We didn’t have the luxury of a left handed shooter for our tests of the Browning X-Bolt, but Ben Becker, our resident US Army Sniper, put the rifle through its paces just fine, and it is not only beautiful but it performed.
The X-Bolt comes in just about every caliber you could want in both right and left hand. We checked and the availability is good for this hunting season. You won’t go wrong with this rifle.
We shot this rifle over the course of several days, primarily with Hornady Superformance 165 grain SST. This is an exemplary whitetail load, and the even though is is about as hot as you get for .30-06, the X-Bolt handled it just fine. The scope is a Zeiss Conquest 3-9 with Rapid-Z reticle.
With such hot ammo it ws surprising that the X-Bolt sustained it’s 3 round MOA gaurantee even when hot, when this group was fired. The five round groups, with a hot gun, opened up to about an inch and a half on average. This group on the right was one of the largest we had. It gives you some idea if you plan to use the gun for varmints where the gun heats up pretty quick.
The fit and finish on the X-Bolt is flawless, without being too shiny or gaudy. The action is butter smooth, and you will find yourself saying “that is how a rifle action is supposed to feel.”
A unique feature on the X-Bolt is this button at the top of the bolt handle. It allows you to keep the safety on while you remove a round from the chamber. A lot of firearm engineers are slapping themselves on the forehead with this one I’m sure. Why didn’t I think of that!
The X-Bolt takes a proprietary base that is available online. They call it the X-Lock(tm), and it is meant to better align the bases. The gun comes with these nifty rubber screw hole protectors instead of set screws.
Unlike the A-Bolt, the X-Bolt is free floated in the stock. Note that the color in this picture was off due to lighting. The other, more tanish brown color you see in the other pictures is more accurate to what it is in person.
This color is what it really looks like, and if you click to make it bigger you will see the matte finish of the blueing as well.
The detachable magazine on the X-Bolt clips right into the bottom of the rifle. The hinged floorplate in the A-Bolt holds a different detachable magazine. The new magazine in the X-Bolt is a rotary design that works flawlessly.
Browning Firearms X-Bolt
Deer season is right around the corner, and for those of us who are fortunate to be able to hunt with a rifle, the Browning X-Bolt should be in the top of the list if you are in the market for a new bolt gun. It is an exquisite example of everything a high quality traditional deer rifle should be, and it performs flawlessly. We thought it would be interesting to test a left-handed model for a change, even though we don’t have a left-handed shooter here. Lefty guns are an important part of the firearms market that are often ignored. You can’t get all guns in a left-handed configuration, so for the 10% of us out there who are lefties, it helps to know when a gun is really good and also comes in left hand. Our Browning X-Bolt test gun is the X-Bolt Hunter type, in .30-06 with a 22″ barrel and low gloss, drop dead gorgeous walnut stock. The MSRP is $919 and street price slightly less. It weighs 6 3/4 lbs. empty, and the left hand model is available in 16 calibers from .223 to .338 Win. Mag.
The Browning X-Bolt is an entirely new design that updates a lot of features to 21st Century standards that are not found in the Browning A-Bolt, which is actually a more expensive gun. You will not find a bad word about an A-Bolt online or anywhere else. It is a classic deer rifle in every regard. People swear by their Brownings and the A-Bolt is one of those firearms that have generated entire bloodlines of loyalty to the Browning name. New features drive new gun sales, and the X-Bolt is designed to take the best from the A-Bolt and add in a lot of lessons that have come from industry leaders over the years for useful and more accurate methods of doing things on a bolt gun. It also carries a unique feature that allows you to open your bolt to remove the round from the chamber without taking the safety off. From what we saw in this X-Bolt, it too will be a long term winner for Browning, bringing an entirely new generation of hunters into the Browning fold.
First on the list of new features is the barrel. It is free floated instead of bedded like it is in the A-Bolt. This creates an accuracy platform that Browning can guarantee is MOA, or Minute of Angle. Accuracy can be effected greatly by anything, even the tip of your finger, coming in contact with the barrel. It “pulls” the barrel one way or the other, theoretically leading to inconsistency shot to shot, which gives you an inconsistent point of impact shot to shot, or what we call poor accuracy. The 20th Century answer to this problem was to fiberglass “bed” part of the barrel and the action in the stock, which creates a perfectly mated seal. This gives you, the thinking goes, a stable and consistent harmonic vibration signature, and better accuracy. The 21st Century answer is to just float the barrel over the stock of the gun entirely, and it seems to work much better, and this how it is done in the X-Bolt.
In our tests, the X-Bolt repeatedly put 3 rounds into about an inch at 100 yards, using Hornady Superformance 165gr. GMX. We chose this round because for one you really can’t beat it in a.30-06 for whitetail performance, but also because it is about as hot a round as you will find in that caliber, including your own handloads. Most guns will have a sweet spot for one or two bullets at one or two loads and velocities, and that “best performance” load is almost never the hottest one. Proving the Browning X-Bolt out to MOA with the hottest load, which we did, says volumes about the accuracy potential of the gun with just about any ammo, as long as that ammo is consistent. We know Hornady is consistent so we stick to that.
The most unique feature on the Browning X-Bolt is definitely the new bolt unlock button. It allows you to lift the bolt and extract a loaded round with the safety on. The button is at the top of the bolt, and it actually works. Murphy’s Law being what it is, when you think about it, this is actually a pretty cool feature. Who knows how many accidental discharges have happened over the years because someone got bumped and dropped or pushed a gun that someone had just taken off safe to get the loaded round out after an unsuccessful hunt. It could be zero, but it could be a whole bunch too. Browning took a somewhat simple concept and made a feature that a lot of people will actually use, and that will give everyone who uses it a little extra piece of mind in regards to safety.
The fit and finish on the X-Bolt are beyond reproach, literally. Brownings have been made in Japan by Miroku for decades, and this combination of a low gloss blue and a low gloss varnish gives the X-Bolt the look and feel of a gun much more expensive that the price tag shows. You could put this X-Bolt next to any field grade rifle and want for nothing. The walnut in the stock is downright pretty, even though it is not an expensive or exemplary piece of wood. Miroku guns, under their own as well as the Browning and Winchester names, are known for spectacular fit and finish, albeit a little shiny. This gun is very different than other guns I have seen from them over the years, and if you find a heavy gloss on a deer rifle too much, this gun will probably change your whole perspective of Miroku and the Browning deer guns.
The action on the X-Bolt glides like butter and we had no failures to feed, or any stickiness at all loading rounds. Out of the box the X-Bolt ran like a well used and broken in gun. The trigger comes from the factory at 3.5 lbs. and is adjustable from 3-5 lbs. The checkering is fine, (yet clearly machine cut), and the length of pull to the gold plated trigger is 13 5/8ths inches. Drop at the comb is 11/16ths, and drop at the heel is a 1/2 inch. The Inflex Technology recoil pad softens the gun a lot, and has the look and feel of a factory pad, with aftermarket performance. This gun has a detachable 4 round rotary magazine, and spare mags are available from Browning. The throw on the bolt is 60 degrees, so you don’t tend to short stroke it, and each chamber is hand cut by specialists at Miroku, not turned out by machines on an assembly line. The end of the barrel is recessed slightly with what Browning calls a “target crown” to protect the ends of the rifling from being damaged in the field. I would still clean this gun from the breach and/or use a fiberglass cleaning rod.
The X-Bolt, like many old time traditional style deer rifles, doesn’t come with scope bases. I have always thought this to be really foolish, but it is what it is. Don’t expect your local gunshop to have these bases. They are a new design from Browning called the X-Lock(tm). They are designed to better align the bases. If you plan to buy this gun, have the dealer order you the bases or buy them online. The X-Bolt bases have four screws, not two like standard bases, and the gun actually comes with rubber thread protector inserts in the holes instead of set screws. I’m sure there are also rail mounts for the X-Bolt, but it is kind of an ugly option for such an elegant gun. We mounted a Zeiss Conquest 3-9x with Rapid Z Reticle on our X-Bolt, and it is really a gorgeous, traditional deer rifle with meticulous attention to detail.
And yes! For all of you who have asked in our comments section, this gun does come in left hand. It is available from several different distributors, including Davidsons and Accusport. Have your local dealer call around and find you the gun you want in the caliber you want, and you will not be disappointed. The Browning X-Bolt is a gun for the ages and deserves a place in your safe, and a nice whitetail this year, with many more to come. You can almost never go wrong with a Browning, and we couldn’t have found this gun to be better than it turned out to be. A deer rifle is a deer rifle is a deer rifle right? Nope. We hope to have a few more of the better guns out there in the following weeks so stay tuned. This Browning is for sure a winner.