Review: AXL USA 1216 Classic and USA Bulldog Solidbody Electric Guitars

The following content is related to the January 13 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

AXL made an auspicious debut a few years ago with its Badwater Series guitars, which proved that even low-cost, entry-level import solidbody electric guitars could have plenty of attitude and vibe. In 2011, AXL rolled out its first AXL USA model, the SRO Classic, which is assembled at the company’s factory in Hayward, California. It offers a compelling combination of pro-quality parts, meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship, and the distressed aesthetics and broken-in feel that made AXL’s Badwater guitars stand out from the crowd.

The USA 1216 and USA Bulldog are the two latest additions to the AXL USA line conceived by the company’s U.S. design team. Both guitars are based on classic single-cutaway set-neck Gibson Les Paul designs, but in typical AXL fashion they also possess their own distinct character and personality. The bodies and necks are constructed overseas, but the final assembly work—which includes installing the frets, pickups and hardware, and setting up the guitar—is done by hand in the U.S. by AXL’s experienced team of technicians and craftsmen.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.