Browning combined time-tested design features with a number of modern enhancements in its X-Bolt rifle (“A ‘Radical’ In The Family,”). Fundamental design elements were built into the X-Bolt, and although the gun’s lineage can be traced to the company’s BBR and A-Bolt, the X-Bolt stands on its own as the next-generation Browning bolt-action.
The new, left-hand Hunter version is essentially a mirrored version of the original. The blued steel receiver is fixed to the stock by two screws that pass through the cast-aluminum bottom metal. Female barrel threads and locking lug recesses are integral with the receiver, a welcome reprieve for many traditionalists. Longitudinal raceways cut into the receiver guide the three-lug bolt during its entire travel, although the third lug is guided along one edge only because of the ejection port. The lugs are symmetrically arranged and uniform, reminiscent of the A-Bolt’s design, and allow a 60-degree bolt throw. A pivoting extractor lies between the two left lugs, and unlike the rotating bolt head on the A-Bolt, the X-Bolt’s bolt head is fixed to the bolt body. The recessed bolt face has a plunger ejector.
The one-piece recoil lug and collar is sandwiched between the barrel and receiver. It is fully glass-bedded to the stock, and the hammer-forged, blued steel barrel is free-floated. The light barrel’s diameter tapers from 1.11 inchesjust in front of the collar to 0.60 inchesat the muzzle, which features a recessed, target-style crown.
The sliding, two-position safety is tang-mounted. A bolt-unlock button on top of the cast-steel bolt handle allows the user to unlock the bolt with the rifle on safe. When compressed, the button disengages a bolt-lock pin from its recess in the bolt handle, keeping the trigger and sear blocked.
The upward rotation of the bolt handle cocks the firing pin and extends a cocking indicator beneath the rear of the bolt shroud. The pivoting bolt release on the right rear of the receiver is a departure from the unnecessarily large release on the A-Bolt. It is narrower, serrated on its rear and much less obtrusive.
The newly introduced Feather trigger is screw-adjustable from 3pounds to 5 pounds. The three-lever design is comprised of the trigger and two sears, instead of the usual trigger and single sear, and provides increased mechanical advantage over standard designs. This contributes to the crisp break with no discernable creep or overtravel.
The flush-fitting, detachable-box magazine holds four rounds of .308 Win. (tested), and the release is located on the front of the magazine. Instead of the X-shaped, jack-follower spring design of the A-Bolt, the X-Bolt’s molded-polymer, rotary magazine features a pivoting follower powered by a torsion spring. Although the feed lips prevent topping-off with the magazine inserted, a round can be dropped into the feedway and chambered with an empty magazine. It feeds rounds in-line with the bore.
Each scope-mount base is secured with four Torx screws. Available bases double as the lower rings, providing exceptionally secure mounting.
The Hunter stock is walnut with a satin finish. It has an American-style comb and shallow finger grooves, with 20-line-per-inch bordered checkering on the full pistol grip and target fore-end. It is fitted with QD-style sling swivel studs. The overall fit is well-executed but not extraordinary, typical of Miroku-made firearms and befitting the gun’s price.
It functioned without issue: no malfunctions; strong ejection; easy feeding. Upward rotation of the bolt was a bit stiff, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with proper practice. The magazine release was easy to work, and the magazine fell naturally into the palm.
It should be noted that the rifle’s light barrel, coupled with the heat generated from successive five-shot groups, negatively influenced its accuracy results. Initial shots often stacked, but then a couple of fliers would enlarge the groups. Hornady’s average was best, Nosler’s groups had the tightest initial shots, and Winchester maintained the most consistent spreads but proved to be the least accurate.
A healthy left-side palm swell, the slim fore-end and the Inflex recoil pad, first seen on the Cynergy shotgun, all add to the particularly comfortable handling of the rifle. As Editor-In-Chief Mark Keefe mentioned in 2008, “It was one of the best-handling and -pointing designs I’ve ever thrown to my shoulder.” With this version, that statement held true for left-handed American Rifleman staff members as well.
Manufacturer: Miroku Firearms Mfg. Co., 537-1 Shinohara-Nangoku City, Kochu Pref., Japan 876-2711; www.browning.com Caliber: .223 Rem., .22-.250 Rem., .243 Win., 7 mm-08 Rem., .308 Win. (tested), .25-’06 Rem., .270 Win., .270 WSM, 7 mm WSM, 7 mm Rem. Mag., .280 Rem., .30-’06 Sprg., .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag., .325 WSM, .338 Win. Mag. Action: bolt-action, repeating, center-fire rifle Receiver: blued steel Barrel: 22" Rifling: four-groove, 1:12" RH twist Magazine: detachable polymer box; four rounds (tested) or three rounds Sights: none; receiver drilled and tapped for X-Lock scope bases/rings Trigger Pull: single-stage; 4 lbs., 6 ozs. Stock: walnut: length of pull, 135⁄8"; drop at heel, 1/2"; drop at comb, 5/8" Overall Length: 41¾" Weight: 7 lbs., 6 ozs. Accessories: trigger lock, manual, one magazine Suggested Retail Price: $870