Browning X-Bolt White Gold Medallion .270 Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The Browning X-Bolt White Gold is an upscale model with deluxe features that mates a polished, stainless steel barreled action with a select walnut stock wearing a synthetic gloss finish. It should appeal to hunters who want a classy, yet weather resistant, rifle. Since most of the Guns and Shooting Online staff lives in Western Oregon, where the weather is often inclement, and we all favor deluxe rifles with walnut stocks, the White Gold is right up our alley. In fact, in the conclusion of our earlier review of the X-Bolt Hunter model, we suggested that Browning introduce an upscale model along the lines of the White Gold. Thanks to our friends at Browning Arms for listening to their customers.
Browning introduced the X-Bolt as a redesigned and improved replacement for their successful A-Bolt II model. As good as the A-Bolt design was, the X-Bolt action is better in almost every way, yet retains the signature A-Bolt characteristics of short bolt rotation, smooth operation and minimal bolt play.
The steel X-Bolt receiver has three wide facets on top that more or less reflect the shape of the bolt body it encompasses. It appears to be machined from bar stock and uses a separate recoil lug trapped between the barrel and receiver, a cost cutting system pioneered, as far as we know, by Remington and since adopted by many other manufacturers. The convenient bolt release is located at the left rear of the receiver. Press in to remove the bolt. There are attractive engraved panels on the receiver and the gold-filled words "White Gold Medallion" are incorporated into the left side pattern, a nice touch. The engraving is not done by a laser; it appears to have been done by hand.
The receiver's rectangular ejection port extends between the front and rear receiver rings and is open for approximately a 90-degree arc (from roughly 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock). It is considerably smaller than the open top of a Mauser 98 or Winchester Model 70, but larger than the ovals cut into the tubular receivers of rifles like the Tikka T3. It is no problem to single load a cartridge directly into the X-Bolt's chamber, but the smallish ejection port could make clearing a jammed case more frustrating than it needs to be. Bigger is better for the ejection ports of big game hunting rifles.
Iron sights are not supplied, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The Browning X-Lock scope mounting system features integrated mount bases and rings that eliminate the usual ring to mount joint. Each X-Lock base/ring is secured to the rifle by four torx screws (rather than the usual two screws) for increased security. Four more screws are required to affix the top half of each ring to the bottom half. Although the X-Bolt system is superior to conventional separate rings and bases, having to fiddle with 16 screws to mount a scope on an X-Bolt rifle seems, at least partially, to negate the advantage of the integrated concept. We would prefer to see integral Weaver (Picatinny type) bases machined right into the top of the X-Bolt receiver, as T/C does with their Icon rifle.
The X-Bolt's bolt is assembled using a steel bolt body, a separate bolt head double pinned into place at the front, a bolt handle assembly on a collar that is pinned in place at the rear and a shroud that is pinned in place at the very back. A machined, one-piece bolt would be the biggest single improvement we can suggest for the X-Bolt action. The bolt head uses three locking lugs at the front of the bolt, has a bolt guide bump (the front locking lugs ride in cuts in the receiver as the bolt is withdrawn to minimize slop) and requires only a 60-degree bolt rotation to open or close. There is a notch at the right rear of the receiver that mates with what appears to be an auxiliary locking lug at the root of the bolt handle when the bolt is closed and locked. When the bolt is pulled all the way back, wobble is noticeably less than with a conventional Mauser 98 type action.
The A-Bolt's familiar bolt shroud and rotating bolt head are gone. The whole X-Bolt rotates when the handle is lifted, as per conventional bolt actions. The bolt body is round on the bottom, but faceted as if hexagonal on top. (Half-hexagonal?) It is polished to match the barreled action. The bolt handle terminates in the very ergonomic, angled and flattened ball popularized by the A-Bolt. We regard this as the most comfortable bolt knob extant. The X-Bolt extractor is a small claw Sako type at the front of the recessed bolt head and the ejector is of the plunger type. The shroud, which appears to be made of aluminum and is pinned in place at the rear of the bolt, is streamlined in a couple of steps and designed to keep powder gasses from a blown primer or a ruptured case out of the shooter's face. There is a red cocking indicator tab at the rear of the bolt shroud. We could not measure the lock time, but it is fast.
The new, single stage, Browning Feather Trigger is clean, without creep and the gold-plated trigger of our test rifle released at about 3.5 pounds out of the box. It is user adjustable for pull weights between three and five pounds. We removed the stock, a simple task requiring the removal of only two ¼" Allan head bolts, and backed the trigger adjustment screw all the way out to its lightest position. (This requires a 2mm Allan wrench, not supplied.) The result was a crisp three pound trigger. As hunting rifle triggers go, this is about as good as it gets.
The two-position, tang mounted safety is smooth, positive and quiet in operation. It locks the bolt closed when applied. The slider's rear position is "safe" and forward is "fire." A tang mounted safety slider is our favorite kind, intuitive, fast and convenient to use. An unusual feature is a small, square button at the root of the bolt handle that pops up when the safety is switched on. Depressing this allows the bolt to be opened with the safety on to remove an unfired cartridge from the chamber, the best of all possible worlds.
The barreled action is glass bedded in the stock. The 22", sporter (#2) contour, X-bolt barrel is free floating and the muzzle is finished with a target crown. (Why are target crowns appearing on more and more hunting rifles? We don't know, since they are more susceptible to damage in the field than rounded hunting crowns.) The chamber is hand cut. The external metal finish is polished stainless steel and it is very nicely done.
The X-Bolt comes with a flush-mounted, detachable magazine. Although we prefer an internal magazine with a hinged floorplate for hunting rifles (nothing to drop, damage or lose in the field), as detachable magazine systems go, the X-Bolt is the best we have ever used. The magazine body is made of a high-impact polymer, which we have found is less likely to be damaged in use than steel magazines. Polymer magazines also seem to feed more smoothly than steel magazines. This magazine holds four rounds in a sort of rotary system that feeds cartridges into the chamber in a straight line and is exceptionally easy to load and unload. The magazine is easy to insert into the rifle and it doesn't matter if you stick the front or the back of the magazine in first, or insert it level. It clicks securely into place when flush with the bottom of the stock and that is that. The front of the magazine incorporates the magazine catch, a nice touch. Since the magazine is detachable and therefore subject to loss or damage, Browning should supply two magazines with every rifle. Spare magazines cost $49.99 (2010 MSRP).
Feeding from the magazine is very reliable and the rifle can be single loaded by inserting a cartridge directly into the chamber or by simply dropping a cartridge into the loading port on top of the empty magazine and closing the bolt. This is a very reliable push feed action.
The one-piece bottom metal and trigger guard is shared with other X-Bolt models. It is made from an aluminum alloy and nicely finished to match the stainless barreled action. The trigger guard bow itself has a "squared" shape at the front, where it should be gracefully curved, the last remnant of the Euro-trash styling that afflicts the lower grade X-Bolt models. At least the trigger guard allows adequate space for gloved fingers. Gone are the other Euro-trash styling elements that mar the lower grade X-Bolt rifles. The White Gold Medallion is clearly a deluxe rifle and it rates high in that important intangible, pride of ownership.
The stock design is from the modern (or California) school of design, but without the weird angles and accents that mar the blued Medallion, Hunter and Stalker X-Bolt stocks. It incorporates a fluted, level Monte Carlo comb, raised cheek piece and a rather sharply curved pistol grip with a slight, right hand, palm swell. The pistol grip cap and forend tip are rosewood set off by silver (stainless steel?) line spacers and both are attached at an angle. Generous, four panel, hand-cut checkering graces the stock. An Inflex Technology recoil pad and detachable sling swivel studs with matching 1" swivels are standard.
The lines and overall design of this stock are, by far, the best currently available on an X-Bolt rifle. The forend and receiver area are nicely rounded. We'd like to see less curve at the pistol grip, but overall this stock is a very good effort.
We would be remiss if we did not mention the exceptionally attractive color and figure of the walnut used for the stock of our test rifle. "Select walnut," as used in gun catalogs, often means nothing, but in the case of the White Gold Medallion, the stock wood really is special. Of course, every stock is unique, which is one of the beauties of genuine walnut, so your White Gold Medallion stock will be different from ours. Following are the Browning X-Bolt White Gold Medallion specifications.
The rifle initially seemed rather light for a .270, with an actual out of the box weight of 6 pounds 15 ounces. However, the total weight as tested (including the big Nitrex scope, mount rings and a full magazine) came to 8 pounds 12 ounces, which is about right for the caliber.
To be functional, since it comes without sights, any X-Bolt White Gold must be equipped with a telescopic sight. For our test rifle, we chose a Nitrex TR-two 2-10x42mm scope. This is one of the new, four-star, Nitrex scopes. The Nitrex TR-one that we reviewed in 2008 was a good, three-star scope and the new TR-two scopes are even better. They offer a 5:1 zoom ratio, Tru-Coat fully multi-coated lenses, No Cap pull-up fingertip windage and elevation adjustments, one-piece main tubes and are inert Argon gas filled to keep them fog and water proof. We mounted the TR-two in Browning's aforementioned X-Mount bases/rings.
As usual, we did our test shooting at the Izaak Walton outdoor shooting range south of Eugene, Oregon. The weather was cool (in the low 50's) and partly cloudy, with a rather gusty wind. All shooting for record was done at 100 yards from a bench rest mounted Caldwell Lead Sled FTX at Hoppe's "Crosshair" targets. We fired three shot groups and, at times, the rifle's barrel became quite hot, but this seemed to have little effect on the White Gold Medallion.
We were supplied with several types of .270 Winchester ammunition for this review by our friends at Winchester, Federal and Fusion. Once again, our thanks go out to all of them. Please use their products. We were able to shoot the AccuMark with all three of the common .270 bullet weights: 130, 140 and 150 grains. The test loads included Fusion 130 grain bonded, Federal Premium 140 grain AccuBond, Winchester Supreme 140 grain AccuBond and Winchester Supreme Elite 150 grain XP3.
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS TESTED = 1.28"
As you can see from the above results, the X-Bolt White Gold is an exceptionally accurate big game rifle. The Federal Premium load with Nosler 140 grain AccuBond bullets gave particularly gratifying results. This time out Jim Fleck, Guns and Shooting Online's Chief Executive Technical Advisor, shot the smallest groups.
The X-Bolt White Gold's improved stock design fit us nicely and positioned the eye at the correct height for use with telescopic sights. The stock handled recoil well and the Inflex Technology recoil pad was as good as we remembered; it really helps to absorb recoil. The Feather Trigger mechanism is great and we liked the safety and bolt release systems. We also appreciated the overall smoothness of the action and the short bolt lift. In terms of fit and finish, the White Gold Medallion is the top of the Browning line; what more can we say? The entire, admittedly jaded, Guns and Shooting Online staff was very impressed by the beauty of the test rifle.
The White Gold rifle functioned correctly and there were no malfunctions of any kind. Cartridges fed smoothly from the detachable magazine, as well as when single loaded directly into the receiver. The spool magazine is exceptionally easy to load and unload.
If, in reading this review, you conclude that the Guns and Shooting Online staff was impressed by the White Gold Medallion, we were. We try to be as objective as we can when composing these reviews, but some rifles are simply nicer than others and this is one of the nicest. Connoisseurs of fine rifles endlessly debate who makes the finest production rifle; Browning, Winchester, Weatherby and Sako have long been among the popular contenders. We cannot settle the issue here, but we can advise that before plunking down your money for something else, you should take a close look at a Browning X-Bolt White Gold Medallion. Its combination of excellent design, build quality, finish, accuracy and smooth operation is competitive with deluxe rifles costing hundreds of dollars more. However, we think that owners will ultimately find pride of ownership to be its most enduring asset. This rifle will stand out in deer camp, as well as deliver in the field. As Guns and Shooting Online's owner and Managing Editor, Chuck Hawks, frequently says, "You can hunt with an ugly rifle, but why would you want to?"
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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