Savage Axis II XP, Big Bang for a Few Bucks

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Let’s say you’ve just gotten a call from a friend who wants to go hunting with you.  Tomorrow.  He wants to go tomorrow, but he doesn’t have a rifle. You know you’ll be able to put him on a deer, or a hog, or whatever it is he wants to hunt, but you don’t have extra rifles lying about, set up and ready to go. What would you suggest?

Savage Axis

The Savage Axis in all of its budget minded glory. But don’t be fooled by the price-tag–it still shoots under 1 MOA.

There’s a lot to presume about the hypothetical above. Let’s pretend the friend knows his ass from his elbow and is aware of basic firearms safety and function. There’s a big-box retailer right around the corner. We can assume he or she can legally buy a gun, and can get a license (and that you will be hunting, not poaching).  This friend needs a gun, one in a common caliber, and an optic (preferably one that’s already attached and sighted in). What he need is a rifle that’s turnkey, ready to go out of the box.

You need a Savage Axis II, the complete package.

The scenario above isn’t all that far-fetched. As I’m often asked for firearms advice, I find myself playing these games frequently. Not two weeks ago, a friend of mine called with a very similar situation. He’s a hippy farmer who sells organic heirloom vegetables to the yippies up in Richmond, and his farm has been overrun by whitetail that really appreciate the cervine buffet he’s planted in nice clean rows. He likes to live in harmony with nature but realizes that we’ve created a world in which the whitetail have no natural predators (at least none that aren’t powered by gasoline). My friend is ready to kill to defend his livelihood, and he just got a Kill Permit from the state that allows him to knock off the critters out of season.

Savage Axis

The Weaver Kaspa 3-9×40 is as traditional, and simple, as an optic gets.

“What do I need?” he asked.

“Easy,” I said. “You need a Savage Axis II.” And then I went out for more charcoal.

The Savage Axis II is, at its core, an introductory package. There isn’t anything inherently introductory about it, though. It would still make a fine rifle for someone wanting reliable performance, simplicity and affordability.

The rifle is an introductory line for Savage. It comes in 22-250, .223 Rem, .243 Win, 25-06 Win, 270 Win, 30-06 and 308, 7mm-08 Rem. The polymer stock is a no-frills, indestructible stock that offers good ergonomics. The carbon steel barrel is 22 inches long, which makes the whole rifle 43.875 inches. It weighs in at 6.5 pounds, empty, and won’t weigh much more loaded, as the detachable box holds just four rounds.

The barrel on this 308 has a 1/10 twist, which no brand new shooter will understand. Still, they’ll appreciate it. The slow twist rate is a solid option for a stabilizing a wide variety of ammunition, especially heavier bullets over long distances. Since we’re talking specifically about a .308, there will always be a wide variety of ammo available. More on that in a bit.

Savage Axis

The steel box magazine holds four rounds of .308.

Let’s get back to the package. There are two upgrades that make this more special. The first is the Weaver scope. When you take the gun out of the box, the scope is already installed. And the rifle has been bore-sighted. This gives you an immediacy that is very useful, more so for novices. The Weaver Kaspa 3-9×40 isn’t the fanciest scope available. It is made in China, for starters. The glass, though, is clear enough, and the reticle is easy to understand. It is a simple design—just cross-hairs and a couple of notches for calculating bullet drop over distance.

In the end, it is what you need to get started. And it has a couple of extras. The Savage AccuTrigger is adjustable and the industry leader for safety. The one on this rifle, out of the box, breaks at 2.8 pounds.

Shooting the Axis

Everything is relative. I took the Savage Axis to the range and shot it with a bunch of guys who prefer scopes that cost more than five times what this entire package sells for. These are guys who shoot out barrels on rifles and hand load their own rounds. They’re not the target market for the Axis line, to be sure, though all of them own a Savage or two. They’re not impressed by much of anything, really, so many of their reactions were decidedly bland. I had to remind them what it was.

Savage Axis

This is all it took to sight in the Weaver. The first shot is the one on the far right. That is solid out of the box accuracy.

The accuracy out of the box was well within minute-of-deer. The blue circle on the left is 4 inches across. The first shot was less than 2 inches off of the bulls-eye. This is amazingly reliable out-of-the-box performance, with the least expensive .308 we could find. It is somewhat amazing to me to imagine this gun coming off the factory floor, getting boxed and shiped to a distributor who then sent it to my FFL, and making it all the way to the range with this type of zero intact.  Not bad, Savage.

Once we stepped up to better quality, Nosler’s Match Grade .308, the groups tightened a bit. Yet not so much that it would matter for hunting big North American game. Both worked reliably well and shot decent groups for a rifle in this price range, and that’s all that really matters. Once I got a group under an inch at 100 yards, I put away the Nosler and went back to cheap stuff.

As for the other features. The bolt on the Axis is a bit rougher than I’d like. On the up stroke, there is a hang up, right before it unlocks, that requires a bit of muscle. You have to cycle like you mean it. Once it is open, it glides back and in with no problem. The bolt is easy enough to cycle from the shoulder, though I can’t keep my eyes on the target through the scope while cycling (only because of the jarring needed to get it through the upstroke).

This group was shot with Nosler Custom Match Grade .308.

This group was shot with Nosler Custom Match Grade .308.

The trigger is an AccuTrigger, so it rocks. The plunger (which they call the AccuRelease) in the trigger may seem off-putting to some novices who expect the trigger to be a simple curved piece of metal, but it is a great upgrade to the basic Axis rifle. The AccuTrigger blocks the sear, so it is the safest trigger around, and it’s adjustable. If you want a 1.5 pound pull, you can dial it down. Because the seer is blocked, fully blocked, until you pull back the AccuRelease, there’s no chance that a drop or jarring of the stock will cause the rifle to fire.

The safety on the Axis is easy to see and to use. It is right behind the bolt at the top of the tang. It has a large slider and a clear red F when it is ready to go. Just beyond that point, a simple lever allows for the bolt to be removed. And that’s basically it. There are typical sling attachment points on the stock. There’s a functional rubber pad at the butt end to help with recoil absorption. All told, it is a solid, working rifle that comes in at the bottom end of the price spectrum while providing a good entry-level functionality with reliable performance. It isn’t going to feel like the more expensive rifles in the Savage line, yet it can hold its own.

Savage Axis

The AccuTrigger is the safest rifle trigger in production.

If this gun had been available when I was a teenager, I probably would have started hunting much earlier. That’s what this is. It is a rifle meant for the new shooter. It is a place to start for those on a budget. It is a complete package that works well for those who don’t want the hassle of matching a scope to a rifle.

MSRP on the gun is $489, but they’re selling for as little as $350. At that price, this is a formidable package. In the time it takes for you to fill out the documentation for Uncle Sam, you can be on the range or in the field with functional firepower. I have a feeling that this will be a starter rifle for many, kind of a gateway drug. And once you get a bit more serious, you’ll know your way around the Savage line.

 

Savage Axis

The bolt has a long way to travel, but makes the trip smoothly.

Savage Axis

The stock offers a very nice grip. The polymer is textured and modestly adorned with the Savage Indian Head logo.

Savage Axis

An indicator on the back of the bolt will tell you if the gun is cocked.

Savage Axis

The safety is easy to access and very easy to see. And the button is large, which makes it useful for gloved shooters.

Savage Axis

Like most bolt guns, the Axis has no iron sights. But the scope and rings come mounted.

Savage Axis

The gun, with the scope, is under 7 pounds, which makes it very easy to carry.

Savage Axis

The recoil pad absorbs some of the thump of the .308, but the gun still has a solid kick.

Savage Axis

With Nossler’s .308, the groups tighten up to right at an inch.

{ 17 comments }

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • DrThunder88 June 9, 2014, 7:58 am

    I do like the Axis line, but the upgrade I see them most needing is to the stock rather than the trigger. The “Axis I” trigger is soft and heavy, but a few bucks’ worth of hardware can remedy that, leaving behind a most satisfying trigger finger experience. Reinforcing the stock, however, is a messy, ugly affair that still leaves the user wanting.

    I am excited by the prospect of the Axis heavy barrel (“Axis I.a”?), which might end up being a real value-added factory enhancement.

  • Hawk 1 June 9, 2014, 9:31 am

    Can you show a picture of the MOA group you described? Being a new out of the box rifle, I don’t believe you gave it a fair review until after break in. Looks as though it has potential as a hunter for sure.

    • Wayne Clemon June 9, 2014, 10:00 am

      if they start upgrading the axis they’ll just be competing with their 110s and 111s

  • Chris Baker June 9, 2014, 9:56 am

    In the article you listed 23-06, I am pretty sure that’s supposed to be 25-06? This sounds like my next rifle though. I could wish it was available in my favorite caliber, 257 Roberts, which is a very nice compromise between the 25-06 and 6mm. Less kick and more punch respectively if loaded to maximize it’s capabilities. I suppose I’ll go with a 25-06 and just put my old Arisaka out to pasture. Unlike that other rifle tested this one is in my budget and actually looks like a good rifle should to me (function is important, more than form but form is nice to have). I could buy 5 of these for the price of that Beretta and have lots of different calibers available. Cool stuff!

    • david June 9, 2014, 2:55 pm

      i have 2 of the axis rifles, a 243 and 308, these rifles are unbeatable, especially for the cost; in my opinion. i have been at the shooting range shooting against 2000/2500 dollar rifle/scope guns and when all is over i walk away with a smile knowing i shot as well as any body butt have less less than 1/3 invested in both rifles then most these guys have in their one rifle.

      • Don June 15, 2014, 10:47 am

        I agree with David! I wouldn’t trade mine! It is a great value for anyone, but especially the beginner on a tight budget.

  • Jason June 9, 2014, 11:46 am

    Since when is attached and maybe bore sighted “sighted in?” Also since when is a 1/10 twist rate slow for a .308 when many, if not most, come with a 1/12 twist? It’s a good commercial ad for Savage, though.

    • Gary June 11, 2014, 8:24 pm

      Since they shoot those groups in the photos above. The rifle out of the box is more accurate than most hunters and is as accurate as needed to shoot deer at 100 yards. Who are you trying to impress? Why do you a 2 inch group is not good enough for the majority of hunters?

  • Jason June 9, 2014, 11:47 am

    Since when is attached and maybe bore sighted “sighted in?” Also since when is a 1/10 twist rate slow for a .308 when many, if not most, come with a 1/12 twist? It’s a good commercial ad for Savage, though.

  • Tink Nathan June 9, 2014, 2:00 pm

    SEAR is misspelled TINK NATHAN

  • CW3RDL June 9, 2014, 3:43 pm

    If someone made a 10 shot magazine, I’d already own two of these Savage rifles.

  • John Nicholson June 9, 2014, 5:00 pm

    No iron sights. I just don’t care for rifles that depend completely on optics. If you damage your scope out in the field the gun isn’t completely useless, but darn near.

    • Gary June 10, 2014, 6:59 pm

      I am pushing 60 years old. I have never damaged my scope put in the field. I would rather have another gun back at camp than try to shoot a damaged gun that I had broken the scope off of.

  • james shaffer June 19, 2014, 9:49 am

    This is a great Rifle for the cost I have a 111 Hunter xp which cost about the same I changed out the stock for a Boyds and it does everything I ever ask for but there is one thing I don’t like at all this Axis is a 100% copy of the Ruger American Rifle but now Ruger has the American Predator model that comes with a heavy threaded barrel and very nice scope rail ( it actually is a Ruger American Rifle with a Ruger Scout Barrel and Rail) this gun will shoot groups as well as a Remington 700 CDL with a heavy fluted barrel all day long and being able to add a muzzle break is even better the cost of the Predator is only $60.00 more than the regular American model everyone has there own opinion but mine is the Predator is by far the best Rifle on the market for the cost.

  • Chad July 30, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Where are you seeing them sell for $350

    • Robert Peed November 15, 2014, 9:46 pm

      Cabela’s has them for 329 right now. 100 off Nov 13-26

  • Pehgi Swenor-Parkey November 23, 2014, 6:49 pm

    I recently bought my son his first rifle. It’s a savage axis II. After shooting 20 shells and hunting for one day, no shots fired. We purchased a trap so it was easier to carry and he put it on. He put the rifle over his shoulder, walk to the blind, took it off his shoulder, leaned it against the wall and stock broke off right behind the trigger. He’s had this rifle less than 3 weeks I’m not impressed.

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