Review: Savage Axis Stainless XP

Lightweight rifles are popular with hunters. Problem is, they tend to be expensive. With this in mind, Savage came up with a better mousetrap. Called the Axis (formerly the Edge), it comes out of the box at a weight-saving 6½ pounds, is chambered for seven different cartridges from.223 Remington up to .30-06 Springfield and is available in six full-size and two youth models. The line includes stainless and blued guns, as well as those sold as a package with scope aboard, which is what I received for testing. In this guise it is the Savage Axis Stainless XP.

To save weight Savage started with a synthetic stock with a radical design that may give some veteran hunters pause. From the muzzle end there is a graceful taper toward the magazine with a "checkering" pattern that includes textured boxes. A finger groove runs the length of the fore-end for a comfortable hold.

The pistol grip has a natural sweep to it and has the same checkering pattern as the fore-end. There is a pistol grip cap of sorts emblazoned with the Savage Indian logo.

Savage has enlarged the two-position tang safety for ease of operation. The four-round magazine is detachable and is secured inside the stock via an integral latch.

The stock of the Savage Axis Stainless XP has a longer-than-usual 14-inch length of pull. It's capped with a contoured, soft rubber recoil pad with fairly large holes on each side. Years ago, this so-called "ventilated" pad style was in fashion, but hunters soon discovered that dirt and debris could easily work into the recesses, making it not only unsightly but reducing the effectiveness of the pad.

Savage uses the trusted "fat bolt" design, which requires less machining. It measures 0.7 inch, is finished in the white and features the Savage logo. Operation of the bolt is very smooth, thanks to its final finishing and the fact that it does not ride on the follower or the lip of the magazine.

Up front, the twin locking lugs contain a recessed bolt face and, combined with a floating bolt head, allow precise engagement with the lugs inside the breech. There is a plunger-type ejector within the bolt face and a spring-loaded extractor for flawless ejection.

The bolt handle on the Savage Axis Stainless XP is cast, and to save weight it has been hollowed out in two places; the oval-shaped bolt knob is uncheckered. To remove the bolt from the gun, check to be sure the gun is unloaded, place the safety on Fire and push down on the bolt release located on the right side of the receiver while at the same time pulling back on the trigger. Over the years, that large sear extension/bolt release has been a point of contention, and Savage has addressed concerns by making it less obtrusive.

The receiver contains a gas relief hole that works with the rear bolt baffles to prevent gases from reaching the shooter in event of a case rupture. On the left side of the receiver, an area has been relieved to reduce weight and mirrors the contours of the ejection port.

The Savage Axis Stainless XP uses the old-style, grooved barrel nut and not the smooth one now found on the firm's higher-end guns. The barrel is free floated and 22 inches in length; youth models have 20-inch barrels.

As I mentioned, my test sample was a package gun and came equipped with a 3-9X Bushnell scope complete with Weaver type bases and rings. On my sample the scope was neither tightened down or sighted in, so if you buy one of these package guns, be sure to check the mounting system and bore-sight the scope before firing that first shot.

It's hard to find fault with a gun that sells for less than $500, but I did have a few other criticisms. First is the trigger pull, which is not adjustable. From the bench it broke at seven pounds with a little takeup before the sear let go. I also found the magazine hard to load. It could've been the way I was loading the magazine, but I had a hard time getting that first cartridge into the top of the lips. After that, the rest seemed to slide in a little better, but not much.

When it came to accuracy, the gun proved its mettle. With Hornady's 35-grain NTX my average was around one inch. the mean went to around 1¼ inches with the heavier Hornady Varmint Express and Remington's Power Lokt hollowpoint rounds.

Criticisms aside, I wouldn't have a problem taking the .223 Axis to the field, especially when the weather turned against me. The gun looks like it can take the punishment, and if chambered for the larger 7mm and .30 caliber rounds it might just be the rifle to partner with in your pickup for larger game.

Fast Specs

  • Type: bolt-action centerfire
  • Caliber: .223 Rem. (tested), .22-250, .25-06, 7mm-08, .308 Win., .30-06
  • Capacity: 4
  • Barrel length: 22 in.
  • Overall length: 44 in.
  • Weight: 6.5 lb.
  • Stock: black (tested), camo synthetic
  • Finish: stainless (tested), blue
  • Trigger: non-adjustable; 7 lb. pull as tested
  • Sights: none; drilled and tapped; available as package with Bushnell 3-9X scope (tested)
  • Price: $485 (as tested)
  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms

Accuracy Results

  • Smallest avg. group: 35 gr. Hornady Super Varmint1.00 in.
  • Largest avg. group (tie): 55 gr. Hornady Varmint Express, 55 gr. Remington Power Lok 1.25 in.
  • Avg. of all ammo tested (3 types) 1.17 in.
  • Notes: Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards from a sandbag rest.

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