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Browning X-Bolt Hunter

Resisting all the obvious catch phrases; well nearly, Pete Moore gets his hands on the new Browning X-Bolt Hunter and wonders if it has the X-factor? Doh…

Hands up all of you who like the Browning A-Bolt? Hmm I don’t see many, which is a pity as this unashamedly modern bolt-action rifle is a neat if quirky design. I like it but would be the first to admit it has never really made that big an impression in the UK. However, the examples I have tested proved efficient and cost effective.

I think what really puts people off is the odd feed system that sees a detachable box mag that can only be accessed by unlocking the floor plate and swinging it open, why? Also the rather odd shape of the bolt handle with its flattened/twisted look. However, on the plus side the lift angle is a mere 60° and the safety is located on the tang so making it very easy and practical.

Slicker/smoother…

I had been hearing rumours that Browning were going to build a new rifle well before IWA 2008 and given that the A-Bolt was their only turn-bolt action, I was intrigued as to what it might offer. Some investigation showed a design that was obviously of that lineage but addressed just about all the problems/unusual areas of the original.

My first impressions were of a far better looking rifle than before with slick and smooth lines; on reflection the furniture reminded me of their Cynergy Game gun. Visually the X-Bolt had the look of something that would come to the shoulder quick and fast and point very naturally too. By early September of this year I had a 270 WSM, X-Bolt Hunter in my hands and an invite from Philippe Chamoret, Browning International’s Marketing Manager to bring it to Poland and put it through its paces on some driven and high seat work.

Three days of fairly intensive hunting was a good way of getting to know the rifle, as apart from a bit of zeroing in the UK using Winchester’s 150-grain, Supreme XP3 ammunition, supplied by Browning, I would be going in at the deep end! 

Four X

The action remains very A-Bolt with a 3-lug lock up, a fully supported head and plunger-type ejector. The handle is again familiar, showing that flat and angled back design though in this case it feels better as it has more of a curve to the shape. Sensibly the short lift angle has been retained. However, different is the bolt shroud, which looks odd in a sort of hump backed way and is not as ascetically pleasing as the A-Bolt’s longer and more shapely style.

The tang-mounted safety catch is as before (forward - FIRE, reverse - SAFE) which is a design that's hard to beat. Adding to this is a separate unlocking button where the bolt handle meets the body, which allows you to open the action with the rifle on safe. A useful feature for unloads etc…

The receiver is glass bedded into the stock. Unlike the A-Bolt, which uses blobs of a semi-mastic type compound, Browning have done a proper job. Up front is a good chunk of rigid material that offers a proper pocket for the large recoil lug and a good section of bearing for the fully floated barrel’s re-enforce. This is taken up again at the rear of the action void to give two supporting surfaces.

Browning have taken this opportunity to re-think the scope mounts too. Here they use four screws per base to fix it to the receiver. Called the X-Lock scope mount; the idea is that it makes the interface more solid. The rifle comes with a set of 1” dovetails, so you just need some rings and you are good to go. Optional and extra are a set of bases with integral rings. I would imagine that people like Warne, Leupold, Burris etc., will eventually make mounts for the X-Bolt, as they do for the A-Bolt.

Feather Trigger

Barrels show a light/medium profile and are hand-chambered with a deep (concave) target crown. New too is the Feather Trigger unit, which features a 3-lever system that provides a clean, crisp pull with no take-up or creep and minimal over travel. The weight is screw-adjustable from 3 to 5 lbs and factory set at approximately 3 1/2 lbs. To be honest there’s not a huge amount of difference in the feel of the pull up or down, and the factory setting is more than good enough…

The bottom metal is aluminium and shows a well sized trigger guard that’s very finger friendly and a huge mag well. Another big improvement is the conventional detachable magazine. Made of heavy polymer, it’s a simple, rotary design that feeds from a central position and has an integral release catch at the front. A flat spring secures it at the rear and in or out the action is easy and secure.

In terms of other controls there’s the bolt release catch rear left of the receiver and a cocked action indicator pin that protrudes from under the bolt shroud. The stock is very nice showing a reasonable piece of walnut, decent panels of chequering and a right hand palm swell. The butt has a high/straight comb and the grip is set well back to give a near optimum, first pad finger position on the trigger blade. At the rear is a big/thick Inflex, rubber recoil pad and QD sling studs fitted fore and aft. The forend is tapered with a rounded, hand-filling profile at the rear and angled finger slots run along the sides. Weighing in at 6 lbs 11oz in 270 WSM the rifle is 42 ¾” long and generally feels very handy.

Browning offer four versions of the X-Bolt, the Hunter – semi matte (satin) wood stock and low lustre blued metal work, the Composite Stalker - black synthetic stock, the Medallion - shiny wood and blue and the Stainless Stalker - black synthetic /stainless steel. Calibre choice is good with 243W, 7mm-08, 308W, 25-06, 270W, 280 Rem, 30-06, 7mm Rem Mag, 300 & 338 Win Mag, 270, 7mm, 300 and 325 WSM and 375 H&H. This last chambering is only offered with the Medallion and Stainless Stalker.

Barrel length will vary as to calibre with 22, 23, 24 and 26”, for example 243 W is 22” whereas 300 Win Mag is 26” with the WSMs all at 23”.

Feels good - yeah!

I have to say I was quite taken by the look and feel of the hunter, as even though it’s a wood stocker, the subdued finish looked and felt good, and the layout and light weight do make it very natural in the hands. I was however a little concerned about recoil, as I used to have a Win Model 70 in 270 WSM and that was a bit lively until I fitted a muzzle brake! Browning also say the X-Bolt offers the potential of 1 MOA accuracy at 100-yards, which is quite some claim for a factory gun.

Initially scoped up with a Swarovski 2-12x50 Z6i for the trip range tests showed that even with the 150-grain XP3 ammo the X-Bolt was ridiculously well behaved. I put this down to the high/straight comb and Inflex recoil pad, out in the field this translated into being able to see the animal fall when hit, something that is not always possible with heavy recoiling rifles; especially light ones.

Equally impressive was the gun’s ability to shoot the promised 1 MOA, though with the factory load the third shot stepped out a bit due no doubt to excessive barrel heating, but the first two were bang on the money - which is more than enough. Experimentation with reloads using bullets from Barnes (130-grain TTSX), Nosler (140-grain Ballistic Tip) and Hornady (150-grain SST) showed the rifle to be equally happy with these three and was capable of an inch with them. Doubtless the improved trigger helped!

Nice and easy

In the field the light weight of the rifle made it an easy carry up and down high seats or just foot stalking. Speed of reaction was excellent with the gun snapping effortlessly into the shoulder and staying there. With both factory and reloads the action was smooth and cycled with no hesitation to chamber or eject.

The bolt unlocking button was also useful as it allows you to leave the action on SAFE, then press the button to open the bolt for an unload. However, it was the magazine that really made it for me, as I do like DMs. Easy to remove or fit, even with gloves on, the central feed position really smoothes things up over the old staggered column-types.

I have to say that I really like the X-Bolt and honestly feel it’s a serious improvement over the A-Bolt, as it’s pretty damn slick for a factory rifle. In terms of fit and finish there’s little to choose between these two models, though I feel that the X is a design that will happily take on the likes of the Tikka T3, Sako 85, Thompson Center Icon and other slightly more up market models. In 270 WSM the Hunter offers me a light, easy shooting package in a hard hitting calibre, so worth a position on my gun rack and I even like the wooden stock!

So where does it leave the A-Bolt? Well Browning are not going to discontinue it at the moment, though will probably be reducing the number of options. Currently the X-Bolt is not yet available in a left hand version or with the BOSS muzzle stabilising system, but it seems likely.

Little Britain

Well that’s the world picture of the X-Bolt, however the UK market has been more selective and I was told by importers BWM Arms Ltd that initially they will only be bringing in one version - the Stainless Stalker in a limited number of calibres – 223 Rem, 243, 308 and 270 Winchester. For our market these will doubtless to fill the bill, though the old 270 is not as popular as it once was and the slightly more powerful WSM version might have been a better choice.

Guns will come threaded with two options 1/2x28” UNEF for the lighter calibres and 14mm for the heavier ones. Seems odd to me and even though I prefer 1/2x28 I reckon the smart money would have been to do them all 1/2x20” UNF. To give BWM their due they have already got me a Stainless Stalker in 243 Win for a follow up article next month and with its synthetic Dura-Touch stock it does feel good. So stay tuned.

At the end of the day I feel that with the X-Bolt, Browning now have a bolt-action rifle to be reckoned with.

We reckon:
• Vast improvement
• Properly bedded
• Very shootable

Technical Specifications
Name Browning X-Bolt Hunter
Calibre 270 WSM (on test)
Capacity 3+1 (DM)
Stock walnut
Barrel 23”
Weight 6lbs 11oz
Length 42 ¾”
Adjustable trigger Y
Scope bases Y
Price £699

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

Distributer information
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User Comments
  • I have decided to go with the stainless steal x bolt sythetic stalker 280. I spent some time in looking over the T-3 Tika and like the stock of the new x bolt bolt better. Nice looking gun over all, I mounted a XTR tactical Burris scope on it also , boy does it drive tacks. Looking forward to hunting season this year in Canada I might even try it out on cougar when I run my hounds next winter. I am impressed with the rifle so far, clean lines and a great shooter I give it a thumbs up. Ron.

    Comment by: Ron .E.     Posted on: 13 Jul 2009 at 05:48 AM

  • No arguments from me, it's possibly the best fullbore Browning has ever made. Not tried it in 280 but have a wood stocked version in 270WSM, which is wicked and also shot a 243 stainless/synthetic. Personally I prefer the wood, which is unusual for me...

    Cheers
    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 13 Jul 2009 at 10:58 AM

  • looks sweet, i agree way better than tika t-3, i have my name on a synthetic and stainless version in 25-06, cant wait for it to come in!

    Comment by: brett     Posted on: 15 Jul 2009 at 10:10 PM

  • Check out the August issue of Shooting Sports as I've just written up the X-Bolt stainless synthetic in 243 Win... Not bad at all
    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 16 Jul 2009 at 10:09 AM

  • I had a browning a- bolt 30-06 and I really wasn't impressed with the way it grouped at 100yds. Then I got a Ruger 243 hawkeye and the same as the Browning nothing less than a inch and a half a 100yds. I am very Interested in a X-Bolt but I want it in a 308 cal., has anyone tested the X- Bolt in that caliber? If so where can I find the stats.?

    Comment by: kevin lewis     Posted on: 10 Aug 2009 at 08:18 PM

  • Not yet, I have tested the 270WSM (above) and also the 243 Win stainless synthetic, which should be on this site.

    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 11 Aug 2009 at 09:41 AM

  • X Bolt 308. Yes, what a rifle! I purchased one two weeks ago. My first 3 shot group at 100 yards was 5/8 inch. Five additional groups yeilded the largest group of 7/8 inch the smallest 1/4 inch.

    Comment by: DESSR     Posted on: 17 Nov 2009 at 04:55 PM

  • I've said it before and I'll say it again; this is possibly the best sporting rifle Browning has ever produced. I love my 270 WSM Hunter model.

    Good luck
    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 17 Nov 2009 at 05:16 PM

  • Bought the new X-bolt Hunter, in the 7MM Rem Mag. I love it. It has a great clean, sleek look to it. Accuracy is great! Cant wait to take it out hunting here in Arizona.

    Comment by: WiseHunter     Posted on: 02 May 2010 at 07:46 PM

  • I just bought the x-bolt 270wsm. It wont hold a pattern at all. What kind of bullets do you shoot with yours?

    Comment by: chris     Posted on: 20 Aug 2010 at 04:05 AM

  • Though my example will hold an inch with a range of weights I reload for it and find a 140-grain Nosler BT to be the best recipe.

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 20 Aug 2010 at 08:24 AM

  • can anyone out there tell me if there is a big difference between the 300wsm and 325wsm i was thinking off buying the 300 but i just found outthat they make the 325

    Comment by: Gordie Brown     Posted on: 23 Aug 2010 at 04:12 AM

  • The 325, which is around 8mm will offer marginally heavier bullets, slower speeds, a more curved trajectory but the potential of more energy. For most needs the 300 should be more than enough and probably a bit more flexible in terms of species types and distance. Plus and in the UK getting hold of 325 WSM could be problematic and best approached by reloading, whereas 300 is more available.

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 23 Aug 2010 at 08:23 AM

  • thanks pete for the help, much appreciated,iwill stick with the 300,thanks again.

    Comment by: Gordie Brown     Posted on: 24 Aug 2010 at 05:33 AM

  • Probably best, I have a custom Win model 70 in 300 WSM and that seems to be able to cope with anything I have come across...

    Cheers & good hunting
    PM

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 24 Aug 2010 at 09:58 AM

  • Does Browning have a left handed X bolt, if not will they be comming out with one (synthetic in ss)

    Comment by: Carl Steed     Posted on: 28 Sep 2010 at 01:09 AM

  • I am looking to get a new rifle for hunting mainly, but I like to target shoot too. I am looking at the browning x-bolt varmint special stanless, in a 270wsm calibar. I really want to be able to hit a thousand yard shot. What x-bolt would you recomend for great hunting and long range target compition?

    Comment by: dave luzier     Posted on: 05 Nov 2011 at 05:00 AM

  • Truth is you cannot really have a rifle that offers both long range ability and is fit for hunting too. It's really about size and weight as a 1000-yard gun needs a 24-26" heavy weight barrel and match/precision-type stock. A hunting gun needs to be lighter as it will be carried a lot and shot little.

    Though I have to say that the X-Bolt Varmint strikes a half decent compromise. However at 8.5 lbs unscoped you are looking at a near 10 lb gun fully rigged, which like I said might be abit heavy for stalking. But I still don't feel its a 1000-yard rifle.

    270WSM is a good hunting calibre, but it would not be my first choice for long range target work. If you like the WSM then go with the 300 or the 7mm as bullets in these calibres show good ballistic coefficients and down-range ability. But I would also recoemnd relaoding too...

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 05 Nov 2011 at 10:01 AM

  • I recently purchased the X bolt 270WSM on the prenise it would be a good hunting rifle and something I could use on the 100yd range. Its recoil isnt suited for the range as it does pack quite a punch. Im re investing in a .243 X-Bolt for the range - most likely keeping the 270WSM for hunting trips although given Im a novice hunter I wish I had started with the .243

    Comment by: Nick H     Posted on: 12 Nov 2011 at 11:55 PM

  • Yes 270WSM is certainly not the one to buy for a first time rifle. The cartridge is powerful and can easily take big animals, but the downside is the recoil on what is a light rifle. Truth is in the UK and depending on what species you hunt it's too much gun, though good for big fallow and red deer at longer ranges. A 243 Win is a far better entry level hunting cartridge, but you also talk of range work, here it's not ideal as the 308 Win is better in this role. However, a light hunter like this is also not the best bet for target shooting, as you will expierecne rapid barrel heating with a subsequent loss in consistany and group size too.

    Truth is you can't expect target-like performance from a hunting rifle, as they are not built that way. That is not to say they are inaccurate, but they do not do well for sustaine fire use...

    Good luck
    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 14 Nov 2011 at 10:23 AM

  • anyone have any comments on the x bolt 3006 or 2506 and what about accuracy

    Comment by: nick     Posted on: 22 Dec 2011 at 10:14 PM

  • i just got 270wsm xbolt......100% ejection failures with empties and live rounds. Browning isn't the same company it used to be when it was in Belgium. Do your reaserch before you buy an xbolt in a short mag. I dont undrstand how browning could have over looked this but i can guarantee I will never buy a browning again. As for accuracy, its nothing special. if you put a decent scope on a turd you will most likely hit the target.

    Comment by: john     Posted on: 31 Jan 2012 at 01:21 AM

  • Nick,

    Think you need to try a different brand of ammunition. The Xbolts seem to have a very tight chamber and sounds like your chosen brand of ammunition is a little too hot and creating too much pressure. I cant feed some military brass into my gun which tells me the chamber is built to tighter tolerances. Something to think about.

    Comment by: John K     Posted on: 10 Mar 2012 at 02:59 AM

  • I'm looking at getting a x-bolt hunter 270WSM left handed. I want to start hunting deer mainly I live in Pennsylvania. Any suggestions on the rifle as well as other calibers I should look into? I want something that will take down a deer but also I want something that won't take my shoulder off lol

    Comment by: Nate L     Posted on: 02 Mar 2013 at 12:52 PM

  • Recently purchased a Browning X-bolt micro midas in 7mm-08. Using Federal 150 grain it will not group at all on a 12 inch target at 100 yards. My 40 year old Marlin 30-30 will still shoot sub-MOA at 100 yards. I have a Leoupld VX-R 3x9x40 scope on the x-bolt. Would changing ammo to 140 grain Remington Express or Hornady whitetail improve accuracy?

    Comment by: Don Cook     Posted on: 08 Oct 2013 at 08:14 PM

  • It's often best to try a number of bullet weights and types in any calibre as some guns can be a little fussy on what they like. I always shot 140-grain handloads through my Remy 700 7mm-08 and it was fine.

    PM

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 09 Oct 2013 at 09:34 AM

  • I'm very interested in the x-bolt eclipse hunter .300 win. mag. Does anyone have one & can you tell me about it please.

    Comment by: Tommy     Posted on: 09 Jul 2014 at 01:39 AM

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Browning X-Bolt Hunter
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Browning X-Bolt Hunter
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Browning X-Bolt Hunter
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Browning X-Bolt Hunter
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