Whether you’re a veteran shooter or a complete neophyte, you’re probably familiar with the Browning name. One of the country’s foremost makers of firearms and fishing gear, Browning has been the outdoorsman’s best friend for generations. And when it comes to long range hunting rifles, they’ve outdone themselves with the X-Bolt. A weapon that combines style, power, elegance and prowess that redefines the term “long range”.
Packed with features that would enable you to sign your name in bullets at over 500 yards, this is a purpose built weapon with purpose. Unleashed on the market last year, those looking for the perfect combination of power and precision (not to mention great value for money) could do much worse.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes this rifle so special…
In a lot of ways, your weapon is a lot like your car. Sure, you’re primarily concerned with power and performance… but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to turn heads when you’re using it. This is certainly a handsome rifle. Take a look and you’ll notice the distinctively fluted, 26-inch matte stainless barrel with a “heavy sporter” contour. There’s also a detachable muzzle break which can be replaced with a suppressor using the 5/8×24 threads.
The carbon fiber composite stock is also very distinctive, giving the weapon a technologically advanced feel, while the matte nickel-coated sling swivel studs (which allow bipod mounting without impeding a sling) and Browning Buckmark logo lend a further touch of class to the aesthetic. Everything about the look of this rifle screams high-end.
When shooting long distance, you need a reassuring grip that gives you a good sense of control. The stock has a coating of Dura-Touch which gives you a satisfying grip as well as a little protection from scratches and scrapes. As you’d expect from a long range rifle of this sort, there’s a decidedly forward-weighted feel. While not technically a benchrest gun it certainly feels like one (albeit at a much friendlier price point). Weighing in at just over 7 pounds it has a reassuring heft, yet is still lighter than most long range rifles and won’t become burdensome even on long hunting trips.
Loading this rifle is a delight, even for those who usually balk at detachable magazines. Rest assured that there’s none of the rattling that can affect some detachable mags and the polymer rotary magazine holds four rounds inserting smoothly and popping out enthusiastically. It’s a nice action that demonstrates the attention to detail that we expect from Browning.
Of course, while all the above features are helpful when considering a long distance rifle, the name of the game is accuracy. So, how does the X-Bolt measure up against other, bulkier, costlier rifles?
Pretty damn well, as it happens!
The 26 inch barrel delivers consistently impressive velocities with a range of bullet weights. As of 2018, some of Browning’s calibers were altered with a faster twist rate, including the X-Bolt. The twist rate of 1:7 inch rather than the typical 1:8”, combined with the barrel’s length and profile make it best suited for heavier, high B-C bullets.
The muzzle is threaded and topped with a target crown, ensuring the round exits the barrel with minimal deviation, while the fluting is designed to minimize muzzle-whip. This is a combination of precision engineering elements, resulting in consistently devastating accuracy. At around 100 yards, you can expect sub inch groupings with a wide range of loads. In testing with Hornady’s Match 120-grain A-MAX load, we found that we could even get groups within less than a half inch.
Whether you’re aiming at a stationary target at the range or targeting specific organs for a quick, clean kill, you’ll find that this rifle delivers consistently excellent accuracy.
Adjustment and customization
Whenever it comes to buying a new factory weapon, there’s the worry that you won’t be able to make it your own and tailor the shooting experience to your needs and preference. Fortunately, the X-Bolt doesn’t disappoint on this front.
This rifle used Browning’s X-Lock scope mounting system. This has four holes drilled into the top of the receiver bridge for each front and rear scope-mount base. These little holes are placed outboard from center, angling in toward the bolt, effectively doubling the number of attachment points offered by weapons with conventional base-mounting systems. This all makes for a strong, robust mounting that ensures that you make the most of the weapon’s precision-engineered accuracy.
The comb is adjustable for height, ensuring proper sight alignment. There’s also a ruled system engraved on the side, allowing it to be set consistently. It’s quick and easy to adjust by way of a thumb-screw on the right side.
Length of pull (LOP) can also be adjusted by way of the .25 and .5” spacers included with the rifle. While this kind of system doesn’t allow for the same precision adjustment users get when adjusting the comb, this spacer system is much more sturdy and far less likely to come loose than a dial-type screw.
The trigger weight is set at just shy of 4lbs by factory default. However, this too is adjustable. It can be adjustable down to 3lbs, however most hunters won’t even think to make this adjustment since the factory default offers such a satisfyingly clean break.
This is a rifle that’s truly worthy of the Browning name and reputation. Indeed, you may find that it compares favorably to custom long-range hunting rifles with much less appealing price tags. Suffice to say that new factory rifles that shoot this well are uncommon. While it couldn’t exactly be called cheap at a MSRP of $1,429.99, you certainly know where your money’s going when you pull the trigger.
This is essentially a benchrest gun without the weight (and hefty price tag) that come with most of the benchrest guns on the market. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter looking to test your skills at long distances or a novice looking to turn heads (and make a lot of noise) at the range, the X-Bolt doesn’t disappoint!