How well can a £600 rifle shoot? Rather well, as Tim Pilbeam finds when he tests Savage’s latest entry-level offering
I recently reviewed the Marlin X7 – then I heard that Ruger also released an entry-level rifle. The rifle in question is the Savage Axis (formally called the Edge in the USA), which reports to be one of the most competitively priced rifles on the market. What has been compromised to produce such a competitively priced rifle? The most obvious concern would be accuracy and quality of build – how do these attributes stand up?
While the Axis looks similar to the popular Savage 110 series, I soon discovered that several notable changes had been made. Starting with the blackened action, the top of the receiver is tapped to allow standard Weaver-style block mounts to be fitted. The ejection port is small but long, able to deal with the longer cases up to .30-06, making it strong and stiff.
It sports a detachable magazine constructed of a steel box and plastic base plate, which can hold a total of four rounds in .243 calibre. It is easy to load, but secured by a low-cost plastic tab located to the front. It does work, but I question whether it will remain effective over a long period of time. Having said that, it is simple to load, easy to handle when wearing gloves, and flush with the bottom of the stock.
The bolt shares the same head design as the 110 series, allowing the lugs to slide along both sides of the receiver with the front lugs locking into the front of the action. The belief here is that it allows for even pressure on the rear of the cartridge, owing to a consistent alignment with the bore, enhancing Savage’s claim of superb accuracy. The bolt handle is one piece with no extra grip surface, but looks fine and exceptionally smooth throughout its travel.
The calibre on test was .243, but the long bolt travel will allow it to cope with longer rounds such as the .270 and .30-06. The rear of the firing pin is visible, making it an easy-to-see cocking indicator. To remove it, the trigger and the release lever to the right of the action have to be pressed at the same time. The bolt release lever also doubles up as a cocking indicator. The large, plastic two-position safety button that sits behind the bolt is easy to slide. Push forward to fire, and in the rearmost safety position the bolt can still be cycled.
One of the best attributes with most Savage rifles is the ‘AccuTrigger’, which can be adjusted down to about 2.5lb, but the Edge has not been blessed with this superior trigger assembly. The smooth trigger blade, set to 5½lb, is a brute to pull and no doubt will be discussed more when on test in the field. The trigger guard is a one-piece design, looks likes it is made of the same material as the stock and is moulded to fit the underside of the chassis.
The matt black synthetic stock gives away the fact that this is aimed at the competitively priced end of the market. It is hollow with QD studs, and the forend will probably touch the barrel if a heavy moderator and bipod are fitted. The pistol grip is narrow with three moulded recesses to enhance grip and has an effective rubber recoil pad for the larger calibre. Both sides of the forend are angled and textured for a reasonable grasp, especially when gloves are worn.
The .243 Axis is fitted with a 22in sporting weight barrel, and for the UK it is threaded to ½in UNF for sound moderators. With a twist rate of 9.25in, this should suit the heavier ammunition – it will be interesting to see if it can cope with the lighter 55-75 grain bullets. As with all Savage rifles, there is a barrel locking nut between the barrel and receiver to allow superior head spacing settings during the build – another tick in the box for superior Savage accuracy.
Overall, the Savage is a lightweight sporting rifle weighing 6½lb. It has the feel and look of an entry level rifle, but does this really matter if this rifle shoots well?
Supplied with the Axis was the Weaver Super Slam Euro 3-9×56 scope with a 30mm tube. As with most Remingtons, standard bases were required, so I used Millett standard bases and Millett Angle-Loc adjustable. For ammunition, two very different weights are being used: Black Hills 62-grain Varmint Grenade (3,700fps) and Remington Premier Accu-Tip 95-grain (3,120fps), courtesy of Edgar Brothers. JMS Arms also donated a PES Scout moderator, and I used a Harris bipod as I see this rifle being used for both deer and fox shooting.
At a zero of 100 yards, bearing in mind this is a brand new rifle, the 62-grain Black Hills achieved a 0.75in group and the Remington 95-grain just under 1in. Nothing wrong with the accuracy of the Axis. Interesting to note that the lighter ammunition performed better despite the quicker twist rate. Out to 250 yards, 2.5in and 3.25in groups were obtained respectably, which is impressive. As mentioned, the narrow pistol grip made for a strong grip and suited the wearing of gloves. When shooting without the use of a bipod, the forend was easy to grip and the recoil pad seemed to be comfortable. Being made of rubber meant it did not slide easily against my coat, when trying to bring it up to the correct shooting position.
The recoil and muzzle lift, with or without the moderator, were within expectations for such a light rifle, but it is the trigger that lets the Axis down. Having said that, I think we get a little fussy when it comes to the heavier triggers – once you become accustomed to them, they are perfectly adequate. With a pull of 5½lb and not forgetting the yards of creep, it feels pretty grim, but despite that it is still shooting to within 1MOA. If a better trigger was fitted, it would transform the Axis.
The bolt was reasonably smooth and extracted effectively. I found that the magazine fed very well for both types of ammunition. With or without the bipod, the point of impact was not affected enough to cause any worries, but if a heavier moderator was fitted, this could be an issue. With the lighter PES moderator, the Axis felt well balanced and easy to shoot.
In conclusion, the Axis is a functional, lightweight hunter with a fair action. It is very practical, and if scratched when stowed in the Land Rover or tractor, it will not bring tears to the eyes. It also feeds well and cycles well. The trigger is far too heavy, the stock is acceptable but feels inexpensive, the pistol grip may put a few shooters off, as might the plastic magazine catch and trigger guard – but who cares? It shoots darn well. Savage is renowned for manufacturing competitively priced rifles that are accurate, and the Axis is no exception.
If you are on a budget, this is an accurate, entry level-model, and what you save on the rifle can be invested into the optics. How often do you hear: ‘Spend more money on the glass, not the rifle.’ With an RRP of £653, I expect to see it appearing in many guns shops at the sub-£600 mark, which makes it one of the most competitive centrefire rifles on the market in the UK.