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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.