Savage Impulse Hog Hunter
- By Chris Parkin
- 3 Comments
- Last updated: 19/02/2022
The Savage Impulse has taken on elements of rifles we have seen in the past, combining them with new layouts, materials, manufacturing methods and operation techniques. Plus, rather than just talking fast fire and small group sizes, Savage has focused on a more rounded capability.
The Impulse action shows a familiar Savage barrel nut, ensuring correct headspacing tolerances. The 20” barrel is button-rifled and shows an 18.9mm diameter on this Hog Hunter edition. It shows a 5/8”x24 thread and a 1:8” twist rate, which should suit jacketed bullets up to around 150-grains and copper monolithic without issue at regular 120-140-grain weights.
The action’s facetted body is machined Aluminium. It features a full length 20 MOA rail for simple scope mounting and a hard anodised matte black finish throughout to colour match the barrel closely. The receiver is non-pressure bearing as the barrel is screwed into a steel extension for bolt locking within. This is clamped by the receiver with three Allen bolts and a locking cross pin to ensure no accidental drops even when dismantled.
The barrel/extension tenon shows teeth that lock rotational position on the receiver face and there is an internal shoulder for everything to butt up against, assuring position. All are cleanly machined and slide together with smooth precision and tactile feel. Allen bolts spin slickly into position on well-machined threads and when torque is applied to tension them, a solid anchoring feel is provided without undue mushiness.
Action locking isn’t a totally new principle but quite unusual. The recessed bolt face within the removable bolt head extends from a full diameter shaft of 0.842”/21.2mm that has six ball bearings held captive around its nose. At the rear, the handle pivots to lock and unlock the action, swinging back to unlock these bearings and forward to push them outward, locking the bolt to bear firing pressures into a circumferential rebate on the steel barrel extension. This is neat, compact and fast, although offering no physical camming process to remove the expanded brass cartridge on extraction - moving on to another smart step from Savage. The bolt shows no lugs and simply features a single raceway preventing rotation, engaging the bolt stop that also acts as the removal catch on the left side of the action’s rear. This offers butter smooth travel for action cycling and no chance of stuttering.
Savage realise simple linear force on a bolt, regardless of applied camming force from a bolt carrier, is never quite strong enough on big cartridges, and when you have shot lots of rifles, some designs commonly reveal this weakness. The Impulse uses the swinging lever to power a physical plunger, driving the bolt rearward, forced apart from the rear of the action. This mechanical system is independen of bolt speed, a reassuring significant benefit, especially when you want to operate the action slowly and quietly.
This action offers a bolt stroke of 115mm to fulfil all offered chambering requirements. Also, importantly, I was able to operate the bolt without hitting my nose when my head remained on the comb to retain the sight picture for a fast follow-up shot. Savage impressively supply additional recoil pad spacers and interchangeable cheekpiece inserts to get the best fit possible. This is attention to detail that many other manufacturers seem to completely ignore.
The 65mm steel bolt handle swings 40º and is tipped by a conical handle for comfort. This can be removed and re-positioned on its splined steel axle, offering preferences for the angle. Pointing slightly forward at a kind of 5 O‘clock angle, it works incredibly well and locks your hand into it better, without sliding off the end. Operation is fast and intuitive, plus extraction is assured thanks to the shroud/receiver design being forced apart mechanically. Manual ejection means the exact force applied to the base of the brass to fling it free from the right-side is proportional to the speed at which the bolt is cycled. The extractor claw recessed on the right side of the bolt’s face maintains a strong grip and draws that brass over the ejector claw slotted through the left side recess in the face. The steel, single-column magazine holds 4x rounds, presenting bullets directly to the feed ramp for a damagefree reloading cycle. The frontal catch lets the mag drop into your palm, and as the stock features a full aluminium chassis within the polymer skin, there’s no snagged during mag installation.
There is a tang safety behind the shroud that does not get involved with the bolt locking. If the action is ‘fired’, simply pull the bolt handle to reload as expected, but if unfired, it remains locked and there is a button on the rear of the shroud allowing it to be unlocked. This isn’t a de-cocking system as such, that’s seemingly a more European hallmark, and this doesn’t affect firing pin spring pressures. You soon get used to the fact that if the bolt won’t open, it’s a ‘live’ action, so no detrimental factor.
Savage’s AccuTrigger hangs below in a spacious metal guard, with its inner blade requiring a full squeeze to make the trigger ‘go live’. On test, it broke 90% crisply at 1135-grams. If you squeeze the curved trigger blade without the inner lever pressed, the trigger ‘clicks’ totally safe and then requires you to re-cock the action.
Removing the action from the stock via the twin screws that span the mag well, reveals an internal aluminium bedding block and ‘spine’. This extends throughout the forend to the sling stud/ bipod mount, ensuring the barrel floats in all conditions. The outer co-polymer moulding is deep green, showing gently angled facets interlaced with softer, black rubber grip panels on the forend walls and open radius grip. The reach to the trigger blade is comfortable.
The soft rubber recoil pad is removable for the supplied spacers. You can also install comb inserts of differing heights to satisfy cheek weld. These are slender, so engage the cheekbone not the jaw, improving fit. Plus, there’s no clonking hollow resonance, thanks to an internal foam damper. Creedmoor recoil is minimal, and the heavier Hog Hunter barrel ensures little muzzle flip. This helps the shooter to spot bullets impacts. The recoil pad is soft but not overly spongy and will be most beneficial on the larger calibres.
I’m looking forward to the lighter barrelled versions of this rifle and I am keen to see what calibres are offered. The Hog Hunter is a bit nose heavy with mod added and although this keeps it super stable, I’d want the lighter barrelled option for the UK market, where we’d almost certainly expect to use a moderator on a sporting rifle.
Performance on target with jacketed lead bullets offered precision shooting, while all copper monolithic projectiles performed acceptably at realistic hunting ranges.
Savage barrels are hand straightened and this one showed no problematic thermal dispersion. They can be replaced using additional extenders, allowing their replacement within the action without specialist tools, plus can be swapped multiple times if necessary.
The bolt head is removable and all that’s required to strip the components is an Allen key. You must remove the action from the stock, but a solid bedding block displaying no action stress meant a return to zero within 2cm@100m when removed and replaced. I’m not a barrel swapper, yet it demonstrated physical consistency in the assembly process and tolerances, as well as making future calibre changes/ re-barrels very simple. The group sizes were notably better with lead core bullets when compared to monolithic copper, which I didn’t find surprising.
Savage has made accurate, consistent rifles for decades, yet they were a little agricultural and bulky, specifically when fitted with oversized bolts. The Impulse has totally altered my perception of the company, whose mass manufacturing volume has suddenly allied to a more elegant design! The combined locking mechanism and barrel change may not be unique but has evolved into a competent rifle that I like for its brave styling concept that truly delivers all promises operationally, and on target. I especially like the attention paid to the extraction and ergonomics of the straight-pull process at any bolt speed, without the need for undue aggression as some ‘bolt carrier’ rifles require.