Finding Gems

I fired this three shot group from my Marlin M917M2 at 50 yards. The three shots are easily covered by a dime.

Like most dyed in the wool gun-nuts, I like to browse through the tables at gun shows and the used gun racks at a few gun stores. At gun shows, there is usually at least one good deal to be had. That’s how I acquired a very collectible M1 Garand and the badly neglected, but salvageable Stevens Favorite I wrote about a while back.

As for gun stores, only a few offer much in the way of used guns. The best are usually havens for local gun-nuts such as I am. Once in a while among the racks of used guns, I see one that calls to me.

So, during a visit to my favorite gun-nut’s haven, I was looking through used rimfire rifles when a new-looking bolt-action rifle with a bull barrel caught my eye. It had an attractive two-tone brown laminated stock with a monte carlo comb and a tiny .17 caliber hole in the end of the barrel. It was clearly not a bargain basement gun.

So why, hanging from its trigger guard, was there a tag that set its price $150 to $200 lower than it ought to be? Closer inspection showed the rifle is a Marlin Model 917M2, which explained the mystery. This little rimfire gem is chambered for .17 Mach 2, not .17 HMR.

The .17 Mach 2 is a sad story. It was introduced in 2004, following the tremendous success of the .17 HMR rimfire cartridge, which was introduced in 2002. The .17 HMR was based on the .22 WMR cartridge case, and it launched a 17-grain Hornady VMAX at 2,550 fps.

Based on the smaller .22 Long Rifle case, the .17 Mach 2 reaches a muzzle velocity of 2,100 fps with the same 17-grain VMAX bullet. In my opinion, that is pretty impressive, but it falls short of .17 HMR ballistics by a substantial margin.

The shooting public greeted it with a resounding ho-hum, and the .17 Mach 2 soon fell into obscurity. It was originally offered by Eley, CCI and Hornady, but now only Hornady makes it—sometimes. Other rimfire cartridges are in much greater demand, so the .17 Mach 2 must take a back seat.

Back to the almost new Marlin I spied at my favorite gun store, I snapped it up and took it home. Owing to other irons in the fire, I did not try it out for several weeks.

Eventually, I mounted a Trijicon 1.25-4X24mm scope with a fiber optic illuminated reticle on my new rifle and took it to a nearby shooting range. Because the .17 Mach 2 is not a long-range cartridge, I decided to sight it in at 50 yards.

After a couple of windage and elevation adjustments, I fired the three-shot group in the photo that accompanies this blog. So, you tell me—have I got a keeper?

Story by Stan Skinner

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