This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info...
Garrow Firearms Development 17HMR dedicated upper: Weekly product review
Over the past month, I have had the pleasure of being able to shoot and test an amazing new 17HMR firearms approach. Michael Garrow of Garrow Firearms Development was kind enough to send an upper to me, and 650 rounds later I can give you a solid report on its reliability, accuracy and the overall benefit I see in having a firearm in 17HMR.
Engineers are in my strict opinion amazing individuals to have around as long as they are true engineers, eg., fact using, measurement taking; get it right individuals who are willing to allow others full testing privileges to wring the bugs out. Ohio Prepper is an amazing engineer and our resident go to for electronics person! I personally would embrace having an engineer or two in the basics (Structural, Mechanical and Electrical engineers) given the reality that there are dozens of specific engineering degree options and approaches these are the two that would be most likely to benefit a tribe/ group/ family set up. I am certain others will have input on this as well.
An engineer designed what is arguably the easiest to care for, most reliable, arguably most popular self-defense line of handguns on the market, Gaston Glock. The Glock 19 has been top dog for over a decade due to its use in the militaries around the world as well as law enforcement and of course civilian use. Some locations in the United States the Glock 19 is so popular that it regularly sells for $150 over new retail, used! And is almost impossible to find on store shelves and or in face to face ads and gun shows. Of course, an engineer also designed the Boberg 9mm, a handgun that is extremely expensive and prone to regular failures. So when I took this assignment, I went with my gut, my gut, of course, being a combination of training, time behind firearms and extensive education in firearms. My first conversations with Michael were absolutely enjoyable, in fact, I would not hesitate to say he is definitely a must-have addition for anyone’s MAG in California!
So let’s get into why this 17hmr AR upper is both more reliable and accurate than the Anderson arms upper and the other semi-auto 17hmr firearms available today. First, the barrel is stainless steel, 1:9 twist, button rifled – this allows for extreme accuracy abilities from a wider range of loadings. The real magic, however, is in the bolt and gas system. It uses direct gas impingement just like a standard AR, however, the bolt is designed so it locks into place making it a gas operated locking bolt system. This approach has been shown to be extraordinarily strong and reliable running workhorses like the Browning A5 or the MG43 machine gun, (though I believe the entire barrel rotates back with this firearm.) The point is, this approach is definitely a solid one to use with firearms where ammunition may not always be similar in power, rim-fire, shotguns and military firearms.
What Mr. Garrow has done is create a method of allowing a type of round known for fluctuations in power with less expensive loadings and even in some more expensive designer cartridges from Hornady and Winchester to function almost flawlessly in a platform that the round was NOT designed to be used in. His design has not only allowed this to be done reliably but also with accuracy typically only seen in the CZ bolt action 17hmr rifles currently available!
Groups from a sandbag at 25 – 50 yards, shot using 10 round groups, had measurements rivaling 3 and 5 round groups from other rifles! At 25 and 50 yards, none of the ammunition tested. grouped larger than an inch overall, again this is with 10 round groups. The ammunitions tested were Winchester., CCI and Hornady and consisted of several loadings from CCI with only one loading available at the time of the test for Hornady and Winchester. I will list the loadings used later on. At 100 and 200 yards, I was getting my best groups with ballistic and hollow point ammunition, at 100 yards all ballistic tipped ammunition was under 1 inch and at 200 yards only one grouping (CCI Green hollow point) was over 1.5 inches, this was with 5 round groups.* I am headed out for some Jackrabbit hunting this Monday as well, and will update based on the results!
The list of ammunition tested follows.
- Winchester Varmint 17 grain 17hmr
- CCI Green hollow point (Sadly while the firearm performed extremely well with this ammunition, my experience with Green loadings, eg, non lead styphnate priming etc., the rounds have never performed close to the same in accuracy or reliability) it should be noted that Green loadings are all some people have, in which case this firearm did what many can not and shot extremely well in the accuracy department through the reliability was hesitant.
- CCI TNT hollow point 17grn (Amazing round! Ordered a case!)
- CCI GamePoint 20 grain jacketed soft point (not accurate, not reliable not worth buying!)
- CCI V-Max 17 grain polymer tip (very accurate and reliable!)
- Hornady 17 grain V-Max (very accurate, not as reliable a loading as the CCI – same bullet being used!)
Understandably there are many other ammunition loads for this round, however, ordering them and doing further testing would have been severely cost prohibitive. Given 50 rounds averages $12 for 17hmr ammunition. Some is less, some is more, average round cost is 0.24 cents per round. This is less expensive than center-fire loadings and just a bit more than 22lr currently averages, for what is gained in performance they are quite a solid round. They are lightweight rounds, this by default means that they will be more susceptible to wind and other atmospheric conditions. What I have found is under 200 yards these rounds are lasers! As in they are fast enough to work extremely well for small animal hunting and or extreme precision needs at distances from 25 through 200 yards. Now, they do work out through 400 yards though this varies based on loading. In this rifle, none of the rounds used exhibited poor even good accuracy, all rounds tested exhibited extraordinary accuracy, this being said, the Green loadings and the CCI GamePoint loading were not liked and had some problems feeding, and or ejecting.
As I state in all firearms reviews, TEST as many ammunitions as you possibly can, this will allow you to find that perfect shooting round from your firearm, individually. Regardless CNC machining and or ability to reproduce cuts within a few hundredths of a millimeter in variances in tolerances, these minute shifts DO affect individual performance with rounds. Now, as an aside I was only able to get one lot number of the CCI GamePoint for testing, it is quite likely that other lots may be have a much-improved quality control. My experience with ALL green primed loadings has been similar, they are generally inaccurate due to pressure variances and load changes. This has applied in all testings of centerfire and rimfire, I would suggest that if you plan on stocking up, stick with lead styphnate primed or similar rounds. Yes, they have a minor potential for long-term exposure risks, however, honestly, this is easily mitigated by simply cleaning your hands after shooting.
The accuracy of this round allowed for 10 round groups (full magazines) to be shot and to do so with precision and amazingly boring repeatability. Honestly, after the first few groups, I sat there and was wondering if anything could make this gun hiccup in the accuracy department. Given that the bolt design and size of ammunition allows for a much more stable platform and repeatable extremely low chance of recoil shifts repeatable accuracy is a given. It takes standard 22 mag Black Dog rim-fire magazines, as a result, you could likely use larger capacity magazines if they become available. Honestly, however, it is essential to understand rim-fire rounds WERE NOT DESIGNED FOR MAGAZINE FEEDING! Quite simply, there is a much-increased chance for case deformation and the resulting shift in point of impact that could occur when using magazines that take more than 10 rounds. Certainly 25 round magazines are fun, however, honestly, I much prefer to stay with 10 round magazines and reliably boring accuracy!
Reliability, we touched a bit on this and quite honestly it prefers polymer and open tip rounds. It does not like green priming with a marked decrease in accuracy and one non-ignition of primer. Additionally, it did not like the GamePoint (full metal jacket) round, choking 3 times during extraction with the GamePoint round. It should be noted I ordered 150 rounds from three separate dealers because I want to see if this was the round or possibly case lot QC issues. (QC issues occur frequently with rim-fire and less frequently with centerfire loadings due to the difference in priming alone; this means that due to anything from a fly crapping in the machinery to the machinery needing a measurement adjustment, a run of ammunition may, in fact, have more than normal issues with load function, it does not make ammunition bad, it is simply a reality.) Overall this firearm functioned flawlessly when kept well lubricated with my favorite Ballistol cut with 10% water (a light lubricant) and the only issues that were experienced can be definitively chalked up to ammunition incompatibility, or malfunction.
Overall function with scope, for this test I used two different scopes, one was a Bushnell BDC AR 223 and the other was a fun little rim-fire Simmons 22 mag scope. I did not have the money this time to invest in a 17hmr scope, however, what I found was that once sighted in at 50 yards, there was literally no significant drop through 200 yards as the round maintained supersonic velocity easily to this distance. The round itself when sighted in at 50 yards will see less than 2-inch variation at 200 yards, obviously, this may change depending on round, I would suggest ensuring various rounds accuracy and ability. However, the Hornady Vmax, the Winchester Amax and the CCI Vmax all see 9.8” drop when taking it from 0 yard zero. The real sweet spot for using this round and firearm would be between 25 and 150 yards as there is less than 1” deviation in POA recorded. I was able to shoot the best overall groups using the Bushnell scope because it has 4 – 18 power and a really easy to use side parallax adjustment that makes shooting distances and grouping within a gnats hair extremely easy to do! I am very much a fan of Bushnell AR BDC scopes and firmly recommend their 17hmr scope if you purchase this rifle, this scope runs under $70 and is absolutely amazing in clarity and functionality.
If you live in a less than the friendly environment for firearms, this is an amazing option as it is RIM-FIRE allowing for various items that would, in fact, make it an “assault” rifle if it were in a center-fire loading. However, because it is a rim-fire round, in California, for instance, this would make a suitable small game and varmint harvesting round with a greater accuracy and distance “energy and ability” than standard 22lr or 22wmr while still remaining within the confines of the law for California.
My suggestions for the designer of this amazing firearm, it needs a bolt/ stud for a sling/ bipod to be attached. It can be done quite easily as an add-on, literally for under $15 and 15 minutes of time you can swap a CVLife bipod onto it or drop a few more bucks and grab a Harris bipod and have what amounts to a portable sandbag when used properly! Using a Harris Adapter bolt/stud you can bolt it onto the extended free float tube. Additionally I would look at shifting headspace on it to fit the 20-grain rounds better, however, honestly, I am quite satisfied using 17-grain rounds for much of what will be done with this firearm. Obviously, I am not an engineer and can only speak to how it functions and the accuracy and reliability with which it does so. As a result, obviously, it stands to reason that my suggestions are just that! Use a hunting stick/rifle rest and forget about the bipod entirely. I enjoy using a sling and for snapshots (as with the Javelina that was taken with this rifle in self-defense) while out getting more groups, a sling would have allowed a much more stable platform though it only took one round of CCI Vmax to put the ugly animal down.
For readers, ensure that any animals you hunt with this are within the legal allowances for the round, however, understand even though it is tiny, it will work handily on animals of a rather large size if needed too. There are several videos of Russian (Texas) hogs getting dropped with one shot using this round. Its all about where you hit an animal, and not necessarily how large a round is. I can see it being a highly useful round for turkey, crows, ducks, geese, pheasant, rabbits, squirrel, gophers, groundhogs, ferrets, fox, coyote and javelina with other endless possibilities presenting themselves as you go. With smaller meat animals, headshots! With larger animals, destroy their lungs!
If you have any questions ask, please understand, I only relate what information I have directly experienced OR can prove. This does not mean what I say may be incorrect, I can, however, show what I do directly and stand by my review of the Garrow Firearms Development 17hmr AR upper. Would love to hear information from you and or see others pick this amazing firearm up.
Free the mind and the body will follow
- Data is absolutely essential when searching for facts, when shooting for accuracy and reliability it is essential to shoot more not less. This is a contested point of fact for many, however, what I have found is that groups of 5 or more tend to lend the best data for true accuracy potential of a firearm and the ammunition being used. At closer ranges with rim-fire, I will shoot 10 round groups simply because as we all know rimfire ammunition is not the same as centerfire for accuracy potential. Additionally, I will shoot from 2 – 4 case lots and years; this allows for a much more solid set of data points for myself personally and for you as well! Again I would stress the absolute need to test ammunitions in each individual firearm, while I can tell you what ammunition has the best overall rate of reliability (eg., misfires, bad primers etc.,) I cannot tell you what the individual cartridge will, in fact, do in your particular firearm!