William W (Bill) Gabbard
The folks at Savage have never been afraid to “step outside the box” when it comes to designing their rifles. The “ACCUFIT”, “ACCUSTOCK”, and the “ACCUTRIGGER” are just a few of their many innovations that come to mind. They have taken a huge leap out of the box this time with their new Impulse. This is an innovative design. It is my first experience with a Straight-Pull action on a center-fire rifle. The Impulse uses a cylindrical bolt and what Savage calls “HEXLOCK” to lock the bolt in position. The rifle features an integral Picatinny rail to facilitate scope mounting. It also features an ambidextrous safety which really makes sense once you find out that the bolt handle can be moved from the right to the left side of the action without tools. Overall, Savage has 13 patented innovations packed into the Impulse.
I was sent a Savage Impulse Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor to test. The predator arrived with a Zeiss Conquest Z4 4-16x50 scope already mounted to the integral Picatinny rail using Zeiss rings. The Predator has a matt black aluminum receiver and carbon steel barrel, with a matte black finish that works quite well with the Mossy Oak Terra Gila Camo. This was the first firearm that I had seen in Mossy Oak Terra Gila. This combination pattern should work extremely well in the tall grass, weeds, and small brush where a lot of your quick setups are when predator hunting. The lightning-fast action combined with the 10 round AICS detachable magazine should be just the ticket for quick follow-up shots, or shots at multiple targets. The 20-inch medium contour barrel is threaded with a thread protector installed. This makes for quick changes if you want to use a muzzle brake or suppressor, both popular options among predator hunters.
The first issue I had was the fact that the Impulse came chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. I realized that I didn’t have a single round of factory 6.5 Creedmoor ammo in my stash! I searched every retail outlet within driving distance and every online source I could think of to no avail. Hornady and Nosler came through with some ammo. Then, Nosler as well as Capstone Precision, came through with a few .264 bullets to try with handloads.
Even though the rifle arrived already set up, the operators manual was not in the box. A quick visit to Savage’s website for a little familiarization and I was ready to head to the range. A little range time quickly revealed that Savage’s claim of accuracy is not just hype. To quote a friend of mine, “This thing is a shooter.” While I don’t think there is such a thing as a rifle that will shoot anything you throw at it, the Impulse liked just about everything I tried.
Four of the first five factory loads I tried through the Impulse turned in groups of less than 1 inch. Hornady’s 143gr Eld-X Precision Hunter fired an impressive 0.281-inch group and backed it up with a 0.216. Under a quarter-inch group with a bone stock rifle and factory ammo is really getting it done! Hornady’s 95 gr V-Max “Varmint Express” load was right behind with a 0.272 group, following up with a 0.243 group. This light recoiling load sending the 95 gr V-Max bullet going down range at 3300 fps almost seems to have been custom built for the Impulse Predator. When zeroed at 200 yards it only drops 5.7 inches at 300. The light recoil, fast moving bullet and the fast follow-up shots allowed by the Impulse’s Straight pull action should make this a predator hunter’s dream combination. Hornady’s 129 gr Interlock load had back-to-back 3 shot groups of 0.637, 0.638 and 0.640. Nosler builds a factory load using their 120 gr Ballistic Tip bullet, an old deer hunter’s favorite. This load shot 4 three-shot groups, all under an inch with an incredible 0.145-inch group for the best group. Three different factory loads produced three-shot groups under a quarter of an inch. That kind of accuracy is rarely seen in a stock rifle using factory ammo.
While waiting for more factory ammunition to arrive, that never showed, I pulled out my reloading logbook and put together a few sets of test loads using some tried and true loads that had performed well in other 6.5 Creedmoor rifles that I had worked with. In addition, I tried loads using Nosler 129 gr AccuBond Long Range bullets and Berger 130 gr Hybrid OTM Tactical bullets and Berger 135 gr Classic Hunters. By the time I finished playing with these loads, I had thirteen groups using 6 bullets and 6 different powders that came in under an inch. Four of the bullets had groups of less than one half inch. The Sierra 130 gr Tipped Game King had the best group at 0.278. Hornady’s 123 SST bullet produced groups under 1 inch with four different powders. None of these loads were what an experienced loader would consider finished. There was still plenty of potential in each load to increase accuracy by testing varying bullets seating depths, powder charges, and primer testing.
NOTE: All hand loads used Hornady full length sized Brass.
CAUTION: All hand loads should start at least 10% below published maximums and increase while watching for signs of excessive pressure.
The Savage Impulse is different! Let’s just put that out there. At first, I found myself trying to lift the bolt before pulling back. Everyone that I encountered at the range did the same thing. Once I got familiar with the rifle and broke that old habit, I found that the rifle is incredibly fast for a second shot. Shooting at the bench and trying to work the action easy to catch my brass just simply didn’t work. It reminded me of the adage that I was always told about a Pump-action Shotgun: work it like you are trying to break it. This method simply worked the best for me with the Impulse. Straight pull actions have been popular in Europe for decades but have never really caught on in the United States.
Whether the Impulse will be a commercial success remains to be seen, but the one thing that stands out about the Impulse, if you look at the tables above, is accuracy. Whether you shoot factory ammo or “roll your own,” there is no reason that with a minimum of effort you should not be able to find a load to go after whatever game you are pursuing. I must quote my friend once more, “This thing is a shooter!”