The Winchester X-150 Muzzleloading Rifle

By Randy Wakeman

Winchester X-150
Illustration courtesy of Blackpowder Products, Inc.

The name Connecticut Valley Arms has great name familiarity. The current "CVA" is not CVA at all, but a marketing trademark of BPI, Inc. Both CVA and Winchester Muzzleloading guns are brands of Blackpowder Products, Inc., and they are currently the top-selling muzzleloaders in the United States. CVA promises "Best for the Buck" with their guns, and often delivers on that slogan, but not always.

The Winchester X-150 is the first product released under the Winchester label. The X-150 .50 caliber bolt action muzzleloader has a lot to offer for the money, which is $240 MSRP. The trigger breaks cleanly and lightly, but does have some initial creep with a very small amount of grit. It is perfectly acceptable for hunting conditions. Most Spanish triggers do not rate as best of breed, and this is no exception. However, many will not notice the difference, however.

The synthetic stock is very, very good, and is solid from the pistol grip backwards. BPI seems to do a very good job, in general, with their synthetic stocks. The molded-in "checkering" is functional, and adheres well to the hand. The palm swell is very comfortable, and the recoil pad is nicely finished and firm enough to do some good. The chintzy "Winchester decal" used as a grip-cap is already peeling away, a nickel's worth of plastic would have been a good investment here rather than a "peel n' stick" decal.

One peculiar feature is the double safety marks on the stock- red and green. The green should be eliminated- all drivers know "green is go." Here, green is "no go." Leave the red, of course, but the green was added for no reason we can think of; it serves only to confuse. Confusion is bad when it comes to a safety! To be fair, other manufacturers have taken the same path.

The stainless steel quick-release bolt makes it easy to disable the gun, and it is always a blessing to have one less bolt to remove for take down and cleaning. Why don't all in-lines have QR bolts? This feature was overlooked, for far too long, by companies that should know better. Kudos to BPI on this one! The bolt itself is easy to disassemble with a hex wrench. The barrel fluting, while more cosmetic than functional, does add a bit of style and minimal weight savings. The X-150 is well balanced.

The accuracy is in the 2.5" group range at 100 yards with 295 grain Powerbelts and no barrel swabbing, all you need except for "bragging rights." The entire gun has a solid, rock-steady feel to it, and is a soft shooter to boot. It features a short false muzzle, and it is one of the easiest of all the test rifles to load without swabbing. Over 30 consecutive shots with Pyrodex and Powerbelts, the last charge as easy to load as the first.

When unloaded, the ramrod fits exactly flush with the muzzle, a VERY thoughtful touch. Another plus: the breech plug can be easily replaced with an inexpensive combination #11 percussion cap / musket cap breech plug, for use where regulations require it, or customers wish.

The X-150 was the only test gun to be supplied with a sling. Applause to BPI for the sentiment, but the supplied sling has a grotesque (huge) rubber piece that snags on everything. It also has very weak plastic swivel pin attachments. A supplied sling is a good idea, but if it were an eight dollar "Uncle Mike's" sling with metal swivels, I would have been much happier.

All guns have a few negatives, and the X-150 is no exception. The gun is virtually impossible to operate without a capper--don't leave home without it. A quick follow-up shot is out of the question, due to the capping constraints. The supplied capper (and other cappers) fit very tightly, as there is very little room for misalignment. The breech plug cannot be removed with a socket, though the supplied tool is adequate. A (very) large screwdriver can be used in its place. The owner's manual is sketchy at best. To be fair, a helpful instructional videotape is also supplied. But the skimpy thirteen-page manual needs help badly. The metal iron sights have the red towards the eyes, the opposite of my preference. However, BPI has since decided to change this on all their guns. No effort was made to float the barrel, and there is heavy contact everywhere on one side only. Drilled and tapped for a scope, you cannot use the plug screws to plug the hole in the barrel left by ramp removal-an oversight. The ramrod springs out of the stock upon firing, a nuisance. Most muzzleloaders today do the same. The 209 primer blowback is moderately heavy, requiring a scope protector or a wrap of black electrical tape to save your scope's finish. It is not nearly as fierce as the Remington 700ML or a Traditions bolt gun, but significantly heavier than an Austin & Halleck, for example. Those who hunt with open sights will have no problem.

Winchester has stated that this gun features "drilled rifling," as opposed to the cold-drawn rifling of a CVA Firebolt. As all barrels are "drilled," we have no clue what they are talking about. (Perhaps they mean "broached" or "cut" rifling?) I have repeatedly asked for clarification. The last word was that the barrels featured drilled "tear-drop" shaped rifling, due to production capacity considerations. Whether that is good or bad, I have no idea.

The over-priced ($90) "Winchester" steel scope base and rings have a few problems. The rings are out of tolerance and had to be forced onto the scope, scratching it badly. No problems were encountered with the Millett, Weaver, or Warne rings used during testing. The "Winchester" bases use a non-standard, narrow channel for the cross pin. Meaning, if you don't like the factory rings you can't use the bases for anything else. Forget popping on a Bushnell Holosight, a red dot sight, or any other ring that uses standard full-size cross-pins. Want higher rings, or want to use a 30mm tube? This proved to be a hassle, as Weaver bases had to be purchased at the last minute. It is this type of proprietary nonsense that can drive consumers crazy. Though after market bases and rings are no reason to buy / not buy a gun, these "Winchester" examples are to be strictly avoided.

The X-150 gets high marks for the excellent rubbery stock / palm swell / recoil pad and quick release bolt, good hunting accuracy, decent trigger, thoughtful ramrod, and easy-loading, but somewhat lower marks for its hard-to-cap breech plug, and skimpy manual. The X-150 features a lifetime warranty.

I experienced no misfires through several hundred rounds of testing with the X-150. The stainless steel quick release bolt is a dream both to remove and service, and puts many far more costly guns to shame.

If you are looking for a competent, effective, serviceable .50 caliber bolt action muzzleloader, and your budget is under $250, I don't think you can do better than the X-150 Winchester. I have not been able to!

The safety record of BPI product (CVA, Winchester Muzzleloading, New Frontier) continues to decline. I would be remiss in my duty to not suggest that, until more information is forthcoming from BPI as to exactly what pressure their guns can safely withstand, discretion is the better part of valor. I am not comfortable with any powder charge greater than those specifically allowed by the Hodgdon Powder Company, and I would not fire one of these rifles with a "non Hodgdon allowed" three pellet load.

Use a maximum of 100 grains of volumetric Pyrodex or Triple 7 loose powder, or no more than 100 grains of pellet equivalents, and use 250 grain or lighter bullets if possible. If the need is there for a 300 grain bullet in a BPI product, it is prudent to drop your powder charge by at least 10%.

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.