2018 Rifle of the Year

2018 Rifle of the Year
The Browning X-Bolt Pro
Guns & Ammo editors, contributors and staff present 2018’s pre-eminent firearms, optic, ammunition, suppressor and innovation awards. Only products made commercially available this last year qualify for nomination. Candidates that were introduced in 2018, but have yet to be shipped to retailers were excluded from our voting process.

During our roundtable discussions, products developed from the ground up and those that possessed the greatest potential impact to the greatest number of readers were given additional value when scored. When having to decide between two otherwise equally important new products, the more affordable choice typically broke the tie in our voting. This year, we have made our first exception to this rule with the shotgun category.

G&A acquired several samples of each nominee throughout 2018 for a comprehensive evaluation. Products that caused doubt in their reliability and manufacturing methods were eliminated from the list of candidates.

The winner for each category resulted from a point system once three criteria were met: First, the product must have been new and available for purchase in 2018. A line extension of an existing product didn’t earn the points as one possessing innovative features and engineering. Second, it must have demonstrated quality and reliability to a degree that met or exceeded its design objective. Lastly, the winner must offer the greatest appeal to the masses. G&A’s staff awarded points in this third principle following a survey of in-store availability and retail pricing to ensure the product exists and offers great value.

To protect the credibility of the Guns & Ammo of the Year awards, no manufacturers, advertisers or sales representatives were informed of our selection. What follows is a summary list of 2018’s best new products now offered by the firearm industry. 

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Winner: The Browning X-Bolt Pro

Browning X-­Bolt Pro features a second-­generation, carbon-­fiber stock. It was this configuration that moved G&A’s editors and contributors to select it as this year’s award winner.

The X-­Bolt has been on the market for 10 years, and has been an increasingly popular rifle with its short, 60-­degree bolt throw and tang-­mounted safety that’s intuitive to find under your firing hand’s thumb. Plus, you can unload the rifle with the safety engaged using the bolt-­unlock button. The center-­feed, detachable-­box magazine is an excellent design that contributes to the action’s quick cycling and reliable feeding.

In the accuracy department, the X-­Bolt features a free-­float barrel on a bedded action and a unique, carbon-­fiber action block. Sub-­MOA accuracy was the norm for our test rifles due to its bedding and the 3-­pound-­average trigger pull.

The new X-­Bolt Pro is an achievement that negates our desire for aftermarket treatments. It already sports a lightweight, sound-­deadening, compressed foam-­core stock that’s wrapped in two layers of carbon fiber. Why make such a big deal about this versus a plastic composite stock? You’ve got to watch Browning’s deflection test in a video on the X-­Bolt Pro at browning.com. There, you will see how this stock protects accuracy potential.

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Fluting ornaments the X-­Bolt Pro. It’s not only on the barrel, but the bolt and bolt handle. The appearance is corrosion resistant given its stainless-­steel substrate that’s shielded by a Burnt Bronze-­color Cerakote finish that’s applied to both the stock and barreled action.

Without a doubt, this is 2018’s best rifle.

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