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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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sorry all you doom and gloomers....but the best is back?


click on products, then firearms, then rifles. you will eventually get there. lol.

Black Rifle Addict

All good points made on the Mod-70, and I totally agree with MattWV on the savage rifles. My GOD the sythetic stocks they have are ugly as sin! They perform, however; which is their saving grace and the accu trigger design is quite the innovation. I hope they rewarded the engineer(s) and designers that came up with it!
Much is also said about the .25/06 here and about how it preforms nicely on game with minimal recoil-sweet. I hope the ammo maunfactures are listening?


Savage isnt even in the same ball park as Winchester or even Remington and Ruger for that matter.
If you want a cheap POS than by all means look at a Savage.
BTW Kimber seems to be doing a pretty good job of selling rifles in that price range. And they are made from Cast metal!


Can you buy a Kimber in left hand? I'm looking for a nice bolt action .25/06. I really like the Sako but my wallet says different.


Ok so the Winchester website is glitzy.
The semi-auto rifle is -- to be kind -- not aesthetically pleasing to me.
The real problem I see is that they seem bound and determined to stay with the WSM/WSSM lineup to the exclusion of most 'normal' chamberings; I simply won't buy into them.


You state that Savage is not in the same ballpark with Winchester.
I think the jury is still out on just what 'ballpark' this new iteration of Winchester will be in. Will they consistently deliver the finest quality reliable well finished weapons or will they slack off? Will they back their products with a lifetime warranty? Will they support a dealer network properly? So many questions have to be answered. Honestly it is hard to say just how long we shooters will give them to answer. We have so many choices now both traditional makers and new ones.

Chev Jim

I hope the new Winchester Model 70s are NOT investment cast. I won't buy an investment cast firearm--ever since a Dan Wesson frame (not cylinder) let go while I was firing factory .357 ammo. You may say that Rugers are strong--and I'm sure they are--but there's also more metal piled on to make up for the lack of strength you have in forged steel. I also know that Ruger investment cast receivers are straightened out by a guy with a HAMMER when they come out of the molds! Hey, Ruger's got some nice firearms but I'll take the slimmer, forged steel rifles and handguns every time. Ounce for ounce, the forged steel guns are stronger, and you won't get "voids" in forged steel like my Dan Wesson probably had. You can talk about how strong investment cast guns are all you want, but once you have one "blow up" in your hand you will change your mind!


More makers than you realize use investment casting. I know a lady who worked at T/C in New Hampshire and one job she had there was molding the wax forms.

Investment castings at Ruger are subjected to incredibly high pressures and stresses in their quality control process and I am sure that other makers do likewise. Unit inspection techniques have also progressed since that Dan Wesson of yours came off the production line. I doubt that the legal eagles for any maker would allow it to market weapons that are even remotely suspect in the safety department.


My wish list from Winchester regarding the M70:
1) Quality as others have mentioned.
2) Detachable magazine.
3) 358 Winchester.
4) Start making different 200, 225 & 250 gr. ammo in 358 WIN as well.

And if they start making the M94 again, same comments apply to 356 WIN.

The new Winchester will not be cast, unl;ike a Kimber which cost more.

SA, if the South Carolina built guns are the equal of the late production New Haven guns they would still be much better than a Savage. Without Hew Havens crap managment and labour the quality should go no where but up. The only thing I am worried about is the new trigger and what chamberings they chose to offer.
Savage has some neet guns, but they are as refined as a 2x6 and the features of the 110 action are not near as good as a Model 70.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Matt in WV: Have you seen, handled the new Savage in Walnut stock? Do think you will be impressed with this firearm.Also,Mosseburg has come a long way with their rifles as well. They too have a Walnut Stocked rifle in most allcalibers. With the ecomony in such poor condition, most of us hunters, gun owners have resorted to less expensive firearms. I;m a Remington Nut and own many in different calibers in the Model 700's. However, if were to buy a new rifle in Am, sure would have to consider a Savage or Mosseburg. May not be the finest finished product, but they both shoot well and the one's I;ve shot are very accurate. At a savings of $500.00 or more over the de-flunt 70's, that is a good reason to give Savsge and Mosseburg a try. After all, a dead animal is dead if you shoot properly, it could care less if shot by???????.
I am not convinced that the maybe new 70??? is New per-sai. If were to gamble, would place my $$$ on Japan parts and assembled, shipped to the S.C. coast and packaged by some Co. Time will tell after afew f you guys purchase one.Me, I;ve been down that road with a WSM, that was enough. Wonder how many gun owners know that Savage firearms all have a 3 position slide safety??? Two dealers I talked with in past month,been in business many years,did not know that. Savage is one of the safetist firearms mfgered plus shoot l MOA and don;t cost 2 arms and a leg. Fora haul around by 4 wheeler, pickup or extreme bad weather the syn stocks do have a place in the shooting/hunting world.The Model ll0 has been around many years and has a proven track record at least to me for my purpose. But for a mid- high $$ western hunt, my 700's go with me always. If zeroed in properly and a quality scope,Ammo, the 700 cannot be beaten, provding you pratice enough to shoot accurate and take only make-able shots as i must do, due to my disability of not being able to track wounded game at 500 yds away. Good hunting, shot often and straight.

Chev Jim

I know a LOT of firearms use investment cast frames and receivers, and I know what they say about maintaining high quality, but I don't want any more of them. The grain structure in an investment cast arm is totally different from one that is forged, and the bottom line is that you have to pile more metal onto an investment cast frame or receiver to make it as strong as a forged one. The very best actions are milled from heat treated bar stock--pre-heat treated so there's no warpage involved with the finished product. Ruger receivers don't come out of those molds straight--they begin warping and have to be beaten straight with a hammer. Maybe that's why you don't see any winning target rifles built on Ruger actions. One of these days I'm going to get an Ed Brown pistol, because I don't want investment cast frames or slides, and I don't want MIM parts on something I'll be staking my life on. It's one thing for an investment casting or MIM part to break at the range, but it's quite another when you're in a firefight. If I had been a policeman and that Dan Wesson had let go in a duel with the bad guys, I'd have been in a lot of trouble! The extractor on my Model 70 Safari Express is cast, and I'm replacing it with one made of forged, spring steel. Investment casting may be fine for boat anchors, but I don't think it has any place in what is supposed to be a high-quality firearm!

Clay Cooper

I'm going to stick with my Remington's. Tried and proven! I do own a Browning A-Bolt in 338 Win Mag that shoots like a house on fire!

WA Mtnhunter

My comments on the new M70 from Winchester. I have a M70 XTR Featherweight circa 1985. The fit and finish is impeccable and it shoots 1 MOA with my handloads, which are the only .257 Roberts ammo I shoot. The trigger is out of the box and a little stiff, but otherwise fine for a hunting rifle. It is in the safe since the value has gone sky high on New Haven Winchesters on the used market. I have 2 older M700 rifles (.308 & .35 Whelen) that will shoot less than MOA with most ammo. Both are bedded and free floated. My Weatherby Mk V will shoot MOA with a few loads, most notably 180 gr A-Frames and 165 gr Triple Shocks.

Those new M70's had better beat that or stay under the porch. One of the guys in our hunting group missed 3 elk and a deer last week with 2 different Winchesters. Boy howdy did he catch crap for that. Whether it was him or the rifles, the blame was slanted toward the Winchesters and the reputation they have enjoyed (?) the past few years. I think I will keep my one and only M70 and spend any spare $1000 bills on a Weatherby.


Winchester's on the used market can be had very resonably. A 85 XTR wont go for much over $400 from what I have seen. A early Classic sells for around $700 wtih newer clasics going for $5-600.


The problem with Model 70's as I see it, was the fac that there were so many "cheap Wal-Mart specials". I have a '02 Mod 70 Featherweight in .270 Win and a '05
Featherweight in .300 WSM. Clean cut checkering, shnabel (sp?) fore grip, nice fit and best of all, sub MOA in both rifles. The above pic of the 70 featherweight looks good.


I meant cheap Model 70 Wal-Mart specials.

Chev Jim

I absolutely hated those "Wal-Mart" Model 70s that had the blind magazine boxes. I do not like to unload a rifle by cycling all of the ammmo through the action! Besides that, they were just plain ugly. I never bought one of those rifles. I much preferred to go to a regular gun shop and get something a little more "upscale." A rifle should provide some pride of ownership. If it looks like a plastic coated crowbar, it might still work after a fashion but it will not be a pleasure to carry or shoot. We accept cheapness in so many areas of our lives--but guns are where I draw the line. I cannot afford a Purdey or Holland and Holland double, but I'm fussy about what I CAN afford!

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Chev. Jim. Good for you.I also agree that I want my best shooting rifles to look the part, Nice and functional. Do agree however, if I were hunting in severe foul weather the syn stocks/ss bbls with floor plate have their place. Here we go again, but I;ve tried to tell many guys on this Blog, that Wal-mart carries a special built to their specks firearm that is not the real gun dealers carry. I bought one of the 70 WSM's from them due to price, My axe looked a lot bettr and did function a lot better. It soon found a new Home, replaced by a New Remington. I just hope Remington don;t fall in same trap as Winchester did and start cutting corners to sell cheap built guns.Wal-mart has taken guns out of l000 stores to date and more to go. To me the Savage is a far better firearm than a Winchester, but I don't like the claw extractor period and I have a Custom built 06 with a Mauser action ,plus one other sporterized Turk Mauser 8 mm. Neither go with me out West on a serious high $ hunt. Someday,. some guy with lots of Money and pockets on fire will offer me enough that both the Mausers will go with him. In the intrium, I will just use my 700's and bring home the bacon. Why pray tell is the pre 64 such a better firearm than a post 64. If I;m gonna go with a new Custom built gun, I sure want new parts not 50 yr or more used stuff. My Mausers, especially the Turk is over 75 yrs old and the Custom who knows how old the action is. Just wish the action could be changed out to a Remington 700 with out costing a ton of $. The wood on the custom is worth several $$$$$ dollars, plus the dble set triggers. O well, its in the Vault, not going away yet. Read a interesting article last night about a guy built a 44 special on a old style flat top Black-hawk 357 mag with 4-5/8" bbl and Ram horns for grips. Only 7 of those were built SS-l thru SS-7 are the S#'s. But my A.Uberti is better built i think in 45 LC. O well, we all got our favorits, and thats great for business. Just wish had the extra $ for all the firearms and hunting trips I want. Shoot often and straight.

WA Mtnhunter


Check Guns America and Gunbroker dot com. XTR featherweights in .257 Roberts, 7x57, etc. have been selling for $900 - $1,000. I paid $425 for mine a couple of years ago in LNIB condition.

I'll take all the early XTR's in LNIB condition you can find for $400! And I don't particlarly like Winchesters!

Other Posters:
Is there realy a difference between a low end rifle at Wal-Mart and one sold elsewhere? Or, are the finish grades of rifles sold at Wally World just aimed at the customer base and what they will spend for a rifle?

Chev Jim

Just one point on older actions used for custom rifles. The pre-war Model 70s sometimes had too much sulfur in the steel used in the receivers. No other personage than Dick Casull served as an expert witness in a case where a modified Model 70 blew up. Winchester claimed the modification was to blame, but Casull did a metalurgical analysis, and showed that the high sulfur content had made the metal brittle. I think the conversion was from .257 Roberts to .270 Winchester. Also, there are old Mauser actions used for .308 Winchester and magnum cartridges, and the old Mausers were designed to work around 46,000 pounds per square inch (psi) pressures, and NOT the 55,000 - 70,000 generated by many modern cartridges. So, you might have a custom Mauser sporter that is valued around $5,000, but it's an accident waiting to happen. What I want to see is guns showing fine craftsmanship like in the old days, but with modern steels--that would be the best of both worlds!


Talked recently with a gent that worked in Wally-World ware house for a period of time. He had done some gunsmithing so know how to handle the paperwork, so they assigned him there.

According to him, Wally-World, a year in advance, buys x number of firearms at a set price. These are what they call straight-run guns. They are delivered to Wally-World just as they came off the assembly line with no QA adjustments or corrections. If the bolt doesn't close smoothly, a screw was butchered, a hole not tapped, stock does not fit properly, whatever, WM accepts them and sells them to the public, "AS IS"!
If your gun has a problem, they replace it and ship the other off where it is corrected and sold to another store, (NOT WM) at a reduced cost.
Knew a guy that bought a Win Mod. 70 from WM. When he reported it stolen 3 years later, he was almost arrested for possessing a stolen rifle! When the dust cleared, WM had written down the wrong serial number for his gun, the number on his gun showed to have been stolen from a WM in another town.
To sell to WM, at their price, they cut some corners. In WM's case, it just happens to be QA.


Rocky Mtn Hunter

Bubba: Thanks for verifying what I;ve been trying to get across to the guys on this Blog for many months. A W-W firearm is not the same quality as for your local, long in business gun shop. WW tells the mfgers the # of certain firearms they want and what they will pay for them. So, the sales Rep for the mfger feathers his monthly commision check by having the mfgering dept to make a firearm as cheap as possible and then ship AS IS to WW. Any firearm I plan to use myself, I want the best quality I can get. So I spend a few extra dollars and get a first class firearm that has been checked out from A to Z. Granted, you may now and then get a firearm from WW that performs ok, lucky you. Try to take it back afer 90 days and see what problem you run into. It's yours, do the best you can with the mfger or a local gun-smith. There is a big difference in quality and quanity. Also, never, never buy a firearm sight un-seen from anyone, even your local dealer. I did just that and now the firearm is in limbo as to what the Dealer, Mfger, importer will do. I'm of the opinion its mine as is.Quality, pride in workmanship and trust has long gone out the window. It;s a dog eat dog world now. $$$ an cents run this country, Sad, but very true.Also, never purchase a firearm from anyone that they tells you it's a special run and on sale for a limited time at that price. Most Mfges will special run a few as l00 of the same fiearm and make as cheap as possible, cut evry corner they can. Cheap metal,un-matched wood, lousy SYN stocks and triggers like a Auto jack.Bolts that need a tube of graphite to slide the bolt into the chamber, extractors that you need pliers to remove shot shell.Then, pray you still have your eyes after shooting. Yep, I;m PISSED as trusted this Dealer on a firearm, and he let me down. My fault,but his also.Can bet the word is traveling on his behalf.

Dr. Ralph

Remington CDL list $907- available in eight standard calibers and two Ultra Mags. .243 to .35 Whelen... BDL's for $877-... Weatherby Vanguard fifteen calibers from .223 to .338 $525- guarantee minute and a half groups, walnut stock model $712-... Savage with accu-trigger $539- The only reason to buy an experimental Winchester Model 70 "Rifleman's Rifle" is the unique stock that so many fell head over heels in love with. It is a statement. It is a man driving a '63 Corvette with that split window and an ear to ear grin you couldn't wipe off with a 2X4...

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