I first saw the Browning X-Bolt in October of 2007on a pronghorn hunt with Browning & Winchester in Wyoming. When all the writers divided up the rifles I ended up with the new Winchester model 70 chambered for the .300 WSM. I wasn’t disappointed but it left me intrigued by the design of the X-Bolt and was anxious to shoot and hunt with one.
Why? For starters the X-Bolt first appears to be an enhanced version of the time tested Browning A-Bolt, a rifle that has developed a reputation for fine accuracy and dependability. However, further inspection reveals so many enhancements, the X-Bolt is in a class by itself. Incorporating a mix of steel, wood and synthetics, the rifle is available in four different models; the Composite Stalker, Stainless Stalker, the Hunter and the Medallion.
The X-Bolt stock is very ergonomically pleasing and incorporates a unique hand checkering pattern, a palm swell at the grip and a super soft, Inflex Technology recoil pad. Every stock is glass bedded to the barreled action and barrels are fully free-floated. Additionally, every barrel is target crowned to protect the rifling at the muzzle from damage that could affect accuracy.
The completely adjustable Feather trigger system is an entirely new design and performs like a custom tuned trigger with no creep or over travel. One very distinctive feature is the bolt “unlock” button. The X-Bolt emulates the A-Bolt with its fast 60-degree bolt throw but with the X-Bolt, a button on the top of the bolt handle allows the bolt to be safely operated even though it can be locked closed with the tang safety.
A major departure from the A-Bolt or any other rifle is the scope mounting system. The conventional manner for mounting riflescopes has always been two screws on the front mount and two screws on the rear mount. The X-Bolt uses four screws on each mount! This unquestionably strengthens the mounting system and for scope rings and bases to work with this system, Browning turned to Talley who manufacturers impeccable scope mounting hardware.
Talley redesigned their Lightweight One Piece Alloy Scope Mounts with four screw holes per mount to fit the X-Bolt. These rugged rings weigh only 3 ounces and provide one of the most dependable riflescope mounting platforms in existence. How much do I trust the Talley Lightweight system? More of my rifles wear these mounts than all others combined.
And then there is the rotary magazine. This unit is molded from durable synthetics and while purists may scoff at the looks and choice of material, they are easy to load and have operated flawlessly on the three rifles I have fired. Some of the most reliable rifles in the world like the Mannlicher Schoenauers and Savage 99s were made with a rotary magazine. The X-Bolt magazine holds four standard cartridges and three rounds of magnum ammunition.
I didn’t get to hunt with the X-Bolt in Wyoming but I did get to fire several rounds through one in .308 Winchester, enough to learn the rifle shot very well. Six months later I hunted in west Texas with an X-Bolt in .270 Winchester. I confirmed the zero with two shots touching at 100 yards and then took a free ranging aoudad with the X-Bolt four days later.
Soon after that hunt I received an X-Bolt in .243 Winchester for comprehensive testing and finally had a chance to see just how well one of these rifles would shoot. I tested four different factory loads from a sandbag rest at 100 yards. The smallest group which measured .71 inches was fired with Black Hills’ 95 grain SST load. The average for all loads tested was 1.31 inches. Available in short and long action with either a nicely figured walnut stock or synthetic stock covered with Dura-Touch armor coating, in cartridges from .243 Winchester to .375 H&H, Browning’s X-Bolt is one of the most exciting sporting rifles of 2008 and maybe of the new millennium.
Browning X-Bolt, .243 Winchester Ammunition Average Group Size
Remington 75 grain V-Max .82 inches
Black Hills 95 grain SST 1.04 inches
Federal 100 grain Grand Slam 1.29 inches
Federal 100 grain Nosler Partition 2.11 inches
Results are the average of three, three shot groups fired form a sandbag rest at 100 yards.
Browning X-Bolt Technical Specifications
Barrel Length: 22” to 26”
Overall Length: 41 ¾” – 46 ¾”
Length of pull: 13 5/8”
Drop at comb: 5/8”
Drop at heel: 1/2”
Weight: 6.8 to 7 pounds
MSRP: $ 799.00 – 849.00