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ARE YOU READY FOR THE COUNTRY? WINCHESTER DRESSES UP ITS AFFORDABLE XPR TO CREATE THE NEW HUNTER MOUNTAIN COUNTRY RANGE.

Through the decades most major rifle manufacturers have offered an economy-priced bolt action alongside a top-of-line model. During the 1960s and 1970s, Winchester had, in addition to the Winchester Model 70, a no-frills version called the Model 670. The Model 70 is still with us, and it was joined in 2015 by a totally different and less expensive rifle called the Winchester XPR.

As markings on their barrels indicate, both rifles are built at a Browning factory in Portugal and imported by Browning Arms Co. When the XPR was introduced, I assumed the name to be an acronym for "Xtreme Performance Rifle," but I was later told it is has no particular meaning.

I have long been an admirer of the Winchester Model 70 and own several in calibers ranging from .22 Hornet to .458 Win. Mag. All things considered, there will never be a better big game rifle, but I have to admit the XPR is an improvement in several ways over the old Model 70. One area is its trigger. The M.O.A. trigger was introduced several years back on the new-production Model 70, and while only decades of hard use in the field will determine whether it as durable as the original Model 70 design, out-of-box quality is superior.

Trigger pull on the XPR test rifle began with total absence of take-up followed by a smooth, crisp break that terminated with zero overtravel. Whether such a level of performance is typical of the M.O.A. triggers on all XPR and Model 70 rifles I cannot say, but if it is, the company most definitely has a winner.

On a Lyman digital scale, pull weight averaged 66 ounces with a mere two-ounce variation between pulls. As the included owner's manual clearly explains, the trigger is fully adjustable, but since it was already light enough for a big game rifle, I did not touch it. The M.O.A. trigger is of three-lever design and is essentially the Feather trigger of the Browning X-Bolt rifle modified to fit the Model 70 and XPR actions.

The chrome-moly receiver is cylindrical in shape with a roof profile that reminds me of the Remington Model 700. It is drilled and tapped for heavy-duty 8-40 scope mounting screws rather than the more common 6-48.

The XPR is built around two actions, one for short cartridges such as the 7mm-08 and .308, another a bit longer for the .30-06, .338 Win. Mag. and other cartridges of those lengths. Seats for the three locking lugs of the bolt are machined inside the receiver ring.

As seen on Savage rifles since the 1950s, the barrel shank is first threaded and screwed into the receiver and then secured in the proper headspace position by a locknut. Compared to the old hand-fitting method, doing so reduces production cost, and if truth be known, it is probably more precise on a mass-production basis.

Often described as fat-bolt design, the body of the bolt measures 0.867 inch, and the locking lugs are only slightly smaller in diameter. From a production point of view, this type of bolt is cost-effective because it eliminates the broaching of locking lug raceway channels inside the receiver. The use of three locking lugs reduces bolt rotation to approximately 60 degrees; bolt rotation for the more common two-lug bolt is 90 degrees. This increases the amount of unlock clearance between the bolt handle and a scope worn by the rifle.

When bolt rotational travel is reduced, the surface of the firing pin cocking cam has to be made steeper, and that makes bolt handle lift harder than for a two-lug bolt. This, I might add, is not unique to the XPR.

Regardless of the manufacturer, bolt lift on rifles with multiple locking lugs requires more operating force than do two-lug rifles. And it varies considerably because cam surface smoothness varies among the manufacturers. As bolts of its type go, the XPR is over on the easy side. During offhand, rapid-fire, four-shot drills, I averaged less than two seconds slower with the XPR than with a Model 70 in .270 Win.

Achieving anywhere near 100 percent surface area contact between the locking lugs of their bolts and locking shoulders inside the receivers of mass-produced rifles is not easy, and multiple locking lugs make the job considerably more difficult than for a two-lug design. I am pleased to report that all three locking lugs of the XPR test rifle were in full contact with their seats in the receiver. This speaks highly of the level of precision to which the rifle is built.

The bolt body and its handle are steel while the bolt shroud is synthetic. A flat at the bottom of the hollow bolt knob is easy on the hand. The bolt appears quite heavy, but in this case looks are deceiving. It weighs 12 ounces compared to 14.1 ounces for a push-feed Model 70 bolt and 14.5 ounces for a pre-'64 Model 70.

In the event of a pierced primer or ruptured case, some turn-bolt action designs fall short of fully protecting the shooter from propellant gas traveling back through the raceway of the receiver. Designers of the XPR get a gold star in that department as well. A 90-degree flange at the front of the shroud along with the root of the bolt handle should deflect most of the propellant gas away from the shooter.

The face of the bolt is deeply counter-bored with its wall interrupted for the passage of a sliding extractor. The extractor is housed by one of the locking lugs, and while its shape is unlike the extractor of a push-feed Model 70, their claws are about the same width and thickness.

The ejector is the commonly seen spring-loaded rod protruding through the face of the bolt. Cocking the firing pin brings a red indicator dot on the tail of the cocking piece into view at the rear of the bolt shroud.

The actions of the first XPR rifles I examined back in 2015 were a bit rough, but the bolt of the one featured in this report traveled to and fro like it was on roller bearings. The improvement came when the bolt face of the receiver was given a long-lasting nickel Teflon coating.

Some hunters prefer a safety that when engaged prevents the bolt from being rotated. Others don't. To make both groups happy, designers of the rifle borrowed a system introduced by Melvin Forbes on his Ultralight Arms rifle back in 1985. Pulling the safety slide located just behind the bolt handle rearward to engagement also locks the bolt from rotation.

To unlock the bolt while leaving the safety engaged, simply press down on an override lever located just forward of the safety tab. Doing so allows removal of a cartridge from the chamber while the safety mechanism remains in its engaged position. Pushing the safety forward to its Fire position exposes a red warning dot imbedded in the receiver tang.

The chrome-moly barrel is button-rifled, and I am told it is the same as barrels on today's Model 70 rifles. A Lyman Borecam revealed extremely smooth six-groove rifling with not a single toolmark waiting to accumulate copper fouling.

The barrel free-floats in the stock, and its muzzle has a flat, target-style crown. Lengths are 22 inches for the .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .308 and .30-06; 24 inches for the .270 WSM, .270 Win., .300 WSM, .325 WSM and .338 Win. Mag.; and 26 inches for the 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag. My thanks to the guys at Winchester for making barrels for the latter two cartridges as long as they should be.

The 7mm-08 barrel of the rifle I shot measured 1.155 inches over its chamber reinforce, and from there it tapered to 0.635 inch at the muzzle. The entire barreled action wears Browning's black, corrosion-resistant Perma-Cote finish with a satin texture. Its application along with the extremely smooth surface preparation of the steel beneath it are a cut above what is seen on some of the other rifles in the XPR's price range.

Rather than having the usual recoil lug integral with the receiver or a separate part attached to it, a steel plate imbedded in the XPR stock engages a lateral slot machined into the bottom of its receiver ring.

As is commonly seen on today's budget-priced rifles, the "bottom metal" is actually black polymer. In addition to being lighter than steel, it goes a long way toward making a rifle affordable to everyone. On the XPR it is a one-piece unit containing the trigger guard and a latch for the detachable magazine.

The trigger guard opening is roomy enough for a gloved finger. The rear, hex-head action bolt extends through it just forward of the trigger guard and into the floor of the receiver bridge. The front bolt reaches into the bottom of the receiver ring, just behind its recoil bracket slot. On some rifles the rear of the trigger guard is secured by turning a screw into the stock, but designers of the XPR skinned the cat in a better way by utilizing the engagement of an integral lip with a shoulder in the stock.

The synthetic stock of the test rifle was dressed in Mossy Oak Mountain Country Range, a finish option introduced in 2017. The stock weighs 29.8 ounces with recoil pad and quick-detach sling swivel posts. Length of pull and drop at heel are 13.75 inches and 0.75 inch respectively.

I can recall when the fore-ends of injection-molded stocks were about as stiff as a wet noodle, but molded-in girder reinforcing at the barrel channel of the XPR stock makes it quite rigid. Measuring five inches around the wrist and 4.25 inches around the midpoint of the fore-end, it is pleasingly slim and feels good when shouldered.

Stippled surface texturing at the wrist and fore-end will be appreciated by slippery hands during a wet-weather hunt, and a cushiony, 0.75-inch Inflex Technology recoil pad will do a great job of soaking up recoil. Fit between the stock and barreled action is quite good.

The single-column magazine holds three rounds, and its bottom extends just a bit below the belly of the stock. But not to worry because in the one-hand carry, the balance point of the rifle positions three fingers forward of the magazine with only the little finger wrapped around it. Not quite as comfy to carry as a flush-fit magazine but so close few hunters will notice.

The interior length of the short-action magazine is 2.97 inches, plenty roomy for cartridges such as the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. A single-stacker does not hold as many rounds as Paul Mauser's internal, staggered design, but cartridge feeding is smoother. I do wish they had recessed the magazine release button a bit more deeply in the stock.

Depending on action and barrel lengths, factory weight ratings range from 6.75 to 7.25 pounds. On a digital postal scale, the test rifle weighed six pounds, 14.3 ounces. Four cartridges, a Zeiss 4-12XTerra scope in Winchester-branded Talley lightweight aluminum rings and my favorite 1.25-inch leather sling took it to a hunt-ready weight of eight pounds, 9.5 ounces.

There are two other new-for-2017 variations. Chop off the barrel of the rifle I have just described to 20 inches, shorten stock pull length to 13 inches, change the stock finish to Mossy Oak Break-Up Country and you have the XPR Compact at the same price. Opt for the black-stock version and the price drops to $549. Chambering options for both are .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm-08, .308 Win., .300 WSM and .325 WSM.

While I have no immediate plans to sell off my Model 70s, I am greatly impressed by the XPR. Its durable polymer magazine is easy to load, easy to slip home and cartridges glide into the chamber with very little push on the bolt handle.

The rifle would probably roar loudly in .338 Win. Mag., but in 7mm-08 it purrs like a little putty tat. You won't find a better trigger on any factory rifle, and while no synthetic stock can honestly be described as handsome, the XPR gets my vote as best-looking in its class. On top of all that, it is accurate enough and the price is right.

Caption: A lever forward of the two-position sliding safety allows the bolt to be operated with the rifle on Safe for loading and unloading.

Caption: The XPR's trigger guard opening is roomy enough for a gloved finger, and the detachable magazine extends slightly below bottom of stock but still permits comfortable one-hand carry.

Caption: The XPR employs the popular fat-bolt design, which produces only 60 degrees of bolt rotation and permits plenty of clearance between bolt handle and scope.

Caption: A steel recoil bracket imbedded in the stock engages a lateral slot in the bottom of the receiver ring, and molded-in reinforcing girders add rigidity to the fore-end.
SPECIFICATIONS

WINCHESTER XPR HUNTER
MOUNTAIN COUNTRY RANGE

TYPE             three-lug bolt-action centerfire

CALIBERS         .243, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win.,
                 .270 WSM, 7mm-08 (tested), 7mm Rem.
                 Mag., .308, .30-06, .300 WSM,
                 .300 Win. Mag., .325 Win.,
                 .338 Win. Mag.

CAPACITY         3+1

BARREL           22 (as tested), 24, 26 in.;
                 chrome-moly steel

OVERALL LENGTH   42.25 in. (as tested)

WEIGHT           6 lb., 14.2 oz. (as tested)

STOCK            injection-molded polymer,
                 Mossy Oak camo

FINISH           black matte

TRIGGER          fully-adjustable M.O.A.

SIGHTS           none; drilled & tapped

PRICE            $600

MANUFACTURER     Winchester (built at Browning
                 facility), WinchesterGuns.com

ACCURACY RESULTS

WINCHESTER XPR HUNTER MOUNTAIN COUNTRY RANGE

7MM-08                         Bullet    Muzzle    Standard    Avg.
                               Weight   Velocity   Deviation   Group
                               (gr.)     (fps)       (fps)     (in.)

NOSLER BALLISTIC TIP            140      2,711        19       0.62
NOSLER BALLISTIC TIP            120      2,915        12       0.71
HORNADY CUSTOM LITE SST         120      2,648        28       0.89
NOSLER E-TIP                    140      2,722        15       1.22
HORNADY SUPERFORMANCE SST       139      2,786        34       1.47
REMINGTON EXPRESS C0RE-L0KT     140      2,753        31       1.64

NOTES: Accuracy results are averages of five three-shot groups
at 100 yards. Velocities are averages of five rounds clocked
at 12 feet from the muzzle by an Oehler Model 33 chronograph.
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Article Details
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Author:Simpson, Layne
Publication:Petersen's Rifle Shooter
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Nov 1, 2017
Words:2380
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