Browning A-Bolt Composite rifle review.
With the Browning X-Bolt taking all the limelight recently, and quite rightly so, as it’s a good rifle, it is easy to forget that Browning still makes the older A-Bolt design, which remains a remarkably good and practical rifle.
Browning now offers the Composite Stalker model to the UK market in two of the most popular calibres: .223 for foxes and vermin, and .243 for deer.
The rifle comes with scope-mount bases and a spare magazine, and is less than £600, giving you an affordable rifle of high quality.
The Composite rifle has a short barrel of 20in and comes factory threaded for a sound moderator, which is sensible.
The synthetic stock is tactile and handles well. I have never understood why the A-Bolt is not more popular in Britain than it is, as it is a good, solid, accurate rifle.
ACTION AND BARREL
The A-Bolt gets its name from the arrangement of the bolt locking lugs. Viewed from the front, they look like an inverted ‘A’.
The bolt body has a triple-fluted rotating casing that helps to stop the bolt twisting and allows the base of the bolt to ride smoothly over the magazine.
The outer case stays rigid with the inner bolt, with the locking lugs rotating inside when the bolt is operated.
The bolt lift is shallow, at 60° elevation, and the bolt cocks on the upstroke, which requires little effort, so the bolt handle travels past even the biggest scope’s eyepiece.
The bolt face is recessed to encapsulate the cartridge head and extraction is accomplished by a small spring-loaded claw-type extractor.
Ejection is completed by a plunger-type ejector set in the top of the bottom locking lug. Though the lugs are large, they lock on a small surface area, yet still provide a strong lock up.
The bolt handle is also well designed, with a straight handle ending in a flattened knob, which is twisted to fit nicely in the palm of the hand.
The rear bolt shroud has a projecting cocking indicator at the rear, marked in red, sited at the bottom.
The barrel is short at 20in, which I like, and comes with a 14mm/1 pitch thread and a thread protector.
The barrel is a slim profiled Sporter type, with a muzzle diameter of .600in. It is fully floated along its entire length with the stock.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
I fitted the supplied Weaver-type scope-mount bases and tried a Swarovski 6-24×50 scope and Tempest night-vision scope.
The best accuracy came from Norma’s 40-grain load at 3,452fps, which produced some Σ⁄¬in groups at 100 yards.
The Federals were also good, with 1in groups and a velocity of 3,489fps.
With reloads, the top velocity went to the Nosler 40-grain Ballistic Tips with 24 grains of Reloder 10X for 3,493fps and1,084ft/lb energy, which is a great fox load.
The Sierra 55-grain soft-point load with 26 grains of Varget powder and a velocity of3,071fps for 1,152ft/lb would make a great small-species deerload, as it produced three groups in less than 1in at 100 yards.
I tried some heavy 75-grain boat-tail hollow points (BTHP)for long-range use but, despite the average velocity of 2,668fps, the accuracy was poor, due to the barrel-rifling twist favouring the lighter sub-60-grain bullets.
The composite stock is one of the best I have seen on a factory rifle.
Designed for good handling, it is comfortable to hold and its grey finish gives a tactile grip.
The simple buttstock has no cheekpiece, which makes it quite unbiased for left- or right-handed shooters, though there is a palm swell to the right side of the pistol grip.
There is no bedding material to fix the action securely in the stock, but judging from the accuracy test, it did not need any.
There is moulded-in chequering to both the fore-end and pistol grip areas.
A solid black rubber recoil pad finishes off a comfortable sporting stock design.
TRIGGER AND MAGAZINE
An interesting feature of all A-Bolts is the magazine construction, as the detachable magazine sits in the bottom of the floorplate.
To remove or insert it, you need to open the hinged floorplate by pushing on the release button located in the upper surface of the trigger-guard.
The floorplate drops down, revealing the magazine, which can be loaded or removed by pulling gently down to release the spring-tensioned locator.
It’s a good system, enabling a spare magazine to be carried, one of which is supplied by the manufacturer.
In .223, I could get five shots in.
The trigger on the A-Bolt is adjustable, with a good degree of settings, but the standard 4lbpull is fine for field use.
The safety on the A-Bolt is located on the rear receiver tang, which makes it convenient to use with the thumb of the right hand.
When pushed forwards, the rifle is ready to fire and when it is pushed back, it locks the rear trigger and bolt.
IN THE FIELD
I fitted a Tempest night-vision scope from Thomas Jacks and this, together with the A-Bolt’s lightweight, made the rifle perfect for shooting foxes at night.
It would also make a great donor rifle for rebarreling into something such as the .20 Tactical round – now that is something that I would like to try.
The A-Bolt rifle deserves praise for its accuracy and suitability as a fox or deer rifle in the right calibre.
It comes with scope-mount bases and even a spare five-shot magazine, all for less than £600, what’s not to like?
Browning A-Bolt Composite rifle review