If you’re on the hunt for a long-range shooter in a new caliber that promises remarkable downrange ballistics, incredible energy retention, and is easy on the shoulder, pull the trigger (no pun intended) on Browning’s X-Bolt Speed LR.
Reviewing new rifles and calibers has always been near and dear to my writing heart. I love getting in a fancy-to-do new shooter with ammo that promises to be a ballistic marvel and putting it through the paces.
Some rifles and calibers, even wildcat calibers many raved over, did little for me. Call me old-fashioned, but it’s hard to beat tried-and-true legends like the .308 Win., .300 Rem. Mag., and .03-06 Sprg.
*This review was written without bias about the review of the Browning X-Bolt Speed LR. Affiliate links were placed in the article after it was written.
A few years back, a rifle arrived at my FFL chambered in 6.5 PRC. The 6.5 bore diameter was familiar; I had several 6.5 Creedmoors in the gun safe. Still, the new round from Hornady grabbed my attention.
Hornady touted the round as “the big brother of the 6.5 Creedmoor.” As sick as I was of the current Creedmoor fascination, I did (still do) love the caliber. It’s fast, flat-shooting, and uber-accurate.
The story behind the 6.5 PRC was a 200-plus feet-per-second increase over the Creedmoor in a bullet seated in a compact magnum cartridge. The PRC was engineered to put high-performance bullets on the mark at ridiculously long ranges and provide remarkable energy retention.
After a week of shooting the new rifle with Hornady’s 143 gr ELD-X Precision Hunter rounds, I fell in love. I anchored a couple of speed goats at long ranges and a big old muley that fall. I loved the velocity, terminal performance, and the lack of recoil the round produced.
A year or so ago, I started hearing rumblings about a new PRC, the 7mm PRC, to be exact, and Hornady was once again spearheading the mission.
When Browning’s Rafe Neilson asked me if I’d be interested in testing and hunting with the manufacturer’s X-Bolt Speed LR chambered in 7mm PRC, I jumped at it.
The Browning X-Bolt First Impressions
Tar and feather me, but you can’t beat the out-of-box factory performance of an X-bolt platform. I own six X-Bolts, and, spoiler alert, the Speed LR will be joining my collection.
The composite stock is airy and covered in Browning’s OVIX camo pattern, which I love, and the barrel and action are cloaked in a stylish Smoke Bronze Cerakote metal finish.
Aesthetics aside, the adjustable comb system on the stock and the extended bolt handle were other features that jumped out at me immediately. I love customization, and with a one-inch adjustment, I knew the comb would create ideal eye-to-scope alignment. This is critical with any rifle but especially essential if you make one and then brand it with LR (Long Range) capabilities. The gun may shoot far accurately, but for shooters to take advantage of advanced ballistics, the rifle needs an excellent build.
I also applaud the extended bolt handle. The X-Bolt’s short, rapid 60-degree throw is one of my favorite features. The Browning X Bolt Speed LR promises this same bolt throw, but with the bolt handle extended, reloading is faster and more efficient than ever before.
I appreciate that Browning fluted the sporter contour barrel on the X Bolt. Fluted barrels reduce weight and factor into the accuracy equation. The belled muzzle allows for standard, suppressor-ready threads, and the threaded muzzle brake is designed to reduce felt recoil drastically.
Make It So
I have a pair of open-country elk tags in my pocket this fall. While I will do my darndest to get as close as possible, I want to get prone and make a long shot if necessary.
For this reason, I topped the rifle with Leupold’s VX-5HD3-15×44. I have used this scope on other rifles, and Leupold takes the cake regarding optical ingenuity. Leupold scopes are tanks that resist weather and gather light like crazy, and many, like the VX-5HD, come with Leupold’s CDS-ZL2 dial. With this dial, shooters can gather intel requested by Leupold, send the dial in, and Leupold will send back a laser-marked bullet-drop dial that matches their exact ballistics.
There are lots of great ammo makers. My problem is I’m superstitious. I brought down the last big bull I took with a load from Federal Premium. For this test, I opted to tinker with a pair of Federal 7mm PRC makes — the ELD-X 175 Grain and Terminal Ascent 155 Grain. I’m a fan of both bullets, and while the 175-grain is a tad heavier for elk, I like the 3,100 fps muzzle velocity of the Terminal Ascent. Plus, the build of the Terminal Ascent bullet means extreme long-range expansion and short-range weight retention. I don’t want a long-range bullet that explodes on a bull’s side at close range due to the bullet’s velocity.
I mounted the scope with Leupold rings and bases, and after taking my time to level the scope and set my comb height, proper eye relief was obtained.
I’m not a fan of burning through pricy ammo. For this reason, I bore sight rifles at 200 yards. I place a 6-inch diameter steel orange plate at 200 yards, lock my gun down in a BOG DeathGrip, and remove the bolt. With the bolt removed, I adjust the tripod, line the barrel hole up with the center of the plate, lock the tripod down, and walk the crosshairs in. If the rifle is worth its salt, this system typically puts the first shot on the plate. I add a cardboard backing, so if I miss the plate, I know by how much.
My first shot with Federal’s ELD-X 175 Grain smacked the plate low and left. After adjusting my scope, the next shot from 200 yards hit the steel target’s center.
Wanting to let the barrel cool and go through the proper channels, I used Real Avid’s Master Gun WorkStation and some cleaning materials to swab the barrel and cool it down.
Back on the range, I moved to 300 yards, did some dial tweaking based on the drop Federal brands on their ammo boxes, kept the rifle in the BOG, and sent another at the plate. Bingo! The sweet sound of steel. This rifle is an out-of-the-box shooter. The trigger is butter — shots break clean and smooth — and recoil is mild. The last thing I want to consider is recoil, and the Inflex recoil pad blended with the muzzle break drastically reduces it.
I shot the rifle for two days and went through 20 rounds of Terminal Ascent and 20 rounds of ELD-X. The rifle’s 1:8 twist rate favored both rounds. Naturally, the 155-grain had less drop, and not being able to send in my CDS dial ahead of time to Leupold, I stopped testing at 600 yards. With the 175-grain ELD-X, I stopped sending lead at 500 yards.
Both rounds are extremely capable, and though I’m not sure which one will be my elk killer, I want to note this rifle is accurate as the day is long. It builds shooting confidence, which is everything when trying to put lead on the mark at extended ranges. I give the rifle a 5-star rating, and I can’t wait to see how it performs in the coming months.
Browning X-Bolt Speed LR 7mm PRC Specs:
Action Length: Long Barrel Length: 26 in. Overall Length: 46 3/4 in. Weight: 7.3 pounds Magazine Capacity: Removable, 3-round Twist Rate: 1:8 Barrel Finish: Smoked Bronze Cerakote Receiver Finish: Smoked Bronze Cerakote Stock Finish: Ovix Stock Material: Composite Recoil Pad: Inflex 1 Drilled and Tapped: Yes MSRP: $1,479.99