Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro Review
The X-Bolt Mountain Pro is a light, accurate, and capable mountain rifle
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The Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro is the latest addition to the ever-expanding selection of X-bolt models, first introduced in 2008. Browning has been hard at work making it a do-all platform. They offer a diverse selection of X-Bolts, from heavy-barreled long-range rigs to wood-stocked deer rifles. Then they started pushing into the lightweight mountain rifle category with the X-Bolt Pro a few years ago. Browning’s new X-Bolt Mountain Pro is an even more refined mountain hunting rifle with more features than any previous model.
The Mountain Pro is an X-Bolt designed to minimize weight and maximize accuracy, reliability, and reliability. It cuts up to a quarter-pound of weight from the previous X-Bolt Pro Model, and although it’s a production rifle, it includes features and attention to detail that you would find only on custom rifles in years past, like a carbon-fiber stock, durable finishes, and a glass-bedded action. Rifles like this bridge the gap between standard production models and custom rifles that cost several thousand dollars. At least, that’s the general idea.
Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro Specs
- Action: bedded short action X-Bolt, stainless steel, Cerakote finish
- Barrel: stainless steel, spiral-fluted, Cerakote finish
- Barrel length: 24 inches
- Chamberings: 6.8 Western (tested), 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .300 WSM, .30/06 Springfield, 7mm Rem. Mag., 28 Nosler, .300 Win. Mag., and .300 PRC
- Muzzle: threaded (5/8-inch x 24) with Recoil Hawg brake installed (included thread protector)
- Capacity: 3-shot rotary magazine (3+1)
- Stock: foam-filled carbon fiber with Cerakote accents
- Scope mounting: X-pattern 4-screw mounting front and rear
- Bolt: stainless steel, spiral-fluted, Cerakote finish
- Trigger: 3 pounds, 5 ounces, adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds
- Weight: 6 pounds, 4 ounces
- Overall length: 44 inches
- Barrel twist: 1:7.5 inches
- Safety: 2-position tang
- MSRP: $2,500
What Sets the Mountain Pro Apart
The X-Bolt is a dependable push-feed action that uses a proprietary detachable rotary magazine. Some detachable magazines can potentially drop out of the rifle at undesirable times, and some of them protrude from the bottom, making well-balanced one-handed carry impossible. But I don’t have any complaints about the X-bolt magazines from my years of personal experience with them. The magazine fits flush with the stock, and the bottom is contoured in a way that gives it a smooth and almost seamless transition to the stock. It’s secure and functional, as well as ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing. The action features a crisp, short 60-degree bolt throw for rapid cycling, as well as a bolt-unlock button that allows you to open the bolt while the safety is on.
The Mountain Pro begins to diverge from other X-Bolt models with the stock. It’s a true carbon-fiber stock that’s filled with a noise-dampening foam. This makes it very rigid and lighter than previous models used on rifles like the X-Bolt Pro. It features a slim, textured forend, slight palm swell on the grip, and an Inflex recoil pad. Front and rear bedding of the action and a free-floated barrel are designed to maximize accuracy. The stock is also finished with a splotchy, two-tone Cerakote pattern that looks good and helps break up the monotony of the carbon-fiber weave. It also comes with a short Picatinny rail bipod mount and sling stud installed, however that can be swapped for traditional sling studs that are also included.
The rifle I have is chambered in 6.8 Western and has a 24-inch stainless-steel sporter-profile barrel. The barrel, bolt, and bolt handle are all fluted, and all major components except for the raceways and bolt lugs are Cerakoted for protection from the elements. The rifle comes with Browning’s Recoil Hawg muzzle brake installed.
At 6.2 pounds bare, there are certainly some lighter options out there, but you’re going to pay for every ounce in cash or sacrifice of performance. This is a good balance. I topped this X-Bolt with Talley lightweight scope rings and a Leupold VX-3HD 4.5-14x40mm scope. Although for a rifle like this I prefer something in the 2.5-8x36mm because of the weight reduction, this scope has a 1-inch tube and is lightweight for the magnification range. Overall, the whole package weighs 7 pounds, 10 ounces on my digital scale. That might sound heavy to some nit pickers, but it’s only a few ounces heavier than a couple custom sheep rifles I own with thinner-profile barrels.
Testing The Mountain Pro
I had the opportunity to test-run two different X-Bolt Mountain Pro’s, both in 6.8 Western, and only differing in finish (Burnt Bronze and Tungsten). Both had reasonably lightweight, crisp triggers. I’ve spent several range sessions putting the bronze rifle through accuracy testing with several different factory ammunition loads here in Alaska and hunted aoudad in West Texas with the other. For accuracy testing I focused on two main 6.8 Western Loads, Browning Long Range Pro Hunter (175-grain Sierra Tipped Game King) and new Winchester Copper Impact (162-grain Winchester Copper Extreme Point). I also included some testing with Winchester Expedition Long-Range ammo (165-grain Nosler Long-Range Accubond), but only had one box. We are in an ammo shortage, afterall.
Range conditions were calm with temperatures ranging between minus 10 and minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Ammunition was kept at ambient temperature, and the bore was cleaned and given two fouling shots between different loads. I fired eight 5-shot groups with both the Long Range Pro Hunter and Copper Impact ammo each, and four 5-shot groups with the Expedition Long Range. Groups were each fired carefully but in quick succession, allowing the barrel to cool completely between groups.
|6.8 Western Factory Load||Best 5-Shot Group||Average 5-Shot Group|
|Browning Long Range Pro Hunter (175-grain Sierra Tipped Game King)||0.85 inches||1.18 inches|
|Winchester Copper Impact (162-grain Copper Extreme Point)||1.36 inches||1.94 inches|
|Winchester Expedition Long Range (165-grain Nosler Long Range Accubond)||0.93 inches||1.27 inches|
In The Field
Aside from quick zero-checks, I didn’t get the chance to put the Tungsten model in Texas through any substantial accuracy testing, and I was shooting the Winchester 162-grain Copper Impact loads. Shooting one or two 3-shot groups and checking elevation solutions on rocks isn’t testing, but for the ranges I was willing to shoot, this one was on the money. The rifle was very comfortable to carry around in the hills. The ideal weight and balance of a mountain rifle all comes down to personal taste. I prefer a rifle that I can carry in the hand for long periods of time. On backpack hunts I don’t even bring a sling. Either the rifle is strapped to my pack or carried in my hand.
I want a rifle that I can comfortably carry in the hand, with a slack arm, my fingers cradled under the action. A little forward balance to keep the muzzle pointed towards the ground, pinning the bolt handle against my wrist is ideal. To me, a rifle that is carried easily, balances well in the hand, and is quick and intuitive to shoulder, point, shoot, and cycle is more important than a few ounces of weight. The Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro has it. The Recoil Hawg muzzle brake seems to perform as-advertised, just make sure you’ve got ear protection. I’ve used the brake on three different rifles, up to .300 Win Mag, and it cuts recoil down to a soft thump. If you’d rather not use the brake, they provide the tool to remove it, as well as a color-matched thread protector that looks just as sharp.
In general, X-Bolt actions are quick and smooth and I was able to experience that first-hand during my Texas hunt. I made three hits on a big aoudad ram that had spotted us and was making tracks at 420 yards. We could tell he was hit, and he looked hit hard, but we couldn’t determine where. I had to make two unexpected follow-up shots offhand at close range to prevent the ram from going over a cliff. The rifle pointed and cycled beautifully and the ram went down with not an inch to spare. The first three shots were clustered in a tight group, just slightly low. But for its part, the rifle absolutely did its job. With a big shot of adrenaline, I don’t have to wonder how well it will point and operate if a bear decides to get smart with me in the brush.
Editor-in-Chief Alex Robinson also had the chance to shoot an X-Bolt Mountain Pro this season during an elk hunt in Colorado. Here’s his report: “I spent a week carrying the X-Bolt Mountain Pro through the San Juan Mountains chasing around elk. For me, the rifle’s stand out characteristic was how nicely it handled. I made a quick, 136-yard off-hand shot on a bull as he was passing through a gap in the brush. My shot broke both of his shoulders and exited. True high-mountain sheep and goat hunters might want a lighter rifle, but for elk hunting, the X-Bolt Mountain Pro was perfect. It’s worth noting that the other hunters in our camp were struck by the rifle’s looks and features. With the 162-grain Winchester Copper Impact loads I was shooting, it was a capable, 400-yard elk rig in the hands of a Midwestern deer hunter like me.”
Where the Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro Comes Up Short
I don’t have any red flags with this rifle, but I was hoping to see a little bit better accuracy across the board. Shooting 5-shot groups can be hard with lighter-weight rifles. I tested it in tough conditions, but certainly not the lowest temperatures I have hunted in. It’s accurate enough, but I wasn’t wowed.
What the Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro Does Well
The Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro brings balance, versatility, and quality. It’s not a stand-alone winner in any single class, but it does exactly what it’s intended to do. It gives a hunter a high-quality, lightweight mountain-hunting rifle that you would have only been able to get from a custom builder a few years ago, and at a lower price. It’s a fine rifle that will hold its own with anything in its class.
I’ve had the pleasure to put a wide variety of X-Bolts to work over the years, and this is my favorite one yet. I’m a mountain hunter, so I prefer lighter rifles, and this X-Bolt fits that bill. It’s more than just a mountain rifle, it’d hunt just about anything, anywhere with it. Nice rifles aren’t cheap, and I don’t want to invest in a boat anchor. This is a nimble rifle, and especially in larger chamberings, an absolute hammer. Even upon first opening the box, I could see that this is a very thoughtful optimization of the X-Bolt platform. In my ideal configuration for this 6.8 Western, I’ll ditch the brake and use the thread protector or a suppressor and replace the Picatinny rail with a Spartan Precision bipod mount. In the field I rarely take shots over 450 or 500 yards, and this rifle fills just about any need I can think of inside those parameters.