2023 Editor’s Choice Award – Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter

Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter

America’s straight-pull sheds the weight

Savage Arms surprised American shooters two years ago by introducing its straight-pull Impulse rifle. Before then, guns with straight-pull actions were mostly expensive playthings for Europeans. Savage was betting that Americans would embrace the primary benefit of straight-pull rifles (they are, in a word, fast) if Savage could bring the design to market at a relatively affordable price compared to similar European guns. In this, Savage succeeded admirably, and the Impulse gained a footing. The Impulse rifles were, as advertised, fast, accurate, and relatively affordable, but they were not exactly lightweight.

They are now. The new On Target Editors’ Choice Award-winning Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter tips the scales at a hair over 7 pounds. I found the Mountain Hunter light enough to carry comfortably for most jobs, but I didn’t feel like the rifle might blow away in a stiff breeze.

The Savage Impulse straight-pull action has been around for two years now, is widely proven, and directly competes with European offerings costing far more. In a word, its HexLock ball-bearing bolt is fast. The bolt handle can be swapped to either side for ambidextrous operation. The tang-mounted safety lever is easy to reach and operate. A 20 MOA Picatinny optic rail is integral to the top of the aluminum receiver

Savage achieved weight savings in the Mountain Hunter mostly by switching from beefy contour steel barrels to carbon fiber-wrapped, stainless-steel barrels from Proof Research. These barrels, with single-point cut rifling, aren’t just lighter than traditional barrels. They have a well-deserved reputation for delivering match-grade accuracy, better heat dissipation, and longer barrel life with less point-of-impact shift during high-volume firing.

Savage Impulse rifles have typically been a tad on the heavy side — until now. Cutting the overall weight — and barrel-cooling times — down considerably is the Mountain Hunter’s Proof Research carbon-fiber-wrapped stainless steel barrel. The Mountain Hunter comes standard with a muzzle brake, but shown attached here to the 5/8×24 threaded muzzle is Silencer Central’s ultra-lightweight Banish Backcountry suppressor (www.silencercentral.com).

The barrel on my test rifle, chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor with a 1:8 twist, was threaded and came with a muzzle brake installed. The rifle is currently offered in nine different chamberings. The heart of the rifle is still the straight-pull action within an aluminum receiver, which is built around a HexLock bolt employing six stainless steel ball bearings and a detent in the receiver to achieve a solid lock-up. When you push the bolt forward, the bolt handle rotates forward and engages a mechanism that expands the ring of bearings into the detent. The bolt handle rotates to the rear when you pull the bolt back. The mechanism remains locked until the trigger is depressed, but there’s a bolt-release button at the rear of the bolt that lets you unlock the bolt and unload the rifle. The removable bolt handle is ambidextrous and can be adjusted to operate in multiple positions. Operating the straight-pull action is far faster than a traditional bolt action. Capacity varies by chambering, with the magazine for my 6.5 Creedmoor rifle holding four rounds. Magazines for some of the fatter cartridge cases, like 300 Win. Mag. or 7mm Rem. Mag., hold only two or three rounds.

The detachable magazine for the tested 6.5 Creedmoor chambering has a four-round capacity, while larger chamberings have either a two or three-round capacity. The Mountain Hunter is equipped with the iconic and much-copied Savage AccuTrigger, adjustable from 1.5-4 pounds.

The barreled action is nestled into the innovative and rock-solid Savage AccuStock system, which employs an aluminum rail to engage the action three-dimensionally along its entire length. The synthetic stock continues to use the Savage AccuFit design, which allows you to use a system of provided spacers and risers to adjust length-of-pull and comb height for a custom rifle fit. The stock comes with a generously sized, soft rubber recoil pad that does a good job of mitigating recoil. It also has soft, textured, non-slip panels in the grip and forearm for a sure grip in inclement weather.

The rifle is equipped with the iconic and much-copied Savage AccuTrigger, which is adjustable within a range of 1.5-4 pounds. The trigger is paired with a two-position, tang-mounted safety lever that is easy to reach and operate with the thumb of the shooting hand.

The Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter proved relatively light, fast-cycling, reliable, and accurate. Eliminating two movements from the typical throw of a bolt-action rifle meant that, with practice, one could fire the Impulse nearly as quickly as a semiautomatic rifle. The AccuStock buttstock features three-dimensional aluminum bedding and can be custom-fit to the shooter via the included AccuFit length-of-pull and comb height spacers.

Notably, Savage set this rifle up for long-range shooting out of the box. Atop the receiver, you will find an integral, one-piece 20 MOA Picatinny rail for mounting scopes. Range testing was done with one of my favorite riflescopes for this purpose, the Trijicon Credo HX 2.5-15X42mm model.

Functionally, everything worked as it should. The push-feed action fed rounds reliably, and I had to resist the temptation to fire shot strings too close together to give the barrel a chance to cool between groups. I was pleased to discover that the carbon fiber-wrapped barrel cooled down far more quickly than all-steel barrels.

All four tested 6.5 Creedmoor loads produced sub-MOA average groups despite being tested on a day when the wind varied 5-15 mph. Hornady’s Precision Hunter 143-grain load was the most accurate load tested, with average groups measuring 0.57-inch and a half-inch best group.

I have seldom shot a Savage rifle that was not accurate, and the Impulse Mountain Hunter was no exception. All four tested 6.5 Creedmoor loads tested in the rifle produced three three-shot average groups at 100 yards measuring less than an inch, which was very good performance considering all testing was done on a day when the wind varied 5-15 mph. Hornady’s Precision Hunter 143-grain ELD-X load proved to be the most consistently accurate load tested, with average groups measuring 0.57-inch and a 0.50-inch best group. Three other loads, using 120-grain and 140-grain bullets, turned in average groups measuring three-quarters of an inch to just under one inch, with some half-inch best groups.

With an MSRP of $2,437, the Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s still far more affordable than the well-known European straight-pull rifles. A big chunk of that price is due to the rifle’s carbon fiber barrel, as Impulse models with traditional steel barrels cost roughly $1,000 less. That’s simply the price of admission for using carbon fiber barrels. For more information, contact Savage Arms; Tel.: (800) 370-0708; Web: www.savagearms.comMike Dickerson


Caliber:                      6.5 Creedmoor

Action Type:               Straight-pull bolt action

Trigger:                      Adjustable AccuTrigger

Barrel:                        22-inch stainless, carbon fiber-wrapped

Rate of twist:              1-8”

Receiver Finish:          Matte Black

Stock:                        AccuStock synthetic

Magazine Capacity:    4+1

Sights:                      Picatinny rail

Weight:                      7.16 pounds

MSRP:                       $2,437