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Review: Savage Impulse Predator straight

Jul 09, 2023Jul 09, 2023

Reviews, Rifles

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


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