Hunting Wolves with the Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed

With a longstanding tradition of excellence and high-quality, Browning has become a manufacturer that American hunters know and trust. So, for a wolf hunt come up last month, they were the first place I turned. The best thing about going to Browning is that you don’t walk away with just a rifle. Your walk away with a magnificent rifle.  And everything else you need for your hunt too. Hells Canyon, Idaho, was near our hunting grounds, so it was appropriate that we looked to Browning’s Hells Canyon line for our needs.

SPECS

  • Type: Bolt Action Rifle; Short action
  • Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor
  • Capacity: 4+1 rds.
  • Barrel Length: 22 in.; 1:8 in. twist
  • Features: 60-degree bolt lift; detachable rotary mag; sling swivel studs; drilled and tapped for scope bases
  • Trigger: 3 lbs., 8 oz. (tested)
  • Finish: Burnt Bronze Cerakote
  • Length of Pull: 13.625 in.
  • Weight: 6 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Overall Length: 42 in.
  • MSRP: $1,200
  • Manufacturer: Browning

A-TACS Pattern

Across the board, the camouflage pattern we picked was A-TACS. A-TACS is a hybrid pattern, employing organic pixilation from a palate of naturally occurring terrain colors. It uses small patterns woven into larger patterns to break up outlines at both close and far distances. Having used it before, I knew it would be an excellent choice for the terrain.

Freezing is a quick way to end your hunt, but nobody wants bulk either. So step one was a jacket. I opted to test the Hell’s Canyon Hellfire Speed Jacket, which proved to be an excellent choice. Temperatures ranged from 25 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 over the course of a day, and this jacket was plenty from the 50 to 25 range. It functioned well both during movement, and sitting while glassing for long periods. The biggest thing that impressed me was its wind-sheering ability. While remaining breathable, this jacket blocked the wind and kept me warm during long glassing sessions. One of our insert vehicles to get us to our area was a Yamaha Wolverine X4SE side by side, so new at the time it didn’t even have a windshield imported yet. Needless to say, I tested the wind blocking ability at 50 mph in the early morning chill, and it performed admirably. This is my new favorite hunting outer layer.

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Browning’s A-TACS Hell’s Canyon clothing would work well for the terrain we were hunting. Photo Courtesy: Browning

For pants, I went with the Hell’s Canyon Speed Backcountry. I tend to run a little on the hot side, so I avoid insulated pants. The Backcountry pants are built from a 2-layer stretch fabric shell bonded to a woven stretch fleece. This material is quiet like the grave, and also does an excellent job of stopping wind. The pockets are well thought-out, with zipper enclosures on each of them. There is nothing worse than moving across difficult terrain quietly, and then wondering where your rangefinder fell out. These pants are a win, too.

Rounding out the package were the Hellfire Glove and Trailhead Beanie. No soldier worth his salt leaves home without a beanie, and this one was great. Built of the same wind sheer material as the pants, it did a fantastic job. The gloves proved to be incredibly waterproof, and the leather palms held up great. A long section of our movement was through a burned out area, littered with downed logs. The gloves got more abuse thrown at them in one day than most would in a season and walked away without a scratch on them.

Ergonomics

I have long been a fan of Browning rifles, so this one was easy to love. In fact, my first rifle was a Browning 22, almost 3 decades ago. I still shoot it at least a few times a year, and it still cleans up gophers. It’s hard not to love a rifle from the company that still bears the name of Saint John Moses Browning (peace be upon him). Aside from mopping up terrorists with a John Moses Browning M2 .50 cal, mopping up deer with one of his bolt guns is about the most American thing you can do. The X-bolt is amazingly lightweight, and arguably the best handling bolt gun I have ever picked up. The action is glass bedded and free-floated to enhance accuracy, and the 22-inch barrel is fully fluted. From the factory the muzzle is threaded, making suppressor hunting an option if it is legal in your area. If not, the pre-installed muzzlebrake is an awesome way to tame the light weight. The muzzlebrake isn’t so large as to be obnoxious, but does a fantastic job of keeping the gun on target and your shoulder from hating you.

The bolt is incredibly smooth for a factory rifle, and the 60-degree throw makes for rapid follow-up shots. But with the trigger that comes standard, that probably won’t be a problem. Browning calls this trigger the feather trigger, and that is an appropriate moniker. It is screw adjustable from 5 pounds to 3 pounds, and mine out of the box was right at 3.5 pounds. There is no takeup, just a clean break. Among hunting rifles, this is the one to beat.

Visually, the rifle is stunning. The A-TACS theme continues with the rifle stock, which also features soft touch grip surfaces in the areas you hold the rifle. The buttpad is an excellent fit, and dampens the little recoil the muzzlebrake lets past. The real killer though is the metal surfaces. The action, barrel, bolt, and all the accent pieces are Cerakote Burnt Bronze. The rifle is a work of art, and this one is going to be hard to resist on store shelves.

What exactly makes this an X-bolt? Word to the wise, don’t leave the store thinking about rings. The X-Bolt has no iron sights, and is drilled for X-Bolt specific bases. They feature 4 bolts on each base, set in a square. Or maybe an X. Either way, it is like nothing else. The mounting system seems very secure, but make sure you pick up rings before your hunt. A Picatinny rail section is also available from Browning.

For glass, Leupold seemed like the appropriate choice. The VX-3i 4.5-14 gave me plenty of top end power for the mountains, but was extremely light in weight. I chose a front focal plane with a mil dot scope, just in case I really needed to reach. The glass gave excellent visibility even in fading light, thanks to its 50mm objective lens. Uncommon for a hunting scope, it also featured 1/10th mil adjustments on both windage and elevation. I like this feature for zeroing, and I use holds in the field anyway.

For a range finder, light was again the key. I selected the Vortex Impact 850, a tiny powerhouse. The 7 x magnification was great for glassing far ridge lines on the move. I thought it might be underpowered for some of the areas I was in, but that proved incorrect. At both ranging and observation, the Impact punch well above its weight. At a street price of $199, this little guy is a must have for your hunting kit.

For ammunition, I opted to run Federal Premium Trophy Copper. Providing excellent terminal ballistics, the 120-grain in 6.5 Creedmore is also incredibly flat shooting. Wolves move fast, and you might need some reach as well. Federal has built some exceptional hunting rounds this year, and this one also proved a winner.

Performance

How did it shoot? For a lightweight hunting rifle, absolutely outstanding. My second 5 round group was ¾ inches, and then it proceeded to crush the top half of a 66% IPSC at 500 meters. I have guns that will out shoot it, but not in its weight class. Not even close. The muzzle brake works great, and over all the gun handles fantastic. For hunting guns, this is the one to beat.

Our hunt proved unsuccessful. We had plenty of tracks, and the wolves were answering our calls. But in the end, they proved to elusive. I still count the week as a success though, if for no other reason an opportunity to test new hunting gear. And if I draw tags again next season, the Hell’s Canyon X-Bolt is coming with me.

For more information about Browning firearms, click here.

For more information about Browning hunting gear, click here.

To purchase a Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon, click here.

{ 48 comments… add one }
  • Inidaho November 18, 2017, 1:05 pm

    Forgot to mention about the wolves….encounters…..we were camped near crystal park in Montana, during the eclipse, in a forest service camground. One night 3 wolves came into our camp, trying to lure our dogs! 30 feet away! One camper, on a hike, the next day, told us he spotted 4. There were 2 missing dog posters, posted by people that had dogs lost in the campground. Coincidences?

  • Inidaho November 18, 2017, 12:43 pm

    Thanks for the great review! We have been sledding and hunting in the Island Park, ID, area for years. We have seen several wolves, many tracks around cabins, and tracks in West Yellowstone. We came upon a wolf on an elk hunt, 100 yards, and stood and looked at us. The bears are not hibernating as long, because of the wolves killing, thus the bears have something to eat. Check out the facts. Thanks to a comment about the triple s scenario from jsk!

  • JSK November 15, 2017, 4:54 pm

    Great article Clay as all your articles have been. Knowing your background carries a lot of weight with them. As far as the wolf hunt and the obvious libertarians commenting. We had a saying on our ranch as is the old law of the west and we lived by it. the three S’s; Shoot Shovel Shut-up. Actually we used our ranch backhoe, shovels are over rated and slow : )) Our forefathers eliminated these predators for a reason. Nature has a way of reteaching libs what we already know. Once fluffy starts to get eaten from their back yards or they get attacked on their nature run or walk, because we know they don’t carry a pistol, then they howl and something needs to be done mantra. Saw and lived it in Northern California, our horses were fine when they passed the law to stop hunting mountain lions we all laughed at their foolishness. We knew what would happen and just like lightning during a thunderstorm fluffy got ate and women got attacked by mountain lions outside of on their nature runs. Yup they changed the law, we knew it would take about 10 years to come full circle and it did.

  • James M. Hesla November 14, 2017, 12:05 am

    I live in Oregon and have had the opportunity to hunt in this state for the last 45 years. We had been wolf free for most of these years. In the last 10 years we have had a resurgence of wolf population crossing the Snake River from Idaho into Oregon. They have been sighted all over the state since then and have been implicated in numerous live stock killings. They are still protected in this state, but can be culled if they have been behaving badly. I have hunted every year in eastern Oregon for the last 30 years and have never seen one, but I have heard a wolf howl close to camp in the Walla Walla unit east of Pendleton about 5 yrs. ago. It was close by and sent the hairs on the back of our heads straight up. We also have a small herd of Moose in NE Oregon and the locals libs would like to see Grizzlies re-introduced.
    End result, hunting worse, Predators increasing, hunters decreasing.
    Teach your children how to hunt! J. Hesla, Beaverton, OR.

  • Stodd November 13, 2017, 9:26 pm

    Glad you got a good browning, mine shoots shotgun pattern groups with factory ammo. Handloads do about as good as yours does with factory loads.that is after sending it back to be recrowned and bedded. Still has swirl mark in the crown, but meets their accuracy requirement of 3/4 inch at 50 yards. I like the short bolt throw, but never another browning.

  • Mike November 13, 2017, 4:27 pm

    REALLY ! A wolf hunt. Can’t you find something else to kill. I love to hunt, but I’m sure as heck
    not going to shoot a Wolf. To me, it’s like shooting a Bald Eagle.
    The Wolf is a symbol of freedom and family.

    • bill November 13, 2017, 8:22 pm

      Liberals decided they needed to be introduced back into nature. Now they are out of control (like Grizzly bears), some areas they are considered a predator, kill as many as you want. In some areas you have to buy a license to shoot one. Look at the calf moose survival rate where wolves are and get out from under you rock that you are under.

    • Brad November 14, 2017, 1:48 am

      I think you’re more than just a little confused. Or more likely a clueless liberal. Personally, I’d choose being a little confused any day over being a self-proclaimed idiot, e.g., liberal.

      Nevertheless, bald eagles are our country’s national bird, a semblance of American freedom, independence, individualism, etc., etc. Wolves, on the other hand, are completely indiscriminant killers of just about anything that has the extreme misfortune of crossing their evil paths. And unlike almost every other animal on the planet, present company excluded, they often kill solely for the enjoyment of killing alone. They potentially kill up to 5-times the amount of wild game/peoples wiener dogs than they actually care to waste their time to eat! And in doing so, they also indiscriminately kill/destroy millions of dollars of livestock that people who actually work for a living are solely dependent upon for their financial existence. I think they’re still referred to a ranchers , farmers, etc., you know, the folks that feed the entire country/world. They don’t like wolves!

      The only reason wolves have been brought back from near extinction (and it’s a valid one) is because nothing else exists that can and willingly kill enough less-desired species (such as rabbits, rodents, liberals, etc.) to keep their populations in check.

      Comparing a wolf to a bald eagle is like comparing a liberal to an intelligent human being. Idiot!

    • Mike H. November 14, 2017, 10:12 am

      Maybe killing a wolf makes them feel like they’ve got bigger peckers!

      • Alan November 14, 2017, 11:51 am

        As opposed to your miniscule brain as evidenced by that sophomoric comment.

        • Mike H. November 14, 2017, 9:03 pm

          Better a miniscule brain than a miniscule pecker, right Alan?

  • bill November 13, 2017, 4:14 pm

    love the articles. hate the comments. won’t read them again.

  • no gadgets November 13, 2017, 3:43 pm

    Driving around in an ATV with a bunch of high tech killing tools is NOT hunting.

    • Clint November 13, 2017, 5:27 pm

      Not everyone can hunt and shoot Tofu, like you.

  • Steve November 13, 2017, 2:58 pm

    people are hunting wolves? aren’t wolf numbers incredibly low?

    • Brad November 14, 2017, 2:03 am

      Obviously not low enough.

  • Mrninjatoes November 13, 2017, 2:14 pm

    Great article! Great shooting.

  • usmc32 November 13, 2017, 2:13 pm

    Although Brownings are nice rifles, I own several, they are not the best rig out there. For long-range with good knock down the best for me is a Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor topped off with a 4×20 Night Force scope. This will cost twice as much as the Browning, Leupold package but for “ME” it is worth it.

  • lee November 13, 2017, 12:15 pm

    Wow there are grown men on here that act like 7 year olds. There are so many pussys in this country these days.

    • Philo November 13, 2017, 8:21 pm

      I agree. Real men hunt a species to extinction. We don’t need wolves from Canada in the US! We already killed all of the wolves once, and we can do it again. HOO-RAH!!

    • Mike H. November 14, 2017, 7:02 am

      Maybe they need for You to Eat them!

  • Adam Jeppson November 13, 2017, 11:21 am

    Out of the box at .75″ – pretty good. Nice firearm.

  • Tripwire November 13, 2017, 10:27 am

    I’ve never seen such hater bullshit as some of the asswipes that come here every week to whine and make negative comments.
    Clay Martin spent his life in the elite spec-ops communities in both the Marines and US Army SF. You don’t talk that talk unless you can do the walk. So what if he put on a few pounds after spending a life in the roughest units in out military. Maybe his knees are blasted from jumping out of planes or climbing high mountains to fight a war. So please from an old Former Marine who is also a lot fatter now than then STFU.!
    As for the scope bullshit, I’m 75 years old and it’s been a Lew-A-pol all my shooting life and will remain so. Get over your OCD shit fools!
    As for wolves, go research the elk populations since the brought the wolf back, as the ranchers. As for hunting them, me personally I wouldn’t shoot one, I wouldn’t shoot a Mountain lion altho I’ve eaten a lot of it when friends got them. I wouldn’t shoot a bear either. But for me it’s because I’m not a trophy hunter. For those who are more power to you!
    Not everybody can earn a living evaluating new equipment so if you have an issue with it stop reading and watching the videos.

    • Brad November 14, 2017, 2:09 am

      HOOWRAH! DOUBLE WHAT TRIPWIRE SAID!

  • FirstStateMark November 13, 2017, 10:25 am

    Good job Clay. Very nice gun. And thank you for your service.

  • Tenbones November 13, 2017, 10:06 am

    Leupold….Le..up..old! Been pronouncing it like that forever!

  • mtman2 November 13, 2017, 9:23 am

    Yup – great gun and great caliber…
    Tho is 123yrs johnny come-lately after the Swedish 6.5;
    the original Mt. Rifle.
    The Swede is a super innovative cartridge in super finely crafted firearms by 1894 and on thru the 1940’s in 4 superb rifle variants…..much overlooked…

  • Mike H. November 13, 2017, 8:25 am

    #1: Browning does build some sweet firearms. As far as Wolf hunting, I don’t believe in shooting wolfs! What are you going to do with your kill? Eat it? Carry it around and brag about it? They are magnificent animals,and in my opinion,should not be killed! I am also a veteran,not with Your superhuman abilities,I’m sure! Maybe You’re running a little Hot because of Your Fat Gut!

    • Bob R November 13, 2017, 9:48 am

      Mike, I couldn’t agree with you more!!!!

    • BobH November 13, 2017, 10:19 am

      Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and in your case Mike, you have one and are one. Maybe you shouldn’t be able to hunt as all considering you appear to be unstable! FYI – a fat gut is much better than a fat head. Think about for a day or two. Maybe you will figure it out by then! Then again . . . .

      • Pile November 13, 2017, 11:05 am

        Let me guess Bobh, you think shooting giraffes and the killing of Cecil the lion is great sport as well. Have some respect asshat. You clearly lack respect not only to veterans but also to a guys right to an opinion. Nothing worse than a troll on here.

        • Bobh November 13, 2017, 11:49 am

          So pile, what kind of big game hunting do you feel is a great sport?

          Wolves need to be kept in check. But armchair hunters like you (if you even hunt) who no doubt pays a guide to hunt would wouldn’t know that. If you don’t like it, no one should be able to do it. I am sure there are many things you do I don’t think you should do. Should you stop because I don’t think you should do it?

          FYI – I respect his opinion but not someone who then tried to make himself look superior by making derogatory remarks and thinks that supports his opinion. It shows the lack of intelligence and the only way to communicate with someone like that (& apparently you) is to lower yourself to his standard. Sad but true!

      • Mike H. November 13, 2017, 4:05 pm

        Debating with someone like You,because of Your obvious lack of intelligence,is a wasted effort. It would be like trying to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to a Turnip! You’re just not worth the effort! Go get some exercise and try to lose some of that Gut. Maybe it will give Your brain some oxygen,and help You to think more clearly.

        • Bobh November 13, 2017, 6:52 pm

          Gee, Mike, did you think that up all by yourself or did you have to call in your mommy to help you out. Sad there is more fat between your ears than brain matter. Oh well, sad to be you. At least you are king of your hill in your little mind.

          Try showing some respect. Expressing your opinion is fine but your childish little petty remarks afterwards prove what a sad little person you are. Maybe you should go to your safe room and have a good cry. You will feel much better, Turnip!

          • Mike H. November 14, 2017, 10:09 am

            Thanks for the advice. I went outside and threw a few rounds from my Vaquero 44-40 and it made me feel much better! I will show respect when I see some coming my way! If some fool called me asshole to my face,he would most likely be going for some stitches and dental work. And by the way,I am King of the Hill here on this mountain that I live on. Why don’t You come down here to East Tennessee and try me Boy! Then You can go to Your Mommy and let her wipe Your tears!

    • Robert November 13, 2017, 12:35 pm

      Nice rifle. I guess the (unneeded) caliber is fairly accurate. Never been much of a Browning fan but this one seems to shoot. and yeah..it is lew pold…The plural of wolf is not wolfs…it is wolves. We live with wolves here in Wyoming because FATHEADS like you gave us animals that were not native to the area.. I have wolves near me all the time. I am not near YNP. Have had as many as 6 in the yard at one time(within 50 ft of the house). We had wolves here before the (re) introduction. The native wolves. The ones that followed the bison herds for millenia. Big one was 125 lbs. The reintroduced wolves have pretty much wiped them out. Ever seen a 250 lb dog? or larger. Oh you also probably think they only kill to eat too? especially the sick and wounded. If so then you must live in a Walt Disney storyland. We have only lost a couple 1200 dollar animals to the introduced wolves. Want to make up my loss? Even with those programs the gummit won’t make ’em up.

      • Skip November 13, 2017, 2:41 pm

        Every occupation has its risks. Losing a $1,200 animal is an inherent risk to yours. Figure it out. We need a certain amount of wolves to mitigate the herd populations and make sure that the strongest in the herds survive. If the risk is too high for you and your business margins are such that $1200 x 2 is a game-changer then you need to move on to another occupation.

        • Charles.. November 13, 2017, 3:43 pm

          Skip…You really don’t get it. Because of people like you we got to live with a non native species. I have no problem with the native wolves. My problem isn’t with the loss of money. It is with the loss created by people who decided to give US these animals. They don’t have to live with them…but it is a good thing for US to have them. I have a rancher acquaintance who lost 2 25000 dollar bulls and another 30,000 dollars in cows. Lost mostly to introduced Canadian Grey wolves with 4 cows killed by grizzlies. At least the grizzlies ate what they killed .

          We need a certain amount of wolves to mitigate the herd populations and make sure that the strongest in the herds survive. What a crock of horse crap. Wolves will kill whatever they can catch and believe it or not they can catch any large game animal…not just the sick and lame. Evidently you’ve never seen them hunt…or kill

          • Brad November 14, 2017, 2:20 am

            Personally, I’m all in for conducting a wolf-kill experiment with Mike-tard offered as the bait.

            Of course, it would all be like a “make believe,” thing, like living in Los Angeles, or something unimaginable like that. We could even charge him a few thousand bucks to cover the potential losses, etc.

            I’m sure Mike’s up for it.

      • Mike H. November 13, 2017, 8:00 pm

        Thank You for pointing out my mistake. Wolves-Is that better? As far as your financial loss,just part of life! The Wolves were inhabitants of Wyoming long before You were. So were the Native Americans! Look what was done to them. Boo-Hoo! Poor Robert!

    • BRANDON HATFIELD November 13, 2017, 3:29 pm

      Mike its called conservation. you have to manage all to keep the numbers healthy. whether you agree or not predators have to be managed or they will kill off their prey and slowly die of starvation or disease. So if you truly love wolves and understand how important management is then do your part to keep a healthy pack.

      • Mike H. November 14, 2017, 3:36 pm

        I understand conservation. And thank You for talking in a civilized way! I recon I\’m old school. I have roamed these mountains and hunted grouse and deer for the biggest part of my life. I understand that predators have to be managed. I just don\’t believe that a man should make some kind of a sport or contest out of it. As far as the loss of livestock by predators,that\’s just part of the price of living in areas where predatory animals,such as wolves have been for generations. When I was a kid we lost three high-dollar milk cows from a bolt of lightening. I understand how ranchers feel about wolves.

  • akjc77 November 13, 2017, 6:58 am

    How nice it must be to pick a new rifle for each new hunt, a bit unrealistic for me to relate to but none the less a good review and sweet rifle.

  • TIM November 13, 2017, 5:46 am

    Gee….such a professional job done by Clay Martin in reviewing this Browning X bolt rifle. The professionalism kinda went down the tube once Martin couldn’t pronounce the brand of scope he used in the testing. There’s no such brand scope as a
    Lee -A – Pold . That fine scope was made by Leupold….pronounced LEW POLD.
    Just trying to help

    • Mike November 13, 2017, 7:19 am

      Yeah, personally I prefer to see a guy properly pronounce a scope’s name in lieu of a professional level of marksmanship and possessing a decorated combat record.

      Wow, I didn’t think my eyes could roll that far back in my head without detaching my retinas…

      Keep up the great work Clay, I hope you had a great veterans day.

    • Mrninjatoes November 13, 2017, 2:13 pm

      @Tim
      Whatever. You are just jelly because you can’t have one. If you are offended by the way someone pronounces something are probably just a 13 year old snowflake sitting in your moms basement with a bag of Cheetos and an orange d**k.

      You are not helping.

    • Brad November 14, 2017, 2:24 am

      I really don’t think it would be possible to be a bigger dick! You win! Now go put a gold star on your obviously completely empty forehead. Maybe something will grow, eventually.

      Especially anywhere is remote proximity of Veterans Day!

      What a dick!

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