Savage Impulse

Review: Savage Impulse Predator straight-pull rifle


Savage has entered the straight-pull market with the Impulse, a modular design that’s fast to operate, accurate and affordable.

Straight-pull rifles are increasingly popular. The action is fast and the speed of a bolt that is worked on a linear plane allows a smoother swing and faster follow-up shots at fleeting targets.

Savage Impulse
The Impulse is every inch a practical, well-designed hunter’s tool with speed and accuracy on its side

The Savage is the first American-made straight-pull rifle. A modular design, it has all the bells and whistles of the competition, which is mostly European. 

The Impulse offers interchangeable barrels, bolt heads and magazine systems. Kits are not yet available, but when they come you’ll be able to swap calibres in minutes. 

The entire bolt-head assembly may be removed in literally seconds and exchanged for a bolt head for a different cartridge family. 

You can change the rifle from a right-handed configuration to a left-handed one, although you will have to contend with the right-side ejection port. However, after seeing a good many left handers shooting right-handed bolt guns, this doesn’t seem to worry them.

Savage Impulse
When the bolt handle is pushed all the way forward, the cam at the rear of the bolt pushes a ram forward to lock the six ball bearings into their inlet in the barrel extension, locking the action ready to fire a round

The design also allows the bolt handle to be aligned in four different angles for each side of the gun.

If you don’t like the shape or feel of the bolt knob, the handle is threaded 5/16×24 and will accept aftermarket replacement knobs based on the same pattern.

The Savage design matches many of the features of the European straight-pulls — innovative engineering, versatility and speed — plus traditional Savage accuracy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never, ever seen an inaccurate Savage.

Savage utilised existing rifle technology and components from its popular Model 110 as a basis for the Impulse. This gave the company a head start and streamlined production so that costs could be held to a moderate level.

Savage Impulse
The Impulse has an aluminium receiver with integral 20-MOA Picatinny rail, box magazine and excellent AccuTrigger

The Impulse is made on automated machinery from the finest materials and its short-travel, smooth-operating straight-pull bolt-action offers serious competition to its European counterparts. 

Like the company’s turn-bolt Model 110 actions, the bolt head is a separate part and is pinned to the bolt body, enabling it to ‘float’.

Savage’s engineers made the decision to construct the Impulse around a bolt with multiple locking lugs. They settled on a bolt head which features six 9/16” stainless-steel ball bearings evenly spaced around the floating bolt head to find equal bearing equilibrium.

This design was influenced by the Heym SR 30, which uses a similar six-ball arrangement.

Savage Impulse
The retactable ball bearings lock the bolt into battery in the barrel extension, a system Savage calls Hexlock

Savage calls its version the Hexlock and employs a plunger that forces the ball bearings into a circular groove machined around the inside of a barrel extension as the bolt is closed. When the trigger has been pulled or the release button has been pushed, the ball bearings are retracted, allowing the bolt to be cycled.

The bolt itself has other interesting features. The bolt release button, handily located at the rear of the bolt shroud, is a convenient feature that allows you to clear an unfired cartridge from the chamber with the safety still engaged.

To remove the bolt, push in on the top of the release button, draw back the bolt, push fully forward on the bolt release on the left side of the receiver and slide the bolt out of the gun.

To reinstall the bolt, make sure the safety is engaged and the bolt is cocked by holding the bolt body in one hand and rotating the bolt handle to the rear as far as it will go. At its rearmost travel, the spring-loaded extraction plunger will be fully extended from the bolt shroud. Once the bolt is cocked, it will slide into the receiver smoothly.

Savage Impulse
The action doesn’t look very different from a turn-bolt but is arguably more practical

As you close the bolt, the bolt handle rocks forward, driving an inner shaft forward to cam the Hexlock ball bearings out into the rotary locking groove. Pulled back, the handle rocks rearward for about an inch to unlock the bolt and allow the entire bolt assembly to be pulled back.

When forward in battery, the bolt locks in position whether the safety is engaged or not. The release button serves double duty by acting as a cocking indicator.

The Impulse’s receiver is lightweight, machined from high-grade aluminium, black anodised. It measures 255mm in length and features a full-length 1913-spec Picatinny rail machined integrally with the receiver. Catering for long-range shooters, it has 20 minutes of angle built in. 

For testing, the Impulse was fitted with a Leupold VX-3HD 3.5-10×50 scope cradled in Leupold BackCountry steel rings.

Savage Impulse
The modular AccuTrigger assembly is pinned to the tang. The bolt release and safety are on top of the tang

The rear section of the receiver is slotted on the bottom to accept the AccuTrigger drop-in trigger housing which contains Savage’s two-position sliding tang safety. The AccuTrigger features the integrated AccuRelease, which must be completely depressed to discharge the firearm.

 On the test gun the trigger broke at 1.36kg (3lb) straight out of the box, so I left it alone. It can be set from 1.3-2.7kg (2.5-6lb).

On the right side of the receiver there’s a generously sized ejection port some 35mm wide and 67mm long — large enough to allow a cartridge to be top-fed into the magazine.

A medium-weight, straight-taper, button-rifled, hand-straightened Savage 110 carbon steel barrel, with 5/8×24 muzzle thread, adds considerable heft to the Impulse. The barrel retains the barrel-nut design Savage has long used to control headspace, but there’s a difference.

Savage Impulse
The Impulse’s barrel is fastened to its receiver using a clamping mechanism with four screws. In typical Savage fashion, a locknut is used to precisely set headspace

The barrel nut holds the bracket-type recoil lug in place against the receiver and also abuts the front end of a steel extension containing the locking recess for the Hexlock bearings. The rear end of the barrel slides through the extension, is positioned in the extension by a barrel locking screw and then held in place by a four-bolt clamping mechanism. 

Because of the steel barrel extension, an aluminium receiver could be used to reduce weight, although the rear portion of the receiver has a steel insert for strength.

To remove the barrel, loosen the three rearmost screws. The front screw threads into a barrel locking block that must be removed. Do this by turning out this screw until the last thread or two, then tap it with a rubber hammer to shift the block out of its slot. Finish removing the screw and take out the block. Now the barrel can be slid out of the receiver.

In addition to a recess in the barrel extension where the locking block fits, there’s also a small extension on the recoil lug that corresponds with a recess in the receiver, so you can’t install the barrel incorrectly. 

The barrel has to be pushed fully into the receiver before the locking block will fit into its recess. All that remains is to tighten all four screws.

Savage Impulse
The stock can be tailored with different sized combs and butt extensions, supplied with the rifle

The Impulse Predator also features the AccuStock with AccuFit, which is basically an aluminium chassis embedded in a moulded synthetic stock.

The AccStock’s aluminium chassis incorporates a ‘three-dimensional’ bedding system which provides full-length support for the action on three sides along its entire length, and a steel block engages the recoil lug. As the Accustock’s two action screws are tightened, the action is chocked inside a bedding cradle, which applies both horizontal and vertical pressure, preventing up, down, left and right movements.

The AccuStock’s bedding cradle is slightly narrower than the receiver, and when the action screws are tightened, the side rails flex and conform to the outside diameter of the receiver, significantly increasing the clamping force of the receiver into the stock. The side-rails spread more than 0.25mm before the receiver rests on the bottom rail boss, providing a solid foundation for the action to bed against.

To eliminate forward and rearward motion, the AccuStock’s bedding cradle features a close-fitting cutout for the recoil lug in the aluminium rail. When the front action screw is tightened, it pulls the collar-type recoil lug against the rail, preventing any movement.

Savage Impulse
AccuStock forend sits nicely in your hand and has good grippy inserts

Accompanying the AccuStock is a system of interchangeable comb and length-of-pull inserts allowing shooters to customise the fit to an individual’s build and suit different scope heights, arm lengths and lengths of pull.

The Impulse Predator has a 10-round metal AICS magazine and an alloy one-piece trigger-guard/floorplate unit with integral magazine well. The magazine release catch is a spring-loaded plate that fits flush against the front of the trigger guard. A thumb rest on both sides is pushed forward with the ball of your thumb to allow the heavy magazine to drop out.

The Impulse functioned smoothly and reliably. I could not fault its speed of repetition, which is lightning fast and on a par with all the other straight-pulls I’ve tested.

AmmunitionBullet (gn)Velocity (fps)Average group (inch)
Federal American Eagle120 OTM28861.05
Hornady American Whitetail129 Interlock27351.10
Federal Premium130 OTM27950.88
Federal Fusion140 SP26261.00
Hornady  Match140 ELD26100.88
Hornady Precision Hunter143 ELD-X26321.10
Hornady Match147 ELD2595.80
Savage Impulse Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor. Accuracy is the average of five 3-shot groups fired at 100yd from sandbags. Velocity is the average of 12 shots measured with a MagnetoSpeed chronograph. Ambient temperature 12C.

The Impulse may have been a long time coming, but it is incredibly accurate, dependable and faster to operate than a standard turn-bolt. Like more expensive European straight-pulls, it can be had with additional barrels and bolt heads for a number of different calibres.

If you’ve been yearning for a straight-pull rifle, this one’s your huckleberry!

Savage Impulse

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms, USA
  • Type: Straight-pull bolt-action repeater
  • Calibres: .22-250, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .308 Win, .30-06, .300 WSM, .300 Win Mag
  • Magazine capacity: 2-4 rounds in Hog Hunter, Big Game; 10 rounds in Predator but 5-shot magazines available
  • Barrel: 51cm (20”), 1:8” twist in 6.5 Creedmoor
  • Overall length: 105cm (43.5”) std calibres; 116cm (45.5”) magnums
  • Weight: From 4.0kg (8.8lb)
  • Stock: AccuStock
  • Length of pull: 32-35cm (12.75-13.75”)
  • Sights: None; integral Picatinny rail
  • Trigger: Single-stage AccuTrigger, adjustable from 1.3-2.7kg (2.5-6lb)
  • Safety: 2-position on the tang
  • Price: Typically $2500-$2800, depending on dealer
  • Distributor: NIOA
Savage Impulse
The Predator version comes with a 10-round box magazine, in .22-250, .243, 6.5CM or .308

 

 

 


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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.

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