The Savage Axis (originally branded the Savage Edge) is a budget rifle with a strong following. While it is has similarities to the Savage Model 10/110, features of the Axis are geared toward selling the rifle for a low price. Having read quite a bit about it, I headed to my local sporting goods store and picked up a Axis HB (heavy barrel) chambered in 308 Winchester.
The barrel nut system on the barrel and outside diameter of the action of the Axis are the Model 10/110.
The Axis doesn’t use the same recoil lug as the 10/110, instead, it is notched in the front of the receiver to accept a free floating lug that simply slides into place.
The stock on the Axis is injection molded plastic. It is slick to the touch, lightweight, flimsy and flexible. To cut down on weight and cost, the inside front of the stock has a series of plastic ribs to add rigidity (see image above), however, the fore end is still easy bent and manipulated. The stock has thin metal tubes that act as pillar to prevent it from compressing as the action screws are tightened.
A soft rubber recoil pad finishes off the stock. Steel, quick detachable, sling studs are located at the front and rear of the stock.
Primary extraction of the Axis isn’t accomplished through the baffle on the bolt like the 10/110, instead, the cam is cut into the side of the bolt to facilitate this.
Action screw hole spacing on the AXIS is unique, 4 25/32″, and not the same as other Savage rifles. The same action is used for both short and long action rifle cartridges. To switch between long and short action cartridges, an interchangeable trigger guard on the bottom of the stock is changed, the rest of the stock and then action stay the same.
Unlike the 3 position safety found on the 10/110, the Axis has a two position safety. The bolt handle can be manipulated with the safety on or off.
The Axis HB, is equipped with a 22″ long heavy barrel. The barrel has a muzzle diameter of .725″. Head space on the rifle measured 1.631″, .001″ over SAAMI minimum.
A small tab on the front of the detachable magazine allows the magazine to be retained and removed. While this system could use some ergonomic improvement, it does feed well.
The trigger is possibly the biggest downside to the rifle. From the factory, my rifle’s trigger averaged 7 pounds 6.5 ounces.
It would be difficult to discuss the Axis without talking about the price, its’ primary selling point. Anyone can drop a bunch of money on a rifle and expect it to shoot, the real question is how well does an inexpensive factory rifle shoot? I paid $335 for my Axis HB after tax. At the time of the purchase, Savage was offering a $50 mail in rebate. After the rebate, the final price for the rifle was $285. Keeping with the spirit of a budget set up, I ordered an inexpensive weaver rail for $11- total investment for the rifle and base was $296.
To get the rifle range ready, I put a used Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14 scope with Badger rings on the rifle and a Harris bipod. Undoubtedly, someone will comment that this turns the sub $300 rifle into a sub $1,500 rifle. I disagree. I realize the Leupold Mark 4 is a fairly expensive optic, often selling for more than $1,000 new, however, this one was used and on hand. I’ll often see some pretty good deals on used Mark 4s online. Moreover, with a quality optic, the full potential of this rifle can be realized.
Of the Savage Axis reviews I’ve read, few included accuracy data. I’m always suspect when I see this. Shame on the gun writers and bloggers who don’t publish some sort of testing with MOST or ALL of their supporting load development data posted. Anyone can cherry pick a 3 shot group and make themselves and the rifle look good- but that doesn’t help anyone. An honest evaluation tries to get a sense of how the rifle can be expected to perform under typical conditions.
Rifle, optic and bipod in hand, I headed to the range. I loaded up some new Federal Gold Medal brass with a 175 grain Sierra MatchKing (SMK) over IMR 4064, went prone, on a bipod with a rear bag. I fired two rounds at 50 yards to get a zero, and set up on the 100 yard target. Five rounds later (and a total of 7 through the gun), I fired the first group from my new, $285 rifle- .831″ (.794MOA)! I was in shock! Despite the flimsy flexible stock and 7 pound 6.5 ounce trigger- the rifle shot a sub MOA five shot group! Before leaving the range, I fired another five round group, this one was slightly larger, 1.066″ (1.018MOA). An average .949″ (.906MOA), pretty impressive for $285.
Firing the Axis was an interesting experience. The soft rubber recoil pad did a good job taming recoil. The only onerous part of firing the rifle was the trigger. The heavy weight made it absolutely exhausting. If you check around the internet, you can find some home shop remedies for this, however, I am unsure how safe they are. I’d prefer an aftermarket trigger. I made a call to Timney and I ordered one of their Axis replacement triggers. Installation was a snap, taking less than ten minutes. The rifle now had a safe, 2.5 pound trigger pull.
I loaded up some more brass and headed back to the range. On this trip, I loaded up an assortment of 168, 175 and 190 grain Sierra MatchKings (SMK) over Varget and IMR 4064. Outside temperature was 32F.
For reloading information: WARNING: The loads shown are for informational purposes only. They are only safe in the rifle shown and may not be safe in yours. Consult appropriate load manuals prior to developing your own handloads. Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.
Average 5-shot group size from the 14 different loads tested was 1.190″ (1.137MOA). Four loads were under 1 MOA and the 168SMK/44.5 Varget load had four shots into .473″ with the fifth shot opening the group up to 1.148″. Not bad for a rifle that costs less than $300! As an added bonus, these results were far batter than those with my Savage Model FCP-SR which cost more than twice as much!
So what do you think about the Savage Axis?
I am still impressed that the first group I fired was sub MOA. For $285, that is telling. The rifle is capable of sub-MOA accuracy for below $300!
For $335 (the price before the rebate), that is still a solid deal. Upgrading to a Timney trigger didn’t do much to improve accuracy, however, it did improve the firing characteristics of the rifle. While a new trigger costs a third as much as the rifle ($100), I felt it was a worthy investment.
The rifle was completely reliable during testing. All rounds fed, ejected and extracted (this wasn’t the case with the Model 10 FCP-SR I tested) as designed.
The cosmetics could be improved, but this is supposed to be a low cost entry level rifle. Given the choice between buying a used 10/110 or Remington 700 for similar money to a new Axis, I would probably pick the 10/110 or Rem 700. However, the Axis certainly does perform well for what it is.
In the future, I will be customizing this rifle to see how it can be improved.
Much like the 1998 Honda Civic I drove when I was a kid; what the Savage Axis lacks in panache and soul, it makes up for in value and affordability.
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