Review: Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max

posted on June 4, 2024
Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max

Long-range competitive shooting requires a demanding skillset that can only be capitalized on with proper equipment. Rifles suitable for the role must be accurate, quick to operate and agile. While the first two criteria on that list are easy enough to meet, accomplishing the last one in conjunction with the other two can be a tough task, as nothing provides stability or absorbs recoil like additional mass. The Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max was built specifically to fit in this box, and we had a chance to get one to the range to evaluate this relatively lightweight precision rifle.

Like others in the X-Bolt series, the Target Lite Max is a bolt-action centerfire rifle that feeds from a detachable box magazine. Utilizing a three-lug design, the bolt is operated with a 60-degree lift. It features a pivoting, AR-15-style extractor and a plunger ejector in its face. It slides within an overbuilt receiver, which helps to shift the balance point rearward while creating more surface area for better integration with the stock.

Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max features
The rifle has a tang-mounted safety (l.) and a button at the stem of the bolt handle that allows the bolt to be opened while the safety is engaged. A push-button magazine release (ctr., arrow) allows the 10-round AICS-pattern box to be removed from the gun. (r.) The barrel on our 6.5 mm Creedmoor-chambered test rifle was threaded 5/8x24 TPI and capped with a very effective Recoil Hawg muzzle brake that made spotting impacts on a 500-yard target easy.

The bolt-removal button is located on the left side of the receiver, while an ambidextrous, two-position safety is found on the tang. Those wishing to open the bolt with the safety engaged have this option via the bolt-unlock button located where the bolt handle terminates. Browning explains that this design is to eliminate the confusion that a three-position safety might cause.

The barrel of this rifle is what gives it its “Lite” moniker. Although most precision rifles beef-up this component, Browning saw fit to slim it down a touch. It uses a “Heavy Sporter” barrel, which is essentially a slightly bulked-up, fluted hunting barrel. A typical PRS stage doesn’t require much more than 10 rounds to complete, so this profile is thick enough to resist that level of heat, while the longitudinal fluting will allow it to cool in time for the next round. The exterior is bead-blasted before being threaded into the receiver, and a recoil lug is secured in place. The final assembly is capped with a Recoil Hawg muzzle brake via 5/8x24 TPI threading.

Browning uses the classic accurizing technique of polymer bedding to adjoin the barreled action to the composite stock. This material is applied within the recoil lug recess as well as the areas both fore and aft of the magazine well. To better integrate the rifle to the shooter, the Target Lite Max features an adjustable cheekpiece as well as length-of-pull spacers to ensure a comfortable fit for most users, regardless of the shooting position. A section of Picatinny rail with a built-in sling stud is secured to the fore-end’s underside.

A quality trigger is a must for a target rifle, so the Target Lite Max leaves the factory with a user-adjustable DLX unit. Our test sample came set at 2 lbs., 12 ozs., which is closer to the bottom of its range than the top. Removal of the stock is required to access the adjustment screw.

Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max cheekpiece
(l.) An adjustable cheekpiece allows the height of the X-Bolt Target Lite Max’s comb to be raised or lowered to fit a variety of shooters and optic setups. Adding or removing the included stock spacers also allows the length of pull to be altered. (r.) Secured to the fore-end’s underside is a six-slot section of Picatinny rail with a traditional QD stud built into it. This arrangement provides shooters with several options in regards to how a bipod and/or sling is attached to the rifle.

The rifle comes with a pre-mounted 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail that is secured to the receiver with oversize hardware and an indexing pin. A flat is also machined to aid the use of scope-leveling devices. We decided on a Bushnell Match Pro ED 5-30X for testing, as its low-dispersion glass, tactical turrets and subtension-rich reticle make it a natural fit for this rifle and its intended purpose. As our Target Lite Max was chambered in 6.5 mm Creedmoor, it could easily fill informal shooting and long-range hunting roles when not competing. For testing, we chose ammunition that would enable it to do so.

For a low-cost option, we selected Federal’s American Eagle practice round for its proven track record and popular 140-grain bullet weight. Hornady’s 147-grain ELD Match was chosen for its long-range prowess and heat-resistant tip, making it a staple at long-range matches; the Target Lite Max’s barrel features a fast 1:7" twist rate, which was developed specifically for heavy-for-caliber bullets. For hunting, we decided on Remington’s new tipped Core-Lokt Tipped, a long-range spin on the old classic.

Formal accuracy testing was conducted from a Caldwell rest with a rear sandbag. The push-feed action was smooth, and we didn’t experience any issues with feeding, firing or ejection. When empty, the push-button magazine release allowed the included MDT AICS magazine to drop free of the action. After shooting for groups, the rifle was employed to engage a 500-yard target using only an Armageddon Gear Game Changer Sandbag for support. Consistent impacts on the 10" gong were obtainable for most shooters and, with the help of the muzzle brake, impacts were easy to spot.

Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max shooting results

Our time with the Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max was favorable, and all could easily see the concept behind its reduced weight. Even chambered in 6.5 mm Creedmoor, the second-hardest-kicking cartridge from among the offered chamberings, shooters were able to stay on target as the gun fired, and additional bulk would have only served to slow down transitions between stage props.

At the same time, shouldering it for a short walk to the edge of a field isn’t unrealistic, so it ought to see some use during hunting season as well once matches are finished for the year. Overall, we were able to confirm Browning’s development concept and found the Target Lite Max to function precisely as described.

Browning X-Bolt Target Lite Max specs


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