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Straight-pull rifles are nothing new, as they’ve been around for more than a century. In 2021, Savage decided to introduce a straight-pull rifle that they called the Impulse and now their catalog contains seven variations. Their newest straight-pull rifle, the Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter, is the lightest and nearly the most expensive rifle in the Impulse line at $2500. As the name suggests, it’s intended for hunters who walk in deep and may need to shoot cross-canyon to get their buck.
Savage has a great reputation for building affordable, great shooting and reliable, turn-bolt rifles, as typified by their $1,000 Magpul Hunter, which is one of the most accurate rifles we’ve ever tested. So, why Savage chose to go straight and more expensive puzzles me. It also somewhat pains me to write this review, because any time I test a Savage rifle I expect accurate and reliable performance. This rifle consistently punched little groups, but it was plagued with an action that was stubborn as hell. The simplicity of design and flawless functioning that’s helped Savage make such a name for themselves, especially with blue collar hunters, was missing.
Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter: Description
This rifle utilizes Savage’s Impulse straight-pull action. The bolt locks up via ball bearings that are pressed into the action and are then retracted when the bolt handle is pulled to the rear after a shot. If you want to open the bolt without firing the rifle, there’s a cocked indicator on the rear of the bolt that must be pressed as the bolt handle is pulled to the rear. There’s also a bolt release on the left side of the action for bolt removal. The bolt handle can be positioned at various angles, and it can also be installed on the left side of the receiver for left-handed operation. It’s a very strong design, similar to the action on the excellent Heym SR30 rifle.
There are other neat features. The rifle is fitted with a 22-inch Proof Research carbon fiber wrapped barrel that’s threaded at a 5/8×24 pitch. These barrels are not cheap, they retail for about $900 each! A radial port muzzle brake comes already installed, and Savage’s famous and adjustable AccuTrigger comes standard. It had a crisp pull weight of 3.5 pounds out of the box. The receiver is lightweight because it’s made of aluminum, and there’s a 16-slot, 20-MOA Picatinny scope rail that’s machined integral to the receiver. This eliminates the need for buying a scope base and undeniably contributes to the ability of the rifle to hold zero because there are no scope base screws to work loose.
The trigger guard and floor plate are polymer and house a drop-free, four-round magazine, that has a polymer base pad that fits flush with the bottom of the AccuStock. The AccuStock, with its AccuFit technology that comes available on a wide variety of Savage rifles, is one of the rifle’s best features. The AccuStock is modular at the butt and comb, and in the box with the rifle are multiple spacers and combs of different heights to allow you a wide range of adjustment to fine-tune shooter interface. And, thanks to a three-dimensional aluminum bedding block, the barrel is free-floated.
Key Features and Specs
Length: 44.75 inches (adjustable)
Weight: 7.19 pounds
Barrel: 22 inches, Proof Research carbon fiber wrapped stainless steel, threaded at 5/8×24, muzzle brake and thread protector, with 1-in-10 twist
Action: Impulse, straight-pull, ball bearing lock-up
Trigger: AccuTrigger, (3.25 pounds as tested)
Capacity: 4+1, Detachable magazine
Finish: Anodized black
Stock: Synthetic AccuStock
Chambering: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm PRC, 28 Nosler, .308 Winchester (tested), .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Winchester Short Magnum
If you’re an adult and cannot configure the AccuStock that comes on the Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter to comfortably fit you, you might be a direct descendant of Quasimodo. The AccuStock might not be as refined as some of the much more expensive and more modern carbon fiber stocks, but with its adjustable length of pull and comb height, it’s extremely adaptable and allows precise refinement of shooter interface. It’s an exemplification of Savage’s brilliance and one reason their rifles appeal to so many hunters.
In regard to precision, the Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter is a solid MOA rifle. A 1.08-inch average for multiple five-shot groups that were fired with four different factory hunting loads is remarkable for a factory hunting rifle, and of all the .308 Winchester rifles evaluated in our 2023 rifle test, it was the only one that shot the Barnes 168-grain VOR-TX load well. The best, single, five-shot group fired with the Impulse Mountain Hunter was with the Browning Long Range load, and it measured 0.6 inch.
The rifle handled well, it balanced well, and we hit what we shot at. The problem was none of us consistently jived well with the straight-pull action. One shooter managed four fast hits on the moving deer target, but when I attempted the drill, I could not retract the bolt after the first shot. The action proved to be quite stubborn when we attempted to run it hard. Sometimes it was a diamond, other times it was a lump of coal, but it always took a good bit of force to pry it open.
Maybe we just didn’t know how to run the rifle correctly, but I don’t think that was the case. I have a great deal of experience with the similarly designed Heym SR30 rifle; I’ve hunted with them on two continents and took more than a dozen big game animals. There could be some secret trick to smooth and consistent operation of the Impulse action. If there is, it’s not intuitive, we never found it, nor could we identify any useful tips in the owner’s manual.
- Very precise shooting
- Lightest Impulse yet
- 20 MOA scope rail integral to action
- Inconsistent/unreliable action operation
- Extremely difficult to remove muzzle brake
Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter: Final Shots
There’s an undeniable appeal of the Savage Impulse action, especially when combined with Savage’s AccuStock, AccuTrigger, and a Proof Research barrel, in a 7-pound package. By virtue of the highly configurable stock and the reversible right- or left-handed bolt handle, the rifle should be compatible with most any shooter. A straight-pull action is also fast, though only minutely faster than a smooth operating standard bolt action. And, on top of all that, this rifle is a tack driver, delivering all the precision any hunter needs out to any practical distance. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the difficulty in action operation and lack of smoothness will leave a bad taste in your mouth, especially considering the more than $2,000 price tag. Maybe we got a bad egg. That’s possible, but typically a bad rifle shows itself during bench rest testing. This one did not.
The threaded muzzle is a selling point for this rifle, and it ships with a muzzle brake installed. We had to apply a torch and thought we’d ultimately need Hercules to turn the wrench to unscrew it. Any rifle manufacturer offering threaded barrels with a muzzle brake need to understand lots of folks like to run suppressors and some folks don’t like muzzle brakes. I’d suggest they ship the rifle with a thread protector installed and just put the brake in the box. If you think you must install the brake from the factory, don’t glue the damned thing on!
Savage should be applauded for their innovation, and maybe in time they’ll refine this design to perfection. Though it’s unlikely the American shooter will ever fully adopt it. As much sense as a straight-pull bolt action rifle might make, America is not Europe; we like to turn out bolts.