The 17 Aguila Has Landed!
Andy Moe - JHO ProStaff - Southern California
May 26, 2004
The 17 Aguila has finally arrived. Ammunition is now available at several dealers. Have a look at the listings at the end of this article for dealers.
If you've been shooting at my local range lately you may have spotted some unusual cartridge casings lying among the permanent carpet of spent 22LR brass. They would appear to be a 22LR hull, but one that had been necked down to 17 caliber. The headstamp would be the single letter "A". This mark is the standard headstamp for Aguila Ammunition's rimfire ammo, and the empty hull you found was left over from a pleasant day of shooting with their newest rimfire: The 17 Aguila.
How’d it get there?
I have been lucky enough to have been in on some of the testing of the 17 Aguila since April of 2003. Carlos Romero, the CEO of Centurion Ordnance, Aguila's U.S. importer, offered to send me some prototype ammunition for evaluation. Six rifles, eight barrels, and over fifteen hundred rounds of ammo later, I'm ready to relate my impressions of this new cartridge and solve the mystery of those unusual empties.
What exactly is the 17 Aguila?
Despite what some folks might tell you it's not an urban legend.
The brain-child of Industrias Tecnos' senior Engineer, Efrain Peralta, the 17 Aguila is basically a 22LR casing necked down to accept a .172" diameter, 20 grain jacketed bullet. This sleek new 17 caliber rimfire has been in the works for some time now, but a premature release date of the cartridge a few years back, followed by production delays, have left some people voicing concerns that the cartridge might never make it to market. These folks have underestimated Aguila's commitment to this 17 caliber project because the 17 Aguila cartridge is in full production and shipping to Aguila's distributors as I write.
The factory specifies a velocity of 1850 ft/sec from a 24" barrel. Relying on the bullet's sectional density and superior ballistic coefficient, it delivers both velocity and energy to vermin and small game out to 100 yards. Sighted in for a 50 yard zero, the 17 Aguila will fire its 20 grain SP through a trajectory ‘window’ a mere four-tenths of an inch high between 25 and 75 yards. If you're a squirrel hunter used to lobbing 22LR slugs through tangles of leaves and limbs you can immediately grasp the implication of such a trajectory. If you can see Mr. Bushytail, you can hit him -and still have enough of him left to eat afterwards. The 17 Aguila is a small game hunter's friend.
When I embarked on this project I hadn’t yet built a rifle chambered for the new round. Any 22LR would have been a suitable candidate for rebarreling, but in the end I selected a vintage 581 Remington action as the basis for this new rifle. Well known for its strength and lightning-fast lock time, the 581 was an easy draw. A 17 caliber blank with a 1-10" twist was obtained from Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co. and chambered with an Aguila-spec reamer from Pacific Tool and Gage. I found the fitting and chambering of barrel to be a straight-forward proposition and an eleven degree muzzle crown finished the job. No other modification of the action was necessary and to date, any of my test rifles originally designed to feed and function with a 22LR cartridge have functioned well when retrofitted to 17 Aguila.
Ideal Target and Small Game Round
The author's 77/22 Ruger converted to 17 Aguila demonstrates the value of this little round as a small game and target plinker!
Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Company supplied all the barrels used in the testing of this cartridge throughout the year. While this treatise isn't about Green Mountain barrels, I feel the need to digress from the subject of the 17 Aguila long enough to briefly discuss the quality of these barrels as it's impossible to evaluate a new cartridge without also evaluating the delivery vehicle. The performance of the Green Mountain tubes, both finished barrels and un-chambered blanks, was rock solid. The combined attributes of the 17 Aguila cartridge and Green Mountain barrels delivered a predictably high degree of accuracy no matter what the barrel configuration, or the action/barrel combination tried.
The first lots of 17 Aguila ammo came in a plain white box. The initial firings were strictly for velocity and accuracy. These prototype rounds were fired over a CHRONY chronograph and averaged 1819 ft/sec. Since the factory specified 1850 ft/sec from a 24 inch barrel this seemed to be a reasonable speed from the 19" barrel on my Remington. Accuracy was quite good. Relying on a BSA 4X air rifle scope to aid my old eyes, the 25yard groups started at around .4 inches and got better with continued firing. It's a quirk of many 17 caliber barrels that the more they get shot, the better they shoot. By the time I'd used up that first sample lot of ammo I was getting .3 to .5 inch groups at 50 and 60 yards. I couldn't wait to get my hands on some more.
The second lot of ammo threw me for a loop. There were some serious velocity swings and the accuracy was now, charitably put, mediocre. My low velocity was 1640 ft/sec and my high was 1920 ft/sec. I got hold of Mike Realme, Centurion Ordnance's Logistics Manager and asked what had happened. It seems Aguila was already on top of the problem. A change in the weight of priming compound had already been made and the next lot of ammo was back in the black, both for accuracy and extreme velocity spread. This third lot of 17 Aguila ammo came in full commercial retail dress, bar-coded and ready for market. It was obvious that the time had come to expand the arsenal of 17 Aguila test rifles.
My good friend and JHO Pro Staffer, Tim Mancillas had been keeping an eye over my shoulder during the first two phases of testing and I decided that another opinion in the form of his expertise was in order. Tim chambered up a 17 Aguila for himself based on yet another 581 Remington action and Green Mountain barrel. The resulting rifle was a mirror image of my own and an excellent shooter. These twin Remingtons would later become our favorite ground-squirreling guns. With the two 581’s having established the accuracy potential of the new cartridge the next phase of testing could begin... The10/22 Ruger.
1022 50yd group
From the Ruger 10/22, accuracy at 50 yards was excellent. Zeroed at 50, the round offers a .4" trajectory window between 25 yards and 75... a world of improvement over the 22lr.
The immensely popular Ruger 10/22 autoloader is a favorite of shooters and is supported by myriad after-market, drop-in accessories. The barrel is held in by two allen-head screws and swapping barrels is easily done... happy work for many 10/22 enthusiasts. Since drop-in barrels were in the works for this rifle, the performance of the 17 Aguila in the 10/22 was of special interest. Two different barrels were procured from Green Mountain; one, a 16.5 inch long, tapered tube, chambered for 17 Aguila, and the other a 20" blued, bull barrel chambered for the "17 High Standard".
Ok. Time out. Now is probably a good time to explain the differences between the 17 High Standard chamber and the 17 Aguila cartridge.
There is currently no 17 High Standard cartridge. The 17 High Standard exists solely as a chambering offered by High Standard Arms of Houston, TX. When the 17 High Standard chamber is compared to the 17 Aguila chamber you'll see that the distance from the rim face to the shoulder is longer in the 17 High Standard chamber and that there is better than three-tenths of an inch of free-bore ahead of the chamber. I assume that the free bore is meant to move the peak pressure down the barrel away from the chamber; much in the manner of Roy Weatherby's popular centefire magnum rifles which utilized free-bore to the control pressures generated by their high-intensity hunting rounds. High Standard chambers their "Victor" series of handguns with this chamber and the freebore might prevent these fine target autos from taking an unnecessary beating. This is conjecture on my part but it makes sense. The Aguila-spec chamber has no free-bore.
So much for the differences. What's important here is that the 17 Aguila cartridge functions well in this High Standard chamber and the combo is very accurate. With the exception of a slight, almost imperceptible, forward movement of the 17 Aguila's shoulder when fired in a High Standard chamber, there is little or no difference in performance. If you have a firearm with a 17 High Standard chamber you now have good ammunition to go with it. I hope that adequately addresses the 17 High Standard question.
Back to the 10/22 Ruger. When we first tested the 17 Aguila-barreled 10/22's we got inconsistent accuracy and wide velocity swing that couldn't be attributed to the ammunition. After a couple of cold sodas and a half a bag of jerky we determined that the high recoil energy of the 17 Aguila cartridge was overcoming the mass of the Ruger's breechblock and hammer.
This was indeed the problem but luckily, one that was easily resolved when I took a critical look at my particular 10/22 action that evening. Like many of these rifles, my Ruger had been the subject of some aftermarket parts swapping by the previous owner, including a "spring-kit" that replaced the hammer strut spring (the main spring) with one of a lighter weight; I assume it was to aid in reducing the trigger pull. When I replaced this aftermarket hammer-strut spring with a factory Ruger spring, the change was immediate and gratifying. Velocities were in line again and accuracy was approaching the level of the bolt actions.
Tim gave the same treatment to his 10/22 and everything fell right into place with his rifle as well. Tim even went as far as installing an extra spring retaining washer to add yet more tension to the strut spring, but we couldn't discern any difference in performance with the extra washer. The bottom line? Keep a factory strength hammer strut spring in your 10/22 if you plan on rebarreling it to 17 Aguila. The extra force required for the bolt to run the hammer back to the cocked position offers adequate resistance to the brisk back thrust of the bolt and keeps velocities uniform. While you're at it, clean and tighten -or better yet replace- your old magazines. Some of my older, more worn magazines produced the only feeding malfunctions in the 10/22.
Accuracy from the Ruger semi-autos averaged around .4 inches at 50 yards from either barrel. The 16.5" tapered barrel averaged 1734 ft/sec. while the 20 inch "High Standard" chambered barrel gave 1767 ft/sec. Accuracy was mesmerizing. I watched Tim put 5 shots rapid-fire into a life-sized rabbit target at 50 yards. The 5 shots all but cut each other on the rabbit's forehead. I am a bolt gun guy, but I could foresee using the "10/17 Aguila" for fast action rabbit shooting in dense brush with a low powered scope. I have to confess that I do get a giddy pleasure watching those tiny holes appear in the bull as fast as I can pull the trigger. You never know. I may become a 10/22 convert yet!
Ruger 96/22 conversion
This Ruger 96/22 also made a great platform for the 17 Aguila. The author's son laid claim to this one after one trip to the range.
My son Andy might tell you that the 96/22 Ruger lever-action would be better than a 10/22. As part of our tests a Green Mountain, 17 Aguila barrel made for a 10/22 was fitted to the 96/22 lever action. 10/22 and 96/22 barrels aren't 100% interchangeable, but fitting was easy as it required only that a second extractor cut be made at roughly 180 degrees from the existing 10/22 extractor cut... about 5 minutes work with a Dremel tool. The shank diameter and headspacing are identical.
The 96/17 Aguila was bolt-gun accurate and just about autoloader fast when shooting rapid-fire. By the end of the shooting tests, Jr. made it known to me that I was NOT going to be getting that Ruger lever action back. I like the 96/22 as a platform for the 17 Aguila. Feed and function were excellent and it was as accurate as the Model 77/22 I rebarreled to 17 Aguila, and that's saying a lot.
The 77/22 action was the last of the Ruger actions to be tried with the 17 Aguila round. A 16.5" tapered barrel identical in form to the barrel we mounted on the 10/22 action was dropped into my 77/22 chassis without a hitch. Like the 10/22 barrel, it was a stiff, stubby tube with an 11-degree crown. The accuracy was -and I hate to sound repetitive here- excellent. Sub MOA was the norm. This rifle is one of my favorite carry rifles in the brush country near my home. The velocities recorded with this short tube were right at 1785 ft/sec. Compare this with the 10/22 action mounted with an identical barrel and you'll see a roughly 40 ft/sec increase in velocity from the fixed breech gun.
It was time for some field tests.The function and accuracy trials were completed just as the late winter heat started to hit my patch of desert. One Saturday the temp hit 97 degrees and Tim was at my door step, smiling with anticipation. We drove out to an area where we'd seen ground squirrel activity and quickly located a small colony living in a cut bank along a large wash. We set up our lawn chairs and tripods some 50 yards back and waited for the action to begin.
It didn't take long. I was carrying my 77/22 Ruger in 17 Aguila and Tim was using his Remington 581. My son Andy had his hyper accurate Marlin 22WMR and came along to act as our "back-up" in case something went awry with the yet untested new 17 caliber cartridge. As it turned out, no back-up was needed. A ground squirrel hit solidly with the 17 hunched and rolled down the embankment. Dead. No pink mist. No technicolor explosions of gore, just a 17 caliber hole in and roughly a 17 caliber hole going out. The only time we saw gross trauma was when we hit the spinal vertebrae longitudinally. Then it got ugly.
In an hour we shot about 15 of the little rodents. Often we only had a walnut-sized head peeking out of a hole to shoot at but the 17 Aguila delivered. We left that day, a few minutes short of sunstroke, with a great respect for the new 17 round as a hunting cartridge. It was performing just as I’d expected it would.
Our next outing required that I also bring my Remington 581 heavy barrel. The Ruger was deadly accurate and easily carried, but it was too light for the kind of fixed position shooting we were doing. Besides, I kind of wanted to stick with the girl I brought to the dance.
A local farmer steered us to a real hot-bed of ground squirrel activity on his property. Brother! It was hot...And I mean, red hot. In 2 hours we shot nearly 30 squirrels. Again, my son Andy was available for any back-up we might need but we quickly turned him loose to find his own targets of opportunity.
This time our shooting distances were out to about 120 yards. We were shooting from a low field road facing a series of ridges rising up to the fields above us. The squirrels were running everywhere when we first arrived and our shots were from 20 to 40 yards. As they began to get wise to our presence we were forced to take the longer shots. If you aren't familiar with the "antelope" ground squirrels we have hereabouts, I should tell you that they are darned small, standing about 4-5" tall and 2" wide when upright. When agitated and hunched up on all fours they present an even smaller target. Those are the targets we had to shoot at and we hit them handily. The best shot I pulled off was an 85 yard shot at a very agitated squirrel looking straight at me from the second tier of the hillside. I held the 4X BSA on the center of his head, squeezed the trigger, and it was lights out. At one point Tim flipped a squirrel out of a narrow crack in the hillside at 65 yards or so. He just looked over at me and said, "Man! I like this round!"
Well, me too. The only problem we had at the longer ranges was over compensating for drop. We were used to 22LR trajectories. When sighted in dead-on at 50 yards the 17 Aguila drops only 1.72" at 100 yards. That is almost twice as flat as a similarly sighted 22LR firing CCI Stingers. Once we got the drop factor ingrained in our shooting psyche, the longer shots became easier. We did miss occasionally, but never due to ammo performance. We recovered -appropriately enough- seventeen of the squirrels. Most of these were the D.B.A. (Dead By Aguila) that simply rolled down the steep slope to the road below. Again, the 17 Aguila came through in spades. I expect a lot more of this kind of shooting this summer. I thought ahead to the coming rabbit season. Certainly this cartridge would shine on the rabbit and tree-squirrel sized game. As it turned out, our rabbit season came earlier than expected.
On our second trip to the squirrel fields, the land owner asked us if we would be willing to eliminate some of the local rabbit population. He was literally being eaten out of house and home. Rabbit fencing hadn’t helped and his crops were suffering. The official season was a few months off but with land owner’s written consent, and to prevent crop destruction, it is legal to shoot them year round.
The author's new favorite squirrel gun, a Remington 581 converted to the 17 Aguila.
On our first trip around the brushy perimeter of his fields we took 6 rabbits with the 17 Aguila. Three were recovered, two were not. One was hit too far back and high on the spine, breaking his back but allowing him to get into a brush pile before we could finish him. The other I shot broadside from about 50 yards, putting a bullet squarely into the shoulder. The rabbit dropped. Kicked his hind legs twice, and rolled down the far side of the embankment. That was the only other rabbit not recovered, but I am certain he was dead. My next rabbit was taken under identical circumstances. The bullet hit him square in the left shoulder and he dropped immediately. He then kicked two or three times and lay still. Quite dead. Tim took a medium-large adult at 40 yards with the same shot, with identical results. On these broadside shots there was little more than a 17 caliber exit wound but death was immediate. Tim shot the last two of the day with the 17 Aguila but took both of them from high and behind. Both bullets entered between the shoulders and caused devastating exit wounds around the sternum. I don’t have an exact pin-point on the bio mechanics of those last two shots when compared to the broadside shots, but I have an idea that the broad side shots compress the ribcage as the energy passed through. The ‘high and behind’ shots violently expand the ribcage to maximum then all the energy is released through the exit wound as the ribcage collapses from the sudden release of pressure. No matter... Dead is dead in both cases. No rimfire will save you from a misplaced shot. A boiler room hit, meaning anywhere forward of the gut, caused near immediate death. As I predicted, the 17 Aguila is a fine rabbit cartridge, leaving a lot of meat for the pot if you watch your shot angle.
The 17 Aguila is in a constant state of development and refinement. While currently offered in a jacketed soft point, the Aguila engineers have produced a 20 grain HP bullet that is a real beauty. I know that an increase in velocity was discussed, utilizing the same 20 grain bullet. It would seem to me that a lighter weight bullet could be employed should they choose to do so in the future. When I discussed the possibility of such a move with Mr. Peralta he said, "Sure. Aguila could use a lighter bullet and capitalize on the shooting world's present fascination with velocity, but why?"
He told me that as it stands, Aguila is relying on the solid ballistics of the longer and heavier 20 grain bullet to get the job done. A superior ballistic coefficient will result in higher retained energies and down range velocities. A lighter bullet, he said, would start fast but slow quickly as it traveled down range, diminishing its performance level where it was needed the most. The 17 Aguila, he reminded me, was designed to provide balanced performance on both ends of its trajectory. Amen to that.
Barrels for the Ruger rifles are available from Brownells, Clerke, and Green Mountain. Complete upper receivers for the Ruger Standard Auto pistol are available from Tactical Solutions. Reamers for the 17 Aguila are available from Pacific Tool and Gage for those who would like to have their local gunsmith rebarrel an action of their choice. Ammuniton is available from Chattanooga Shooter’s Supply, Miwall Corp, and Whittaker Guns. Shipments to Cole Distributors, Williams Shooters Supply, and Gulf Coast Ammunition will be on their way as you read this.
Enjoy. Aguila Distributors Stocking the 17 Aguila
CHATTANOOGA SHOOTING SUPPLY
2600 WALKER ROAD
CHATTANOOGA, TN 37421
13235 GRASS VALLEY AVENUE
GRASS VALLEY, CA 95945
6976 W. LOUISVILLE LANE
OWENSBORO, KY 42301
3191 SPEARS ROAD
SCOTTSVILLE. KY 42164
DIXIE SHOOTER'S SUPPLY
13598 MAGNOLIA DRIVE
BLAKELY, GA 31723
WILLIAMS SHOOTING SUPPLY
GULF COAST AMMUNITION
4849 HIGHWAY 366
GROVES, TX 77619
Current barrel manufacturers for the .17 Aguila.
Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co. -
For Ruger 10/22 and 77/22 barrels
153 W MAIN ST
CONWAY, NH 03818
For Ruger 10/22 and 77/22 barrels
200 South Front Street ~ Montezuma, Iowa 50171
800-741-0015 ~ www.brownells.com
HIGH STANDARD MFG. CO. -
For High Standard guns and barrels
5200 MITCHELLDALE #E17
HOUSTON, TX 77092
TACTICAL SOLUTIONS -
Rugers 10/22 and 77/22 lined barrels, Ruger 22/45 and Mark II upper receivers
800 EAST CITATION CT. STE C.
P.O. BOX 170126
BOISE, IDAHO 83717
Phone: (208) 333-9901
Toll Free: (866) 333-9901
Fax: (208) 333-9909
CLERKE INTERNATIONAL ARMS
Ruger 10/22 and 77/22 barrels, Ruger 22/45 and Mark II uppers
101 BACON STREET
RATON, NM 87740
(505) 445-9603 FAX
E-Mail : email@example.com
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