The term cult following gets thrown around a lot, but in the case of Browning it’s nearing the truth (It has been pointed out to me that a block of wood bearing a Buckmark logo could be a good seller). Some people even go so far as to have Browning’s very recognizable logo tattooed somewhere on their body. Much of this brand loyalty comes from Browning’s continued production of their classic firearms like the A-5 shotgun, but a great deal of it is the result of satisfaction with Browning’s modern designs. The A-Bolt and it’s currently produced evolution, the X-Bolt, have owners who are quite adamant about their quality and accuracy.
The X-Bolt is a push feed action with three lugs, an enclosed bolt face and a relatively large rotating extractor. The bolt lift is shorter thanks to the three-lug design and bolt guides are machined into the lugs making for a very smooth action. The X-Bolt is also equipped with a button on top of the bolt handle that allows the bolt to be opened while the safety is engaged. This button allows the rifle to have a two-position safety mounted on the tang while offering a safe option for unloading.
The X-Bolt is an attractive looking rifle for many shooters. All sharp angles and rough edges are smoothed out with the X-bolt. The X-bolt also makes use of a few features that are a bit odd in the current market but that will find favor with many shooters. The X-Bolt uses a rotary magazine that tends to smooth out the kinks of feeding the new short magnums on the market. Stumpy, thick cartridges generally don’t like to feed very well, but the X-bolt feeds them better than most. The X-Bolt also has a small chunk of spring steel, almost silly in its simplicity, which pushes down on the rotary magazine, making it handier to remove quickly without sticking in the gun. The X-Bolt is a design with a lot of little things to appreciate.
The X-Bolt lost a point in the Trigger category because while the X-Bolt has an adjustable trigger the trigger guard of the rifle must be removed to get at the adjustment screw, which might prove aggravating at the range or in the field. A point was also deducted for Feeding/Extraction because the X-Bolt’s extractor does occasionally slip over case heads if not properly fit. One point was deducted in the Scope Mounting category due to Browning’s use of a proprietary eight screw/two piece base system that will probably be difficult to find a good selection of at any given sporting goods store. A point was deducted in the Accuracy category due to the fact that the X-Bolt usually delivers pretty good accuracy, but these specimens do not crop up more than we would like. One point was deducted in the Reliability category due to the tendency of the X-Bolt, just like the A-Bolt before it, to be susceptible to icing in extreme weather conditions varying between wet and freezing cold. If doused and then frozen the X-Bolt can lock up good and hard to the point the bolt cannot be opened without the use of a boot or wood block. This does not happen often and is even kind of hard to duplicate in testing, but it can happen and the buyer should keep it in mind. One last point was deducted from the X-Bolt in the Versatility category because the design does not lend itself very well to conversion or certain cartridges.