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October 26, 2007

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First Look: The Browning X-Bolt and Winchester Model 70

A Note from the Editors: In Dave’s most recent posts, a few of you have been asking for information about two new rifles, the Browning X-Bolt, and Winchester’s latest Model 70. Dave is out of the office right now, but Deputy Editor Anthony Licata had the chance to go hunting with prototypes of both guns a few weeks ago (he shot two caribou with them). We thought you might like to read his impressions of the rifles.

Well after much chatter and rumor, the real story is out. Winchester has resurrected the legendary Model 70, and Browning has surprised the shooting world with a brand new bolt-action rifle called the X-Bolt.

I got an early look at both rifles on a Caribou hunt in Northern Quebec in late September, taking a bull with each rifle. Here’s the scoop:

Browning X-Bolt. The first thing you notice when you shoulder the X-bolt is how sleek it feels. It’s a handy little number and weighs 7 pounds in long-action, wood-stocked versions, 6.5 in the short-action composite. It comes to the shoulder like a fine shotgun and was easy to carry around the tundra all day.

Xbolt_close_2But pulling the trigger was what really made me smile. It’s superb. There’s been a trigger renaissance among factory rifles, and Browning calls their version the “Feather Trigger.” Sounds about right to me. I felt like I only had to think about it, and it fired. It’s adjustable with a turn of a screw from 3 to 5 pounds, and broke crisply. Other nifty extras on this gun include: a bolt-unlock button that allows you to open the bolt with the tang safety still engaged; a completely new scope mounting system that uses four screws per base, and a detachable rotary magazine that feeds cartridges in line with the bolt. The barrel is free floated, and the bolt has three locking lugs and a 60-degree lift.

The X-bolt has a classic American style stock, but with some subtle lines that give it a modern look. Note that the checkering above the trigger guard on the early prototype shown in these photos has been eliminated in the final version.  Price will be $800 to $1050 and comes in calibers from .243 Win to .375 H&H.


Winchester Model 70. Yes, it’s back, and no it’s not made in Japan.  U.S. Repeating Arms’ FN Manufacturing plant in Columbia, S.C., will produce this American classic along with the rifles it currently makes for the military. This new Model 70 is still the “Rifleman’s Rifle” that so many shooters missed when it ceased production last year, but there are some notable improvements.

M70_closeupFirst, the trigger is the new “M.O.A Trigger System,” which is marketingspeak for a completely redesigned three-lever trigger. Like the X-Bolt, it was very fine, with zero creep. It is factory set at 3 ¾ pounds and ranges from 3 to 5 pounds.

The other big improvement on this gun is its accuracy. Some of the guns coming out of the Connecticut factory toward the end of the original Model 70’s run were downright awful, and Winchester is very serious about correcting that problem. The barrels are hammer forged, and the goal is 1-MOA accuracy for 3-shot groups. All of the new Model 70s I shot in Quebec were very accurate. The 3-position safety, stock styling, and ejector are all classic Model 70.

The rifle will come in several versions including: Super Grade, Featherweight Deluxe, Sporter Deluxe, and Extreme Weather SS models. Prices from $1,000 to $1,200.



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Let me be the first to say that they'd better plan on turning out some left-handed models.


I love how Savage and their "Accutrigger" has forced the competition to improve. I hope Ruger is listening.

Frank Fox

They both look like sweet rifles. Its amazing how much triggers have turned around in the last few years, and KJ is right--its all because of the accutrigger.


I scooped you and posted this three days ago on this blog.

John Thompson

Where is your post jstreet? I must of missed it and now I can't find it. Did you hunt with the guns? What'd ya think of them?


I just posted the news releases from


Dr. Ralph

Well, I dropped of the .257 Wby Mag Vanguard for a trigger job today and will have a sub minute of angle rifle with an excellent trigger for less than $500-... Winchester and Browning still have a lot of catching up to do.

Steve C


The picture of the Browning appears to have a German/Austrian look to it. Where is it manufactured and/or the origin of design?


Ruger has listened. The new Hawkeye has a much improved trigger over the M77 MarkII. I have a MarkII and my dad just bought a Hawkeye and it has a pretty good trigger that pulls at a little over 4 pounds.

Ralph the Rifleman

Both rifles seem like nice shooters, but can the shooting market support all these new models hitting the market do they have a chance of success?
By the way, it seems like the Model 70 received so much bashing why would it be resurrected in production?


Ralph the Rifleman wrote:

By the way, it seems like the Model 70 received so much bashing why would it be resurrected in production?

'Cause baby boomers are suckers for nostalgia. Pure and simple.


Dr. Ralph

$1,000- is a lot of money for a gun who's reputation is suspect at best... Face it, it's been 44 years since they produced a top quality product.

Chev Jim

I am hoping that Winchester is serious about the new Model 70. I believe that the Model 70 in its original incarnation was the best rifle ever made on a mass-produced basis. Then came 1964 and the rifle was cheapened to the point of absurdity--a free-floated barrel with 1/8-inch clearance on both sides, worthless impressed checkering, a a stiff action that you could hardly operate from the shoulder. The anti-bind device added later really helped, and Winchester dropped the slick stock finish. But the damage was done. The Remington 700 series was made from the start to be an economically manufactured rifle--it wasn't made to a higher standard and then cheapened, as was the Model 70. I like the Remington Model 700, too, and they cannot be beaten as actions for target rifles. For some reason, rifles with a round-bottom receiver tend to be more accurate than flat-bottom receivers, although you'd think the latter would bed better and be less subject to torque. I suppose it's the rigidly of a "tube-type" receiver. Anyway, I still prefer the Mauser-type extractor in a dangerous-game rifle and it just has a panache that the push feed rifles lack. I also agree with others about the impact of the Savage Accu-Trigger. That innovation finally got the lawyers out of the trigger-pull business. I, personally, would never buy a rifle with a lawyer-trigger, and I never did. I believe that when you buy something new, you shouldn't have to have it "fixed," whether it's a new rifle or a "1911" pistol. Let's hope that neither the new Browning X-Bolt or Winchester Model 70 need "fixing" after purchase for any reason--if they do, they can remain on the dealers' shelves for all I care.


Both rifles look interesting but as has been mentioned; may be priced above their relative worth when you look at Savage among others. The 'new' Winchester' company has a hell of a row to hoe if it wants to sell on that name, it had better live up to the reputation that WAS and not fall into slacker habits which ruined the original company! They ought to bring back the M94 with a brand new chambering; the .460 S&W magnum.
Random thoughts on a rainy saturday.

Dr. Ralph

So where's DEP hunting this week? Lucky ba$+@*o! I'm beginning to understand this 300+ head of big game animals before one can truly become proficient.

Matthew Acton

Great. I'm really happy that my favorite gun, the Model 70, is back. Now how about pricing it so that I don't have to take a second mortgage out to afford it?


Agree with Matthew. A lot of the last Winchester 70s were terrible, including my Safari Express, with its horrendous wood to metal fit. Here's what Winchester needs to do: (1) Pay particular attention to fit and finish; (2) don't overprice the rifles, particularly in view of past quality control problems; (3) chamber for the WSMs or kiss these cartridges goodbye forever; (4) watch those triggers--gritty or heavy trigger pulls will kill these rifles when there are "lawyer-less alternatives,"; (5) watch out for accuracy, because a 2 1/2 or 3 MOA rifle won't cut it; (6) think about building-in some "Weaver type" attachment points on the receiver; (7) make sure that the actions feed and eject well, that the safeties work and that the rifles cannot inadvertently fire--a recall could kill off these rifles forever; and (8) Winchester should offer a lifetime warranty--if Taurus and Smith and Wesson can do it, a decent rifle maker should be able to do it. Again, these rifles need to look, function and shoot like they are worth every penny of the price. Nostalgia won't keep these rifles afloat if they aren't built to "rifleman's rifle" standards. One thing: thanks for not having them made in Japan or China!


Chev Jim
Amen, brother! Made in the good old U.S. of A. I will buy one just for that reason, but I do want quality and of course safety!

No I won't buy one of the WSM/WSSM chamberings. I will probably go for a .243 or .25-06 as a multipurpose rifle I can use myself or teach my children on.

Paul Brinkley

I know that the last model 70's sucked. I know that people were disgusted with them. But I also know that they have already sold one if they do a lefty and they do indeed live up to the evaluation above, a 25-06 with that lovely featherweight stock.

the Winchester mystique is alive and well.


I'm looking for my next long gun, and if the post release reports are good, I might go for it. But with others like the Savage-Stevens combos priced in the mid $300 range, it's hard to justify the extra money for the name. Sako has a new model guaranteing MOA with 5 shot groups. That's worth investigating. But with Weatherby, Remington and Savage offering MOA rifles, Winchester is still too high on the $ to compete.


Wont buy either one for $900 or more when I can get a Ruger Hawkeye for $500 The money I save will go towards the scope.

Clay Cooper

Last week I just received from Midsouth Shooters, a Ramline Cadet Youth stock for my new Remington 700CDL 25-06 for my 7 year old Grandson for the youth hunt Nov. 3-4. I prefer the 25-06 over the 243 any day!

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Thoughtthe 70 was to be built in Japan? maybe the parts are ad assembled here???? As for the price, it's dead already. i like Rems better, but they also getting a tad pricey. Look what Savage has done with their line.Can buy a hunting rifle, scoped ( etc cheap) and a box of Amm for less than 500 bucks and go kill a Deer.I bought one of the last 70's made in Ct in 300 WSM.Shot that sucker adozen times and it got worse with eachshot. Found a 70 nut and unloaded it.Did take him a year to pay me but at least I got most of my$ back and then bought a Rem 700 CDL. Now i;m happy. Just need to hunt more. The 25-06 is so underated by most, all they need t do is try a box of ammo thru one and then decide. I have a Classic, its a greatflat shooter and easy on the shoulder.Most of all trigger is about 3 lbs and with the best Ammo will fly flat and straight out to 400 yds most days, provding wind is not 50MPH.Winchester or whom -ever is building the new 70 has a lot to overcome, and the last batches from CT sure killed any idea of me owning one. Plus their price is a major factor as well.Look out here comes SAVAGE to save our day.



My reason for potentially choosing a .25-06 is that one of these years I might head west for Pronghorn. Otherwise it is a toss up; the .243 is easily effective at any range I would ever shoot in my neck of the woods for deer or coyotes, not being a handloader I like the selection of factory ammo in either. I don't think there is significant recoil difference between the two chamberings. I am looking at the Rossi Trifecta set up as a training weapon system for my kids and grandkids, the centerfire rifle barrel with that set is .243 so we would match on that ammo. Decisions, decisions!
Still would love a handy lever action carbine in .460 S&W too, if any of the new Winchester decision makers are listening!



I'm in no way trying to justify the prices listed for the new M70s but understand that first off they're most likely retail and these rifles will hopefully be somewhat cheaper than what's listed.

Secondly, Savages and Stevens are $500 cheaper for reasons other than just the name. I mean the Accu-trigger is a great design but these rifles are definitely missing the fit and finish that comes with most rifles that are hundreds more. Don't get me wrong, Savage is turning out some great products and the Accu-trigger really opened a lot of eyes but things like their synthetic stocks are still pretty God-awful. I just don't understand how you can let a rifle stocked in a synthetic with a mold line running from fore-end to heel leave the factory.

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