• Diving into the Details of the New Impulse from Savage Arms

    As I'm sure many are by now aware due to the leak on Savage's own website on New year's Eve, Savage Arms is launching an all new straight pull bolt-action centerfire rifle design dubbed the Impulse for 2021. Many might be questioning "Why a straight pull?" or may be wondering if this new design will be as accurate, reliable and strong as Savage's time tested 110-series actions. In hopes of answering some of those questions we're going to take a deeper look into the design and features of this new rifle. Granted I haven't had the opportunity to get my hands on one yet (yet!), but that will hopefully change in the next few weeks.

    So why a straight pull bolt action?

    Straight-pull rifles are nothing new. The concept and a wide variety of designs have existed since the 1800s. European hunters prefer straight-pull rifles for their fast cycle time and ease of handling. American shooters however tend to prefer the conventional operation of traditional rotary bolt actions as these designs are known for reliability and potential for accuracy. But what if you could have all three--reliability, accuracy, and speed. The new Savage Impulse is said to do just that, and Savage claims that the Impulse is just as robust and accurate as Savage’s proven 110 bolt action, and as fast as any straight-pull ever made.

    The major benefit of straight-pull actions is that they eliminate half of the motions required to cycle the bolt. Additionally, there is no need to lift your cheek off the riser to orient yourself in relation to the bolt. You can keep your eye on target through the scope as you run the bolt straight back and forward again. The motion is far less intrusive and more intuitive. Because you no longer have to lift up the bolt handle or force it back down, cycling the Impulse’s bolt is more ergonomic and fluid making it noticeably faster.

    One of the driving factors behind the development of the Impulse is that Savage Arms wants to become a larger player in the European firearms market. As such it only makes sense for Savage to develop a product that caters to that market's preferences and tastes. But that's not to say those of us on this side of the pond can't benefit from it as well.

    Another notable factor in the development of the Impulse is the ever changing political winds here in the North American market and the strict restrictions on firearms in other markets like Australia, New Zealand, and the majority of Europe. With the constant threat of certain types of firearms possibly being banned in the future here, or already banned in other markets, Savage chose to develop a new bolt-action that would bridge the gap between a precision conventional rotary bolt action rifle and a semi-automatic MSR-type rifle. The end goal was to design a rifle that offered an increased cyclic speed over a conventional bolt-action for faster follow up shots while maintaining the precision long-range accuracy and reliability of a traditional bolt action rifle while also being of a design that wouldn't be impacted by any potential future bans. A straight pull bolt action design was the obvious answer to that equation.

    Design and Technology
    Editors Note: Please note that some of the following information is purely speculative based on the images and photos we have seen up to this point. Once we get our hands on one we intend to do a full tear-down and detailed article on the inner workings of the new Impulse rifle and its various components.

    For the new Impulse rifle the team at Savage took a look at what was currently on the market and what had been done in the past with straight pull rifles. They then took the best attributes and features from each of those designs, as well as a few from other popular rotating bolt designs, crafted them together in a way that is uniquely their own in one nice convenient package that is 100% Made in America. The result is a design that embodies more than 13 new patents.

    Like the rather pricey German made Blaser R8 straight pull rifle, the Impulse features a 7075-T6 billet aluminum receiver with an integral 20-MOA picatinny rail. The key benefits here are the weight savings and additional rigidity in the action. Savage was able to go to an aluminum receiver by incorporating a barrel extension into the design similar to the Blaser or an MSR-type rifle. The Impulse still uses a barrel nut the same as the 110 and Axis series rifles, and from what I've been able to gather thus far it sounds like the Impulse barrel has the same shank size and thread pitch as the 110. If that's the case the only significant difference would be the barrel extension and how the barrel assembly is secured to the action, and thus existing take-off and aftermarket pre-fit 110 barrels could presumably be used on an Impulse action.

    With the new Impulse rifle the barrel does not thread directly into the receiver, but rather screws into the barrel extension which is then slid into the action and secured by four bolts on the bottom of the receiver. The barrel extension is indexed to ensure a repeatable zero if swapping back and forth between barrel assemblies. Based on what I have seen in the videos and documentation thus far, it sounds like three of the four bolts are pinch bolts and the fourth is used for indexing as Savage states that one bolt has to be fully removed and the other three just loosened to remove the barrel assembly. The photo of the barrel extension above doesn't show an indexing groove, so how that is being accomplished has yet to be determined - though it looks as if there might be an indexing tab on the top of the recoil lug similar to some aftermarket actions and their corresponding recoil lugs.

    Given the mass production environment I would presume that the barrel extensions are universal and one simply adjust the headspace by loosening the barrel nut and threading the barrel extension further onto or off of the barrel shank as needed, but I can't say for certain until I get one to dissect.

    Other features of the new Impulse's action include a Springfield-style inertia ejector which should eliminate 99% of the ejection issues people experience with their 110's and Axis rifles due to weakening of the ejector springs over time or foreign material causing the ejector pin to stick in the bolt head. The ejector appears to be similar in shape to what is used on the other Savage centerfire rifle lines, but is retained by a spring clip. Rather than sliding in and out to snap over the case rim, the extractors orientation and the location of said spring clip lead me to believe it pivots out to snap over the rim similar to a Sako style extractor.

    One significant benefit of the new Impulse is the side button bolt release that eliminates the need to pull the trigger to remove the bolt. Simply press the button forward, hold, and slide the bolt out. Reinsertion of the bolt is even easier - just slide it back in with no need to depress the release button. No longer will you need three hands to manipulate the bolt, trigger and bolt release button all at the same time with the Impulse.

    Another significant change is that the bottom metal (trigger guard and magazine well) will be one piece rather than two. This change has allowed Savage to eliminate the rear trigger guard screw, and in turn you will now be able to adjust the AccuTrigger without removing the barreled action from the stock via a slot just behind the trigger guard where that screw used to reside.

    As just referenced, the Impulse comes equipped with the AccuTrigger which most of you should be quite familiar with by now. However, from looking at the photo's it appears the trigger assembly is different and unique to the Impulse, so more than likely most (if not all) aftermarket triggers for 110-series rifles won't work with the Impulse.

    What is Hexlock?

    Hexlock is a proven ball-bearing locking mechanism that has been around for several decades on premium straight pull bolt action rifles like the Anschutz 1727 and 1827 rimfire Biathlon rifles as well as the Heym SR-30 centerfire rifle. On the Anschutz rimfire rifles the ball bearings are located at the rear of the bolt, and on the Heym SR-30 they are at the bolt head the same as the Impulse. Similar to the Heym, when the Impulses bolt handle is fully closed, a cam at the rear of the bolt assembly interacts with an inner sleeve within the bolt body which in turn forces the six ball bearings outward to lock into a machined recess in the barrel extension. When a round is fired, the ball bearings tighten relative to pressure increase and provide a robust lockup for safety. The strength of Hexlock system allows the rifle to handle magnum cartridges and high pressure rounds with ease.

    After a round is fired, the pressure subsides and the bolt is ready to be cycled. Once the bolt handle is drawn rearward the internal sleeve retracts and releases the ball bearings allowing the action to be opened. You can see this in action in the video below.

    The same cam that actuates the sleeve to engage the ball bearings also facilitates primary extraction when drawing the bolt handle rearward. The Achille's heel of many straight pull bolt guns in the past has been a lack of sufficient primary extraction resulting in difficulty extracting spent cases, so Savage took the time to make sure that the new Impulse would provide sufficient primary extraction via mechanical leverage - even when shooting heavy magnums and hot handloads.

    New Bolt Features

    The bolt of the Impulse is unique from any other straight pull rifle in that it allows the user to not only adjust the angle of the bolt handle to four different positions, but it also allows the user to easily switch the bolt handle to either side of the rifle making it an ambidextrous design with a total of eight available bolt positions.

    At the rear of the bolt assembly is a new button that when depressed will allow you to safely remove a live round from the chamber with the safety engaged. This effectively serves the same purpose as the middle safety position on the 3-position 110 safety, and is why the Impulse only has a two-position safety.

    One of the highlights of the new bolt is that its' disassembly requires no tools. Based on footage in one of the videos it also appears that the bolt head can easily be removed and swapped out without having to disassemble the rest of the bolt.

    Bolt movement should also be much smoother and consistent with the Impulse over the 110 and Axis series rifles. By utilizing the Hexlock system, Savage has eliminated the need to broach raceways into the action which can result in roughness and tear-outs in the steel that will ultimately cause drag. The new bolt is fully cylindrical from stem to stern and the ball bearings in the bolt head should help better keep the nose of the bolt centered in the bore of the receiver when traveling fore and aft. There face of the bolt head appears to have a slightly rounded lip to it which should help prevent it from catching on the foreard face of the ejection port like can happen with traditional bolts featuring two locking lugs and adequate slop in the bolt to receiver fitment.

    Initial Models

    The number of initial offerings in the Impulse line isn't huge, but the three models offered cover most of the bases as far as hunting is concerned short of a lightweight or wood stocked option. There is no dedicated long range or precision model fitted with a chassis as of yet, but I wouold be willing to bet we will see one launched sometime this summer or at the latest next fall as a new 2022 model.

    All three variations of the new Impulse will come equipped with AccuFit and AccuStock technology, and two of the three will feature camo stocks. As already noted, all three will come equipped with the standard 2.5-5 pound AccuTrigger as well.

    The first of the three variants is the Impulse Big Game (above) which features a Hazel Green Cerekote metal finish and a KUIU Verde 2.0 camo AccuFit stock. Available calibers include .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 WSM and .300 Win Mag. The magazine system is the standard Savage flush-mount centerfeed detachable in 2 or 4-round capacity depending on cartridge. Standard calibers will be fitted with a medium contour 22" carbon steel barrel that is fluted and threaded for a muzzle device, while magnum caliber barrels will be 24". Weight is listed at 8.8 or 8.9-lbs depending on caliber. MSRP for the Impulse Big Game is $1,449.

    The second variant is the Impulse Predator (above) featuring a Mossy-Oak Terra Gila camo AccuFit stock and matte black metal finish. Available calibers will be .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester. The barrel is a medium contour 20" carbon steel unit that is threaded for a muzzle device. The Predator model uses a 10-round AICS pattern detachable magazine with an ambidextrous release lever at the front of the trigger guard. Weight is listed as 8.7-lbs. for all variants. MSRP for the Impulse Predator is $1,379.

    Editors Note: The initial documentation for the Impulse Predator listed a 1-10" twist rate for the .22-250 chambering. This was a misprint and all Predators in this caliber will come with the industry standard 1-12" twist rate for this cartridge.

    The third and final variant is the Impulse Hog Hunter (above) featuring an Olive Green AccuFit stock and matte black metal finish. Available calibers will be 6.5 Creedmoor (20" barrel), .308 Winchester (18" barrel), .30-06 Springfield (20" barrel) and .300 Win Mag. (24" barrel). Barrels are carbon steel with a heavy contour in the lengths specified and are threaded for a muzzle device. Weight ranges from 8.4 to 9.1 pounds depending on caliber. MSRP for the Impulse Hog Hunter is $1,379.