Savage offers a wide selection of "package" rifles that come out of the box with a riflescope already mounted and bore-sighted. Essentially, all you have to do is finalize the zero with your load and go hunting. That's appealing for sure, but so is the price. Savage works with optics manufacturers to put these packages together and then passes the savings on to you. One of the latest package rifles from Savage is the Axis II XP, and it's a good example of both the convenience and the value such a deal offers hunters.
The Axis rifle was well received when Savage introduced it in 2011. It delivered innovation and accuracy at an affordable price. What it did not have was the famous Savage AccuTrigger. Recently the company upgraded the Axis to include the AccuTrigger and entered this improved model in its package gun lineup. (The "II" indicates the AccuTrigger, and the "XP" designates it as a package rifle.) The Axis II XP comes with a mounted and bore-sighted 3X-9X-40mm Weaver Kaspa riflescope, which has the trajectory-compensating Ballistic-X reticle.
For those unfamiliar with the Savage AccuTrigger, it was a highly celebrated innovation when it was introduced in 2002. Its uniqueness comes from a lever, called the AccuRelease, centered in the trigger blade. This lever blocks the sear unless it is pressed. In other words, a rifle having an AccuTrigger cannot be fired until your finger fully depresses the AccuRelease and then pulls the trigger. The design allows Savage to create a light and crisp trigger that is user-adjustable and inherently safe. The concept was so successful and practical that several other manufacturers fundamentally copied it.
Savage rifles have a great reputation for accuracy, which largely comes from the company's unique method of setting headspace during assembly. After chambering the button-rifled barrel, Savage inserts a headspace gauge and threads the barrel onto the action. When the gauge indicates proper headspace, a lock nut screwed onto the barrel where it meets the action precisely sets the two components in place. It is an almost foolproof approach to a complicated assembly process, and it's the method the company employs when building the Axis II.
All this ingenuity fits into the Axis II's injection-molded stock, which utilizes steel pillars for bedding. The stock is exceptionally ergonomic with an open grip, relief cuts along the fore-end and molded ridges where your hands grasp the rifle.
A 1-inch-thick, very soft, ventilated recoil pad, sling swivel studs and a detachable four-round magazine are standard equipment on the Axis II.
By combining the AccuTrigger with the precision barrel-attachment method and the pillar-bedded action, Savage delivers a rifle that is comfortable to shoot and plenty accurate for any type of hunting. Two of the three loads I tested in the Axis II XP produced five-shot group averages that fell on just either side of 1.5 MOA. However, my test rifle did not like the Nosler 165-grain Partition load. Some rifles just don't like some loads, and I've found some are finicky about the Nosler Partition bullet.
Two of my favorite features of the Axis II are its weight and balance. At 6.5 pounds, without a scope, the Axis II is far from heavy. I don't like heavy rifles because I hunt on my feet in rugged and steep terrain, but sometimes bolt-actions this light have poor balance. From the shooting bench balance may not matter, but when you need to squeeze off that all-important shot at a monster 8-point, without a rest, balance can mean everything. The Axis II balances right at the front trigger-guard screw just like a rifle is supposed to, and I had no trouble hitting a 5-inch steel plate at 100 yards from the standing offhand position. I also like the tang safety; it's out of the way, easy to see and simple to manipulate.
Given the Axis II is light, balanced and will put bullets where you want them to go, its suggested retail price of $489 is a great deal. Add the Weaver Kaspa scope with the Ballistic-X reticle, and it becomes an incredible deal that's hard to pass up—even if you already have a hunting rifle or two. The riflescope alone carries a manufactuer's suggested retail price of $144.49.
Having tested several Savage package rifles, the Axis II XP gets my vote as the best of the bunch. With its array of chamberings, you should be able to choose one for hunting anywhere, for just about everything but dangerous game. Consider buying one for your spouse and kids, too. After all, your best hunting partners should be equipped just as well as you.