The Bushmaster M17S is not well - known and generally is not even considered by either civilian or law enforcement purchasers, primarily because Bushmaster has not given the little rifle wide publicity. When questioned by the author, Bushmaster’s spokesman stated that orders for their AR-15 - type rifles and carbines had been so heavy that the firm hadn’t been able to publicize the M17S as widely as they would have liked, despite the fact that the M17S may well be better suited for those situations demanding a compact 5.56mm NATO carbine than any version of the AR-15. This is a strong statement, but the author has over 30 years’ experience with AR-15 and M16 type weapons, plus other Stoner weapons and the fact is that Eugene Stoner designed several other rifles that were fundamentally superior to his AR-15 in their basic design. The M17S is derived from one of these superior designs, the AR-18.
Although it is a Bushmaster M17S bullpup, the operating system of the M17S is almost identical to that of the Armalite AR-18 and semiautomatic only AR-180 of the 1970s. The AR-18 was never fully developed because the US military had already committed itself to the AR-15. Without entering into a full technical analysis of the two designs, there are fundamental differences between them. Everyone who has ever used an AR-15 or M16 is keenly aware that the rifle requires a great deal of maintenance and is a "dirty" weapon. This is because excess gases and carbon are vented back into the receiver from the gas tube as the bolt carrier moves to the rear. Carbon from these hot gases essentially "plates" onto several portions of the bolt carrier and the interior of the receiver and after a few rounds are fired, the entire interior of the rifle is coated with a film of carbon. If allowed to build up, this carbon will eventually lead to stoppages, so the rifle must be cleaned frequently.
A second problem with the AR-15 design is that the bolt carrier rides directly on the interior surface of the receiver. Because of the ever-present carbon fouling, most operators keep the bolt carrier well-lubricated, which turns it into a "dust magnet" unless the ejection port cover is kept closed at all times when the rifle is not in use. Excess dirt will cause the bolt carrier to eventually slow down and fail to fully chamber a round, which is why the "forward assist" button was installed. In Desert Storm, many After Action reports stated that the troops involved were having to make frequent use of their forward assists because of fine dust getting into the receiver of their weapons. The M17s is a self-loading rifle, and thus cannot be classified as a true "assault rifle". Nevertheless it could make a very good paramilitary of home defense weapon; it is also good plinker and all-around compact rifle in .223 caliber, combining rifle-length barrel with carbine-style short overall length.