Savage Arms IMPULSE: American Made Straight Pull Rifle

The new Savage Arms IMPULSE rifles are a whole new breed of rifle that raises the market to a new higher level. There have been European straight pull rifles for decades, but now there is an American made design at a much more affordable price point and loaded with additional features.

Simple and fast to operate, though not so simple to manufacture, the IMPULSE line has been in the works at Savage for 2 years. The new rifle features 13 new patents to develop and secure the design. It opens a whole new world for fast operating, accurate rifles. I hardly know where to start describing the IMPULSE.

Overview

For those of us accustomed to running standard bolt action rifles, it takes a little practice to break the habit of lifting the bolt handle to open the action and pushing down to close it. When operating the IMPULSE straight-pull action, pulling the bolt handle rearward causes it to cam backward unlocking the HEXLOCK locking ball-bearings. Continue pulling the bolt handle straight to the rear until it reaches full cycle, and then push it straight forward until it stops, locking up the HEXLOCK ball-bearings in their machined recesses in the barrel extension.

HEXLOCK locking ball-bearings clearly visible on floating bolt head of factory blueprinted action.

The HEXLOCK bolt utilizes 6 ball bearings that are forced outward radially from the bolt head into the barrel extension to lock the bolt in place when the bolt handle is pushed forward. As pressure increases when a cartridge is fired the pressure causes the bolt to lock up even tighter. The IMPULSE action is rated for standard and magnum cartridges.

Since the hardened steel bearings lock into a barrel extension attached to the barrel, the IMPULSE still has steel on steel lock-up for extreme strength. The action is actually made of aluminum to reduce weight and has a 20-moa scope base machined into the top. This eliminates one failure point of scope mounting; the base coming loose. This mitigates the additional cost of buying a base for your new rifle.  

Integral 20-moa base and familiar Savage barrel nut on the free-floated barrel.

When the bolt handle is pushed forward into the closed position the bolt latches in that position so that it can’t be bumped open during handling. Pulling the trigger obviously releases the bolt to allow rearward cycling. There is also a quick-release button on the back of the bolt that can be pushed to release the bolt to cycle it rearward for ejecting unfired rounds or chamber checks.

Bolt quick-release button is easily accessible on back of bolt.

The bolt handle of the IMPULSE is removable from the bolt with just a bullet point. Push in the plunger and slide off the retainer cap. Once it is removed the angle of the bolt handle can be shifted to suit the shooter. I changed the angle backward one position to place the bolt at a more natural angle for me to cycle the action. 

Teeth on bolt handle allow the multiple angles for handle mounting.

In addition to being able to change the angle of the bolt handle, it can also be shifted to the left side of the gun for left-handed shooters. The IMPULSE rifles are fitted with Savage’s well known, user-adjustable AccuTrigger. The factory trigger on the test rifle broke cleanly at an average weight of 2.9 lbs. and required no adjustment.

Bolt release and bolt handle retaining assembly on left side of action/ bolt.

The Predator model I received for review was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and has a varmint weight 20” barrel. The barrel’s muzzle is threaded for a suppressor or muzzle break and comes with a protective cap.

The action and barrel of the Predator are fed from a Savage 10 round AI pattern magazine. The bottom metal allows rapid reloads, and the magazine worked flawlessly. I also tested the rifle with a couple of other AI magazines I had, and they worked perfectly as well. The magazine is released by an ambidextrous release located at the front of the trigger guard. The release is easily reached and operated with the index finger.

Proprietary bottom metal with ambi-mag release and AccuTrigger.

The IMPULSE’s mossy oak camouflaged AccuStock has the AccuFit adjustable length of pull and replaceable cheekpieces of varying heights. The stock has 4 spacers of different thicknesses to allow users to adjust the stock to the perfect length. 

The IMPULSE came with 5 different height stock cheekpieces. This allows shooters to get just the right comb height to match scope and ring height for precise alignment between the scope and shooter’s eye.

To change the cheekpiece, simply remove the recoil pad and installed length spacers, slide the cheekpiece about 3/8” rearward, and lift it out of the stock.

Stock adjustment accessories, even the required different length screws are included.

I shortened the stock a ¼ inch and increased the comb height one level to fit me and the scope I was using. Oh, and that recoil pad happens to be the softest, squishiest I have ever felt and it soaked up all the recoil of the 6.5 CM, making the gun a joy to shoot.

Specs

Calibers            22-250 Rem, 243 Win, l308 Win, 6.5 CM (tested)           

Weight             8.7 pounds

Length             41.5inches (+ or -)

Barrel               20-inch Varmint Weight

Trigger             Adjustable AccuTrigger

MSRP               $1,379

Performance

So, how did this revolutionary new Savage Arms rifle perform? In a word – Awesome. Working the action did take a little getting used to but then it was as designed – really fast. I ran several runs doing a drill with a shot timer to see how fast I could cycle and shoot the rifle at a steel target from 50 yards offhand.

I started aimed at the target and on the buzzer, I fired the first shot, cycled the rifle, fired the second shot, cycled again, and fired a third shot. I got hits with each shot to simulate shooting hogs or equivalent game.

On my first attempt, the timer clocked the first shot around at .26 second, my reaction time to pull the trigger, the second shot was recorded at 1.54 seconds. This means from the first shot to the second was 1.28 seconds; that’s cycling the action, getting on target, and pulling the trigger in one and a quarter second.

The third shot was recorded at 3.26 seconds, that’s 1.72 seconds for the cycling and getting the 3rd shot off. On this one, I did pull further off the target while cycling the action and took slightly longer to get back on target and break the shot.

100 yard group from Hornady’s 147 ELD-M

So, taking out my first reaction time to the buzzer that makes 3 shots in 3 seconds. The second run was a bit smoother and the third shot was recorded at 3.22 seconds with a .25 first shot. The next day I actually got times down into the 2.8-second ranges with the same first shot averages, so now getting 3 shots in around 2.6 seconds. Yes, the straight pull gun is fast and also allows staying on target better because all the motion is linear with the target.

So, the new action is fast, the stock is fully adjustable and comfortable, but does the IMPULSE and the new action design still deliver the same outstanding Savage Arms accuracy? Beyond a shadow of a doubt – Yes. 

100 yard Federal Berger 130 grn group

The scope I wanted to put on the rifle for testing didn’t arrive due to the holiday chaos, so I mounted an available 2.5 – 10x Nightforce 30mm tube scope on the Predator. This is a bit underpowered for the potential of the 6.5 CM, but a 10-power mil based scope can reach further than most believe.

I zeroed the rifle at 100 yards with Hornady 147 ELD-M ammunition and also shot Federal’s Gold Medal Berger’s 130-grain Hybrid Open Tip Match (OTM). Both these loads have proven to be very accurate in previous 6.5 CM testing.

300 yard Federal group size was very promising

At 100 yards both loads shot under 1-inch groups. Moving to 300 yards the rifle (and both loads) continued to show fantastic accuracy even with some gusty winds. The rifle managed to get groups just under ½ moa at 300 yards. This is really good for shooting from a bipod and rear bag.

The IMPULSE Predator was doing so well it deserved to be stretched out a bit further. 500 yards was the most I was able to reach and as usual the further I shoot the more I follow the “aim small, miss small” theory. The 500-yard shooting was the following day under calm conditions from front and rear bags.

500 yard group exceed all expectations

Calm conditions from a solid position resulted in amazing groups. Due to limited ammunition, I wasn’t able to shoot as many as I liked but the IMPULSE shot both loads better than I typically see at 500 yards.

The Hornady Match 147 ELD-M load shot a 2.1-inch group while holding 3 mils in the reticle on the target. The group landed 3 inches high at the 500-yard distance. That is less than a ½ moa group –  very impressive.

Unbelievable 500 yard group for a factory gun

The IMPULSE performed even better with the Federal 130 Berger Hybrid OTM’s. A new personal record for me with a 1.36-inch group at 500 yards. The 130 Berger’s chronographed at 2827 fps out of the IMPULSEs 20” barrel, just 48 fps less than the advertised velocity of 2875. 

These lighter, faster bullets had 4” less drop than the 147 Hornady’s moving at 2605 fps. Good thing that the target had an upper zone or I wouldn’t have hit it. I would have thought this group was a fluke, except for all the other groups were great as well.

Final Thoughts

Compact, accurate and fast shooting IMPULSE Predator

The new Savage Arms IMPULSE Predator is head and shoulders above the pack and sets a new standard for competing rifles to meet; wait there aren’t any real competitors. The AccuStock is comfortable and user adaptable for length of pull and comb height, and it has the familiar adjustable AccuTrigger. 

The bolt handle and mag release can be operated from the left side and that it is fed from a proven magazine platform, all for a fraction of the price of what European straight pulls cost. It’s really slick, very fast to operate, incredibly accurate; perhaps the most accurate rifle I have ever shot. The IMPULSE is available in three models, the Predator (tested), the Big Game, and the Hog Hunter; and in multiple calibers. My hat is off to Savage Arms on the IMPULSE, and for keeping it a secret during development.

For more information visit Savage Arms

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About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • David April 7, 2021, 6:39 am

    Please answer a couple questions for me? Is it available in left hand bolt? Also, What’s causing the upper right rear of the receiver to get dinged up, as I can plainly see in several of your pix? Thanks

  • Singleshotcajun March 19, 2021, 2:20 pm

    So Savage copied the Heym SR30. I still think a rotating bolt straight pull design is better and safer.

  • TJ Reeder March 19, 2021, 2:09 pm

    In the ’60s Browning made one in 22 LR, wish I had bought one, a nice rifle. But it didn’t seem to take hold with folks.

  • Joe March 19, 2021, 12:08 pm

    Good shooting. Good article.

  • Jerome Forster March 19, 2021, 10:36 am

    What is an AI magazine. Please be more specific as I sell mags and don’t know what AI stands for.

    • man_o_brass March 31, 2021, 2:44 pm

      Accuracy International pattern magazines

  • joe jensen March 19, 2021, 9:54 am

    I have a Savage model 25 walking varminter, in .223, This rifle would be a perfect replacement when the time comes to replace it.It dose need to be manufactured in more calibers.

  • Javon Butler March 16, 2021, 12:24 pm

    this rifle is so amazing. got to shoot one at our local range the other day and i know what im getting when my stimulus check arrives! thanks Biden!

  • Scott March 16, 2021, 6:36 am

    “In addition to being able to change the angle of the bolt handle, it can also be shifted to the left side of the gun for left-handed shooters.”

    Plus the simple removable barrel with repeatable zero and headspace control?!?!?!?!?

    Awesome.

  • JOHN T. FOX March 15, 2021, 6:19 pm

    IF YOU GET THE BRL CROYED AT 300 BELOW.COM YOUR 3 SHOT GROUPS WILL LOOK LIKE THE 2ND AND 3RD SHOT OF THE FEDERAL GROUP. I HAD A 12 GA MOSSBERG 500 DONE AND IT SHOT SO BAD THAT THE FIRST SHOT WAS 3′ HIGH AND 5′ WIDE. THE SECOND SHOT WAS 5′ ABOVE THE SECOND SHOT. THE THIRD SHOT WAS EXACTLY THE SAM HEIGHT AS THE SECOND SHOT BUT 8′ TO THE RIGHT OF THE SECOND SHOT. THAT’S FEET NOT INCHES USING 2 3/4″ FEDERAL HP SLUGS.
    AFTER I GOT IT BACK, I HIT DEAD CENTER THE BULLSEYE. THE SECOND SHOT WAS HALF IN AND HALF ABOVE THE FIRST SHOT. THE THIRD SHOT WAS EXACTLY 2″ TO THE RIGHT OF THE SECOND SHOT. IT EXPONENTALY SHRUNK THE GROUP. I WAS SHOOTING FREEHAND AT 40 YARDS BOTH TIMES SAME CONDITIONS. A RUGER 22/45 THAT COULD SHOOT A QUARTER 10 SHOT GROUP AT 20 YARDS FREEHAND BEFORE CRYO, SHOT A DIME SIZED 10 SHOT GROUP AND ALL 10 SHOTS WERE EITHER IN THE FIRST HOLE (7) OR IN/TOUCHING THE PREVIOUS HOLE (8,9,10). KNIVES GET SHARPER TOO! I’VE NEVER HAD A BAD RESULT. NOTE: REM CHOKE BRLS IMPROVE AT MOST 40%. FIXED CHOKES THOUSANDS OF PERCENT TO 2X BETTER. THE RULE OF THUMB IS THE WORSE IT SHOOTS THE GREATER IT WILL IMPROVE. AS FOR KNIVES, THE DULLER THE GREATER THE IMPROVEMENT.

  • August Bender March 15, 2021, 2:21 pm

    This is a very nice rifle which displays outstanding dispersion [group size] at long range in the tested caliber, 6.5 Creedmoor, a cartridge known for excellent long range dispersion. The action shows very clever engineering to facilitate the straight pull design. The included stock adjustment accessories, to get the right length of pull and comb height, are also great. Overall though, I view this as a solution in search of a problem. Sure, the action can be cycled slightly faster than a conventional bolt action, but when do you need that for a hunting rifle? If you need to fire multiple shots really fast, get a semi-auto rifle. This is a nice rifle, but it is very expensive compared to a conventional bolt action made by Savage, Remington, Winchester or any number of other manufacturers. If you have the money and like this rifle, by all means buy it, but there are many less expensive rifles which are also very nice and will get the job done.

  • Earl Gabbard March 15, 2021, 2:04 pm

    Are there any made for us lefties?

    • Ej harbet March 16, 2021, 6:56 pm

      All work for left and right handed.

    • Joe March 19, 2021, 12:05 pm

      C’mon man. Did you read the article? It says in multiple spots that the bolt is designed to be left or right handed. As well as having ambi mag release,

      • Kane March 19, 2021, 8:22 pm

        Maybe he was wondering if fools that voted for Joe Biden would be able to walk in stores and buy these firearms since supply is NOT meeting demand right now.

  • Dan Moore March 15, 2021, 11:40 am

    HATE to say this: my first thought – strictly due to the current times – was “I wonder where he got the ammo”? This looks amazing. It’s funny, a celebrated old gunsmith I knew (Jerry Klufas) often tried designing a non-turning bolt in the 70’s using ball bearings to lock as well as angled spring loaded cams (like a door’s handle lock). In both cases he created a working example but thought the reaming of the barrel behind the chamber would prove cost prohibitive. Looks like Savage pulled it off, in style.

  • Dominic March 15, 2021, 11:26 am

    Nice work Savage. The commitment to development is what is needed. Yes many have their own favorites and that is what is great about guns in general. That said, innovation like the straight pull gives us more options. The accuracy is outstanding. Hogs, Elk, coyotes or paper. Looks great. Along with adjustable stocks. Thank You

  • Dan Bisone March 15, 2021, 10:47 am

    Appropriate weight for a varmint rifle. The big game version would be a good choice for a beanfield rifle that you carry a short distance into a blind. Savage continues to release well engineered rifles. Buying this in 6.5CM and a Ultralight with the Proof carbon barrel in 300 WSM would give you options for every North American hunting situation.

  • missourisam March 15, 2021, 9:11 am

    Nice rifle, and well worth the price in today’s market. For that kind of money I do believe I can lift the bolt handle on my Mauser for the rest of my life. Granted I spent some time and sweat to lap the action locking lugs and tweak the military trigger, but unless the shooter is not up to par my Mauser will out shoot the Savage. Thanks but no thanks.

  • Gerald Brickwood March 15, 2021, 8:51 am

    Now if they’d only make in 5.56 NATO or .223 Wylde and compatible with AR type magazines it would be a real winner.

  • BRUCE March 15, 2021, 8:32 am

    WOULD YOU USE ON ELK WOULD LIKE TO KNOW CUZ IAM GOING ON ELK HUNT AND LOVE LITE RECCOIL

    • Solomon March 15, 2021, 10:38 pm

      Why can’t you type in proper English? It is very hard to take you seriously when your question is presented in the fashion that you chose.

  • pete March 15, 2021, 8:09 am

    a straight pull, kinda like a akm or ar15. but manually activated by the user in place of gas cycling.

    not likely to sell well in the US market

    • carl March 15, 2021, 10:01 am

      I dont think you understand the concept of “strait pull” rifle. This nothing like an AR15, its not even in the same class of firearms.

  • Frank S. March 15, 2021, 7:00 am

    I like my K31 straight pull, though a friend is leery of it. doesn’t like not turning the bolt physically to lock it in place. All I could tell him is the Swiss used it as a military rifle, and it wasn’t the first! If it would stand up to battlefield conditions and new, untrained troops, there was no worries.

    Good to see an American made one, and some new tech to boot! Looks to be a very versatile, adjustable rifle. I particularly like the easily adjustable bolt angle. I’m not in the market for a bolt gun right now, but this would be the first I looked at. It’s a bit pricey (Savage XP is 1/3 the price), but the adjustability almost makes up for it.

  • Jonathan March 15, 2021, 6:49 am

    It’s muzzle “brake”, not “break”. But it’s still an awesome rifle. Good write-up.

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