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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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Rocky Mtn Hunter

Dr. Ralph and others: I;ve stated many times the Savage is a great firearm, quality material, shoots well and to point of sight. Now with the Walnut Stock they have come out with, the gun equals any Winchester to be made again. I do believe Savage has gone un-noticed or not really pumped up as the Rem.Winch.Whby, etc. For the money, you cannot beat a USA made firearm, such as the Savage. My complaint with the Vanguard is that stamp on the bbl made in JAPAN. Also, Savage sells more 22's than all the other Co's combined. I do plan on another firearm prior to my next trip to the Rockies and It will be a Savage in 270, Walnut Stock, Accutrigger. Not that I don;t like my 700's, I do prefer them, but now $$$$ enters the picture and for the $$$ Savage cannot be beat, and I feel with a quality scope it will perform as well as I;m able to shoot.At AGE 72, I'M NOT LOOKIGN FOR A LONG TERM FIREARM ANYMORE, JUST ONE THAT 1 CAN AFFORD AND one that will shoot as well as I;m able to shoot. My long Mtn climbs are over, now its find a trail, have a seat and enjoy the scenery and pray a quality, shootable animal comes by in your range of perfection. Have a good season, pratice a lot and buy more USA mfgered firearms.( Be careful of gun parts made in other countries). Be careful of it saying assembled in USA. That is not a USA made firearm, just the China, JApan parts shipped here and put together by cheap labor here.I want my gun, all of it, made in the USA.


I believe the $900-1000 XTR's on Gunbroker are shill bids.
A much more desirable early model classic will very rarely go for that much and only then if its on a rare chambering like a 300 weatehrby or is a supergrade.

WA Mtnhunter

Perhaps they are shill bids, whatever that is. Most are starting prices. I don't look every day. Guns America is a listing , not an auction to my knowledge. So maybe the guy who offered me $850 for mine was just kidding. I'm suppose some of the proces I saw reflected the buying frenzy following the closure announcement. Once their mediocre guns go back into production, prices will drop I'm sure

I'd darn sure not pay $900 for a Remington CDL or XCR when I could pony up a few more bucks and get another Weatherby Mk V.

A Remington CDL or XCR doesnt have the features a model 70 has so its only natural a 70 would cost more.
Ditto Weatherbys, although with them your paying for a name and a gawd awfull stock.....
BTW a shill bid is when the person selling the gun has freinds or uses alternate identities to bid up the guns. If you watch the sights many of the same guns are for sale/auction over and over.
To get a pulse of what your guns going for check out for sale sections of sites like 24hourcampfire or accurate reloading.
I think what you will find is very few XTR's going for anywhere close to $1000. The XTR isnt a bad gun by any meens its just not as desirable as say a early to mid 90's classic.

O Garcia

If the Belgians are going to oversee the Model 70 production, we should be able to sleep soundly at night. FN had a long association with John Browning, and aside from making the Hi-Power pistol, they (FN) are also responsible for the FAL, the best of the 1950's 7.62x51mm rifles (the others being the M14 and the H&K G3).

For a country that was pretty much neutral from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the end of WW2 (they're part of NATO now), Belgium has a pretty robust arms industry. It must be a "neutral country" trait, the Swedes and the Swiss make pretty good guns, too.

Well, it's nice to see the Model 70 back.

Rocky Mt Hunter

Have not seen teh new Model Winc. 70, so will hold my opinion till I do so. Many of the factory built firearms with Syn stocks can have teh fit and looks improved witha little filling and sandpaper. That put-togethr rib on back side wher the mold came together can re removed with a tad of filling, then put a coat of flat=black or liwuid shoe polish over the sanding, you can neversee again.But with a little elbow greese, the stock cn be made to fit the action much better, same applies to wood.With wood, file to fit teh metal and then use a very thin shim between the wood and metal, a tad shorter than the wood or metal adn guarantee teh wood will never split from over oiling and standing in the safe corner. I jut bought a Semi-cistom gun, anf about 2 hrs it look all together different, like it was suppose to look. On a Savage, with the 2 screws into Alum, when you fill the syn stock to fit the metal, those screws will pull the stock against the stock and metal . It works guys,. but a tad of work involved. A good cold, snowy job this winter when you crying over the missed deer you let get by. I;m buying one more Turk Mauser to sporterize and will leave the bbl as is. Will have rechambered to a 338, bolt jeweled and bolt bent and spoon shaped. All the metal from the bbl to stock will be buffed to the white and keep oiled, after a nonrust preventive paste applied and buffed in.Will stock with a Boyds Laminatedstock in Blk/Grey. Not a arm/leg expense, but will give me a job this winter, and a great long range rifle for Elk next fall, if able to go. ALso, will enstall a Gentry safety and set the trigger at 3 lbs. A 29" bbl is long, but the way I hunt is mostly sit, teh extra length only enhances my ability for a long distance shot. I;m from the old school, that the longer bbl does have a advantage. As all my present huntin guns carry 24 and 26" bbls regardless fo caliber. Why do the Varmite guns have a longer bbl than a Deer bbl.????

WA Mtnhunter

I know the Winchester M70 Featherweight XTR's are not as esteemed as the much touted pre - 64. The one I have is very well done with nary a stray machine mark or blemish in the wood. It is also a tack driver. I doubt that I'll part with it anytime soon. Maybe I have been falsely led by the digital gun brokers.


Well, seeing as how I can get a X-Bolt for 50% off retail since I work at a dealer for them I'm going to do so. I can get a X-Bolt Medallion for $475 which in my opinion is a heck of a deal. I'm sure it will shoot like a dream. Now just to pick a caliber...

WA Mtnhunter

For those questioning the asking prices of M70 XTR's in .257 R, check GunBroker. bids up to $775, asking $1200.


i love feild and stream


Okay I have to ask. The above article also is about a new Browning X-bolt introduction.
I understand why the Winchester announcement has your attention but why is there no discussion about the Browning. When I read forums it seems that the comments center around Remingtons. I guess by question is, what is wrong with the A-bolt that I can never find a definative answer for. For example...ie...I understand about winchester quality being lost due to corporate ignorance and greed, or Ruger cast recievers, but what is the negative issues with A-bolts?


I have a 97 M 70 in featherweight that is good to fit and finish, shoots 150s very well' but have seen some real wrecks sudsequent to it, one really did look like sabotage.
All this talk about youth calibers and light recoil, .243 is for expert shooters ie .410 shotguns, a nice .260 Rem or 7mm08 are much better and for my picks excell over the 25-06.

Big Al

Has anyone but me noticed that Savage bolt action rifles simply do not cycle as smoothly as Remingtons, Brownings, Sakos, and so on? Accuracy is terrific, I like Savage rifles, but the actions are a little harder to work than others. They defintiely do not have a "smooth as butter" action. I sent my Savage to Sharp Shooters in Delphos, Ohio, and they smoothed the action out beautifully!


I hope that the new M70s are as good as the Classics from the 90s. I also hope that they come in left hand configurations. If so, I will buy a few more especially if they make a short action version chambered for standard cartridges not WSMs.

Next, Big Al, I agree with you on Savage actions being rough. First, clean all the manufacturing debris out of them. That generally helps a lot. Next, on a cold winter night with nothing to do but sit in front of the tube, sit and work the action while you do. If you feel brave, put a little polishing compound on the action when you do. Save you a few bucks doing so.


Hans Kirkman

I'm looking for wisdom and advice. I will be purchasing a .270 this March and am looking for recommendations and why. I've had and liked a Sako in the past but am hearing much about Savage and Browning...what is the most recommended make of all, for the dollar? Probably like asking which is better Ford or Chevy...


Hans Kirkman:
The new Ruger Hawkeye has received very good reviews and its a very nice looking rifle! Apparently, they just announced that this rifle will be available as a lefty. As such, I will definitely look into it. I had my heart set on a Sako, but the ones I was watching disappeared before I could act. Being left-handed, the choices sometimes are slim, especially when you want a certain caliber.
Also, in another Dave Petzal Blog, someone wrote that had bought something on one of the gunsites, paid for the item, but had not received it. Internet shopping for something like a high dollar rifle scares the crap out of me.

Del in Kansas

Hans Kirkman,

If the approximately $1000 price tag is not too much for the budget the Kimber Model 8400 classic stands head and shoulders above the others. Every Kimber I have seen had nice wood, good fit and finish and was accurate. My 2506 came right out of the box with a 3 lb trigger pull with no creep or overtravel. Just remember to put a quality scope and rings on whatever you buy. You did not say what you will hunt with the gun but if it is deer the 2506 has less recoil and will kill them just as dead as any 270.

Hans Kirkman

Which .270 to buy?

I will be using the rifle for deer 90% of the time and elk 10%. It will most likely be the only hunting rifle I have so I want to be able to use for both. Price isn't huge, the biggest concern I have is quality and accuracy. It will become an extension of my body so it needs to last.

Any advice is appreciated.


There's a few questions I'd like to answer on here.

First- the new model 70 Extreme Weather will have a full length aluminum bedding block and it's a Bell and Carlson stock (Medalist version) so there's no worries about flexy stocks here.

I've had two Sako 75 Stainless rifles in 270WSM- neither one has fed reliably and both ejected cases into the bottom of my scope. I tried another magazine $110- that didn't solve the feeding issue. It was also only shot 6MOA groups- tried handloads and every box of 270WSM on the market, (except Black hills). So I sent it back to Beretta. They sent me a completely new rifle.
This one also didn't feed reliably and also ejected cases into the bottom of my scope. I tried Warne and Sako's stock rings- it didn't make a difference.

I've talked to other that have had no problems with their Sako's but my luck has been so bad I'm trading this one in for a Winchester.


270 Winchester vs 270 WSM

If you are debating between either of these there's something to keep in mind.

If you buy factory ammunition
the Velocity,Energy and bullet drop ratings are tested with a 24" barrel.

Most 270 winchester barrels are 22" - 23" long, not the 24" of the test barrels, so actual velocity is going to be off by approximately 25fps per inch. This will impact energy and bullet drop accordingly so check the barrel length.

270WSM rifles all come with 24" barrels so off the shelf ammunition should perform as advertised.

I've also noticed a trend with ammunition manufacturers in that they are downloading the 270 Winchester, even conservative handloads can outperform factory ammunition. I'm assuming the "official reason" for this is that they are downloading this cartridge because of the age of some 270 Winchester rifles.

Or it could be because they want a wider performance gap to the 270WSM.

Keep in mind that if you travel some countries will only allow factory ammunition- not handloads across their borders.


I'm very pleased that the Winchester name is staying in the rifle business and that the 70 is still here! I have 2, one is my 243 deer rifle (made in'73)and is a beautiful rifle and shoots like it. The other is an action only (began life as a late model 270) that I'm building into a match rifle. I have 2 Winchester Model 52's myself and 4 in the family. If you're unfamiliar with this rifle, it was the BADDEST 22lr on the planet for 50years. One of my 52's is an 18lb target rifle fired at 200 yards in competition and the other is a sporterized custom from the first year of production(1920). The Match rifle is sub 1/4MOA and the sporter is sub 1/2 MOA. I know that Winchester made cuts in assembly and fit and finish in the later years, but their metallurgy and design are top notch. Several of the gun writers back in the '60s really hurt winchester's reputation with comments about the fit and finish of the m70 (argueably not unfounded) but these fit and finish problems were solved in a few years and it became prettier than it ever was pre'64. I agree with one writer who said that the pre'64 rifles "look old". the shape of the stock just isn't what it became in the '70's. (long live the Monte Carlo shaped piece of Walnut!!!! free float it, bed it, and not only will it shoot beautifully but any piece of wood looks better than all that Plastic!!!) the push feed action is stronger and a more accurate design than the pre'64 as well. I hope that the Winchester rifles all come back, I'm probably dreaming, but the 94, the 52, and of course the 70 should all be alive and well. In their respective classes, they were always Top of the Heap.


First the new Winchester firearms are made and assembled in Columbia, SC. Not overseas, period. Only time will tell though whether they will sell. They were supposed to ship early last month but I still have yet to see one and it's almost August. They're really going to need to get them into the gun stores in time for hunting season or this year will be pretty much a loss.

B Shupe

I just spoke to a Customer Service Representative at Winchester and he said the Super Grade should be available in stores around the middle of November '08.

B Shupe

I just spoke to a Customer Service Representative at Winchester again and he said the Super Grade is scheduled to be available in stores around the end of November and early December '08.

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