Let’s get right to the point. If you need a hunting rifle that’s ready to go out of the box, check out the new Savage Axis II rifle. Offered in a variety of calibers, it includes a Bushnell Banner scope as part of the package. Obviously, there’s a lot more to understand about what’s under the hood, so let’s take a look.
The new Axis II rifles offering some interesting features, especially considering the price point. The thing you’ll notice first is that the stock has been re-shaped from the original and focuses on ergonomics and (I think) slenderness.
The grip area is slim yet comfortable. There’s enough there to offer control but I can’t imagine that anyone with smaller hand sizes would have any trouble with this rifle. There’s a healthy recoil pad at the butt with plenty of flex to offer comfort when shooting the larger calibers in the family.
Up front, you’ll feel inset grooves where your thumb, index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers naturally come to rest. Especially thanks for the forend design, the rifle easily settles into a stable hold. Inset flush with the bottom of the forend is a four-round removable box magazine.
That’s good and nice, but what makes a Savage a Savage is the attention to details in the barrel and receiver department. Of the ones I’ve owned and tested, I have yet to be disappointed in the accuracy department. That’s a result of the company’s focus on the shooting components.
Barrel and Receiver
The barrel on this one is button rifled, and since it’s chambered in .308 Winchester, it features a 1:10 twist rate, or one full bullet rotation in 10 inches of barrel length. Depending on the caliber you choose, yours may vary from 1:8 all the way to 1:12.
There are a couple of features related to the barrel and receiver that offer multiple benefits. First, the barrel is mated to the receiver with thread-in headspacing. This is a neat idea that allows the company to create a custom and precise headspace measurement on each and every rifle while keeping the cost down.
A headspace gauge (basically a precisely sized fake cartridge) is attached to the bolt while the rifle barrel is screwed into the receiver. When the gauge touches the shoulder portion of the barrel chamber, it’s a perfect fit and the barrel locking ring is installed.
That’s good for you, as it means your mass-produced (and affordable) rifle has a correctly sized bolt and chamber relationship, and that means better accuracy.
Floating Bolt Head
The other feature that both makes manufacturing easier and less expensive while improving accuracy is the floating bolt head design. When an entire bolt is one monolithic unit, things have to be sized and tweaked so that the bolt lugs engage and lock perfectly and evenly with the barrel and so that the bolt face is exactly square to the cartridge base.
On hand-crafted rifles this isn’t a big deal, but it tends to put a hurt on the price point. With the Axis II XP, the bolt head is separate and connected to the bolt body by a rod with a bit of play in it. When you close the bolt, the floating head can center itself, resulting in perfect lug engagement and a square bolt face.
The Axis II XP also includes a Savage feature we’ve come to expect – the AccuTrigger system. What’s visible is the AccuRelease leaf set into the center of the trigger face.
This is an additional safety feature that blocks the sear and prevents firing unless your finger completely covers the trigger face and depresses the leaf prior to trigger movement. If pressure is applied to the trigger from the side, the gun won’t fire because the leaf hasn’t been depressed.
The functional part of the AccuTrigger system allows you to easily adjust pull weight from 2.5 to about six pounds. I measured the pull weight on this rifle out of the box right at 3 ½ pounds.
One of the big benefits of the Axis II XP is simplicity. The rifle comes out of the box with scope and rings. Better yet, it’s already mounted and ready to go. The rings are the standard rail-attach type as the Savage Axis has two short rail segments mounted to the receiver forward and aft of the extraction port.
If you want to change or upgrade at some point in the future that’ll be easy as you can use standard rings—you won’t need to search high and low for the right direct-to-receiver mount styles.
The folks at the factory boresight the scope when it’s mounted. To be clear, only boresighting any gun is never “good enough” to go out and hunt. Different ammo impacts at different points, not to mention the variables thrown in by different optics—so it’s impossible to completely zero the rifle at the factory.
However, proper boresighting does provide one big advantage. You can usually start your zeroing fine tuning with a target out at 100 yards as the bore sighing process will get the scope and barrel aligned well enough that your first shot will at least be on paper. That’s exactly what I did with this rifle.
I fired the Federal Premium Non-Typical Whitetail .308 Winchester 180-grain ammo at a 100-yard target and the point of impact was about six or seven inches high and a couple of inches to the right. The included Bushnell Banner scope adjusts for windage and elevation in ¼ MOA per click increments, so that means each click will move the point of impact ¼-inch at 100 yards.
I quickly spun the elevation dial about 25 clicks down and 10 clicks left and got pretty close. Since I would be shooting multiple ammo types, I didn’t waste more time or ammo moving the point of impact for this particular bullet to the center of the bullseye.
Shooting the Savage Axis II XP
I took the Savage Axis II XP for a range outing on a nice 62-degree day with light winds gusting between 3 and 8 mph from the 10 o’clock direction. At my 100-yard testing distance, the wind wasn’t a big factor. Because I was curious, I plugged the current atmospheric data into my Ballistic AE app and ran some trajectory calculations for wind drift at 100 yards.
My test ammunition varied a bit on bullet weight and velocity, so I used “standard” data for a 168-grain .308 bullet. The total drift worked out to just 0.4 inches. So, if I fired one shot when the wind was at a perfect zero mile-per-hour lull, and another at the maximum eight mile-per-hour velocity blowing from the 10 o’clock direction, that second shot should land just less than a half of an inch to the right of the first.
Of course, that assumes that the rifle puts every shot into the same hole. Stated differently when you consider that every rifle shoots in a “group” rather than a single hole, you might assume that the wind on testing day might make the group size appear to be a bit larger than it would on a perfectly windless day.
All of that is a long way of saying that the groups I shot would likely be a bit smaller without any crosswind.
For ammo testing, I used three different Federal Premium loads for the Axis II XP.
Federal Premium Non-Typical Whitetail
The 180-grain Non-Typical load is optimized for North American Whitetail. It’s a jacketed, lead-core bullet with a soft point to initiate aggressive expansion.
Federal Premium Barnes TSX
The Barnes TSX 150-grain option uses the proven Barnes Triple Shock bullet. It’s an all-copper projectile with a deep hollow point designed to provide expansion without sacrificing penetration. Since it’s a solid bullet, it does a great job of retaining weight as it expands and penetrates.
Federal Premium Berger Hybrid Hunter
The Barnes Hybrid Hunter 168-grain gets its name from the hybrid ogive shape. It’s a jacketed hollow-point with a lead core, and it features a high ballistic coefficient more consistent with a traditional 168-grain match bullet.
I set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet in front of the muzzle and fired multiple shots of each of my three test ammo types so I could calculate average velocity. Most ammo, and all the loads tested here, include a velocity number on the box. That may or may not reflect what you’ll measure out of your rifle because there are a lot of potential variables.
For example, barrel length may vary and that can easily change velocity by 50 fps or so per inch of barrel one way or the other. Weather conditions like altitude and temperature will also impact the actual results.
The table below shows the “on the box” velocity ratings and the actuals I measured. As you’ll see, they are very close and in one case of the Barnes TSX, virtually identical.
|Ammunition||Factor Rated Velocity (fps)||Actual Velocity (fps)|
|Federal Premium Non-Typical Whitetail .308 Winchester 180-grain||2,570||2,605.7|
|Federal Premium Barnes TSX .308 Winchester 150-grain||2,820||2,820.7|
|Federal Premium Berger Hybrid Hunter .308 Winchester 168-grain||2,700||2,633.0|
With velocity worked out, I then set up fresh targets at 100 yards and fired three-shot groups which I feel is a more realistic hunting rifle test as shooting volume will be low. It’s unlikely that a rifle like this would be fired rapidly enough to heat the barrel so I didn’t want to skew results that way.
I was testing another rifle the same day, so I was able to alternate after every three-shot group to allow the Savage Axis II XP to cool down. I shot two groups of each ammo type and averaged the results.
|Ammunition||Average Group Size (3 shots, 100 yards)|
|Federal Premium Non-Typical Whitetail .308 Winchester 180-grain||1.9″|
|Federal Premium Barnes TSX .308 Winchester 150-grain||1.0″|
|Federal Premium Berger Hybrid Hunter .308 Winchester 168-grain||1.4″|
The Savage Axis II XP will is available in a variety of calibers with barrel twist rates optimized for each chambering. Here’s what’s available so far.
- .223 Rem
- .22-250 Rem
- .243 Win
- 6.5 Creedmoor
- 7mm-08 Rem
- .308 Win
- .25-06 Rem
- .270 Win
- .30-06 Springfield
Factory Specifications (.308 Winchester)
|Bolt Release Type:||Side|
|Magazine Capacity:||4 Rounds|
|Length of Pul:||13.5″|
|Magazine:||Detachable Box Magazine|
|Rate of Twist:||10|
|Receiver Material:||Stainless Steel|
Source: Range 365