Why does the Axis scale seem so much shorter? Is it really 25.5 inches?

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Yes. The neck scale on all of our guitars is 25.5", the same as a Fender Stratocaster. It may appear shorter because the overall length of the guitar is shorter. The 4+2 headstock cuts off an inch or so, and it is also trimmer at the bridge end. We cut some of the "fat" so that our guitars have a better balance and are more comfortable to play. It makes the entire instrument shorter without changing the scale length.