There are few American firearms companies that maintain the reputation that Winchester has earned; for over 150 years they have provided hunters with reliable choices for the field, whether for game birds or elephants. Iconic guns, like the Model 70 – the Rifleman’s rifle – or the classic Model 94 lever gun have made waves all over the globe. I know that I, personally, have taken a Winchester rifle with me on more hunts than I haven’t.
Things have changed at Winchester since the mid-19th century, the New Haven, Connecticut plant is no more, and ownership of the company has changed as well. One thing has remained though: Winchester rifles are synonymous with reliability. There have been many different models, and many variations on a particular model. Herein, I’m tackling the Winchester XPR rifle, a modern bolt-action designed to handle it all, at a price that won’t see you sleeping on the couch.
- Chambering: .270 Win.
- Barrel: 24 inches
- OA Length: 44.5 inches
- Weight: 7lbs, 0 oz.
- Stock: Black polymer
- Sights: None furnished, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
- Action: Bolt-action, push-feed
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: Three
- MSRP: $549.99
My test rifle was the black polymer variant, with the blued barrel, chambered in the classic .270 Winchester. The XPR is a different breed of cat, in comparison to the Model 70s – both push feed and controlled round feed – that we all know and love so well. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing; but comparisons come immediately to mind, especially with a rifle as iconic as the 70.
The XPR is a push-feed action, with three locking lugs – completely different than the push-feed series Model 70s – and a good, strong plunger ejector. I like this action; it has some features that are both innovative and useful. There is a cocking indicator, underneath the rear of the bolt shroud, which has a tab with a red dot that extends when the rifle is cocked. One glance, and the shooter knows whether or not the rifle is hot, and can handle it accordingly. The safety is an innovative design, located on the right side of the receiver. It’s a two-position system, which slides parallel with the bore. Forward is fire, rearward is safe; but there’s more. Unlike other two-position safeties, where the firearm must be put into battery to work the bolt in order to unload the firearm, Winchester has come up with a creative way around that issue. There is a forward tab, separate from the safety tab itself, which will allow the rifle to remain in the safe position while simultaneously allowing the user to work the bolt for safe unloading. It’s a great design, and highly useful.
The nickel Teflon-coated bolt is easily removed via a tab on the rear, left side of the receiver; bring the bolt rearward, push the front side of the spring-loaded tab and the bolt slides right out of the receiver. A hollow bolt handle, slightly flattened on the underside, moves the action along nicely, quickly and easily chambering cartridges into the 24-inch barrel. A three-round, detachable polymer magazine feeds the entire affair.
That barrel has a nice, recessed target crown, which will maintain accuracy and protect the muzzle of your barrel from any dings or nicks that might affect accuracy. The XPR features the Winchester MOA trigger that broke at an even three pounds, with very little creep or over-travel. All this is nestled in a polymer stock, with textured grip areas on the forend and pistol grip, giving a firm hold on things whether offhand or on the bench. The XPR test rifle I received had a length of pull measuring 13 5/8” to the narrowest part of the pliable recoil pad, which fit me very well. The entire package is a nice matte black, which will prevent any glare from spooking a wary game animal.
For optics, I chose the Burris Droptine 4.5-15×42 AO riflescope, as a good choice to wring the best results out of the .270 Winchester’s flat trajectory. It offered a crisp image, from 50 yards to 350 yards – the farthest my test range went – and handled the recoil of the .270 like a champion. With a one-inch tube, ¼ MOA adjustments, and knobs that are well knurled – even cold fingers can easily make adjustments – this a good balance of magnification, scope weight and reliability. The Droptine features the Burris Ballistic Plex reticle; it’s compensated for longer shots by offering smaller abbreviated crosshairs along the lower vertical wire, to adjust the elevation hold without having to touch a dial. Also featuring a matte finish, the Burris Droptine is a very useable riflescope, having a low end that will allow the user to make shots in a forest situation, yet enough of a top end to connect on game at hunting ranges this side of insanity. The Droptine mounted easily, at a height compatible with the comb of the XTR, and was a snap to zero. It took adjustment very well; Burris means ¼ MOA when they say ¼ MOA, and that’s a huge relief in comparison to some riflescopes of lesser quality that I’ve owned.
At The Bench
The XPR needed to be put to the test in the field, and while I truly wish it were hunting season, where I could get a good feel for the rifle in its destined terrain, a range simulation was the best I could do. I grabbed five different boxes of ammunition: Federal 140-grain Trophy Copper Tipped, Federal Power-Shok 130-grain Copper (a cool, affordable monometal hollowpoint), Fusion 130-grain, Hornady 145-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter and Nosler’s 130-grain Ballistic Tip ammunition. Now, before we get into the specifics of ammunition performance, let me report that I made sure all the different types of ammunition fed properly, both into the polymer magazine and into the chamber itself. All five ammunition types loaded just fine into the magazine, and no matter how rapidly I worked the action, there were no feeding issues whatsoever. The XPR’s action was smooth and steady; perfect for any hunting situation where a rapid second shot would be needed.
I cleaned the barrel thoroughly before starting, first using just some good old Hoppe’s No. 9 solvent and a copper brush, then several patches until things came out clean. I then fouled the bore during the zeroing process, cleaning the barrel before switching ammunition types and allowing two shots for proper fouling. Because of the thinner barrel and high velocity of the .270 Winchester, I limited the groups to three shots each. I’ve seen too many good groups fall apart due to excessive barrel heat, especially in a thinner hunting barrel. I measured the velocities with an Oehler 35P chronograph, ten feet from the muzzle. During the testing, two things became quickly evident: one, the barrel of the Winchester XPR gave velocities very close to the advertised values, and two, this rifle was a shooter. The worst group obtained was 1¼ inch, more than accurate enough for nearly any hunting situation, anywhere, where a .270 would be suitable.
That Winchester MOA trigger broke crisply, allowing me to hold on target easily during the entire squeeze. The actual shape of the trigger is notable as well, as it’s nice and rounded, with no sharp edges. I find it to be a bit wider than most modern triggers; not so wide as a trigger shoe, but wide enough to allow for an even disbursement of finger pressure across the trigger.
Regarding the ammunition, this gun liked them all, with the Nosler Ballistic Tip, Hornady Precision Hunter and Federal Power-Shok Copper all standing out with group size ranging from 0.6 inch (for the Power-Shok Copper) to 0.9 inch (for the Hornady stuff). Hornady’s longer and heavier 145-grain ELD-X bullet would make a solid choice for long range elk or sheep, holding its energy well and offering good wind deflection characteristics. I’m certain that the 130-grain Federal Power-Shok Copper would make an absolute deer hammer, as the hollowpoint conformation will deliver great expansion for vital tissue damage, while the monometal construction will guarantee penetration at just about any angle. The Nosler Ballistic Tip, at 140 grains, will make a good middle-of-the-road choice; while the Ballistic Tip has been labeled as a frangible bullet, if of proper weight and Sectional Density it will perform just fine.
Ejection was rock solid, even with the closed receiver, and the magazine snapped into place reliably, every time, with no problems at all. I’m usually highly suspicious of magazines with polymer tabs holding them in place, as I’ve seen too many of them wear and/or break, but the XPR’s magazine seems to be of both good design and construction. Still, I’d opt for a second, spare magazine on any hunt that was farther away than the back forty; I know Mr. Murphy and his law much too well.
While all of the target work for accuracy was done at 100 yards, we had several steel plates of varying diameter – down to six inches – at 200 and 300 yards. All were hit using the Burris Ballistic Plex for holdover, and that engendered a whole bunch of confidence in this rig as a choice for hunting at ranges up to 350 to 400 yards, which is my personal limit. Shooting the rifle from seating and kneeling positions also worked very well, as the structure of the stock allowed the rifle to settle down quickly, and the textured grip areas allowed for a positive, yet loose grip on the rifle.
The .270 Winchester is (traditionally) not a hard-kicking cartridge, but I’ve had some rifles – either poorly stocked or with a steel butt plate – that have kicked me harder than a .375 H&H. The Winchester Inflex Technology recoil pad took any and all sting out of the XPR, even after the day’s tally approached 75 rounds at the bench.
The Winchester XPR has a lot to prove, considering the lineage and heritage of the name it bears, and yet it does just that. Is this a pre-’64 Featherweight Model 70, with nicely figured walnut and a deep, rich bluing? Absolutely not. Is it an affordable, well-constructed rifle, suitable for any environment, with the appointments necessary for a successful hunt? You betcha! While the XPR may not be winning any international beauty awards, I’d much rather take an XPR into the willow thickets of Quebec after moose, or into the wet Spring bear woods than one of my walnut stocked rifles, where my thoughts turn to swollen barrel channels rather than the hunting.
The XPR action is more than tough enough for the pressures generated by the .270 Winchester, and if you’re skeptical of the push feed vs. controlled round feed argument, I think you’ll appreciate the larger extractor on the XPR’s bolt face. As I stated earlier, even with the higher velocity loads on a warm late-spring day combined with a hot rifle, there were no extraction problems at all.
Add all these features together, for an MSRP of $549.99, and what you’ve got is on helluva deal. At that price point, you can afford to run a good riflescope like that Burris Droptine, to give you a rig that won’t break the bank, or even worse, anger the Mrs.! The XPR is available in sensible caliber choices, from .243 Winchester to .338 Winchester Magnum, including the 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Winchester Magnum, truly covering the gamut of hunting scenarios here in North America and most of Africa.
Little, thoughtful things, like that cocking indicator – which is a great safety measure – and the two-position safety that works as well as any three position (somebody finally fixed it!) make the XPR a great value; it might be priced a bit too low, but let’s not let Winchester hear that … .
For more information, visit http://www.winchesterguns.com/products/rifles/xpr/xprs-in-current-production/xpr.html.
To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=XPR.