The Browning A-Bolt II Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
The Browning Company, founded by firearms genius John Browning circa 1880, is one of the best known American gun companies, and the A-Bolt II bolt action rifle is one of the most popular such rifles made today. As I write this, Browning is owned by Belgian interests, but is still headquartered in the U.S. Modern Browning firearms are manufactured by F.N. in Belgium, A.T.I. in the United States, and Miroku in Japan. The A-Bolt II rifle line is made by the latter. Regardless of country of manufacture, Browning firearms are known for their high level of quality, fit, and finish.
Brownings have always had a reputation as premium rifles, but in fact the A-Bolt II costs only a little more than its main competition. The Medallion model, for instance, had a 2005 manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $805 in standard calibers. This is comparable to the MSRP of the Remington M-700 CDL or the Winchester M-70 Classic Featherweight, which are equivalent models in their respective lines.
The A-Bolt II is available with the optional Browning BOSS system. The BOSS (Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System) is an accuracy enhancing and recoil reducing system that includes an adjustable muzzle brake/weight. (There is also an optional non-vented BOSS CR muzzle weight). The BOSS is adjusted (just follow the simple instructions) to tune the barrel vibrations for optimum accuracy with the bullet weight selected. I have tried this system and it works. Most BOSS equipped A-Bolt II rifles will produce sub-minute of angle groups at 100 yards. The BOSS precludes the fitting of iron sights (except on .375 H&H caliber rifles).
There are a variety of A-Bolt II models in calibers suitable for almost any sport from plinking to pachyderms. Model variations come and go, but the following are the key models offered as I write this piece in 2005.
At the top of the line in 2005 was the White Gold Medallion, which features a deluxe walnut Monte Carlo stock with cheekpiece, a rosewood forearm tip, rosewood grip cap, and rubber buttpad set off by brass line spacers, cut checkering, and a beautiful high gloss stock finish. The stainless steel barreled action features gold engraving on the receiver. Detachable sling swivel studs are included. It is available with or without BOSS. Weight is 7 pounds 3 ounces to 7 pounds 11 ounces, depending on barrel length (22 inches to 26 inches) and caliber.
Next is the Medallion model. It comes with a select walnut pistol grip stock with a straight comb. The rosewood forearm tip and grip cap are present, without line spacers, as is excellent cut checkering and a high gloss finish. The barreled action has a deep luster blue finish, and the receiver flats are engraved. A rubber buttpad and sling swivel studs are standard, and BOSS is optional. Weight is 6 pounds 7 ounces in short action calibers, 6 pounds 11 ounces in long action calibers, and 7 pounds 3 ounces in magnum calibers. Left-handed models are available.
The Hunter model is one of the best selling A-Bolt II models. It also comes stocked in walnut, but of a more "practical" (Browning's word) grade. It features a pistol grip stock with a straight comb, sharp cut checkering, a rubber buttpad, and the same durable high gloss finish as the Medallion models. There is no contrasting forearm tip or pistol grip cap. The low-luster bluing on the barreled action is durable, detachable sling swivel bases are standard. Open sights are also optional on all Hunter rifles. The Hunter comes with a 22 inch, 23 inch, 24 inch, or 26 inch barrel depending on caliber. Weight is identical to the Medallion model. The Hunter represents a fine value in a popular priced rifle.
The Micro Hunter is basically a shortened and lightened "mountain rifle" version of the standard Hunter. A 20 inch or 22 inch barrel is standard, depending on caliber. Length of pull is shortened to 13 5/16 inches, making the Micro Hunter a good choice for persons of small stature. Weight is approximately 6.25 pounds.
The Hunter FLD is sort of a cross between a Medallion and a standard Hunter. It features a select walnut Monte Carlo stock combined with the low-luster blue metal finish of the Hunter. It is available only from full-line dealers.
Browning also offers the A-Bolt II with a laminated hardwood stock in the Eclipse Hunter and Eclipse M-1000 models. These come with a gray/black thumbhole Monte Carlo stock, complete with cheekpiece and roll-over comb, and include sling swivel studs. The metal finish is matte-blue. According to the 2002 Shooter's Bible, "The Eclipse is available in long and short action hunting models with standard A-bolt barrel, and a short-action varmint version with a heavy barrel. All are BOSS equipped." The Eclipse M-1000 is a special long range "bean field" rifle with a heavy contour 26 inch barrel in .300 Winchester Magnum caliber only. The Eclipse models weigh between 7 pounds 8 ounces and 9 pounds 1 ounce.
Lastly, Browning offers A-Bolt II rifles with synthetic stocks. The best known of these is the justly famous Stainless Stalker model. This was the first composite-stocked production rifle in the world, and many still regard it as the best. Certainly it is one of the most attractive. The Stainless Stalker has a silvery, matte finished, stainless steel barreled action and a well-shaped, checkered, black synthetic pistol grip stock made of a fiberglass-graphite composite. The buttpad is black rubber. This stock is supposed to excel in durability and thermal stability. The Stainless Stalker weighs 6 pounds 4 ounces to 7 pounds 3 ounces depending on caliber and barrel length (22 inches to 26 inches). Stainless steel sling swivel studs are standard and BOSS is optional on selected calibers. Left handed models are available.
There is also a Composite Stalker, similar to the Stainless Stalker but with matte-blued metal surfaces. BOSS is optional. This model is the plainest of all A-Bolt II models.
The Varmint Stalker is the varmint rifle in the Stalker line. It features a heavy contour barrel, Dura-Touch armor coated composite stock, and matte blue finish on the barreled action. It weighs between 8 and 8.25 pounds in calibers .223 Remington (24 inch barrel) and .22-250 Remington (26 inch barrel).
In 2003 Browning announced an ultra-short action version of the A-Bolt II rifle designed for the Winchester Super Short Magnum cartridges. These new actions are about .5 inch shorter than the reqular A-Bolt II short action. Rifles for the .223, .243, and .25 WSSM calibers are offered in Medallion, Hunter, Stainless, Composite, and Varmint models. They have 21 inch barrels and weigh about 6.3 pounds.
All Browning A-Bolt II rifles share many common features. One of the most important is a highly refined and adjustable trigger system, which incorporates a chrome-plated sear. (This trigger assembly is one of the two major improvements over the original A-Bolt rifle--the other is the anti-bind A-Bolt II bolt assembly.) The A-Bolt II trigger itself is wide, grooved, and gold-plated.
Another key feature is the fluted, anti-bind bolt, which has a non-rotating bolt sleeve with a rotating head and three locking lugs rather than the usual pair. This allows a short 60 degree bolt handle lift for fast cycling and increased scope clearance. It also has a recessed bolt face with a plunger ejector. The small, cleverly shaped, claw extractor is built into the front of one of the locking lugs. A gas escape port vents into the magazine well. The bolt knob is one of the highlights of the design. It is a smooth flattened circle in shape, canted at an ergonomic 30 degree angle. This knob fits the hand more naturally than any other design I have used. There is also a streamlined shroud at the back of the bolt to keep escaping gas out of the shooter's face, and a cocking indicator. The bolt release is at the left rear of the receiver. Browning will engrave the customer's name on the bolt of any A-Bolt II rifle for a very modest charge.
There is a detachable box magazine (steel) which is attached to and concealed beneath a traditional hinged magazine floor plate (aluminum); this is a Browning patented design. The magazine may be loaded in place or detached for loading or replacement. The magazine floor plate release is a steel button in the front of the aluminum trigger guard.
Other good features include a sliding shotgun-style safety mounted on the tang, which I regard as the fastest and most convenient location. The safety locks the trigger and blocks the striker. It also locks the bolt closed, preventing inadvertent opening if snagged in the field. The checkered areas on the stocks of all models feature good coverage in a traditional Browning diamond point pattern, and all models have fluted combs. Available calibers include most popular cartridges from .22 Hornet to .375 H&H Magnum, including all WSM and WSSM calibers, although not all calibers are offered in all models.
My experience with Browning rifles has always been positive, and so it is with the A-Bolt II Medallion, Hunter, and Stainless Stalker rifles I have tested. They are handsome and refined rifles, a pleasure to own and use.
Note: A review of the Browning A-Bolt II Hunter can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2005, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.