The M17S is a rifle that first caught my eye several years ago when it was being manufactured and sold by Bushmaster. With its ultra-sleek, futuristic (even sci-fi) looks, the M17S certainly looked like no other rifle on the market at the time – a factor which might have actually contributed to its demise within the Bushmaster house, especially once the ACR came along.
But two things came to my attention today, firstly that the M17S has a history that stretches back before its time at Bushmaster, and secondly that K&M Arms is now manufacturing an improved and updated version – and with the recent upsurge of interest in Bullpup rifles in the US market, maybe this version will at last enjoy the success its been seeking…
The design of the M17S dates back to 1986 when the Australian company Armtech Ltd. developed the prototype as a prospective military rifle for the Australian Army. Two prototypes were developed, the C60R which used the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge, and the more revolutionary C30R that used caseless ammunition. The C30R was developed hastily and an out-of-battery ignition resulted in a prototype exploding during a high-profile demonstration.
The Australian Army adopted a licence-built version of the Steyr AUG, leading to the sale of the Armtech design to another Australian company, Edenpine PTY Ltd. Edenpine, with Charles St. George, improved the design resulting in the ART-30 and SAK-30. The salient features of the M17S were in place but some Finnish Valmet parts were used instead of AR-15 parts to save money. Edenpine expressed interest in selling the design on the United States market and subsequently licensed the design to Bushmaster for local manufacture thus avoiding import restrictions. This rifle was sold from October 1992 to 1994 as the “Edenpine M17S Bull-Pup rifle”. The distributor was Edenpine (USA) Inc., the American branch of Edenpine of Australia, headquartered in San Jose, California.
When Edenpine folded in 1994, the totality of the rights passed to Bushmaster, who manufactured it as the “Bushmaster M17S”. The Bushmaster M17S hit the market just a few months before the approval of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. At the time, the M17S was the only American-made bullpup rifle to be offered commercially, and the only one not banned by name. The BATF approved a version with a longer barrel sleeve which covered more of the muzzle thread – making it impossible to attach a flash hider, and thus meet one of the key cosmetic requirements for a rifle to not be considered an “assault weapon”.
After just over a decade of lackluster sales, Bushmaster discontinued production of the M17S in 2005.