Winchester doubles down on affordable hunting rifle performance with the XPR bolt-action, now partnered with the company’s own flagship .350 Legend round. Purpose-built for deer hunters, the straight-walled .350 Legend’s low recoil and serious performance add to its instant appeal in the field.

Should hunters wanting a Legend bolt-action grab the XPR? Guns.com finds out.

Winchester XPR

The Winchester XPR bolt-action series of rifles is not new. What has our engines firing here, though, is the company’s hot new caliber partnered with their own rifle. The standard XPR in .350 Legend wears a 2-inch sporter barrel with 1:16 twist rifling, the industry standard for stabilizing the range of bullet weights and types. Though the XPR is a budget-minded bolt gun, it does have Winchester’s MOA trigger, as well as both a bolt unlock button and nickel bolt slide.

The black synthetic stock shows molded, textured grip panels in place of standard checkering. It weighs in at 6.12-pounds empty and bare of a scope. Because there are no iron sights, an optic is a must. The rifle is fed by a detachable box magazine that, in the case of the Legend, holds three rounds. While Winchester has come to be known as “The American Legend,” the XPR rifle is actually built in Portugal by Browning Viana, as marked on the barrel.

Meet the .350 Legend

The .350 Legend round offers hunters—especially those in states with straight-wall restrictions—a serious whitetail contender with numerous premium factory ammo offerings, and the XPR bolt action is an affordable platform. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

When Winchester launched the .350 Legend as the world’s fastest straight-walled hunting cartridge, most folks were focused on the bolt-action, but the beauty of the cartridge’s design is its ability to work with AR-15 style rifles. To fully appreciate why the .350 Legend has been selling so well, one must know a bit about the round. Winchester states, on its website, the .350 Legend has more energy than .30-30 Win, .300 Blackout, and .223 Rem, less recoil than both the .450 Bushmaster and .243 Win, and sees 20-percent more penetration at 200-yards in gel when firing Winchester Deer Season ammunition. The .350 Legend has now been standardized by SAAMI and is officially versatile on the range and in the woods

The .350 Legend’s design targets those states with straight-walled deer hunting restrictions, but its low recoil and performance have, in fact, found mass appeal not only with younger whitetails hunters but bear and hog hunters as well. Our local gun store struggles to keep the rifles in stock, with bolt-actions, single shots, AR-15 rifles, and even complete uppers moving out more quickly than any other caliber not named Creedmoor.

Field Impressions

This is not our first time working with Winchester’s XPR rifle, as it remains among the top choices for affordable, out-of-the-box hunting bolt-actions. Partner that proven performance with the company’s new chambering and the result has been every bit as interesting as expected. The XPR uses what Winchester calls the MOA trigger, and our test rifle’s broke quite crisp but varies between roughly 3.5- and 4-pounds.

The standard rifle is not much to look at in plain black synthetic furniture, but what it lacks in pizzazz, it makes up for in solid performance. The inclusion of a bolt-unlock button—which works much the same as a three-position safety—allows shooters to safely extricate a live round from the chamber without disengaging the safety.

Winchester uses the standard right-tang safety on the XPR, but also adds a convenient bolt-unlock button that allows the rifle to be unloaded without disengaging the safety. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

While recoil is not a concern from any .350 Legend rifle—remember it’s advertised as being less than a .243 Win—the XPR is still fitted with an Inflex rubber buttpad. One of our range companions recently had a shoulder replacement surgery, and he was able to fire both the CMMG Resolute semi-auto and this XPR in .350 Legend multiple times without issue given the incredibly low shoulder-impact. Partner that low-recoil with a nice range of hunting bullets and performance, and it looks like we have a winner.

Both the round and the rifle are purpose-driven for hunters, especially those in the Midwest and south. “The new .350 Legend and the well-proven XRP bolt-action is the ideal hunting combo for whitetail deer, wild hogs, and other small- to mid-sized game,” Glenn Hatt, product manager for Winchester Repeating Arms, said in a press release. “The recoil is so light, and it’s so pleasant to shoot. The external ballistics are much like the legendary .30-30 Winchester, the greatest deer cartridge of all time. If most of your shooting is 200-yards or less, you need an XPR in .350 Legend in your gun rack.”

Accuracy Testing

One of our 100-yard targets shot with the XPR and the company’s Power Max ammunition, measuring right at MOA. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

We topped our test XPR with Meopta’s new Optika6 2.5-15x44 riflescope – featuring the incredibly interesting color-shifting Dichrotech reticle sitting in the Talley-made, Winchester-branded, one-piece XPR mounts. We packed along a nice mix of factory ammunition, shooting all types of bullets and weights including, Winchester Power Max Bonded 160-grain, Hornady Custom 165-grain FTX, Federal Non-Typical 180-grain, Winchester 145-grain FMJ, Browning BXR 155-grain, and even Winchester Super Suppressed 255-grain OT. We saw excellent performance from each type of ammunition. However, we encountered another FTF with a single round of Winchester FMJ that again had a solid primer strike but did not ignite.

This is also an appropriate time to note that while the .350 Legend is still a cartridge in its infancy, we as consumers are neither struggling to find affordable factory ammunition on the shelf nor are we limited to only several bullet weights or types. Every major manufacturer is already offering multiple loads for the Legend, from tipped to bonded, hollow points, FMJ, and even suppressed options.

Accuracy was excellent, especially from what is considered a budget gun without an MOA guarantee. We repeatedly shot MOA groups, with several sub-MOA three-shot groups hovering around 0.375-inches. That proves the capability of our XPR-Meopta combo. The XPR favored Power Max Bonded, Hornady Custom, and Browning BXR, but all the rest were not far behind. The Super Suppressed loads, which we had a chance to fire at SHOT Show using a suppressed rifle, are incredibly impressive, knocking out small gongs at 200-yards. Hunters and shooters with suppressors will want to opt for one of the can-ready variants.

XPR Variants

While the XPR is a fine entry point rifle, the upgraded XPR Stealth is suppressor-ready, and a perfect choice for the company’s Super Suppressed loads. Hunters who prefer traditional wood-stocked rifles will opt for the company’s Sporter model with Walnut furniture, while smaller-framed shooters will appreciate the abbreviated LOP on the Compact. While some hunters will certainly gravitate to the AR-platform rifles in which the round also excels, Winchester’s full contingent of XPR bolt-actions has something for each build and style of hunter.

Firing the bolt action .350 Legend comes with surprisingly little recoil. Winchester advertises the round as having less “kick” than both the 450 Bushmaster and .243 Win, and we believe they are correct. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

The XPR, though blanketing the bolt-action field, is far from the only bolt gun chambering the .350 Legend in 2020. It already has serious competition from other budget-conscious names like Savage, Ruger, Mossberg, and CVA. That’s both a blessing and curse, as it puts the XPR in a loaded market, but also proves the exceptional reception of the company’s .350 Legend chambering.

Conclusion

The .350 Legend is an affordable factory round, and when partnered with the equally accessible XPR rifle, priced so hunters can practice more often before the big hunt. Our XPR did everything we asked of it and would make a solid hunting companion, being practical without frills and accurate without wild claims. Whether hunting straight-wall restricted states or simply desiring a low-recoiling round capable of bringing down deer, black bear, and hogs in the 200-yard range, the .350 is pounding out a market share that will show its success in grip-and-grin field photos. 

Price on the XPR is quite appealing, with the MSRP set at $549.99 and online prices putting the gun closer to the $400 mark.

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