Review: Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter
The repeating rifle is one of mankind’s better achievements, and in the 150 years or so it’s been around it has assumed many forms. Lever guns, pump guns, autoloaders and the ever-popular bolt-action rifle: all have their fans, each has their place, but the basic designs of all of these are over a century old. When a differing action is introduced, it is usually met with skepticism; an eyebrow is cocked and the air resounds with “do we need this?” I can only imagine the responses were similar when the muzzleloaders were giving way to the centerfire designs—“Look at these kids with their silly cartridges!”
Many of our modern cartridges have been designed to fill a role, whether that may be adhering to a set of laws, like the new 360 Buckhammer, or offering a bullet weight heavier than is normally associated with the bore diameter. New rifle actions are no different, and come with the same doubts and cocked eyebrows. The straight-pull rifle may seem to be one of those newfangled inventions the hunting community could do without, but the origin of the design dates back to the 1880s, with the Mannlicher M1886, adopted as a service rifle by the Kingdom of Austria-Hungary. Modern straight-pull designs have been relied upon to offer rapid follow-up shots, and have long been popular in Europe, where the driven hunts offer multiple targets, but the use of autoloading rifles is often prohibited. If you’ve spent time behind the trigger of a good straight-pull rifle, you may appreciate the ease and speed of having a second shot.
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Savage threw its hat in the ring with the release of its Impulse rifle just a couple years ago, and while that rifle is a very accurate and fast-cycling choice, I did find it a bit on the heavy side. Last fall, Savage announced the release of the Impulse Mountain Hunter, which lightens the overall weight by switching to a Proof Research carbon-fiber barrel. I’ve had the opportunity to use this rifle not only at the range but on a pair of hunts, and have made a friend. Chambered in the new 7mm PRC, this setup can handle about any hunting situation that doesn’t require a big-bore rifle.
The Impulse Mountain Hunter is very ergonomic, being ambidextrous. Shouldered, the basic instinct may be to lift the bolt as you would on a Mauser 98, Winchester Model 70 or Remington 700, but once the shooter gets around that it is a comfortable design. The carbon fiber reduces overall weight while maintaining rigidity and helping to dissipate heat. Savage uses its proprietary barrel nut to attach the Proof Research barrel to the Impulse’s aluminum receiver, which features an integral one-piece 20-MOA rail. The rifle features a right-hand ejection port, and dual gas vents on either side of the receiver. The receiver is mated to the AccuStock with Savage’s three-dimensional aluminum bedding system.
The Impulse bolt locks up via a series of steel ball bearings, which radiate outward into the receiver when the bolt is closed (by rotating the bolt handle forward), and this design has proven to be just as strong, if not stronger, than the conventional locking lugs used on most bolt-action rifles. The bolt release is located on the rear of the bolt housing; simply depress the lever and rotate the handle backward, releasing the bolt to unload the rifle, even with the safety engaged. A detachable steel magazine feeds the rifle; this magazine held three 7mm PRC cartridges (Savage indicates only two), though it will hold four in standard calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester, and three in the belted magnums like .300 Winchester Magnum.
Other than that right-hand ejection port and the left-hand bolt release, the Impulse Mountain Hunter is designed to be as ambidextrous as possible, with a two-position tang safety, a symmetrical stock and a bolt handle that can easily be moved from one side to another. The Impulse Mountain Hunter features the gray polymer AccuStock, which is adjustable for both length of pull and comb height. My rifle had a 13¾-inch length of pull, and a recoil pad that mitigated the 7mm PRC’s recoil, whether from the bench or prone. My test rifle (of early production) came with a threaded muzzle and a thread protector, though Savage now offers a muzzle brake as standard equipment on the Impulse Mountain Hunter. In lieu of any sort of checkering, the AccuStock has textured, rubbery areas on the pistol grip and fore-end to afford a good grip. Savage has provided sling swivel studs fore and aft. The Savage AccuTrigger is user adjustable, and my test rifle’s trigger broke cleanly at 2 pounds, 4 ounces, making precise shot placement much easier.
Hornady offers three loads for the new 7mm PRC, including a 160-grain CX bullet in the Outfitter line, a 175-grain ELD-X in the Precision Hunter line and the 180-grain ELD Match at 2975 fps. All three shot very well from the Impulse Mountain Hunter, and I took the 175-grain ELD-X load to Wyoming where I took a pronghorn antelope at the Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt, and then to British Columbia for a black bear. The pronghorn was taken at 330 yards, and the bear at 75 yards; the rifle/cartridge combination handled both shots without issue.
For an optic, I chose Leupold’s VX-5HD 3-15x44mm riflescope, set up with their excellent CDS elevation dial, calibrated specifically for the 175-grain ELD-X 7mm PRC load. With this system, you simply range the target, dial that yardage, and you have a dead hold. I’ve used this on a number of Leupold scopes with different cartridges, and it makes all the sense in the world. This scope worked as well at the range as it did in the field, as it made the longer shot on the antelope easy at higher magnification, yet took the bear at 3x just fine. In fact, I feel this scope might just be the perfect choice for an all-around rifle.
With the scope mounted, the Impulse Mountain Hunter weighed 8.5 pounds; while this might not qualify for a true lightweight rifle, I had no problem carrying the rifle around the wilds for a couple weeks. And while I’ll be the first to admit that a straight-pull rifle isn’t going to drive the turnbolt designs off the market, I found the Impulse design easier to cycle with the rifle on the shoulder than a traditional bolt-action rifle. This could make the difference in a follow-up shot on a running deer, bear or hog, and if timing matters, you’ll appreciate the way the Impulse cycles.
• Type: straight-pull centerfire rifle
• Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 28 Nosler, 7mm PRC (tested), .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag., .300 WSM
• Magazine: detachable box; 3-rnd. capacity (7mm PRC)
• Barrel: 22″ (tested) 24″; Proof Research; carbon fiber-wrapped stainless steel; heavy contour; 1:8″ RH twist; 5/8″-24 threaded muzzle w/muzzle brake
• Trigger: Savage AccuTrigger; pull weight adjustable 1.5 lbs.-4 lbs.
• Sights: none; integral 1-piece 20 MOA rail
• Safety: two-position tang
• Stock: Savage AccuStock w/AccuFit; sporter type; synthetic; gray finish; 12.75″-13.75″ adjustable LOP; sling swivel studs
• Metal Finish: matte black
• Overall Length: 44.75″
• Weight: 7.34 lbs.
• Accessories: none
• MSRP: $2,437; savagearms.com
Article by PHILIP MASSARO