Let’s face it. A straight-pull bolt-action rifle on the American market is something of an oddity. Yet, here we are, well over a year after the launch of Savage’s Impulse, and this USA-made, factory-production straight-pull continues to fight for market space. But it’s also quietly going about its business of bagging game. Here’s what we learned on an industry hunt in the rugged northwestern Oklahoma terrain. 
 

Another Look at the Impulse


When we arrived at the Canadian River Hilton in Crawford, Oklahoma, we found a rack of Savage Impulse Predator rifles waiting. Though previously familiar with the Big Game, we were eager to check out this model variant. We were also pleased to share the hunting camp with Savage’s own RJ Contorno. Not only did he share details about the rifle, but he also used an Impulse Predator to bag his largest whitetail to date. 
 


The Impulse platform was designed to be customizable. Each is built on an aluminum receiver with an integrated barrel extension and carbon-steel barrel. What looks like a right-handed bolt can actually be switched over to the left side and adjusted for the preferred angle. There’s a detachable box magazine, Cerakote finish, fluted barrel, and threaded muzzle. 

The Predator has its own set of unique features, chamberings, and coatings. This rifle has matte black metalwork and a Mossy Oak Gila camo AccuStock that is adjustable for both length of pull (LOP) and comb height. It features a 10-round AICS magazine with an ambidextrous release. Each rifle has a 20-inch barrel and comes in four caliber options: .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and our hunting rig in 6.5 Creedmoor. 
 

Savage Impulse Rifle
Savage's RJ Contorno with his best-ever Whitetail taken with Impulse. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

Setting Up for Success

 

Savage Impulse Rifle
The Leupold VX-5HD made a fine pairing with the Impulse Predator, and it can even come with a custom turret for your hunting loads. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


We arrived in camp just in time to mount the Leupold VX-5HD optics and zero the guns with Federal Fusion 140-grain soft-point ammunition before dusk. Having Leupold’s CDS-ZL turret almost makes shooting and hunting too easy…almost. In short, the custom turret – free when you buy the scope – is built for your chosen caliber and load data. 

Once zeroed at your chosen yardage, shooters simply dial the yardage of the target and hold dead on. That’s a major boon, especially in open country. Though Federal Fusion is not what most hunters think of in long-range hunting and shooting scenarios, that round proved itself not only in sub-MOA groups on the 100-yard range, but also knocked out 500-yard targets on the long range after the hunt. The rest is history. 
 

A Winning Combination

 

Accu features like the stock make the gun ready to customize for specific shooters. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


As hunters, we know things don’t always come together, even with the best-laid plans, but setting yourself up for success with a combination of the right gun, optics, gear, and preseason work certainly puts you on the right track. 

Check out our open country deer gear piece for what we used on the hunt…and what we wished we’d brought. We could brag about gear all day, but without proper preparation and a good team, it’s difficult to find success in the field. Normally, we preach scouting and preseason legwork, but when venturing to distant states, it’s often necessary to rely on the folks who know the terrain. 

There’s none better in Oklahoma than the fine people at Canadian River Hilton. Owner Justin and his staff run a top-notch operation, tend blinds, scout deer, and provide an all-around outstanding experience. I was lucky to be paired with experienced guide John, who not only knew the terrain and how to hunt these big open country bucks but worked diligently to get me in range on opening morning. 
 

The Hunt
 

Savage Impulse Rifle
Hunting on open terrain that was both rugged and vast was a new experience and a fantastic test of the Impulse rifle. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


This was my first foray hunting whitetails in such vast, rolling, unforgiving terrain. Coming from the flat Midwest, climbing hills and running ridges brought both challenge and immense joy. We were out hours before daybreak to drive to our hunting area and be in position ahead of sunrise shooting hours. To make a long story short, our first several attempts failed, but we finally got in sight of the buck that had given us the slip earlier that morning on our hike back to the truck. 

Things happened quickly, but Guide John was able to play both wind and terrain and get us into shooting position. A single round from the Impulse dropped the buck in his tracks. The rig proved itself in spades. The funny thing was that the buck dropped so quickly that I didn’t see the instant fall in the scope. 
 

If the final measure of the hunt is efficiently bringing down game, the Impulse certainly measured up. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Without thinking, I had rapidly racked another round in the chamber with the straight-pull bolt. I surprised myself at the speed of the motion. But look as I might, the buck was not in view for a follow-up shot. Guide John was laughing as he informed me the whitetail was already down. I unloaded the rifle, and we moved in for a look at my first Oklahoma whitetail. 
 

Is the Impulse Here to Stay?

Only time will tell whether the Savage Impulse has staying power, but one thing is certain. If more American hunters are willing to give the platform a go, it will likely not only remain on the market but thrive. It offers all the benefits and accuracy of a bolt gun with an even faster action. 

We had a short learning curve to work the straight-pull bolt, coming from a standard bolt gun. Once mastered, however, the speed of action is impressive. The locking mechanism, which you can read more about in our initial feature on the Impulse, is stout yet allows for an action throw with considerably fewer up-down motions. 
 

Savage Impulse Rifle
That straight-pull bolt brings smooth speed for fast follow-up shots. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Beyond the action, Impulse rifles actually roll over most of the favored features on their existing rifles. With everything Accu – trigger, stock, and fit – we found the usual impressive Savage accuracy and features. The AccuFit system allowed all hunters in camp to essentially “customize” the fit of each rifle through the use of Savage’s included LOP and comb-height inserts. 

The AccuTrigger, of course, is poundage adjustable and aids in accuracy, as does the unseen AccuStock bedding system. Though we didn’t use suppressors on this hunt, the threaded muzzle makes that an option. 
 

Savage Impulse Rifle
For those looking for a quieter hunt, the Impulse is also threaded and ready for a suppressor. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


For those hunters willing to venture outside their comfort zones, the straight-pull Savage Impulse offers a legitimate change to the face of the American bolt-gun market. 

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