August 01, 2023
There are many factors that make up a great mountain rifle. Firstly, it needs to be lightweight, of course, yet it still needs to be shootable and accurate. A great mountain rifle will have multiple caliber offerings for various Western game, and it needs to be reliable, regardless of weather conditions or any other factor. Western hunters look for a rifle that’s easy to carry in a sling or a pack while still being maneuverable through dense woods or brush. The ultimate mountain rifle is an elusive concept, but Browning’s new X-Bolt Speed has all the features we look for in a mountain rifle and then some.
Out of the gate, it’s nice to see so many different caliber models for the X-Bolt Speed. There are 17 different calibers ranging from classic, tried-and-true cartridges like the .30-’06 or .308 Win. to modern big-hitters like Hornady’s new 7mm PRC or Winchester’s 6.8 Western. Whether you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all cartridge or if you want the perfect bullet for specific game, the X-Bolt Speed definitely has a caliber offering to fit your needs.
X-Bolt Speed Specs Breakdown
A cartridge is no better that the barrel that sends it, though, and the X-Bolt Speed’s sporter contour, fluted barrel is exactly what you want for a mountain rifle. The fluting cuts reduce weight in the barrel, yet it’s incredibly accurate and maintains its accuracy through multiple shots. The barrel is threaded and comes standard with a radial muzzlebrake, which greatly reduces recoil on an X-Bolt Speed chambered for a magnum cartridge. The muzzlebrake is easy to take off and replace with a lightweight suppressor, too. If you haven’t hunted with a suppressor before, they do a lot more than simply save your hearing. A good suppressor like the new Banish Backcountry from Silencer Central is designed to be light enough for mountain hunting and still greatly reduce muzzle flash and sound, possibly getting you a better follow-up shot without spooking game.
The barrel is finished in a smoked bronze Cerakote, which offers superior protection against the elements compared to traditional stainless steel or bluing. The smoked bronze looks good, too, and it blends in well with Western terrain. The barrel is free-floated within the action, further improving the accuracy potential of the X-Bolt Speed. Western and mountain hunters regularly need to take shots on game beyond 300 and even 400 yards, so there’s no room for error in a barrel on a mountain rifle like the X-Bolt Speed.
The action, which is also finished in the smoked bronze Cerakote, has some fantastic safety upgrades compared to other mountain rifles. The X-Bolt Speed has a unique bolt-unlock button that works in conjunction with the three-position tang safety, giving you the ability to unload the rifle without placing it on fire. The safe position locks the trigger and the bolt, but the bolt’s unlock button can be pressed while on safe to pull the bolt back and unload the rifle. This feature doesn’t add any confusion in the field either. The safety still works the same, but the bolt-unlock button greatly reduces the chance of a negligent discharge when unloading the rifle.
The X-Bolt Speed’s bolt has a 60-degree throw, which is the new standard for hunting rifles. There is nothing more annoying that mounting a scope and realizing that the bolt hits the eyepiece or is so close you can barely grab it to cycle the action. A 60-degree throw offers plenty of room to maneuver the bolt regardless of your choice of scope. Speaking of mounting a scope, the X-Bolt Speed also boasts Browning’s X-Lock scope mounting system. X-Lock uses four screws per base instead of the traditional two-screw design. The benefits of which are clear. Not only are four screws more secure than two, but it also makes it easier to line the rings up perfectly straight. A natural match to the X-Bolt Speed would be a scope like Leupold’s VX6 HD, which is one of the most advanced hunting scopes available. The best scope and rifle in the world are worthless without a good mounting interface. Browning’s X-Lock system gives you just that, so there’s no doubt both your scope and rifle are on target.
The barrel may be the heart of a rifle and is what makes or breaks accuracy, but the trigger can also affect accuracy and definitely affects a rifle’s shootability. The X-Bolt Speed uses Browning’s Feather Trigger, which is an adjustable three-lever trigger that provides minimal takeup and creep along with almost no overtravel. It leaves the factory between 3.5 to 4 pounds, but it has an adjustable screw to adjust the trigger from 3 to 5 pounds. What you get is an out-of-the-box factory trigger with an incredibly clean break that is also one of the safest triggers on the market.
The Browning X-Bolt Speed has a slim profile that’s ideal for maneuvering through dense woods or brush, but it’s still comfortable to shoulder and shoot. Many hunters prefer to add a sling and carry a rifle, but the slim design is also great for pack travel, too. Hunters who cover a lot of ground before getting to their hunting area like packs such as Browning’s Gannett 5500 pack. It has a lot of room to carry supplies in and pack meat out, and it also has a unique, external rifle/bow carrier optimized for slim rifles like the X-Bolt Speed. The rifle stock, featuring Browning’s Inflex recoil pad, is finished with Browning’s OVIX camo pattern, which is perfect for Western and mountain hunting. For hunter who want their gear to match, Browning offers the OVIX camo pattern in their own line of hunting clothing for all weather conditions, and the Gannet 5500 pack is also available in OVIX.
Once you break it down, the Browning X-Bolt Speed is one of the best factory mountain rifles that’s ready to go out of the box. Sure, you could find a custom rifle that could beat it, but be prepared to shuck out a few thousand extra dollars, and you won’t beat it by much. With all the included features, the Browning X-Bolt Speed won’t break the bank. MSRP ranges from $1,380 to $1,480, but there isn’t a thing you’ll need to do besides pick out a good scope and possibly a suppressor. It’s a true ready-to-go, out-of-the-box rifle.
One thing not mentioned yet is the weight. Regardless of choice in caliber, the X-Bolt Speed weighs less than 7 pounds, with several options coming in at only 6 pounds, 5 ounces. That’s light! Whether you’re completely new to Western mountain hunting or an experienced veteran, the Browning X-Bolt Speed will take care of you on any hunt, big or small.
Browning X-Bolt Speed Specs
- Type: Bolt-action, repeater
- Cartridge: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.8 Western, 7mm PRC, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .270 WSM, 300 WSM, .270 Win., .30-’06, 7mm Rem. Mag., .280 Ackley Improved, .28 Nosler, .300 Win. Mag., 300 PRC, 300 Rem UM
- Barrel: 22-26 in., Smoked Bronze Cerakote, Fluted
- Weight: 6 lbs., 5 oz. to 6 lbs., 13 oz.
- Magazine: Rotary Box magazine, 3, 4 rds.
- Stock: OVIX Camo pattern, Inflex recoil pad
- Trigger: Adjustable, 3-5 lbs.
- MSRP: $1,380-$1,480
- Manufacturer: Browning