The M17S was a commercial "bull-pup" rifle system sold by the Bushmaster Firearms company of Windham, Maine, in the early-to-mid 1990s. She was originally of Australian origin and nearly saw her potential fulfilled as the standard combat rifle for the Australian Army before fate took her in another direction. In the end, she was produced for a few short years but found a home in the cut-throat civilian gun market of the United States.
Bushmaster M17S Origins
Origins of the Bushmaster M17S place it back in the mid-1980s. Australian-based Armtech LTD designed and developed two prototype rifles - the C30R and the C60R - for possible sale to the Australian Army. The C30R made use of a "caseless" ammunition, a cartridge that attempted to remove the cartridge case left from spent rounds and thusly lower production costs and save on the weapon's weight (similar in scope to the Heckler & Koch G11 caseless rifle). The C60R was more conventional and fired the standardized 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The C30R's reputation was shattered when the prototype exploded during a demonstration of her capabilities to potential buyers. Before the C60R could make waves, Armtech sold its C60R design to Edenpine PTY LTD while the Australian Army had settled on the Austrian Steyr AUG universal rifle system - now to be license-produced on Australian soil.
Edenpine sought to further the original Armtech design and evolved the system into the ART-30 and the SAK-30 rifles. In an attempt to tackle another, perhaps more lucrative market, the company decided to market the rifle in the United States. To do this, they would need an "inside man" to bypass any import restrictions. Thusly, Bushmaster Firearms International was tapped to license-produce the refined design under the Edenpine (USA), Incorporated brand label under the designation of "Edenpine M17S Bull-Pup Rifle". Sales spanned from 1992 into 1994 until the Edenpine company folded and was no more. This left Bushmaster with complete rights to the manufacture and sale of the M17S system so the rifle was now sold under the more common designation of "Bushmaster M17S". Of course, there were some restrictions put in place once in the American market - the M17S could not be sold with its M16-type flash suppressor. Bushmaster therefore extended the barrel sleeve to prevent use of such a device. In the end, the Bushmaster M17S would become the first "bull-pup" configured rifle to be sold on the American commercial gun market. Bushmaster production of the M17S lasted up until 2005.
Bushmaster M17S Physical Characteristics
The Bushmaster M17S was of a bull-pup design, meaning that the magazine and feed were located behind the trigger group. The weapon sported fine, clean lines from stock to forend with the barrel protruding ahead, capped with a baffled flash suppressor (later banned for the American market). As with other bull-pup configurations, the buttstock was an integrated portion of the receiver. The receiver itself was designed in such a way as to facilitate cleaning and repairs, the operator needing only to operate a push pin (Captivated Push Pin Takedown System) to separate the upper receiver from the lower. The cartridge ejection port was located along the right side of the gun body and positioned above the magazine feed. The pistol grip was sharply angled for an ergonomic hold while the trigger was protected by an integrated angular trigger ring. There was also a built-in carrying handle that doubled as a Picatinny-style accessories rail and charging handle. There was a 25-meter open sight available through a channel just under the scope rail and the rail itself accepted popular scopes, sights and devices as needed by the operator. The barrel measured in at 21.5 inches in length (the weapon itself was 30 inches long in whole, barrel included) and lining was of hard chrome of Chrome-Moly Vanadium Steel. Standard accessories included a shoulder sling which connected at the buttstock base and the forend via hinged loops. The firing action was of a short-stroke piston with self-compensating gas-operation system. Other features including a semi-automatic fire mode and the gun was air-cooled. The steel magazine was designed as a straight, 10-round-deep spring-actuated system for 5.56mm/.223 Remington cartridges. Also offered (where legal) was an M16 STANAG-style, curved, 30-round magazine. The magazine release was made ambidextrous for a more universal buying market and fitted to the lower receiver. According to Bushmaster marketing, the weapon system accepted all AR-type magazines. Empty weight of the M17S was a manageable 8.28lbs (sans the magazine).
Bushmaster marketed their M17S to potential buyers in the "home defense", hunting and sport markets.