Smooth Precision: Browning X-Bolt Target in 6mm Creedmoor
Even though I’m a bit of a rifle junkie, the Browning X-Bolt was a bit of a stranger to me. I’ve shot a few of them over the years, and even had good luck loading ammo for them for friends. That said, I’ve never owned one myself.
Browning is a common name down our way, and the man himself was born just a few miles north of where I sit as I write this. The X-Bolt rifle has plenty of clout in the rifle world, so I knew not to underestimate it as I prepared myself for this project. But I was giddy with excitement to get my hands on this one.
The Browning X-Bolt Target
The Target model of the Browning X-Bolt comes in a McMillan A3-5 stock with an adjustable comb, and it includes a match-grade heavy-profile fluted barrel. The muzzle has a 5/8-24 thread to attach muzzle devices. In addition to those add-ons, the X-Bolt receiver has an extended bolt handle and a 20-MOA Pic rail mounted on top. There are a few other little extras as well, such as QD sling swivel studs, and a bipod Pic rail mount. I pulled the rifle from the black Browning box and was instantly in love.
The fit and finish of this rifle were superb. As soon as I put the Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad to my shoulder, I knew it was going to be a good match. I adjusted the cheek piece to fit my hold and ran the bolt and trigger a few times. I love the 60-degree bolt throw, it is shorter and faster than the alternative. And the smooth bolt stroke on the X-Bolt feels much like a nice custom.
The Trigger in this rifle is as good as any factory trigger that I’ve felt. The Feather Trigger, as Browning calls it, is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and has a tang-mounted safety. The detachable box magazine is Browning’s own design. It is an all-polymer rotary magazine that holds four rounds. It fits flush with the bottom of the McMillan stock.
After familiarizing myself with the rifle, it was time to get it ready for the range. I mounted a Trijicon Tenmile 5-50x56 scope on top of the receiver in a set of 34mm rings, perhaps a little more scope than normally needed but a great option for testing the performance of this rifle. I added a muzzle brake to the end of the barrel, with intentions of also shooting the rifle suppressed later. I then installed a bipod to the front of the gun. The only thing left to do on the rifle was boresight it and gather some ammunition.
Under normal circumstances, finding 6mm Creedmoor ammunition would not be a difficult task. But times being what they are, I had to make do with what was available. I fashioned several boxes of handloads featuring Berger 105 Hybrids, which is pretty common on the firing lines this rifle would normally sit on. Once I had enough ammo to get a good shooting session in, I loaded up the truck and went into the hills.
With my rifle freshly boresighted and a clean target hung at 100 yards, I set to zeroing the X-Bolt. In just a couple shots, I had established a consistent zero and began shooting some groups. The smooth stroke of the bolt even when stripping loaded rounds from the magazine was very pleasing.
The all-polymer magazine has a slippery feel to it, surely this aids in the smooth feeding of cartridges. One complaint about the magazine is that it only holds four rounds, for a rifle that plays in the competition realm with the big boys, this is almost a deal breaker. A 10-round or even 12-round magazine would be much better suited for this rifle. But it shot so smooth I could hardly put it down.
The easily operated bolt made loading and reloading the rifle very fast, and I noticed another one of Browning’s very intuitive designs while running it. When the safety is engaged, the bolt is automatically locked. But there is a small button on top of the base of the bolt handle. This button pops up when the safety is engaged. You can depress the button to open or close the bolt while on safe, and the button drops out of the way and the bolt runs with zero inhibition when the safety is in the firing position. This may not be the most fascinating feature of the rifle, but I found it to be very ingenious.
Another engineering bonus I found on the X-Bolt was the mounting of the optics rail. Instead of using four screws (two in the front, and two in the back) like on typical optics rails, the X-Bolt uses eight screws. There are four in the front, and four in the back, giving the X-Bolt a very solid mounting point for your riflescope. Again, this may not be a revolutionary thing, but I can certainly appreciate the engineer’s thinking.
The X-Bolt shoots just as good as it looks, and sub-MOA groups were easy with zero load workup. Half MOA accuracy was easily achieved with proper shooting techniques. I have no doubt that with additional load development this rifle would shoot better than half MOA.
The 6mm Creedmoor cartridge is an excellent round for target and long-range shooting. It has little recoil and is very efficient at escaping the winds effects downrange. This allows the shooter to see the bullet in flight and even spot his or her own hits and misses.
The Browning X-Bolt Target rifle is an immaculate gun. It’s well thought out and near perfectly executed. My only gripe is the previously mentioned magazine capacity, though it could probably be switched out for a different magazine system. But despite that, I think this rifle would make an excellent addition to almost any rifle collection. There are so many amazing competition rifles available today from manufacturers, and it’s nice to see Browning show up with their own.