October 24, 2022
A few years ago, when Savage Arms introduced their straight-pull rifle, called the Impulse, it turned heads among American hunters. Straight-pull rifles were all but unheard of in the U.S., though they’re extremely popular in Europe, where fast follow-up shots are an everyday occurrence during hunts for driven game. So why, pundits asked, would any bolt-action born-and-raised hunter opt for an Impulse? And was there really enough demand to launch a newer, lighter version with the recent announcement of the Impulse Mountain Hunter?
Much to the chagrin of many naysayers, the Savage Impulse struck a chord here in the U.S. , with many American hunters seeing the value in that second, and third, shot that comes quicker thanks to the straight-pull action stripping milliseconds from the time it takes to work a traditional bolt. Milliseconds count, we discovered, when culling a sounder of hogs or picking off coyotes when more than one song-dog comes sneaking in to the call.
Once we accepted that, yes, maybe a straight-pull rifle is pretty cool, there were still a few gripes with the original Impulse. It was, frankly, heavy. Even the shorter Hog Hunter version, with a 16-inch barrel, had some heft to it. Fine for hunters sitting in a high house over a beanfield, but I wouldn’t want to carry one up a mountain for elk. The bottom metal also caused the magazine to protrude from the action a bit too far. This contributed to the somewhat cumbersome carry-ability of the rifle, while also adding even more unnecessary weight.
Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter
The new Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter is, just as the named suggests, designed to be the ultimate backcountry rifle. And to reach that pinnacle, Savage started shaving weight, beginning with that bottle metal. The frame is now polymer, rather than metal, which cuts what the company is claiming .6 lbs. from the original weight of Impulse’s receiver. It also creates a slimmer look that carries more comfortably in the hand.
Savage trimmed another pound or so in overall weight by swapping in a new barrel from Proof Research. Available in 22- and 24-inch versions, depending on caliber, the stainless-steel barrel is wrapped in carbon fiber and fitted with a removable muzzle break threaded to 5/8-24. It’s fitted into the Impulses polymer frame via a 3D aluminum bedding design. The receiver is aluminum, adding to the Mountain Hunter’s lightweight, which comes in just over 7 lbs. (And 7.39 lbs. for magnum chamberings.) A 20 MOA picatinny rail is machined into the top of receiver for hassle-free optic mounting.
Like the original Impulse, the Mountain Hunter incorporates the same straight-pull Hexblock bolt design. Pulling the bolt handle backwards releases a plunger inside the body, which makes room for six ball bearings to drop into the bolthead, unlocking the bolt. Pushing the bolt back into the battery pushes the plunger forward, forcing the ball bearings outward and into a securely locked position that keeps the bolt from moving during the shot. The bolt is then locked in place until the trigger is pulled, or the shooter pushes the release button on the back of the bolt. The bolt handle can be easily switched to the opposite side for left-handed shooters, and rotated into one of five different positions.
On the bench, the Savage Impulse falls right into line with the kind of impressive accuracy you expect from Savage. At the initial launch in 2021, I tested an Impulse Big Game model in 6.5 Creedmoor that impressed me with sub-MOA groups with just about whatever load I stuffed into it. The new Mountain Hunter is equally impressive. In the new 7mm PRC, I tested two loads from Hornady – the Outfitter Series in a 160-grain CX and Precision Hunter in a 175-grain ELD-X. Both printed 3-shot groups measuring right around an inch at 100 yards, with the best group coming from the CX that put two shots in the same hole with a third touching.
Earlier this fall, I carried the Mountain Hunter on a week-long trip for moose in British Columbia. Conditions were tough, with not much moose activity, so we were putting on the miles, hiking through blowdown timber, willow-choked marsh, spongey muskeg and stands of doghair fir so thick you had to squeeze sideways between the trees. Though we didn’t do a ton of climbing, I still appreciated the weight reduction on those moose-less marchs. With a Leupold VX5-HD 3-15x scope attached and full magazine, the rifled weighed 8 lbs. 10 oz.
The Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter will be available in 2023, and offered in a host of big-game capable cartridges, ranging from 6.5 Creedmoor to .300 Win. Mag., including the new Hornady 7 PRC.