This review was originally published in 2010. Read the full review below, published in its entirety:
The Browning X-bolt came from BWM UK with a box of Winchester 95 grain Ballistic Silvertip ammo. Edgar Brothers of Macclesfield kindly supplied samples of Remington 100gn Core Lokt Pointed Soft Points (PSP) for the .243s and Remington 55-grain PSP for the .22-250. Their assistance is very much appreciated.
BROWNING X-BOLT RIFLE
My first impression was that the Browning, as you would maybe expect, simply oozed quality. It’s stainless steel with a composite stock so pretty resistant to the British climate; but please do remember that even ‘all-weather’ rifles need looking after properly. If you put them away wet and give them no TLC you’re asking for trouble. Even stainless steel and plastic, good though they undoubtedly are, are not completely idiot-proof.
The adjustable, single stage, trigger is first class. It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of a good trigger, as we shall see later in this tri-partite test. Rifle and scope weighed just under 8lbs and felt well balanced. The barrel is threaded for a sound moderator and a nifty little button on the bolt handle allows the bolt to be removed while the shotgunstyle tang safety is on ‘Safe’.
The magazine is made of poly-something and worked perfectly well once I got the hang of it – but you can’t just stuff cartridges in and slam the bolt to and fro like you can with a Lee Enfield; it needs a little care and attention.
Some rifles can be fussy about bullet weight or make of ammo, but the X-bolt seemed remarkably tolerant and kept either Remington or Winchester under an inch for a three-shot group on my 110-yard range. That’s bloody good straight out of the box, and plenty accurate enough for most purposes.
The X-bolt has a recommended retail price of under £800, which looks extremely good value at a time when much of the competition seems to be closer to a grand.
MOSSBERG 100 ATR RIFLE
Next up was the Mossberg 100 ATR because it also was in .243. It’s a couple of hundred quid cheaper than the Browning – and to be honest I have to say it looks it. However, in rifle shooting, handsome is as handsome does, so we mustn’t be too hasty to judge.
The Mossberg has Weaver-style bases and the rings were from Leupold and it’s the easiest and least frustrating way of fitting a scope that I have ever come across. The bolt action uses the push-feed system and the magazine is some kind of plastic but seemed to work fine (sorry, I’m old enough to trust nothing that isn’t steel or walnut!).
The magazine is ‘blind’ which means the only way of emptying it is to work every round through the action, which always makes me a bit uncomfortable. You really do need good muzzle awareness when doing things like that.
The trigger on this test rifle was not the best I’ve ever used – and that includes Sten guns! There were two stages of creep followed by a long drag and more, and then an amount of grating before the thing finally went off. I fired one group that showed adequate accuracy for deer, however.
The instruction manual said that the trigger had been carefully adjusted at the factory and should on no account be tampered with because the adjusting screws were locked in position. The Mossberg website says the rifles have user-adjustable triggers and a silky-smooth action. Hmmm.
HOWA MODEL 1500 RIFLE
On to the Howa Model 1500 in .22-250. More satin stainless steel and plastic, which, as I always have to remind myself, is the kind of gun we buy when our brains are involved in the purchase.
This is my first experience of a Howa and it looks like a nice piece of kit. Again we had Weaver-style bases and Leupold rings and it all fitted together so easily that I began to wonder if I had done everything!
The trigger feels similar to that on the Browning – single stage, no creep, no drag, no backlash, just a nice, clean, let-off. Perfect.
The rifle weighed exactly nine pounds, including the scope, and sat beautifully in the hands. Some people like light rifles but I am not one of them. Light rifles are great for carrying, but not usually so good for shooting – especially if you are puffing a bit after climbing a hill. With a powerful cartridge, they’re not a bundle of laughs for target practice, either.
The Howa had an immediate love affair with Edgar Bros’ supply of Remington ammo and the very first group went into 0.8″ at the above-mentioned 110 yards. With a new rifle, it’s only going to get better. Like the Browning, the Howa worked very well straight out of the box; and that’s what most people want. This stainless version retails at around £650 and merits serious consideration.