Last month, Savage invited me to the FTW Ranch in Barksdale Texas to shoot their all new straight-pull rifle, the Impulse. Ammo selection was limited (thanks 2020) and these were the first batch of rifles pulled from the factory floor, but they were impressive. Below is the first look of the Impulse rifle – stay tuned for a full review coming soon!
With an outstanding reputation for accuracy and innovation, Savage Arms is one of the few remaining American firearms manufacturers who continues to revolutionize the industry. They have a long history of producing superior firearms with advanced features that everyone can afford. We saw it in 2003 with the development of the AccuTrigger system, in 2009 with the AccuStock and again in 2020 with the Renegauge auto-loader.
This year, Savage is disrupting the bolt action rifle market (again) by introducing the first American made straight-pull rifle – the Impulse. Straight-pulls have been around almost as long as traditional actions and are wildly popular in European markets but have been ignored by American manufacturers until now. (Browning has the T-Bolt, but that’s not made in America and offered only in rimfire calibers) With 13 new patents and 2.5 years in the making, the Impulse rifle is truly unlike anything else currently being produced in the US.
What is a straight-pull rifle?
A straight-pull rifle is cycled by just two motions, backwards and forwards on a linear path. This differs from a traditional bolt action where four motions are required- rotate bolt, pull back, push forward, rotate down. The result is speed, accuracy, and reliability. Conventional bolt actions offer unmatched accuracy and reliability but are slow to cycle. Semi-autos are fast to cycle but not well regarded for accuracy or reliability. The Impulse delivers all three with no compromise.
The straight-pull action means there is no need to take my head off the gun or eyes off the target. Just pull it back and push it forward. This makes follow up shots unbelievably fast. For precision rifle shooters and big game hunters, keeping eyes on target with rapid follow up shots could mean the difference between a match win or a lost trophy.
Back to the Impulse
The Impulse comes maxed out with all the features found on popular Savage rifles and more. It features a blueprinted action, floating bolt head, AccuStock with adjustable cheek risers and length of pull, AccuTrigger, removable box magazines and an integrated 20 MOA picatinny rail for optics. The barrels are the same ones on the 110 models that are proven to be accurate. However, the Impulse uses a new steel barrel extension with locknut that fits into the aluminum receiver and is secured with a tried and true four-bolt barrel clamp. Swapping barrels has never been easier and the aluminum receiver helps save on weight.
On the left side of the receiver is a bolt release that allows the bolt to be placed back into the receiver without any weird manipulation. It just slides straight in. The rear of the receiver has a steel insert where the bolt makes contact. There is no steel directly contacting the aluminum receiver.
The straight-pull bolt is where the magic happens. The bolt is completely cylindrical which allows for smooth handling and prevents bolt binding. The floating bolt head can be removed without tools and swapped to change calibers (with a barrel of course). One of the coolest features of the bolt is the handle itself. The handle can be positioned in three different ways to accommodate any shooting style. Are you a lefty? No problem. Just switch the bolt handle to the left side of the bolt and you are good to go. It can be swapped to the left side in about a minute. The whole bolt is a toolless design so nothing special is needed to make any changes to the bolt head or handle.
The floating bolt head features a “Hexlock” ball bearing lock mechanism. It uses six ball bearings that are swaged into the bolt head. When the bolt handle is fully closed, a plunger inside the bolt body forces the ball bearings outward locking into the recessed area of the steel barrel extension. When a round is fired, the bearings tighten relative to pressure increase and provide an even tighter lockup for safety.
The Hexlock system has proven to be extremely tough and can safely handle magnum cartridges and high-pressure rounds. Once the bolt is closed with a live round, it remains locked and cannot be cycled. On the back of the bolt is a quick release button that unlocks the bolt to cycle or eject a live round. Safety was the top priority for Savage when designing the Impulse.
Like most other Savage rifles, the Impulse features the user adjustable AccuTrigger. It can be adjusted anywhere from 2.5-6 pounds without removing the action from the stock. The AccuFit stock allows for four different length of pull adjustments and five different cheek riser adjustments. The mid-height cheek riser was perfect for me and made the Impulse fit like a custom rifle. A Phillips-head screwdriver is required to adjust the stock.
At the event we used Hornady Precision Hunter, and Precision Match ammunition and the Impulse loved it. Starting from the prone position at 100 yards, we zeroed our scopes and then backed out to 700. I had no problems ringing steel using the 6.5CM, .308, and 300 Win. Mag.
There is a slight learning curve to the straight-pull system. Seeing the bolt fly back at your face when cycling the action is unsettling but something you get used to. At first, I had a tendency to short stroke the action. With a little practice this was quickly remedied, and I found the bolt just flies back and forth effortlessly. It was enjoyable shooting prone, but the straight-pull system shines when shooting from a standing position.
The next shooting scenario featured a 12-inch target darting from side to side. The goal was to place 8 shots inside the target as quickly as possible, freestanding. I managed to score 7 out of 8 hits with one hit landing on the rim of scoring area. Here is where I could really see the benefits of the straight-pull action. I was able to keep my head down and eyes on target when firing all 8 shots with minimal sight picture movement. The way the straight-pull cycles puts the forces straight back in your shoulder allowing shooters to stay on target. On a conventional bolt action, lifting the bolt handle causes the sight picture to be tilt. We did a few moving target scenarios walking through the woods with charging animals. On multiple occasions my reloads were so quick I had to wait several seconds for the next target to show.
On the last day of shooting, we engaged targets out to 1,400 yards. I was repeatedly able to shoot the 6.5 CM out to 1,200 yards and the 300 Win. Mag. had no issues at 1,400. For the first batch of Impulse rifles made, using standard factory ammunition, I was mystified by how accurate they were.
Throughout the weekend we put hundreds of rounds through each gun and only encountered 2 issues that were both magazine related. There could be some improvement with the Savage box magazine, but overall, the Impulse exceeded my expectations in every way. The Impulse has me convinced straight-pull rifles have the next fastest cycling action compared to semi-autos.
Impulse rifles should be available now at your local dealers. MSRP starts at $1,349.