Browning Eclipse A-Bolt rifle review.
The Eclipse offers the sportsperson a well-made rifle with several very nice features at a competitive price.
Sporting a satin-black finish, laminated thumbhole and 26in barrel, the Eclipse is aimed squarely at the varmint and fox shooter in particular, but is also just as suited for a spot of stalking in the correct calibre.
However, it will involve hefting a rifle of 9lb 14oz, less scope, for your efforts.
The rugged laminated midnight-black colour is not only hunter-friendly in terms of low-reflective qualities but the laminated layers of bonded wood and resin ensure a weatherproof handle from which to appreciate the A-Bolt’s good performance.
Laminated wood stocks may not be everybody’s choice, but the stable, unshifting metal-to-wood fit these stocks provide ensures that once a rifle and scope combination are zeroed they stay that way.
The Eclipse embodies all these features, but still provides the user with an attractive and functional stock design, in my view.
The fore-end is very broad and the heavy varmint-profile barrel looks a little dwarfed, though it allows a good firm hold for the supporting hand. Towards the action area the laminate becomes square and boxy, mirroring the faceted action design.
I love thumbholes and the Eclipse offers a great capacity to allow control and comfort to a shooter in any stature and position.
The pistol-grip arrangement is very upright, which I like, allowing the controlling hand and firing index finger to sit naturally in the correct position on the trigger-blade.
The roll-over cheekpiece to the right side is high enough to allow correct scope alignment to the eye, which is critical, especially with a higher powered scope, but the overall length of pull is not bad at 14in.
A solid-black recoil pad with black plastic spacer finishes off what is actually a dual-purpose fox or stalking stock.
I have reviewed the A-bolt design previously with the new (then) .243 WSSM cartridges. Little has changed – paramount to the A-bolt design is the low-profile three-lug locking bolt system.
The shallow 60 degrees elevation bolt angle on lift and execution of line is seriously beneficial to any sports person, in that minimal effort and maximum control is achieved from the slightest of hand movements.
The small diameter bolt with three large front located locking lugs are thus arranged to form an A shape, hence the A-Bolt name, which cam into the recesses of the receiver ring on lock-up.
The lozenge-shaped bolt stop is located on the rear left side of the receiver. Depress the front portion of the lug and the bolt can be removed from the action ready for cleaning.
The bolt cocks on the up-stroke and thus there is little effort in loading and cycling the Eclipse. The receiver has flat faceted sides, which I like, and is coated in a tough matt-satin black finish with the top drilled and tapped for scope bases that Browning make, but do not include with the purchase.
Trigger and safety
The trigger on the A-Bolt is adjustable by turning the adjuster screw clockwise, which lightens the pull weight. Set at the factory, it has a 4-5lb pull, which is a touch heavy, but crisp with little over-travel.
The safety on the A-Bolt is located on the rear receiver tang, which is more convenient than one may first think. There is some small noise in operation, but a minimum of effort in operation.
The magazine housing sits attached to the bottom of the floor-plate and, to remove or insert the magazine, the hinged foot-plate must be opened by pushing on the release button located in the upper surface of the trigger-guard.
This allows the floor-plate to drop down, revealing the magazine that can be loaded with four rounds in .22-250, or if you wish to remove the whole thing, a quick tug at the magazine body will release it from the tensioned spring.
This enables a spare magazine to be carried or stored for safety reasons. If a shooter wants, they can refill the magazine at any time by simply adding cartridges from the top through the receiver.
Barrel and finish
This Eclipse model is designed from the roots up as, primarily, a varmint rifle. It has a weight of 9lb 14oz unscoped, which is great from a static shooting position but does become noticeable after a jaunt around the fields.
This is largely due to the heavier varmint profile barrel the Eclipse wears, having a 1.18in girth at the chamber end with a shallow, almost straight, taper to a muzzle diameter of 0.755in. Not only does this dampen barrel vibrations on firing but in theory it takes longer to heat up and thus keep shooting accurately for longer.
The barrel is free-floated along its entire length, which is good, and the fore-end is very wide at 2.32in. The muzzle has a flat crown with the rifling edge countersunk slightly and unfortunately is not threaded, which would be nice considering the moderator boom of recent years.
I wanted to test how both the light race-tuned varmint bullets and the heavier bullet weights performed. I fitted a new BSA Panther scope which, for the respectable price, offered good optics and internal adjustment accuracy to warrant praise.
First up were the factory loads, I had a selection of the major brands, all of which shot below the 1in mark at 100 yards. Of note were the Federal bullet weights of 40 grain and 55 grain, respectively yielding 3,997fps and 3,724fps, and 1,419ft/lb and 1,694ft/lb energy from the 26in barrel.
Reloads allow you to make the most out of the long barrel and tune a specific load for a particular task.
In fact, only a 75fps increase from the lighter 40-grain bullets was noted, while the 55-grain projectile gained on average an extra 55fps.
Best load was 35.5 grains of Reloder RL 15 powder and a 55-grain Sierra BlitzKing bullet travelling at 3,702fps and producing 1,674 ft/lb energy, a good stiff load – but the fragile nature of the Blitzking is best suited to vermin or foxes rather than larger species.
As always, the A-Bolt design delights. It still baffles me why this Browning is not as popular in this country as the Remington or Ruger equivalents.
It wants for nothing. In fact, the stock design, quirky magazine design and inherent accuracy will make you a very happy shooter indeed.
True it is a touch heavy, especially with a scope attached, but the weight gives it a sturdy feel and a very stable shooting platform.
I like it but I wish it came threaded for a sound moderator as most owners would probably fit one.