The Savage Impulse — The Beyond Cool Bolt Gun

I’m not much of a bolt action kind of guy. I lack the range to put a long-range weapon through its paces, and I was born into a shotgun family. Don’t get me wrong. I can still appreciate a good bolt gun. They just rarely get my motor running. One that finally did was the Savage Impulse. How did the Impulse metaphorically flirt with me?

Well, Savage promised a straight-pull bolt gun, something many of us are unlikely to be familiar with. As a milsurp fan, I do appreciate the K-31 and the M1895 Lee-Navy, but I had never seen a modern hunting rifle with a straight-pull bolt.

What’s The Big Deal With A Straight-pull Bolt?

Most bolt action rifles utilize a rotating bolt design. For the shooter to reload the weapon, they have to grip the bolt, rotate it upwards, and then pull the bolt rearward to eject a casing. Then they have to shove the bolt forward and rotate downwards to fire once more. A straight-pull bolt only has two motions, pull the bolt rearward, push the bolt forward.

A straight-pull bolt makes it easy to get fast follow-up shots on target.

As far as manual actions go, this is faster and often simpler than a rotary bolt design. Straight pull bolt guns are popular in Europe due to their rapid-fire design and the fact that semi-autos are often banned. Lots of European companies like Blaser produce straight-pull bolt guns, but it’s rare for American companies to take up the challenge.

The Impulse from Savage Arms brings the straight-pull rifle home.

The Savage Impulse — Predator

It does so with three different models. We have the Hog Hunter, the Big Game, and the Predator. I’m handling the Predator model today, in the classic .308 Winchester. Each rifle offers different barrel lengths, calibers, and stock options.

The Hog Hunter is the lightest and shortest, the Big Game offers long action cartridges like the .300 Winchester Magnum, and the Predator falls in-between. These rifles use the AICS magazines, and the Predator comes with a single ten-round magazine. We get a Mossy Oak camouflaged stock, a 20-inch threaded barrel, and it’s optics ready.

Savage Impulse magazine
The Savage Impulse magazine platform is AICS, and is quite common.

Our stock is adjustable with a set of spacers to allow the shooter to set the length of pull. One of the first things I did was shorten it to 12.75. Even though I’m a big dude, I’m comfortable with a shorter length of pull. The comb height can also be adjusted, but it was comfortable from the factory for me.

On top of the receiver sits a 20 MOA Picatinny rail that is machined as part of the receiver. This means you’ll never need to worry about loose rail syndrome. There is plenty of room for whatever optic you’ll want, and I attached a Primary Arms GLx 2.5-10X.

Savage Impulse bolt action rifle
The Impulse is a little hefty, but easy to shoot.

My Predator comes in the good ole fashioned .308 Winchester, and with some ammunition sent from our friends at Remington, I was ready to hit the field.

Setting The Impulse Up For Success

Zeroing is obviously the first thing I needed to do with the GLx and the Impulse. I started at 50 yards, made sure I was on paper, and moved back to 100 yards. I dialed in and began shooting my 100-yard groups. I’m also testing the GLx optic, so I used this opportunity to test the turret’s adjustments and slowly walked the rounds from the outer ring directly to the bull’s eye.

Savage Impulse bolt release and safety
The bolt release and safety is easy to manipulate.

Holy crap, is the Impulse Predator an accurate gun. The rounds land next to each other consistently, and the Accu-trigger never fails to impress. It mixes a very light trigger with a Glock-style metal blade safety. This ensures you get the accuracy of a light trigger without any of the traditional risks it offers.

Once I dialed the optic in, I created a very tight group in the center. Of course, it was plagued by a flyer when I got a little overzealous. Minus my overzealous nature, and this is a sub-MOA gun at one hundred yards. With both Remington and Winchester ammunition, I scored groups in the .70 inch range at 100 yards.

Savage Impulse shot group
At 100 yards I got a little overzealous but I felt good with my results.

I feel incredibly confident about taking this gun on my next hog hunt, or my future coyote hunt, or hell, it’s accurate enough that I feel confident taking it against prairie dogs. The Savage Accu-Bed system, the fine-tuned factory headspace, and the awesome trigger do their job.

That Bolt

I haven’t mentioned the bolt yet because it really deserves an entire section. The Impulse and its straight-pull bolt are a fantastic pair. The bolt is a lot like a shotgun’s pump. Once the weapon is loaded and cocked, the bolt is locked in place. This way, nothing hits the bolt and opens up the action.

Savage Impulse with bolt to the rear
Bringing the bolt rearward doesn’t require you to break your sight picture.

A button at the rear of the bolt will allow the bolt to be manually unlocked and cycled. This way, you can easily and safely clear the weapon. After the weapon is fired (or trigger pulled), the bolt unlocks much like a shotgun pump.

Manipulating the straight-pull bolt is swift and fast. I would say it’s easily as fast as a lever gun without the downsides of a lever gun. Meaning I can work the bolt in the prone without breaking my position. Plus, I can fire spitzer bullets that maximize range and power. You can toss fast follow-up shots downrange with ease and with accuracy.

Savage Impulse ambidextrous magazine release
The mag release is nice, ambidextrous, and easy to use.

Killing hogs in Florida often means more than one, and being able to take an extra shot might result in an extra kill. A rapid, easy-moving bolt makes this entirely possible. The Savage Impulse combines a rapid bolt action with an accurate platform that’s perfect for scoring quick kills.

The bolt doesn’t protrude far enough rearward to pop you in the face. You can manipulate the bolt without breaking your sight picture so that follow-up shots stay quick and easy.

The Impulse of the Impulse

Another feature that makes the Impulse easy and rapid to fire is the recoil impulse. It’s fairly light — surprisingly so for a bolt gun. I honestly expected a little more jump, a little more rearward force, but I was left pleasantly surprised.

The Savage Impulse doesn’t hit with significant force. It’s downright pleasant, to be honest. Why is it so pleasant? Well, it’s because the rifle is hefty. The Impulse Predator weighs 8.7 pounds unloaded and without an optic. With the optic, we’ve hit the ten-pound point. All that weight makes it a bit hefty for carrying through the woods but makes it easy to stabilize and reduces recoil.

Savage Impulse hunting rifle
With hunting season in full swing, the Impulse is one helluva awesome option for the deer blind.

The weight is the only real downside of the Impulse, but even then, it comes in handy for making that fast follow-up shots. Savage put together a fantastic rifle and offers a bolt configuration, unlike most sporting rifles on the market.

The Savage Impulse does pack a heftier price than most. The MSRP is $1,379.00 dollars, with the street price being fairly lower. To be fair, that price point put lower than all the European straight-pull bolts on the market. In fact, it’s downright humble compared to a Blaser or a Browning Maral.

What do you think about straight-pull guns? Do they have a place in your tree stand? Let us know below.