moving the reticle a little, so I backed my shoulder slightly away from the recoil pad. Seven of those ten shots went into the same hole, with the others pulled from the center blamed entirely upon me. I fully expected this rifle to shoot like a Savage, but it exceeded my expectations. The half-inch size of that ten-shot group is a testament to the rifle, scope, mount, trigger, and rest. I just happened to be there touching off that trigger.

The Hornady ammunition lived up to its billing, recording 3653 fps velocity ten feet from the muzzle. The air was typical for Tennessee this time of year, with a temperature of eighty-eight degrees, and humidity in the ninety percent range while testing for velocity and accuracy, at an elevation of approximately 541 feet above sea level. According to the ballistics chart, those bullets should still be in excess of 2100 fps at 300 yards, with a drop of just over six inches when sighted dead on at 200. Hopefully, I will get to try out those 20 grain V-Max bullets on some prairie dogs later this summer or early fall.

There is not too much more to add, except that this is a dandy little cartridge, providing a relatively flat trajectory, mild report, and almost no recoil. The Model 25 Walking Varminter is lightweight, but not excessively so. The weight is in the barrel, so it balances muzzle-heavy for a steady hold in the field. The barrel is slow to heat up, and at least in this particular rifle, superbly accurate. The 17 Hornet is a welcome addition to the other cartridges that are chambered in the Model 25, and could easily become my favorite. The Savage Arms Walking Varminter has a suggested retail price, as of the date of this review, of only $567 US.

For more details and specifications on the Model 25 Walking Varminter, go to

For the location of a Savage dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the Walking Varminter online, go to

For more information on the 17 Hornet and other quality Hornady ammunition, go to

For a look at the extensive line of Trijicon optics and accessories, go to

17 Hornet ammunition is not available everywhere, but I found mine at

Jeff Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.





Trijicon AccuPoint scope.



Model 25 comes with scope bases attached.



Hornady 20 grain V-Max ammo.



Left to right: 17 HMR, 22 Hornet, 17 Hornet.






...and the