Savage has been making outstanding bolt-action rifles for over 60 years now. The brand has earned a reputation of quality well outside of its price range. With the Axis II XP, Savage has doubled down on the cost cutting, combining a bare bones rifle with an inexpensive optic for a very affordable full package. Unfortunately, when it comes to costs, it looks like this time they took it a little too far.
The Savage Axis II XP has the same adjustable AccuTrigger as their more expensive rifle. Savage got this part right. Although I’m not a big fan of the safety blade, the trigger itself is light and crisp. It comes set at 3 lbs, but it’s easily adjusted with the supplied tool all the way down to 1.6 lbs. I’ve brought it down to under 2 lbs on other Savage rifles, and it still performs safely. This is one place this cheap little rifle excels.
The safety on the Axis II is a bit different than older Savage models. The tang-mounted safety includes a large plastic thumb tab. This one moved well with a solid feel, unlike some of the more expensive Savage models I’ve reviewed. Even better, I could operate it with or without gloves on, which was much appreciated.
The barrel is the same quality as more expensive models. It’s a lighter Sporter contour and a good middle ground for walking around the woods and for shooting off a rest. The muzzle is not particularly well polished, and some light machine marks can still be found.
The action is push feed, with a large claw extractor and single plunger ejector and the traditional Savage 2-lug design. It’s not jeweled or adorned, but it’s the same good overall quality I’ve seen on Savage guns for decades.
Sadly, in the race to the bottom for who could make the cheapest excuse for a stock on the market, I think we have a new winner. The Axis II’s plastic stock flexes so much that I can bend the stock from the wrist to the butt with just my hands. The forend easily flexes around the barrel, making contact with it at different points depending on how I hold the rifle or what I rest it against.
See that little piece of metal laying on the table, just above the stock? That’s the “recoil lug”. Yup, it’s not held in by anything. It’s a fairly thin piece of metal that’s just wedged into the plastic stock and rests in a slot between the barrel and the receiver. It floats around a bit in the stock, providing no consistent bedding of the gun. I guess in this light .223 Rem chambering, it’s safe.
The flush-fit magazine loads easily, but is a bit of a challenge to lock into the gun. Note that the latch to hold the magazine into the receiver is plastic. The rear of the magazine needs to go in first, then a very firm push on the front of the magazine gets that plastic latch to engage.
Without looking, it’s easy to feel like the magazine is set, when it’s really not. It won’t drop, but it won’t feed either. It’s got a squishy, inconsistent feel to it and I had to play close attention to seating the magazine fully throughout the review.
This rifle came with the Bushnell Banner scope already mounted. This isn’t a scope review, but I like this scope. A very quick box test at 300 yards showed the turrets tracked right, and for a low price scope, the optical quality was very good.
Even better was that the rifle came out of the box very close to zeroed. At 100 yards with a 64gr soft point, I was only 2 inches low and an inch to the right.
I had reliability issues with a bolt action review gun for the first time. This Axis II XP had inconsistent light primer strikes with surplus ammunition. Regardless of manufacturer, about half of the surplus rounds I put through the gun failed to fire.
Maddeningly, these are the same lots of ammunition that the Savage 110 Varmint I reviewed earlier this year fired with perfect consistency. None of my own handloads had this issue, nor did several other hunting rounds from various manufacturers. But if it was cheap surplus with crimped hard primers, it was a crapshoot as to what I’d get. In the photo above, the two round on the bottom did not fire, the round in the top center did.
Off the bench, the rifle scored well. The newer Winchester Power Max 64gr round scored the best, printing 1.1-inch five-round groups averaged over four shot strings. That’s a great general hunting round and it’s nice to see it score well here.
Given all of my complaints about the gun, nothing actually shot poorly off the bench. The worst performer was the IWI M855, printing 1.5-inch groups (when it would fire) and both of my own handloads that mimic the Mk262 rounds and the Federal 50gr Varmint tipped round both averaged 1.3 inches.
I’m a huge Savage rifle fan. In fact, when I was asked what guns I would recommend without hesitation, the Savage 110 was the bolt gun I praised. If I was to walk out the door right now, that 60-year-old Savage I paid $250 for would be the gun I’d take. The Axis II XP is a far, far cry from that trusted rifle.
The American-made Savage Axis II XP is extremely budget friendly. The rifle and scope combination have an MSRP of $484, but are easily found online for as little as $380. That’s a great price, but not really a great gun.
Specifications: Savage Arms Axis II XP
SKU Number: 57090
Barrel Color: Black
Barrel Finish: Matte
Barrel Length: 22″
Barrel Type: Sporter
Bolt Release: Type Side
Caliber: .223 Remington
Magazine Capacity: 4 rounds
Length of Pull: In 13.5 inches
Magazine: Detachable box magazine
Overall Length: 43.875 inches
Rate of Twist :1 in 9 inches
Receiver: Finish Matte
Receiver Material: Carbon Steel
Stock Color: Black
Stock Finish: Matte
Stock Material: Synthetic
Stock Type: Sporter
Weight: 6.5 lbs.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
This is a no frills budget gun. No polish, no particular accents, but no big mistakes either.
Customization * * *
There are aftermarket triggers, but there’s no need for them. The AccuTrigger is excellent. Barrel changes are fairly easy and do not require a gunsmith.
Many issues with surplus ammunition. With a budget bolt gun, we should expect budget ammo to work. It doesn’t.
Accuracy * * * *
Despite a flimsy stock, the gun shoots well off the bench, with rounds all landing between the 1.1 and 1.5-inch mark.
Overall * *
There are just too many mistakes on this gun to overlook its inexpensive price tag. The stock is far from the “rugged” Savage bills it as. There are light primer strikes. The magazine is squishy and is difficult to set. There’s inexpensive, and then there’s cheap. Unfortunately, the Axis II XP is the latter. A big disappointment for a big Savage fan.