Savage Arms started off 2021 by launching the Impulse line of rifles, and the immediate buzz was all about the straight-pull actions. None of that up and back with the bolt on an Impulse—just give the Impulse’s bolt a pull right back towards the shoulder, eject the spent brass, push forward and you are ready to shoot again.
Savage touted the straight-pull feature as a key for faster reloads. So, I requested a Savage Impulse Hog Hunter chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor to see just how fast that straight pull actually was and to rate the rifle’s overall performance.
Overall? The Impulse Hog Hunter is a very accurate rifle, capable of taking game out to 400 yards without a problem. The straight-pull bolt operated effectively and actually got me on target faster for that follow-up shot.
Rifles featuring straight-pull actions have been offered in Europe for a couple of decades. They were available here, too, but haven’t received much attention, in part because the Euro models cost several thousand dollars apiece. With the Impulse line, Savage created an American-made straight pull in popular hunting calibers at a price under $1,500—still not inexpensive but thousands less than their European counterparts.
Savage designed what it terms a “Hexlock” mechanism to make the straight pull action work. Essentially, six steel ball bearings are embedded into the perimeter of the bolt head. When the bolt is pushed fully forward, a plunger inside the bolt pushes the bearings out, locking them into recesses machined into the barrel extension. Pull back on the rotating bolt handle, and the plunger action is reversed, drawing the bearings back into the bolt. The bolt detaches from the inside of the barrel extension, allowing the shooter to cycle back the action and eject the spent brass.
I did find the Impulse straight-pull a split-second faster to work than a traditional bolt. But the real time savings was this: the rearward pull kept me on my optic much better than a traditional up-and-back bolt, saving me a second or two it takes to get my eye lined up back behind the scope. It’s never been easy for me to keep my eye behind an optic when working a traditional bolt, especially since the initial movement of the bolt for me, a righty, shifts the receiver up and to the left.
The Impulse’s straight pull also required a learning curve for me. I am so used to operating a traditional bolt that even as I was telling myself to pull straight back, I discovered I was putting upward pressure on the Impulse’s bolt. Which caused it to hang up. Once I got my head around “straight back, no upward pressure,” the bolt worked smooth and fast.
The angle of the Impulse’s rotating bolt handle of the Impulse, by the way, can be changed by the shooter without tools, and can even be switched to the other side of the receiver, again without tools.
The Impulse Hog Hunter is one of three models in the Impulse line, the other two being the Impulse Big Game and the Impulse Predator.
The Hog Hunter model features a 20-inch barrel, plus sports a matte black aluminum receiver and an OD Green AccuStock with Savage’s AccuFit adjustable length-of-pull and comb height capability.
The medium contour barrel is threaded at the muzzle at 5/8-24-inches for a suppressor or brake. Ammunition is fed via a flush-fit detachable box magazine, while a one-piece 20 MOA rail is machined right into the receiver for easy optic mounting.
For my accuracy testing I used three brands of 6.5 Creedmoor hunting rounds in my Impulse Hog Hunter: Hornady Outfitter, firing a 120-grain GMX bullet; Norma Professional Hunter loaded with a 130-grain Scirocco II bullet; and Sig Sauer Elite Hunter with a 130-grain Controlled Expansion Tip bullet.
All brands did very well. Shooting at 100 yards from a rest, the Hornady and Sig averaged five-shot groups at 1.25-inches and 1.40-inches, respectively.
The Impulse really loved the Norma Professional Hunter 6.5 Creedmoor rounds, with a four-shot group at 100 yards of 1.0-inches, and three of those shot stacked onto each other for a spread of under .50-inches. Using the Birchwood Casey Darkotic Splattering Target, the Smokehouse hog version, I placed three shots into the hog’s snout at 100 yards at just shy of .50 inches.
If I was actually hog hunting, I’d definitely use the Norma Professional Hunter rounds.
The trigger on the Hog Hunter as well as the other two Impulse models is Savage’s user adjustable AccuTrigger, which can be set from 1 pound, 8 ounces up to 6 pounds of pull. The trigger on my review rifle arrived with a very crisp 1 pound, 12 ounces, according to my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, and I didn’t feel the need to adjust it at all. I also appreciated the bladed safety, which helped the trigger operate almost like a two-stage trigger.
To unload a live round, press in the bolt release button at the back of the bolt. This allows you to work the rotating bolt handle, move the bolt rearward and eject the live round.
Live or spent brass, you need to give the Impulse’s bolt a pretty forceful pull back to make sure the brass exits the receiver. A slow or half-hearted pull and the brass will hang up inside the receiver.
Even with that shorter, 20-inch barrel, the Impulse Hog Hunter is not a nifty little mountain rifle, not at 8.5 pounds unloaded. Add an optic, a sling, and ammunition, and you are toting a good 10-pounds of rifle, and this would not be my first choice for spot-and-stalk hog hunting especially in rough terrain.
But for those of us hunting critters from a fixed position? We will be putting critters on the ground!
The Impulse Hog Hunter is also available in 30-06 SPRG., .308 Win, and 300 Win Mag. Of course, the two other Impulse variants, the Impulse Big Game and the Impulse Predator, can be had in various other calibers, too.
Specifications: Savage Impulse Hog Hunter
Caliber (as tested): 6.5 Creedmoor
Action: Straight-pull bolt
Barrel: 20” Carbon Steel, Black Matte Finish
Twist Rate: 1:8
Receiver: Aluminum, Black Matte Finish
Stock: Synthetic, OD Green, AccuFit
Length of Pull: 13.75”
Trigger: AccuTrigger, user adjustable.
Magazine: Detachable Box, 4 rounds.
Weight: 8.5 Lbs. (unloaded)
Safeties: Rear Tang and Bladed Trigger
MISC: One-piece 20 MOA rail machined into the receiver.
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