Range Report: Savage Axis .30-06

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, General, Range Reports, Reloading

For the rifleman primarily interested in hunting, there are a number of inexpensive but useful bolt-action rifles. These include the Mossberg ATR, Ruger American, and the Savage Axis. Some are offered in a package with an affordable rifle scope. I have fired most and find them worth the money—and some worth a little more.

Savage Axis rifle rifle side

The author found that the Savage Axis rifle gives performance beyond

A lot of research and development has gone into the entry-level rifle. The price point isn’t everything, and some of the engineering that went into these rifles is impressive. They are a cut above the trade store rifles once popular. The modern bolt-action rifle with a synthetic stock and affordable price tag is important. Let’s face it, much of the interest in shooting will hinge upon access and entry cost. Family hunts are not diminished by using an affordable rifle.

Shooting the Savage Axis from a benchrest

Firing off of a solid benchrest the Savage Axis provided good accuracy.

In the past, store brands such as Revelation and Ted Williams offered good value. Today, the Savage Axis fits the same niche, but the Savage is a better rifle. The Savage Axis seems if not the best buy, among the best buys on the market. I have observed excellent accuracy from the Savage Axis rifle, and it seems that my experience isn’t out of the norm. At the Axis price point you can afford a good scope and plenty of practice ammunition. Let’s look at the Savage as an affordable rifle with good performance.

When examining the Savage rifle the ejection port was generous, offering plenty of room for loading and unloading cartridges. The stock fits the action well. I think the wrist is a bit thin, but in practice, handling was good and the rifle—a .30-06 example—was never uncomfortable to fire. The bolt action is smooth in operation.

These rifles feature a detachable box magazine—something modern shooters seem to prefer. The stock and integral locking lugs of the Savage rifle get good ratings. The stock isn’t pretty but the molding is adequate, it is after all a modern black stock. I fitted a Vanguard scope to the rifle and tightened every nut and bolt down before range work. I made several observations during my range work. The rifle comes to the shoulder quickly, balances well, and isn’t a burden during a long day in the field. I first sighted the rifle properly using the box method and my own handloads.

Detachable magazine

Many shooters like a detachable magazine and it works well in practice.

These handloads use IMR 3031 powder and the Hornady 150-grain JSP. With a minimum amount of firing, the rifle was properly sighted for my preferred hold, striking an inch high at 100 yards. The Vanguard scope was easily adjusted and offers a crisp, clear sight picture with nothing to be desired.

With this handload, the rifle grouped three shots into 1.5 inches at 100 yards. Next, I moved to factory ammunition. I used the Hornady 150-grain Interlock American Whitetail loading. Settling down into a carefully rhythm, I was able to register an excellent 1.2 inches at 100 yards.

The best group of the day was a singular effort with the Hornady 150-grain SST Superformance, at .9-inch. The average for this load was 1.2 inches. These Hornady loads offer custom grade accuracy. The SST bullet is highly developed for not only accuracy but effect on game. These loads are among the finest available for outdoors use.

Hornady American Whitetail .30-06 bullets and box

Hornady American Whitetail loads gave excellent accuracy and they are priced right.

The results were excellent by any standard. I also fired a handload using the Hornady 168-grain A Max, wishing to test a heavy bullet load. I used Varget powder in this combination. This loading is my favorite M1 Garand load, and it proved suitable for the Savage rifle, cutting a nice 1.25 inches for three shots. This rifle will shoot!

For heavier game, the 168-grain load offers excellent penetration; in some ways, this load maximizes the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. Recoil was there, but so was accuracy. At this point, I could easily see how a shooter might sight the rifle in and retire the piece until hunting season. Excellent results were had with each loading tested. I left the rifle sighted for the 150-grain loads, and the 150-grain Interbond load will be the hunting load.

While benchrest accuracy is excellent, off-hand work and firing from field positions demands practice. I have worked up a practice load that is sensibly below factory standards with the Hornady 150-grain JSP and enough 4064 for meaningful practice. The Savage Axis rifle is accurate, reliable, smooth in operation, and offers good performance at a fair price. The .30-06 cartridge offers enough power for anything on the North American continent. This is a great combination.

Are you in the market for a new hunting rifle? How does the Savage Axis fare in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (22)

  • Best Ammo For Savage Axis 308 – Hunt Sodak


    […] Range Report: Savage Axis.30-06 – Apr 20, 2016. The Savage Axis seems if not the best buy, among the best buys on the market. I have observed excellent accuracy from the Savage Axis rifle, and it seems that my experience isn't out of the norm. At the Axis price point you can afford a good scope and plenty of practice ammunition. Let's look at the Savage. […]


  • Paul McIntosh


    I have been shooting my Savage Axis in 30-06 for about three years. I have around 1000 rounds through it so far and no issues whatsoever. I live in Colorado so my hunting is for big game, mainly elk and mule deer so my loads reflect this.

    I reload so I can test a lot of different bullet/powder combinations. I have settled on Hornady Interlock BTSP in 165gr pushed by Reloader 15 powder as the most reliable and consistent. I tried several of the newer ballistic tipped bullets but they just lacked the consistency. I would get 2 or 3 on target and then one would be 4″ off. Maybe the tips were loose?

    I had the trigger reworked by a gun shop in Steamboat Springs that brought it down from around 6lb to a consistent, crisp 2.5lb. Who needs an Accutrigger when you can get that for $25?

    One BIG thing to note is that the stock is very weak just behind the trigger guard! Two years ago, on the 2nd day of a 9 day hunt, I slipped while crossing a small stream and my pack swung around and hit my stock against a large rock. The stock snapped clean in half right behind the trigger guard! I never felt the snap, only heard it. DAMN, was my season over that quick? NO, I had my trusty sporterized 1903 Springfield backup in my truck! I called Savage that evening and they overnighted a new stock to me with no argument or hesitation. Needless to say, my next purchase for that rifle was a Boyds Prairie Hunter stock!

    Overall, an MOA capable rifle for under $450 (including the Boyds stock and Osprey Signature Series 3-9×40 scope) is a total bargain!


  • Powder Burns


    Never trust anyone whose handloads shoot worse than factory loads….


  • Hide Behind


    Have ony been around 25-30 Savage axis, and once word got out Dad’s were buying an Axis package for not just new shooters but as step up in power and accuracy.
    Firing an AXIS in 223 or 243 is an absolute dream shooting day.
    I have only cleaned up axis triggers, that is only minor grope upon that whole line, but I know a few men who go bonkers for trgger jobs.
    I was alwYs a hu ter. Stalk up close for best shot and any accross the counter rifles made unti mid 60’s were finewhen it came time to place 1 in kill zone of Most N. AMERICAN small game including Southern and eatern runt size whitetails.
    It was moving from Eastern northern woods to western states that drew me into precision shooting, whatevrrnthe rifle was capBle of using store or handloDs.
    I still have a late 60’s eRly 70’s Special order 7mm clip fed 7mm Mag Savage that will place dime to nickle at 300.
    At least it did until stock damn near rotted out from elk and bear hunting inWA dripping woods and blusteru 600+ yard clearcuts.
    Any of modern rounds up close 100 and under will kill if in 12 inch zone, but it is when energy impact begins to fade and the lesser rounds spray from 4″ @100 to 24-@200 and 30-5 at 300 that shot placement becomes
    far more critical,.
    Guided gor years for Blacktails bear and Pacific Coastal elk and by end of season( they used to run from Sept to April I would be burned out by all the incompetent fat cats who thought 4-5 inches at 100 means hold dead on at 300-600; It was I that tracked until ginal kill shot.
    A severly hit animal heading into rough ground or even river crossing meant head or neck shots by me in order to put animal down.
    Any weapon for hunting in most western states had best have an owner who can place 4 or 5 into a 4-6″ square at 400.
    Have not yet seen any of Savages offerings within last few years that were not capable of that grouping.
    If you brag of under 1″@100,THEN WHY AND HELL ARE YOU AIMING ROUNDS INTO A 12 INCHES SQUARED ZONE out to 300?.


    • Arthur L. Brown Sr.


      Hide Behind, PLEASE reread your post BEFORE submitting. It is hard to wade through your typos. I also have FAT FINGERS, but I have learned to recheck before it becomes permanent. ALL THAT said, your comments are of reasonable consideration. My newest two long guns are an 870 Express(15 years old), and a Marlin .22 925R (3 years old).
      All the rest are as old or older than I am at 68, so I cannot with authority comment on the newer stock of “BUDGET” rifles.


  • Marty


    I can hit under 1″ with my Axis in .243


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