A keeper for any rifleman
I was fortunate to receive a Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon Long Range McMillan rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor for review. It seems the 6.5 Creedmoor has become the industry standard for shooters interested in extending their shooting distance goals. In part, this is due to the widespread availability of high-quality ammunition tipped with superior bullet designs. It’s a flat shooting cartridge with mild recoil, deflects less in wind than many other short-action cartridges, and has rightfully earned its place in the market. When fed into a Browning rifle, the possibilities become endless.
The most important aspect of the rifle aside from a quality barrel would be the stock. The shooter has more interface with the stock than any other rifle component.
I’ve spent countless hours lying behind a bolt rifle observing the world and identifying targets. The design of the stock is paramount to the success of the mission. A properly designed stock assists in recoil mitigation and ensures proper eye relief for a parallax-free view that is critical for accuracy. A quality stock must also be rigid to ensure shot to shot repeatability. All these things and more can be found in a variety of stocks, but one of the best I have discovered is the McMillan Game Scout.
It’s refreshing to see a company as large as Browning team up with one of the finest stock manufacturers to develop a high-quality rifle. McMillan has been producing stocks for over 40 years and is an industry leader with its fiberglass composite stocks. More than half of my personal rifles are bedded in McMillan stocks and I typically have one or two stocks on order with McMillan at any given time.
The McMillan Game Scout stock came pillar bedded and had a great fit to the Browning X-Bolt action, coupled with the Browning detachable magazine bottom metal.
Action & Trigger
The rotary magazine holds four rounds and is very easy to load. I experienced zero failure to feed during the months of shooting during my review.
In addition to the short bolt throw, the properly designed magazine provided very smooth and reliable feeding with a variety of factory ammunition. Regardless of your intended application for any rifle, it must operate smoothly and reliability to earn its place in any gun safe. The Browning X-Bolt exceeds the standard.
I tuned the trigger on my rifle to 3 lbs. and was more than satisfied with the crisp break and minimal over travel. The Browning triggers are user friendly – the easiest factory adjustable triggers on the market today.
A simple removal of the bottom metal to access the trigger allows you to tune the trigger pull weight by tightening or loosening the Allen screw directly in front of the trigger shoe. Turn the screw out to decrease pull weight; turn the screw in and you’ll increase the pull weight. I recoated the Allen crew with finger nail polish to prevent the screw from possibly walking out later as it comes coated from the factory after initial setting.
The Browning rifle comes with a fluted, heavy Sporter contour steel barrel. Browning also polishes the chamber in each barrel to ensure smooth extraction. The rifle I tested came with a 1-8 twist barrel, but models offered after 2018 will have a 1-7 twist to help stabilize the longer, heavier bullets.
The muzzle is cut with a deep crown and comes threaded for attaching a muzzle device or suppressor. It even includes a muzzle brake and threaded cap to protect the threads to offer the shooter options. On a custom rifle, these features would easily add up to a $100-$200 upgrade!
The barrel and action both receive a burnt bronze Cerakote finish to protect the steel surfaces from corrosion and rust. This allows the rifle to be used in a variety of climates.
One note on personal preference: The barrel is 26”, and I have to be honest, I’m personally not a big fan of longer barrels. A 20” barrel would reduce muzzle velocity by 60 fps with a 143-grain bullet. This would change your drop at 1000 yards from 8.7 mils to 9.3 mils. I prefer to have the shorter barrel and account for the extra drop of .6 mils.
As with all my reviews, I topped the Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon with my Swarovski X5 5-25 scope, set in a pair of Talley Tactical rings. This combo has proven itself time and time again and allows me to truly test a rifle’s capabilities knowing the scope is tracking and holding zero.
I was fortunate enough to test this rifle for several months, which accounted for four to five range sessions per month. I tested the rifle with Hornady Precision Hunter 143-grain ELDX and Nosler Trophy Grade 140-grain AccuBonds. Both brands offer a great bullet that is designed for optimal performance on big game animals in a variety of applications.
The rifle produced 100-yard groups averaging five rounds just under ½ MOA and when I did my part, it would stack sub-3/8 MOA groups. I was able to shoot a sub one-inch, five-shot group at 200 yards as well. This is exceptional accuracy for a factory rifle with factory ammunition achieved without the added expense and time of handloading. If you’re already set up to hand load, the Hells Canyon rifle will be a dream rifle to develop the supreme load.
The Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon Long Range rifle, set in the McMillan Game Scout, is quite possibly the finest production rifle available for under $2,000. If you’re rifle shopping in this price range, look no further.
Browning has put together a rifle that will suit the needs of everyone from novice rifleman all the way up to a veteran shooter looking to up his game. As with every rifle I have tested for Browning, the X-Bolt Hells Canyon Long Range McMillan will not be returning to the factory.
As always, keep the gun conversation alive and follow me on Instagram @papwinkle and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for rifles or gear that you want to see reviewed in future issues of Western Hunter Magazine.