Ammunition

Review: Savage AXIS .22-250

Savage Axis ergonomics

This is a report about an affordable and powerful rifle, an accurate combination available for a pittance. You may note that the rifle illustrated is the original Savage AXIS, without the AXIS II improvements.

I would not recommend haunting the shops to find one of these. They are good rifles, but the affordable and useful AXIS II (with its AccuTrigger system) is an even better rifle.

Savage Axis
The Savage AXIS .22-250 is an affordable performer with much to recommend.

Affordable Performance

The AXIS II is available with a synthetic stock and in stainless steel. It is among the best buys in a modern rifle. Most are available in a package.

Package guns are simply affordable rifles supplied with scope rings and bases and a rifle scope. The buyer saves money by purchasing the package instead of purchasing each component separately.

The rifle will have been mechanically bore-sighted at the manufacturer. Some use these budget guns for hunting; other shooters keep these as backup rifles for more expensive or highly developed hunting rifles.

The AXIS bolt-action is smooth in operation and the uplift isn’t difficult. The magazine is easily removed for loading.

Savage Axis - Removable Magazine
An advantage of the AXIS rifle is a removable magazine.

Loading and inserting a magazine is easier for most of us than reaching over a scope to load an internal magazine. The receiver, bolt and barrel are nicely finished with no discernible flaws.

Savage AXIS rifles have a good balance of weight, accuracy and handling. A quick look at the Cheaper Than Dirt website and you’ll see more than 400 variations on the Savage rifle.

A rifle similar to mine is a Savage AXIS II .22-250 topped with a scope ready to go at a few hundred bucks. That is a very inexpensive varmint rifle.

If you want a bit more, Remington, Mossberg and Tikka offer highly developed .22-250 bolt-action rifles. You might get your feet wet with the Savage, or it may be all you will ever need up to 300 yards or so.

I have used several scopes on my Savage, but ended up using the Bushnell Trophy 3x9x40 for most of the work.

Savage Axis Handling
The Savage AXIS is a well-designed rifle that handles quickly.

Load Testing

I wanted to test this screamer of a .224 cartridge. The .22-250 was originally known as the .22-250 Varminter, a wildcat with a good reputation. Then, Remington made it a factory-standard cartridge.

Most .22-250 loads from the factory use a 55-grain Spitzer bullet. Black Hills Ammunition has chosen the 50-grain A-Max for a standard load.

Black Hills .22-250 Ammo
Black Hills offers excellent .22-250 ammunition.

This cartridge, a .250-3000 necked down to .224 in the heady early days of high velocity, will break 3,700 fps with the 50-grain A-Max.

The biggest, meanest coyote every weaned will be stopped emphatically and quickly with this load. The 36-grain Varmint Grenade bullet pioneered by Barnes Bullets tops 4,250 fps.

For varmints that need to be vaporized right now, this the trick. If you handload, it isn’t difficult to move the 55-grain Hornady bullet to 3,650 fps. Recoil remains light—very light—in this rifle.

36-grain Varmint Grenade
The 36-grain Varmint Grenade offers explosive fragmentation.

It is a fun gun whether you are a hunter or simply like a long-range target rifle. Sight the rifle in for 1.3 inches high at 100 yards and it will have dropped to only 1.5-inch low at 250 yards.

You need to live-fire test the rifle as other factors intervene, but those are the ballistics. In practice, you can bet on the .22-250 being a flat shooter.

The .22-250 is a fine handloader’s cartridge. A favorite powder is Hodgdon Varget. I have also enjoyed good luck with H380, which seems well suited to this cartridge.

It’s true that 38 grains of H380 and the Hornady 50-grain V-Max breaks about 3,700 fps, but is below the maximum pressure for this cartridge.

With the 55-grain Hornady JSP, I have used 37 grains of H380 for 3600 fps and excellent accuracy. The .22-250 is often compared to the .220 Swift.

While it isn’t quite as fast, it burns much less powder and with a longer barrel life. Any difference on varmints to 300 yards is purely conversational.

When you combine light recoil and a possible velocity well over 4,000 fps with the 36- and 40-grain bullets you have a fun rifle that makes for an economical day of shooting.

50-grain V-Max
The author finds the 50-grain V-Max ideal for larger varmints.

Barrel Twist

It is fashionable to use the less-powerful .223 Remington for small deer. That’s OK, but while it would seem you could jack up the .22-250 to an even better deer-killer, barrel twist isn’t in our favor.

The barrel twist is one in 12 compared to the one in eight of the .223 Remington. Only a custom barrel will allow the use of heavier (62 grains and up) bullets in the .22-250.

They simply do not stabilize properly in the one in 12 twist. I am not really concerned, as the .22-250 isn’t a go-anywhere, do-anything rifle—and was never intended as such.

Savage Axis - Bolt
The Savage AXIS II features a strong receiver and a smooth operating bolt.

Conclusion

The Savage AXIS is an affordable varmint rifle well worth its modest price.

With the Black Hills Ammunition 50-grain load, it will cut a three-shot group of .9 to 1.1 inch at 100 yards, and about the same with most handloads.

That is darned good and it doesn’t break the bank in the process. The .22-250 is a great performer and, most of all, a fun rifle.

Savage Axis
The Savage AXIS is a good rifle; the newer rifle is even better.

What do you think of the Savage AXIS? Let us know in the comments below.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (2)

  1. I bought an Axis II in .243 last fall for my wife, a first time deer hunter, to use. While she never got the opportunity to put anything in the freezer it sure has been fun putting multiple holes really close together on paper. Thank you Savage and thanks for this article.

  2. I have a Savage model 12 FCV (full contour varminter, I think is what this stands for) in .22-250. I just looked on Cabela’s website and one can be had for just over 400 bucks. This rifle is better yet than the Axis reviewed here. Heavy, 26″ long barrel, it will regularly exceed factory velocity listings and has shot anything I’ve put through it to 1″ or less at 100 yards, with handloads frequently reaching 1/2″ and some approaching 1/4″ groups. Bottom line is Savage makes a great shooting, affordable rifle out of the box.

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