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Product review: Savage Arms’ Impulse Rifle delivers on speed and accuracy

This rifle’s straight-pull bolt affords the shooter bolt action accuracy but is much faster to manipulate than a traditional bolt action rifle

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Picture sitting on top of a roof, behind a bolt action rifle on an armed barricade subject. The suspect comes into the crosshairs and is holding an AK-47 rifle, getting ready to engage the entry team. Deep breath, full exhale and the crosshair settles, squeeze and the shot breaks. The bullet shatters the glass and sends the suspect flying across the room.

This makes for great action movies and TV. In reality, there is no magic bullet for LE snipers that immediately stops the threat 100% of the time. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to not only have an accurate rifle but a rifle that is capable of a fast follow-up shot.

Impulse rifle line

In early 2021, Savage Arms released the new Impulse rifle line. How is this rifle different from the traditional bolt action rifle? It sports a straight-pull bolt action. The straight-pull bolt affords the shooter bolt action accuracy but is much faster to manipulate than the traditional bolt action rifle.

The three Impulse models, Hog Hunter, Big Game and the Predator, come in a variety of calibers and modifications.

The Predator in .308 is the model I chose to test and evaluate to see if it would fit the bill as a LE sniper rifle. The Predator is lightweight and sports a 20-inch medium contour carbon steel barrel. The barreled action and receiver sit in the Savage AccuStock that comes with inserts to shorten and lengthen the stock and to raise or lower the comb of the stock. The rifle also comes equipped with a detachable AICS pattern, ten-round magazine and adjustable AccuTrigger.

With these basic details covered, let’s move into the part of the Predator that really piques my interest, the straight-pull bolt design. The straight pull bolt design is not a new design, it has been around for quite some time with Swiss Military rifles like the K-11 and K-31 carbine. Until now it was seen mainly on expensive hunting rifles and the Sig Blaser Tac 2 rifles. The Sig Blaser Tac 2 was my first issued sniper rifle and I absolutely loved that straight pull design. Unfortunately, the rifles and parts are no longer imported.

The straight-pull bolt on the Impulse is an interesting design. The bolt locks up using Savage’s patented Hexlock bearing system. When the bolt is pushed forward it locks the bearings into place, evenly and consistently. When the shooter pulls the trigger or uses the unlock button on the rear, the bearings unlock, and the bolt can be pulled straight back.

Impulse Rifle performance

Now to get into the important stuff, how did the rifle perform?

On the day I was able to get to the range for testing it was 46 degrees, 36% humidity and the winds were gusting and changing direction from 20-25 mph. The winds would change from a headwind to a full value at 9 o’clock. The riflescope I put on the Predator was the Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen II, 3-18X50, with an EBR7C MRAD reticle.

Before I even sent the first round downrange to zero, I had to manipulate the straight-pull bolt and test the trigger. After ensuring there were no rounds in the chamber and the rifle was clear, I sent the bolt forward and got behind the rifle. As I peered through the scope and lined up the crosshairs on my target, a forceful exhale and steady rearward pressure, the trigger broke clean and crisp. There was no stacking, lengthy pull or spongy break.

After that crisp break of the trigger, I wanted to run the bolt and see how it compares to my old Blaser Tac 2.

The bolt released and came back with little effort and pushed it back into battery very smoothly. As compared to the Blaser Tac 2, it wasn’t quite as smooth or effortless. However, the Blaser Tac2 had about 10 years of solid use to break it in.

Once I did a quick boresight to make sure I was on paper, it was time to zero and send rounds downrange. For testing purposes, I decided to use Federal Gold Medal Match 168 gr, .308 and Federal Tactical Bonded 168 gr, .308. Both rounds are used by LE sniper teams across the country.

The big question for me, was how was the straight-pull bolt going to operate feeding rounds from a magazine? I have tested other, more expensive bolt action rifles that had a smooth bolt but once a magazine came into play it was challenging to chamber a round.

Once I loaded up three rounds of the Gold Medal match into the magazine it was time to get to work. After extending my Harris Bipod and getting down into a prone position with my Weibad rear bag, I had no trouble inserting the mag and pushed the bolt forward, locking it into place with ease. The bolt operated just as smoothly as it did earlier with no magazine or ammo.

My next concern was the recoil because the rifle was so light. I was concerned that the rifle would jump way off target and would mitigate the speed advantage of the straight-pull bolt. Due to the design of the stock and the recoil pad, recoil was definitely manageable and did not cause the crosshairs to jump way off the target.

Once the rifle was sighted in, I started the group tests with the Federal Gold Medal Match. The speed of the straight-pull bolt proved to be a great advantage when firing three round groups between wind gusts.

At 100yds the rifle proved to be accurate and hold the standard for LE sniper rifles of 1 moa. The accuracy difference between the GMM and Tactical Bonded round was minimal. The GMM printed 3 round groups ranging from .292-1.02 with the majority in the .5 to .75 range. The Tactical bonded printed 3 round groups with the best being a .37 and worst being .79 inches.

After getting to put rounds down range with the Predator, I was very impressed with how it handled. It was extremely fast, not quite semi-auto, but much faster than the traditional bolt action. As far as accuracy, it definitely fits the role for a LE sniper rifle. Even better is the price point, it is definitely a budget-friendly option for departments.

While LE snipers would like their one well-placed round to stop the threat, the reality is that there are too many factors to make that a reality 100% of the time. So a rifle capable of a fast follow-up shot is a must and Savage’s new Impulse Predator fits that role. Remember, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and the Predator achieves that.

Harry Fitzpatrick has served as a police officer in an urban police department for 15 years. He is currently assigned to a SWAT/sniper unit.