The Browning T-Bolt rifle has a unique action and is light in weight, which makes it very practical to use and quick to reload. It is very competitively priced and will appeal to rifle shooters both amateur and professional
The Browning T-Bolt cannot really be described as a new rifle. Browning first made a T-Bolt some years ago – they go back to the 1960s – but it has recently been resurrected. Originally a .22 rimfire, the new T-Bolt is available in .22LR and .17HMR.
My first impression of the black synthetic version was that it rather resembled a toy. However, though it does have a very light and plasticky feel, it is certainly no plaything. It starts to make more sense when a sound moderator and scope are added. The carbine or short-barrel version weighs about 4lb 5oz, but a scope and moderator add a couple of pounds.
For most shooters, the carbine is the favourite, as it is very manageable for length. Even with a moderator fitted, it adds up to about the same as the standard- length version and it is easier to manoeuvre, and to get out of a vehicle window if shooting at night. The balance is also better.
I am occasionally asked whether shorter-barrelled rifles are as accurate as their longer versions, and I believe they are. Longer barrels made sense years ago, but nowadays, with the consistency and quality of ammunition, those factors are no longer relevant. It is possible to shorten a barrel too much, depending on calibre, but that’s another story.
In standard form, the barrels are 56cm long (22in) and for the UK they are 42cm or 161⁄2in long. Both lengths are screw-cut 0.5in for a sound moderator. In the UK we tend to take sound moderators for granted, but in fact we are very privileged, as there are very few countries where they are legal. In the USA, where you can even own a tank (as long as the firing mechanism has been deactivated), sound moderators are regulated by law, just as machine guns are. They became a regulated item under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934.
In either calibre, the T-Bolt works well, and really well in .17HMR. A semi-auto version is not permitted here, but the T-Bolt is the next best thing as it is very fast to reload. With any bolt rifle, to reload and not lose your line of sight is difficult and, for most rifle shots, would take considerable practice. With the T-Bolt, not losing line of sight between shots still takes a degree of practice and the use of a rest certainly helps, but it is possible.
Shown here is the composite Sporter, which comes with standard contour barrel. There is also a varmint version with a heavy barrel and walnut stock. Of course, what they really need to make is the varmint version with a synthetic stock, but how long did we have to wait for the four-door Range Rover?
One advantage of the synthetic stock is that provision has been built into the butt end for the housing of a spare mag, which is supplied with the rifle. Although very slim, both in width and depth, the T-Bolt has a 10-shot mag for either calibre. This is achieved by a rotary helix magazine, which works in a figure of eight. There is a safety on the top strap that works in the same way as on a shotgun — back for safe and push forwards for fire.
Removal of the bolt for cleaning can be a fiddly task. You have to push a lever down in front of the safety, which is not easy for any but the slimmest of fingers – which, let’s face it, most shooters do not have. But once this lever is pushed down, the bolt will pull out of the back of the action to allowing full access with a cleaning rod.
The T-Bolt is effectively a straight-pull rifle. When fully forward, it has a positive lock with a round locking lug coming through the action wall on the left side. When pulled, the bolt first unlocks, then travels back to eject the fired case. This can be done quite fast with practice. It is much quicker than a conventional bolt, as it travels through only one linear plane, and then for only half to two-thirds of the distance.
The action is drilled for scope blocks, and weaver-style blocks are supplied with the rifle. The weaver system is huge, covering many mount manufacturers and sizes. So a vast variation of scope and sight sizes may be accommodated. The stock is slim with a subtle, moulded cheek-piece in the style of a Monte Carlo comb and a slim fore-end running down to a subtle, forward-angled tip. The comb holds the head up nicely to come in line with a scope. The stock isn’t chequered as such, but has rougher areas moulded in to provide grip. There are also studs for sling swivels fitted into the stock at front and rear.