Success breeds imitation, and the phenomenal success of the .17 HMR was certain to be followed by similar cartridges. The .17 HMR is simply the .22 Mag. rimfire necked down to .17 caliber, and it wasn’t too long before folks in the ammo business began thinking about other rimfire cartridges ripe for similar treatment. The obvious choice was the .22 Long Rifle case. So the .17 Mach 2 came into being without too much effort. But while the .17 HMR boasts a muzzle velocity of 2,550 fps, the propellant capacity of the smaller Long Rifle case yields only 2,100 fps (roughly twice the speed of sound, hence the name Mach 2).
However, since velocity and the attendant flat trajectory of the .17 HMR are its main selling points, could the same bullet at a lower velocity hope to keep up saleswise? Ultimately, the success of any new cartridge depends on the number and choices of rifles in which it is offered. Since rifles in .17 Mach 2 caliber, like the .17 HMR before it, can be based on existing .22 rimfire models, the new caliber can be quickly added to a maker’s catalog by the simple expedient of substituting a .17-caliber barrel. So let’s not be overly surprised that Marlin’s “new” Model 917 M2S looks a lot like its earlier models. This is by no means a criticism, because the 917 has a good action that has proved its worth in other Marlin rimfires.
Unlike many rimfire rifles, which have the barrel and action held in the stock by a single screw, the 917 is held more firmly in the inletting by a couple of screws: one in the action and another in the barrel just forward of the action. The medium-heavy barrel is free-floated except for a bedding pad extending 1 1/4 inches forward of the action and surrounding the front screw–a bedding system long known to yield improved accuracy with centerfire and rimfire rifles.
With an average pull weight of 4 pounds 11 ounces, the 917’s trigger is heavier than I would prefer for accurate shooting, but this is offset somewhat by its surprisingly crisp let-off. The gray-black laminated hardwood stock has a solid, “adult” feel, and the color meshes well with the stainless-steel action and barrel.
During initial accuracy testing at 50 meters, using Hornady ammo with 17-grain jacketed V-Max bullets, the Marlin rendered one of the best demonstrations of a new rifle getting its act together I’ve ever seen. The first five-shot group measured a not-so-impressive 1.030 inches but was followed, in order, by .902 inches, .620 inches and finally a dazzling .213 inches! At 100 yards, groups ranged from .790 to 1.359 inches, which is more than good for varmint potting out to 150 yards or a few paces beyond.
The main, and about the only, complaint I had with the 917 M2S I tested was loading the magazine. The tiny bullets are hard to get a grip on when shoving them into the stiff-springed magazine.
So what does the .17 Mach 2 have to offer, especially when compared to the faster .17 HMR? As mentioned earlier, the success of a cartridge is largely based on the number of rifles sold and the .17 Mach 2 is already available in brands made in the U.S. and Europe, including Ely, the British firm famous for its accurate rimfire ammo.
For hunting small game such as squirrels at close (treetop) range I would prefer it over the .17 HMR, and with ear protection the report is only a mild pop. Sighted-in to hit 1 1/2 inches above point of aim at 50 yards (assuming scoped line-of-sight is 1 1/2 inches above bore), the impact is still 1 1/2 inches high at 100 yards, and about 2 inches low at 150 yards. Beyond that the law of gravity applies a heavy hand.
How It Shot Rifle: Marlin 917 M2S Average Group Size: 1.010 inches* Ammo Used: Hornady 17-grain V-Max *5 five-shot groups at 100 yd.
|BY THE NUMBERS|
|Model:| 917 M2S|
|Type:| Bolt-action rifle|
|Caliber:| .17 Mach 2|
|Mag. Capacity:| 7|
|Weight:| 6 lb. 14 1/2 oz.|
|Stock:| Laminated wood|
|Barrel Length:| 22 in.|
|Rate of Twist:| 1 in 10 in.|
|Overall Length:| 41 1/2 in.|
|Length of Pull:| 14 1/4 in.|
|Drop at Heel:| 1 5/8 in.|
|Drop at Comb:| 1 in.|
|Trigger Pull:| 4 lb. 11 oz.|
|Bore Finish:| 3+ (out of 5)|