Last year after reading many articles in Precision Shooting magazine
and The Varmint Hunter Association magazine I decided that I “needed” a
sub caliber rifle. I looked into the real small stuff, 12 and 14
calibers but I ruled them out as just too weird. Maybe next year. The
20 caliber stuff wasn’t out yet so I settled on a 17 caliber.
Now, what 17! The 17 Remington is an interesting cartridge. Brass is easy to
obtain, factory ammo is available, but I was concerned that maybe it
was a bit overbore and a barrel burner. Reading PS and VHM I found out
about a fellow named Todd who owns The Woodchuck Den in Baltic, Ohio
(330-897-0614). Todd is the supreme pubah of the 17 caliber cartridge!
He authored a book called “The Sensational Seventeen”. I suggest anyone
even thinking of getting involved in any 17 caliber rifle buy this
book. The Woodchuck den sells all the 17 cal stuff your going to need.
Cleaning rod, brushes, funnel, reloading dies, etc. Todd also turned me
on to the various companies that make factory guns in various 17
caliber cartridges. The Cooper line of rifles seemed to be the best.
But the price at the time was quite prohibitive. They started at about
$1400. Fantastic guns, but at the time more than I wanted to spend on a
“fun gun”. As it turns out, just recently The Outdoorsman in Kingsley
Pa (717-222-3390) is selling a run of Coopers with a little less fancy
wood and no grip cap and an aluminum trigger guard for $995. Had these
been available when I built my rifle I wouldn’t even have bothered!
So I needed to decide in a 17 chambering. Seems like everyone I talked to suggested the 17 Mach IV. The M4 is nothing more than a necked down 221 Fireball. Brass is available. Easily formed without real expensive forming dies. More on this later. And it will push a 22-25 grain bullet at unbelievable speeds. It seemed to be a very efficient cartridge, high performance with little powder. And it just looked so darn cute! So I settled on this little bugger.
Now I needed an action. I wanted something small to go with this small cartridge. Hall makes a nice small custom action as does Time Precision. But they cost upwards of $1000! Might as well buy a Cooper! In Gun Digest I ran across something called the Interarms Mini Mauser. I called Interarms and was told they don’t carry them anymore. I later found out that the factory that was making them was in Croata and it was destroyed during the war a couple of years ago. One of the guys at my gun club had two of these Mini Mausers. One in 223 and the other in 7.62X39. The only two calibers they were available in. He brought one in for me to look at. It was perfect! Real small, great fully adjustable trigger, looked well made. But he wasn’t interested in parting with one. A couple of weeks later I was in a gun shop in a neighboring town and there in the rack was a Mini Mauser in 223! Correct bolt face and all! I got it for $329. Included a Weaver scope mount and a cheap Tasco. I sold the Tasco for $50 and the stock to my friend for $40. I convinced him that if anything ever happened to one of his stocks he wouldn’t be able to replace it. Worked for me! So I was into the action and bottom metal for $240. Can’t beat that with a stick!
I called around to various gunsmiths to see who could barrel this action. Most said they could do it but they hadn’t done one before. When I called Shilen in Ennis Tx (972-875-5318) they reported that they had rebarreled a few of these and it would be no problem. The best part is I would have it back in ten weeks. Everyone else was quoting 3-6 months! This was January, there are woodchucks to be shot in a few months! I sent the barreled action off with instructions to true the receiver and return the origional barrel and reblue the receiver if it got scratched during removal. As it turned out they did a beautiful job. Not a mark. (I’m still trying to sell my friend the old barrel). I ordered a Select Match Grade stainless barrel in a 5 1/2 taper, 24″ in length. In 17 bore this is the only grade Shien offers. The 5 1/2 taper turned out to be the perfect dimentions for such a small receiver. The rebarreling and truing of the receiver cost around $500.
Before I sent the barreled action off I stopped by the Outdoorsman and picked up some reloading supplies. I like the way I say “stopped by”. The Outdoorsman is 6 hours from my house! But worth the visit. I bought Redding dies. Full length, neck and seating. I bought 200 pieces of 221 Fireball brass and 200 each of Berger 22gr and 25gr bullets. I also bought an RCBS forming die, but you really don’t need it. the Redding FL die will work great with some Imperial Sizing Wax. I have yet to lose a case. I now have a TC with a Bullberry barrel in 17 Mach IV and between the two guns I’ve reloaded hundreds of cases. I loaded up three dummy rounds with the bullets seated out to where .17″ of the bullet was in the case. I sent these off with the gun to Shilen for them to cut the throat. To me, how the bullet seats against the lands is everything. That is if your goal is ultimate accuracy.
That done it was time to find a varmint style stock. None of the fiberglass guys make a stock for this action. Butler Creek has them in plastic for about $100. That just wouldn’t do so I contacted Great American Gunstock Co in Yuba City Ca. (530-671-4570) They had a few “seconds” on hand that they could inlet for this action. I was surprised that they had the pattern for this action, but they did. The stock supposedly had some defects so the price was $80. When it showed up I was amazed at how beautiful it was! The inletting was perfect. A little sanding and then 40 coats, that’s right, 40…Four O…coats of tung oil and I had a fantastic piece of wood. I kept a heavy forend with a large palm swell. I installed a red Winchester butt pad that I had hanging around and it really set it off.
Ten weeks to the day the action came back from Shilen. I pillar bedded it with aluminum pillars into the stock and mounted a Leupold 6-18 Vari-X II with Millet angle lock rings. It was just a thing of beauty! Very high fondle factor!
Using the reloading information in Todds book I tried three powders. Hogdon 322, Hogdon 335, and Vit N-133. I moly coated half of the bullets. I wasn’t sure if I was going to use moly at the time. Let me tell you something about this cartridge. You better watch what your doing when reloading. Most of the charges are aroung 17-18 grains of powder. It is simply amazing how you can be fooling around with one type of powder and an increase if just a 1/2 grain can cause all kinds of pressure problems. Tenth of a grain increases are the only way to go with this baby!
All of the powders gave great accuracy. Both bullets shot extremly well. But I settled on 17.5grs of Vit N-133 with a rem 7.5 primer under a 22 gr Berger. This load gves me about 3800 fps. I can push these 22 grain Bergers alot faster but the accuracy is outstanding at this velocity and that $500 barrel needs to last me a while.
Right off the bat something started to bother me. From a clean barrel the gun would shoot real nice cloverleaf groups. But around the 7th or 8th shot the group would start opening up. It wasn’t barrel heat because I was letting the barrel cool for 5-6 minutes beteen shots and the 17 Mach IV doesnt get that hot anyways. By the tenth round I was showing real signs of pressure. Hard bolt lift, flattened primers, etc. I’d clean the barrel and it would repeat. Excellent for the first 6-7 rounds and downhill from there. Remember, this was without moly. So I loaded up some moly bullets. Had to increase the charge by a couple of tenths to get the accuracy back where it was and proceeded to shoot twenty rounds without any of the fliers or pressure signs. Don’t tell me moly doesn’t work! The 17 Mach IV and moly go together like cold hands and mittens!
Well the gun is done and it’s time to go woodchucking. The gun is jinked! I have yet to see a woodchuck when I’m in the field with this gun! But you should see what it will do to a crow! This is a family WEB sight. You’ll just have to use your imagination. A 22 grain Berger MEF very explosive bullet traveling at 3800 fps! PUFF!
I did take it with me to the Prarie Dog Conferrence at the Rosebud in South Dakota. On Prarie Dogs it isn’t a Swift. The large dogs don’t explode like they do when hit with a Swift. They just stop. Bang, no movement, just stillness. Rather amazing. The bullet enters and deposits all its energy on the inside of the animal. No wasted energy on the far side of the critter in the ground. If you pick them up they tend to rattle. The wind doesn’t effect the bullet as much as you would think. All of these 17s shooting 20-25 grain bullets are less than 350 yd guns. I know a bunch of folks will write that they killed PDs at many hundreds of yards. I’m sure they are right. But that’s why God made the 6mm Ackley!
Well that’s it. If you got the hankering for something different go ahead and buy or build a 17 Mach IV. Hope you enjoyed this little adventure as much as I did.
Here is a link to the Sinclair newsletter and a great article on the 17 Mach IV.http://www.sinclairintl.com/newsletters/99b7.html
A few more links on the 17 Mach IV
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