Gun test: Anschutz 1761 Rifle, Walnut Thumbhole

Anschutz 1761 in 17 HMR with Thumbhole stock being shot in woodland setting

Anschutz 1761 in 17 HMR with Thumbhole stock - Credit: Chris Parkin

Chris Parkin explores the latest .17 HMR incarnation of what many rifle shooters consider to be the ultimate rimfire - the Anschutz 1761 rifle with walnut thumbhole stock...

Anschutz are very much an aspirational brand when it comes to rimfire shooting; with a price tag three times that of many a rimmy, it’s clear that quality costs. These rifles are certainly a testament to the ‘buy once, cry once’ approach but if you’re looking for a rifle that’s beautifully designed, engineered and will last a lifetime, perhaps that added investment is justified. 

Threaded barrel crown on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

A recessed crown makes physical damage impossible but make sure no moisture or debris can gather - Credit: Chris Parkin

Anschutz 1761 barrel options
Anschutz’s 1761 is available with 18" or 20" barrel in walnut with either standard or thumbhole variants. This latter model has a 19.2mm barrel throughout its whole 18"/457mm length, with a ½" UNF threaded muzzle and a deeply recessed crown, which is common on Anschutz rimfires, and protects that critical final barrel/bullet interface.

Anschutz’s deep blued sheen has resisted corrosion when used in light rain and that deep blue sheen  continues onto the matt action. Machined 11mm dovetails span a 37mm gap for the ejection port with 70mm to the rear and 40mm in front for scope mounts.  

Bolt face and magazine close up on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

Precise physical Interaction between the bolt face and magazine ensures reliable 17 HMR ammunition handling - Credit: Archant

Anschutz 1761 action
The bolt has three lugs, one being the root of the straight Mauser style handle’s 38mm extension, before a 25mm polymer ball caps it. It’s ergonomically positioned but without the curved steel lever of old, with the ball just above the trigger and offering plenty of extraction force from twin claws and reliable snag free ejection at any bolt speed.

Stroke length is 40mm, to encompass the 34.2mm overall length (OAL.) of a .17 HMR cartridge with its 50-degree lift. Bolt operation is flawlessly smooth with no snags, regardless of speed or careless bolt handling, with either V-Max or flatter-nosed hollow points all progressing smoothly from the 5-round magazine to the chamber without meplat damage.

A thrust bearing is incorporated to aid efficiency when the longitudinal forces are applied as the bolt cocks on opening,. A ‘QPQ’ coating (Quench Polish Quench case hardening) aids a well-balanced mechanical design and one of the smoothest on the market. The steel magazine will provide a lifetime of service and blends the magazine into the polymer floorplate of the trigger guard.

Loading the single column is straightforward with simple engagement sliding up into the rifle with a push button detent within the trigger guard to release. The mag is certainly not difficult to draw out with fingers, with feed lips totally integrated to the underside of the bolt profile for reliability and longevity.

Anschutz’s single-stage trigger broke at 815gr (as supplied) with further user adjustability if desired. The match unit is predictable with excellent reach onto the vertically grooved 8mm wide blade, within a guard large enough for a gloved finger in winter. The serrated safety catch emerges from the stock to the upper right side of the receiver and is operable silently, forward for fire and rear for safe. The bolt doesn’t lock but the straight handle seems to have made it less easily snagged by clothing etc. A left-side bolt-release catch and rear cocked action indicator complete the mechanics of this rifle. 

The walnut thumbhole stock on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

Weight savings give a central balance point directly below the front of the receiver - Credit: Chris Parkin

Anschutz 1761 Thumbhole Stock
This right-hand-only thumbhole shows no ambidextrous handling traits and there’s no left-hander available, even by special order, but for right handers it’s a superbly ergonomic offering. The heavy beavertail fore-end offers finger grooves and modest chequering to stiffly support the front of the rifle without any chance of compromising on the free-floating harmonics. Its oiled finish on the straight grain showed water spots after trips out in the rain, so I think Anschutz or the buyer, will need to add durability by deepening the oiled finish or going for a synthetic coating, otherwise it will spoil the appearance of this premium rifle.

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Balance point is below the front action bridge, in line with the front of the inserted magazine. All timber is smoothly finished direct from the box, yet water spot marks soon affect this with a ‘furry’ tactile feel on the deep thumbhole with its right-hand palm swell.

There is an index finger groove directing trigger operation with upper and lower beams flowing rearward with a defined rollover Monte-Carlo cheekpiece showing on the upper comb. The sloping lower provides adequate hand/fist/bag support when precision shooting prone.

There’s a considerable weight saving, allowing this thumbhole to retain the central balance, as a large amount of material is removed centrally. A solid 50mm walnut bridge spans this and provides a mounting point for the 13.5mm solid rubber recoil pad and spacer.

I liked the 14.5"/370mm length of pull, which avoids the toy or kids’ gun feel of some rimfires. This 1761 is made to feel more like a centrefire in the shoulder with a secure hold provided by chequering on the grip and fore-end rails. Studs are securely fitted on the butt and fore-end for sling and bipod.  

The walnut fore-end on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

Rainwater left its mark on the lightly oiled Walnut, a more robust finish is needed - Credit: Chris Parkin

Range and hunting time with the Anschutz 1761
Rifle weight is a scant 6.5lb/3kg before accessory additions; I used an adjustable parallax 4-16x50 Vortex Viper scope in Sportsmatch mounts and a Harris bipod. Hornady ammunition in 17gr V-Max and 20gr XTP options were my preference. The 17gr pills showed superior performance on paper but I I often find the 20s holding a slight edge for overall group sizes.

The 17s averaged 2503 fps (237 ft-/bs) to the XTP’s 2240 fps (223 ft/lbs), with average 30mm 5-shot groups at 100 metres. The XTPs managed 35mm in comparison, but this was within the first 100 rounds down the barrel – a good clean saw tiny flakes of copper on the patches from the run-in process before further chronograph and target tests showed the repeatable performance to improve.

Extreme spread for 5-round strings has dropped from 75 feet per second to 34 fps with notable vertical improvements showing at 150 metres on paper and when dialling for extended crows or rabbits out to 180+ metres. This was one of the most consistent .17 HMRs I have tried and were it mine, I think it might be worth batching ammo by rim thickness to further improve performance.

Critically, improved gun handling was of major contributor to the overall performance because that longer stock and plentiful dovetail space for the scope allowed a more refined position, using the rifle much more like a centrefire. I never felt I was overwhelming the rifle, like so many 13.5" LOP rimfires. This can be further exacerbated by limited scope mounting space on the intrinsically shorter rimfire actions, which compound a feeling of a short gun in the shoulder, which is often further spoiled by feeling like your neck is far too long and therefore having to crane rearward (especially when prone) to achieve correct eye relief.

I’m pleased to heartily recommend the ‘Annie’ to taller shooters wanting that refined, fitted feel and it’s noticeable how much better the gun stayed planted in my shoulder when fast bolt operation was required, which didn’t disrupt the rifle in the shoulder!

Other factors include the grip, which fills your hand without having fingers drooping below it, the trigger blade which sits in the centre of the pad of your finger and the beavertail fore-end that fills your leading hand nicely. 

The geometry gives excellent stability when loading the bipod, relaxed aiming supported courtesy of a fist or rear bag and a firm recoil pad that grips, but never feels spongey in the shoulder! 

Close up of the long magazine on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

Note the length of the magazine for just 5 rounds next to the polymer floorplate - Credit: Chris Parkin

Overall opinion on the Anschutz 1761 with walnut thumbhole stock
Anschutz have continued their fine reputation for superb rifle mechanics and stock ergonomics; it’s just a shame that it’s a little more delicate than a working tool in terms of walnut’s ability to fend off damage. A striking rifle to own as a precision rimfire, but a deeper oiled finish or synthetic would have steered the rifle from a range queen to a tougher hunting rifle.

If the magazine is going to be so long, it seems odd to not use the space, but I get the feeling the rifle is slightly cross cultured in outlook and not just quite sure what it is. Given the capability of automated machining it is also a shame no left-hander is available, but sales volume always dictates availability.
Regardless, as a hunter, I only carry rifles I can make use of from the opposite shoulder, but that is perhaps me being very unusual. 

Anschutz’s action and trigger performance is more akin to a match rifle yet well weighted for hunting and I cannot fault the operational capability of the bolt. This is, without doubt, a premium rifle for an exclusive market, delivering the very best precision from the fairly limited range of .17 HMR factory ammunition. 

Close up of the bolt handle on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

Excellent bolt handle ergonomics for fast use and silently operable safety catch - Credit: Chris Parkin

Pros

  • Superb design and build quality
  • Exceptional accuracy
  • Excellent ergonomics

Cons

  • Magazine seems overly large considering the load count
  • Very pricey for a rimfire

Verdict

  • The Anschutz is a superb rifle with a great heritage and design. If you’re looking for a super accurate 17HMR that will last you a lifetime it’s worth the extra investment
Close up of the mag release at the front of the trigger guard on the Anschutz 1761 walnut thumbhole rifle

Mag release at the front of the trigger guard - Credit: Archant

Tip tips
Scope manufacturers seem to like to brag about long eye relief for recoil protection on heavy recoiling centrefire rifles but ignore the diminutive proportions of shorter rimfire actions, which can sometimes be overwhelmed by these larger scopes. So, keep that in mind when selecting a scope for any rimfire.
It’s worth noting that the bolt handle emerges from the shaft/receiver/dovetails mid-point along their length on the Anschutz, so I’d always make sure the cap screws on your scope mounts are positioned to the left side, thereby avoiding potential clashes between bolt handle and rear mount.
When cleaning, use a cotton bud to ensure the deep crown recess is clear of corrosion inviting debris! 

Specifications 
Calibres: 17 HMR on test, (22rf and WMR also available) 
Overall length: 36”/915mm 
Weight: 6.5lbs/3.0kg 
Magazine capacity: 5+1 
Trigger: Single stage, tested at 815gr (adjustable 800-1200gr) 
Muzzle thread: ½”x20 UNF 
Barrel length: 18”/457mm (515mm also available and replaceable in alternate calibres too) 
Muzzle thread: ½”x20 UNF 
Stock material: Walnut 
Length of Pull: 14.5”/370mm

SRP: Unthreaded, £1,434; threaded, £1,505 (no left hand in thumbhole, but it is available in a Classic stock) 

Contact RUAG 
Tel:
01579 362319 
www.ruag.co.uk 

Also used 
Hornady 17gr V-Max and 20gr XTP ammunition 
Tel: 01625 613177 
www.edgarbrothers.com