Savage Axis/Edge Rifle: Best for the Dollar?
Basic black Savage Axis. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.
The tested rifle is the Savage Axis (formerly and briefly the "Edge"), a brand new offering from Savage Arms (www.savagearms.com), designed to bring industry leading affordability in a bolt action center fire rifle to the consumer. The Axis is designed and manufactured in the United States. It is not a variant of the famous Savage Model 110 action; this is a new action and stock rather than a redux. What is remarkable, if not stunning in 2010, is that the new Savage Axis has a MSRP of $329, with a street price of around $290. This is the type of blisteringly low price that would have most folks looking for "the made in Pakistan roll-stamp," not something made in the United States by American workers with American steel. Yet, that is exactly where this rifle is made, with a barrel made by the same machines and craftsmen as Savage's World Championship rifles.
The test rifle is in .223 Remington, though the Edge is offered in a wide variety of centerfire chamberings including 22-250, .243 Winchester, 7mm-08, .308 Winchester, 25-06, .270 Winchester and .30-06. All of them are claimed to weigh about 6-1/2 pounds, have 22 inch barrels and have 4-shot detachable box magazines. None comes with iron sights. The Edge is intended for use with a scope, with package models including a scope available. All of the Edge rifles are about 43-7/8 inches in overall length.
The first area I looked at was the trigger. By now, most serious shooters are familiar with Savage's user-adjustable Accu-Trigger, the trigger that changed the industry. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, the folks at Savage Arms must feel tremendously flattered at the number of Accu-Trigger wannabes that have appeared as of late, not just on rifles, but also on shotguns. While triggers are generally a bit of a pain in the butt for manufacturers, I've had far too many triggers that break at far more than the firearm weight and are plagued with grit, creep and all kinds of mysterious stages that make shooting with them a chore.
The Axis lacks an Accu-Trigger and its conventional trigger breaks at a heavy 5-1/2 pounds with some initial creep, but no grit. Is it an Accu-Trigger? The candid answer is no, not even close, but it is useable.
Another pet peeve of mine are noisy safeties that echo though the woods with a loud metallic click, or are unduly burdensome to get off, particularly with cold or gloved hands. Savage did a very good job by including a huge two-position tang safety that you just cannot miss. This is far better than the flipper-flopper side safeties with which you might be familiar.
One particularly nasty trick is when rifle manufacturers force proprietary scope base types on their customers, so they can sell their own overpriced bases and rings. It invariably makes me groan. Not so with the Savage Axis, which uses the widely available two-piece bases for “round receiver front and rear,” the same as used by Savage centerfire Accu-Trigger models.
In a nod to practicality of production, the Axis platform is one action type and platform. There is no Axis micro or macro action, just one (.30-06 length) receiver regardless of chambering. All Axis rifles have similarly profiled sporter barrels.
The standard Axis is almost all black, the chrome bolt with the Savage Arms etching and the familiar image of Chief Lame Bear being the single part that keeps it from being all black. Camo finish is available at additional cost.
Aesthetically, the Axis has "futuristic" styling, with deeply relieved notches in the bolt and recoil pad, excessively fluted comb, textured surfaces (not checkering) at the forearm and pistol grip and a deeply finger grooved forearm that complete the theme. I hesitate to call it loud, as the overall matte black of the rifle mutes the unnecessary styling accents. Nevertheless, it does have a tactical styling theme.
I mounted a Bushnell Elite 3200 3-9x40mm scope on the Axis and was off to do some shooting. The first four "spotter" shots at 100 yards, using 62 grain FMJ American Eagle ammo, grouped at 5/8th of an inch. Dialing in the Axis, switching to Federal Premium #P223S loads using the Barnes 55 grain Triple Shock bullet, the groups shrank to just under half an inch, despite gusty outdoor range conditions. This is an astounding level of accuracy for a bargain-priced rifle.
The Axis' action is slick and smooth and cartridges fed out of the detachable box magazine with no hassle. Extraction and ejection, via a plunger ejector, was trouble-free. This was a good thing, since the ejection port is an oval slot in the bulky, milled from bar stock receiver that limits access should there be a jam to clear. Compared to an open top receiver, such as found in the Savage 110, the oval ejection port also increases the difficulty of loading a single cartridge directly into the chamber.
Although not the same as the Model 110 action, the Axis does use a similar multi-piece bolt that has two front locking lugs (90-degree bolt lift) and cocks on opening. The Axis also has the familiar Savage barrel-nut, a very good thing. Rather than fighting tolerance stack-up, the barrel nut allows for precise head-spacing of each individual rifle. The Axis shoots like a Savage, my impression being this is primarily due to Savage's uniform attention to chamber machining, head-spacing and barrel quality.
There is nothing in the marketplace, that I am aware of, that is competitive with the Axis in price. It seems amazing that you can get, in 2010, an under three hundred dollar street price rifle capable of one half MOA groups right out of the box, but that's precisely what the Axis delivered. It is affordable enough that anyone who really wants an accurate rifle just ran out of excuses. In the tested .223 Remington caliber, it can serve as a walking varminter, ranch rifle, or utility rifle that you can have fun with at the range. For a general hunting rifle, there isn't much that you cannot do with the .308 or .30-06 families of cartridges and you can have them for the same price.
Although some sacrifices have been made to make this new action easier to machine, it is obviously a strong, robust action that owes a great deal to its Model 110 heritage, using a similar barrel, bolt and lockup. It functioned beautifully with no hiccups and there is nothing hanging off the rifle that is likely to snag on clothing and so forth.
In summation, the Savage Axis is a clean design that shoots beyond its diminutive price tag. Too often, rifles targeted as entry-level guns have displayed lousy safeties, rough actions, fussy magazines and lackluster accuracy. The Axis has none of these propensities, comes with metal sling swivel studs and a better than expected recoil pad. For these reasons, I think Savage Arms is going to sell a ton of these rifles. There is nothing out there that directly competes with it, much less a centerfire rifle built in Westfield, Massachusetts, USA.
Note: In depth reviews of the Savage Model 16FSS Weather Warrior and the Models 14 and 114 American Classic rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2010, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.