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Have to love this time of year in Maine. Fall lasts about ten days, right up until 9°F night temperatures great the leaves in the midst of turning. Then the chains, hitch weights and snow blower go on the tractor and about a third of the population heads for Florida. Fly snowbirds fly. The rest of the state goes hunting.

In the course of work, new things are always encountered; bigger, better, newer, different. After all, “New!!” sells. It makes people abandon what they have, jump to a trend and stay with it until the following year and the next new trend. Not for me. I like what works and I like what is familiar.

The Browning X Bolt has been with us since 2008. Wow! Eight years already. It brought to Browning customers the then new Feather Trigger, the X Lock scope mounting system, a bolt unlock button, front and aft action mounting and a free floating barrel. But it is something even more obvious.

What we have here is an all North American hunting rifle. Walnut and blued steel, a little fancy, not too fancy, and chambered for an an all around medium and big game cartridge, the 30-06 Springfield. The X Bolt Hunter, with matte blued metal pieces and satin finished stock, has the look and feel of a firearm you’d expect from a company founded by John Moses Browning and his family in 1855. Tradition.

Browning X Bolt Hunter

Manufactured Browning – Portugal
Item# 035208226
Type Bolt Action
Caliber 30-06 Springfield
Capacity 4+1
Barrel Length 22″
Rifling 1:10 RH
Weight 6 Lbs 14 Oz
Overall Length 42 3/4″
Stock Grade I Black Walnut
Barreled Action Matte Blue Steel
Length of Pull 13 5/8″
Drop at comb 11/16″
Drop at heel* 1/2 “
Sights Clean
Scope Drilled and Tapped
Trigger Pull 3 Lbs. 12 Oz. Adj
Safety 2 Position Tang
U.S. MSRP $939.99

No, the X Bolt Hunter is not limited to a 30-06 Springfield chamber. Optional chambers with appropriate barrel lengths as of this writing are: 243 Win 22″, 25-06 Rem 24″, 270 Win 22″, 270 WSM 23″, 7mm-08 Rem 22″, 280 Rem 22″, 7mm Rem Mag 26″, 300 WSM 23″, 375 H&H 24″. If the traditional Hunter isn’t the X Bolt for you, there are twenty other X Bolt models, including a number of left hand versions.

Features for the hunter…

More than looking like a classic hunting rifle, the Browning X Bolt Hunters has actual features that are useful to a hunter, regardless the climate and environment. So in no particular order…

The Browning’s stock contour and geometry fits well for shooting from a variety of field positions and not just from a rest on a bench. The forearm is wide and flat, the grip is swelled and cut is a tight radius. The result is a relatively light rifle that is hand filling and stable in hold. The 18 lines per inch cut checkering is non slip and coverage is where it should be, rather than just a decorative feature.

The contoured buttstock is without a cheekpiece, but the comb is wide with a broad radius and drop at the heel is minimal for good support and natural eye to scope alignment. Benefiting from a cheekpiece requires a substantially triangular shaped head. The Inflex recoil pad is pretty spiffy. Internal directional ribs absorb recoil and deflect the stock away from the shooter’s face and suppress muzzle climb. I have to say that even when shooting stout 200 grain handloads, the X Bolt was a comparatively soft shooting 30-06 Springfield.

The detachable magazine blends into the bottom side leaving nothing to get snagged on clothing or interfere with hold. The trigger guard is free of floorplate and/or bolt releases.

The polymer detachable mag won’t corrode and it is center stacking for smooth feed and bolt stroke. It is handy to be able to carry a spare mag in a jacket pocket.

The bolt body is fluted to reduce the chance of binding. The X Bolt is push feed with a pivoting extractor, the ejector is a spring loaded plunger type to insure empties clear the rifle when readying for a follow up shot. The three locking lugs yield a 60° bolt lift for a faster throw and lower scope mounting.

The two position tang safety is an easy reach and it locks the bolt when “On” A button on the bolt handle releases the bolt to facilitate emptying the rifle’s chamber. A cocked indicator stares you in the face as a caution and status check.

The interior of the Browning stock is cleanly inletted, however, the action is glass bedded to the stock at two points as indicated below. The result is a very tight barreled action to stock meld that assure consistent contact and pressure. The barrel itself is floated all the way down the forearm with no pressure pad at the forend. Each Browning barrel is target crowned, button rifled, air gauged and hand chambered.

The three lever Feather Trigger features no take up, no creep and virtually no over travel. The trigger is preset to 3 1/2 Lbs at the factory, but pull is adjustable from 3 to 5 Lbs. The components are hard chromed and precision finished to assure the same quality trigger pull persists through thousands of rounds without maintenance. For me, a trigger makes or breaks preference for a rifle and the Browning Feather Trigger is a good one with pull that can be tailored for planned shooting circumstances.

X-Lock 4 fastener scope mounting doubles the fasteners holding Browning X-Lock scope mounts and aftermarket based securely and in precise alignment. In this case, Weaver bases were used with Warne steel rings with cross locks to prevent fore and aft movement and everything stayed put, even after considerable shooting.

The 30-06 Springfield…

The 30-06 Springfield is one of the all time great general purpose hunting cartridges. Pictured far left, left to right, 125 grain, 150 grain and 180 grain factory loads to cover everything from larger varmints to elk with 220 grain heavy weights for larger and more dangerous. For the handloader,  there are lighter loads for smaller game, including sabot mounted 22 caliber and still heavier heavier 240 grain thumpers.

 

Ammunition Bullet
Weight
Grains
Rated
MV FPS
24″ BBL
Actual
MV FPS
22″ BBL
3 Shot
100 Yard
Group “
Remington PSP 125 3140 3059 0.9
Remington Core-Lokt 150 2820 2930 0.6
Remington Core-Lokt 180 2700 2736 0.8

Factory ammunition live fire was limited to three types of factory ammunition that covered typical weight ranges. The 22″ barrel gave up nothing to the 24″ test barrel ratings with the minor exception of the 125 grain load. Accuracy was very good, firearm handling was comfortable and extraction and chambering were routine.

Conclusions…

This pretty much takes me back to where I came in. The Browning X Bolt Hunter is a modern take on a classic big game rifle, traditional good looks with accuracy afforded by modern processes and materials. No doubt a rifle that instills pride of ownership and excellent utility. Next up is a serious round of handloads to see what else the browning has to offer. Part II…