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Browning X-Bolt Composite Stalker Review

by Payton Miller   |  January 3rd, 2013 6

Browning-X-Bolt-Composite-Stalker_001

It wouldn’t be stretching things to say that the Browning’s X-Bolt—introduced in 2009—represents an improvement over the company’s A-Bolt, which premiered back in 1985. Both are push-feed, bolt-action hunting rifles available in several configurations involving stock material, calibers, barrel, lengths, action lengths and what have you. Since both models are capable of accuracy far beyond what anyone could take advantage of in a field situation, the tweaks in the X-Bolt platform that give it an edge as far as I’m concerned center on ignition, scope mounting and feeding.

The X-Bolt’s “Feather Trigger” requires very little movement and is adjustable (between three and five pounds). The integral mount system (not included with the rifle) is unobtrusive, strong, simple and features four screws per mount. And, as Craig Boddington said a while back in reference to the rifle’s X-Lock mounting system, “Four screws per base beat the traditional two by 100 percent.” It’s almost as quick and simple to install as Ruger’s integral mount system—which, to me, has always represented the gold standard in idiot-proof mount setups.

The X-Bolt also features a smooth-feeding, flush-fitting, detachable synthetic magazine. I like it a lot better than the hybridized hinged floorplate/detachable-mag setup on the A-Bolt, which always struck me as a rather complex attempt to appeal to shooters who like the looks of a traditional floorplate, but want the convenience of a detachable mag. I’ve got no gripe against detachable magazines (I was—and still am—a big fan of Remington’s M788), and the X-Bolt’s simple, inline setup works very well.

Another notable feature on the X-Bolt is the fact that the bolt release is on right at the root of the bolt. Easy to find, access and depress when it comes time for cleaning and maintenance—or removing the bolt for a plane ride.

I recently shot—and hunted with—an X-Bolt Composite Stalker in .30-06. It’s also available with a conventional walnut or racy-looking carbon-fiber stock and can be had in calibers ranging from .223 on up to .338 Winchester Magnum. Mine was no-nonsense black with a 22-inch free-floated barrel. The first thing I did was mount a Bushnell Legend 3-9×40 variable (with a Multi-X duplex-style reticle) on it, which was—as I mentioned—a remarkably painless procedure. Full scoped and with a sling installed, the curb weight on the unloaded rifle was a hair under 8.2 pounds, but as nicely balanced as the rig was, it somehow felt lighter. The trigger felt crisper to me—though not necessarily “out of the box” lighter—than the triggers on the A-Bolts I’ve shot over the years. The pull on my test rifle broke at just under three pounds and was as crisp as I could ask for.

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