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GUNS Magazine Digital March 2011 - Page 60
Browning X-Bolt white Gold .243, that is. john barsness he first thing anybody notices about the Browning X-Bolt white Gold is its appearance, especially in an age when many rifles are styled like basement plumbing. The white Gold’s style could be called Retro Bling, a sort of cross between the california look epitomized by the weatherby rifles of half a century ago and present-day “I’ve Got Mine.” T The metal is all stainless steel, except for the aluminum bottom metal and some gold engraving on the rose-and-scroll engraved receiver. The stock is fancy-grain walnut finished to a mirror-shine, with a moderate Monte Carlo hump on the comb. There’s even a rosewood pistol grip cap and angled fore-end tip, both complete with white-line spacers. This fits right in with a recent trend in custom rifles. In the past few years, a few “traditional” (wood-stocked) custom riflemakers have broken away from the so-called classic style that’s dominated the genre for several decades. Classic bolt-action stocks haven’t really changed all that much in the last century, unless you consider 2-screw sling-swivel studs and minute differences in the “pedestals” under 98 Mauser bolt releases as radical changes. In the 21st century some shooters are searching for a different look. The interesting thing about the X-Bolt White Gold, however, is that unlike some objects built with a lot of show, there’s also a lot of go. Browning has insisted since the X-Bolt’s introduction that it’s a different rifle than their popular A-Bolt, a design that originated in the mid-1980s. At first glance the X-Bolt looks like an A-Bolt, with a 3-lockinglug bolt in a very similar receiver, but there are major differences. One is the magazine. The A-Bolt’s detachable, staggered-round, steel magazine attaches to the inside of a traditional hinged floorplate. The X-Bolt’s detachable rotary magazine, made of synthetic polymer, slips right into the bottom of the action and feeds the rounds in a straight line into the chamber. While many traditionalists hate the thought of a “plastic” magazine, many high-quality rifles (such as the German Blaser bolt-action) have featured polymer magazines for many years, with a demonstrated record for reliability. The X-Bolt’s magazine functioned perfectly throughout the tests. Another difference between the X-Bolt and A-Bolt is a button at the base of the bolt-handle that allows the bolt to open with the tang safety still on. The X-Bolt’s safety also actually blocks the firing pin, along with the trigger mechanism. Thus the bolt can be opened with the firing pin still safely held back, just as in some of the more revered bolt actions such as the 98 Mauser and Model 70 Winchester. The X-Bolt’s safety button is on the tang, where many retro-shooters (including a former GUNS staff writer named Elmer Keith) believe the safety on any long gun should be located. The trigger itself is also different from the A-Bolt’s. Browning calls it the Feather Trigger, a 3-lever system adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds. It’s supposedly free of creep and factoryadjusted to 3-1/2 pounds. The trigger on the sample rifle broke very cleanly, and my Timney trigger gauge measured five consecutive pulls that averaged 3 pounds, 10 ounces, varying only 3 ounces between the lightest and heaviest pulls. The stock adds a couple of interesting touches to overall function. Browning claims the Monte Carlo comb allows more contact between the recoil pad and the shooter’s shoulder. This is a big claim, since individual shooters vary considerably in physical dimensions. However, it’s true that a The Browning X-Bolt White Gold has distinctive styling, matched by fine function. 60 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MARCH 2011