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The New England Firearms Handi-Rifle in .17 Hornady Rimfire








The New England Arms Sportster .17 HMR rifle proves accuracy doesn't have to cost a lot.  The February morning in Georgia was cold, but clear.  Twenty-five mile per hour winds kept me from the range yesterday, but not today.  I wanted to see if the Sportster single shot rifle was worth my time and money so it was off to the rifle range. The rifle is quite a deal at only $159.  It comes with a 22" bull barrel, synthetic stock, rubber recoil pad, scope mount, hammer spur, sling studs, and a heavy but not to bad of a trigger. Bill Ashworth of North Georgia Sports is selling all he can lay his hands on. I was number twelve on his waiting list. He is also one of the few dealers that has Hornady .17HMR ammo.  I have heard only good things about the rifle and caliber so I had to have one. 

I mounted a Tasco 4x12 scope on the rifle for testing. After getting the rifle zeroed in, I shot a few groups at 50 yards and three shots were almost touching. Five-shot groups averaged 1/2".  The wind was picking up as I stretched the distance out to 100 and the groups started opening up to about 2 inches. I was not too pleased, but was having a little difficulty seeing the target clearly through the inexpensive Tasco scope. This Tasco was one of cheaper models, not a World Class that is usually very clear. I was also trying to cope with the heavy trigger, but I didn't feel that was too much of a problem.  I decided to take a break until later when the wind was calm. Before leaving I ran a few rounds through the Oehler P35 Chronograph to check the velocity.  The little 17 grain .17 caliber bullets were traveling 2500 FPS from the 22" barrel, almost right on the advertised velocity.

After returning home, I decided that I didn't need the handicap of the Tasco scope, so I mounted a Leupold 3x9AO.  The adjustable objective would let me focus at any range and give me no excuses for being off the mark. Later in the day I went back to the range with another box of $13 ammo. I am used to 22 or 22mag ammo for $2-5 a box.  Yuck! Supply should catch up to demand soon so the price should start to fall.


Back I go with high expectations.  I no longer have so much wind, a better scope is on the gun, the sun is now at my back, so it has to come together, right? And come together it did.  I was getting use to the heavy trigger and I could clearly see the target.  The little rifle was starting to get the groups down to the ODHA maximum acceptable group size of 3 shots under 1" at 100 yards. We prefer 5 shots in .5" at 100 yards, but remember, this rifle only cost $159! Most $500 rifles won't do any better, especially on the first trip to the range with factory ammo. Click here to see a couple of the groups.

The rifle seems to shoot better and better. The more groups I shot, the tighter the groups became, and the more fun I had shooting the Sportster. I started picking out small targets of opportunity (pine cones and wood chips) on the back stop.  I could send small chips of wood flying as I picked them off at 125 yards. I think the little Sportster will fit right in with my Cooper and Kimber rifles. It seems to hold it's own up against rifles costing ten times as much. Next trip to the range will be to record groups to post so you can see exactly how well it shoots.

The Handy-Rifle has even more going for it than just great accuracy and low cost.  You can buy barrels in about a dozen calibers, shotgun barrels and even a muzzleloader barrel for the little rifle. New England Arms ( ) sells extra barrels for around $50-100 each, depending on type and caliber.  The barrels must be fitted at the factory and requires you to send the stock and action back for the work. You can not simply buy an extra barrel and snap it on like a Thompson Contender.  I have read that the service department will also lighten up the trigger pull for you to about 3 pounds, if you ask, when you send it back to get the extra barrels fitted. The barrels come in great calibers like 22LR, 22Mag, 22 Hornet, .280, .357mag, .308. .25'06, 4570 and a host of others.  Not all barrels can be fitted to all frames.  Because of the firing pin locations, only rimfire barrels can be fitted to the Sportster, so check the web site out for details and call customer service before sending your frame off for additional barrels.  

The Handi-Rifle is a winner!


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