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Browning AB3 – .270 Winchester

By Craig Maylam

This is my last review in NZ Guns & Hunting to be printed on a paper copy. Following this edition as most of you will know by now the magazine will go digital. I’m sad you won’t be able to enjoy the hard-copy magazine any longer but events beyond yours, mine or the editor’s control have meant that change was necessary. I have written close to 100 articles for NZG&H and will continue to write as long as readers continue to enjoy what I write.

 

Browning is a name synonymous with the American firearms industry; their products are innovative, high quality, durable and well made. I have on test here a Browning AB3 in .270 Winchester.

 

THE STOCK

The stock is manufactured from a glass-filled polymer, well moulded with no mismatches or defects. The general dimensions are drop at comb 11/16 inches, drop at heel ½ inch and length of pull 13 5/8 inches. The pistol grip is uncapped and follows a tight radius. My small hands are able to reach the trigger and safety comfortably without having to move them off the pistol grip.

 

There is a “wundhammer” palm-swell for right hand shooters and the pistol grip and the fore-end are covered in a coarse finish in place of chequering. I found the grip panels to be a great aid in holding the rifle on the wet hunts we went on together. The rest of the stock is covered in a fine photo-etch finish which helps reduce any game-scaring glare on sunny days.

 

The major components revealed – note the bolt’s large diameter.

 

The bedding components and recoil lug recess are moulded into the stock and the barrel channel is free-floating. The mag well adaptor is a separate component as is the trigger guard assembly. The latter assembly features a polymer trigger shoe and trigger return spring all in one drop-out assembly secured into the stock by the rear action screw. When I disassembled the rifle the trigger guard assembly took me by surprise with its simplicity and innovation, exactly what Browning are known for!

 

The buttstock is finished with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad and quick detachable sling swivels. The buttstock is obviously filled as there is no hollow sound when you rap your knuckles against it. The stock was comfortable to use and fitted me well.

 

THE MAGAZINE

The 4-round detachable magazine was sturdily made, and the rounds did not rattle in it when the mag was filled. The feed lips are steel to give years of trouble-free service as was most of the mag box. I discovered that the magazine can be loaded either in or out of the rifle. The follower is manufactured from glass-filled polymer and I noted that it is stamped with the calibre so my guess is that mags are calibre specific.

 

The sturdy 4-round magazine is reinforced with a steel shroud.

 

The rifle fed well through the mag system and no failure to feed was encountered. The magazine is retained in the stock by a polymer catch secured by a small spring steel tensioner located on the opposite end of the floor-plate assembly from the release catch. The tensioner engages in a small cut-out in the mag body and stops the “mag rattle” that plagues some designs. The catch is well recessed which should prevent it being accidentally bumped, thereby dropping the mag out when you don’t expect it.

 

THE ACTION

The action appears to be machined from bar stock and has a fine bead blast finish. It features minimal cut-outs for rigidity, but they’re large enough to provide good access to the chamber. To reduce weight the action has two external cuts or chamfers on the sides that give it an octagonal appearance. The receiver is drilled and tapped for the mounting blocks of your choice – I chose Warne steel bases for my test-fire. They went straight on and did not require shimming to get them into the correct alignment.

 

The tang houses the safety catch and the bolt lock override button which allows the bolt to be manipulated to unload the chamber with the safety catch still engaged. The bolt release is located on the left side of the action. There’s a Remington style recoil lug sandwiched between the front face of the action and the barrel shoulder. I cannot see any adjustment on the trigger, but it did not require any in my opinion, breaking cleanly at 3lbs 5oz every time. For a factory trigger it’s very good.

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Detail of the upper trigger group and safety system indicating their clean design and quality of manufacturing.

 

“The action appears to be machined from bar stock and has a fine bead blast finish. It features minimal cut-outs for rigidity, but they’re large enough to provide good access to the chamber.”

 

The bolt is a three lug, low lift 60-degree design with the locking lugs the same diameter as the bolt body. There are however no free lunches here, so the cocking effort is slightly higher than that of a more conventional 90-degree lift. The large diameter makes the bolt heavy, however the extra diameter along with chrome plating makes its movement very smooth. One locking lug houses the sliding plate extractor and the plunger type ejector is situated in the recessed bolt face opposite the extractor. The other two lugs are solid. After the first range session there was evidence of good, even contact on all three lugs.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Browning’s atypical bolt handle is shaped to provide a comfortable grip; the three-lug 60-degree bolt functioned very smoothly; the AB3 has a tang-mounted safety catch and a red high-lighted cocking indicator; the light-weight polymer trigger assembly drops out easily for cleaning.

 

Should a cartridge failure occur there is a large gas escape hole just behind the locking lugs which will vent gases into the magazine well. The distinctively shaped and very comfortable bolt handle is dovetailed into the body. When the bolt is cocked a red-hatched tongue is visible below the bolt shroud.

 

THE BARREL

The AB3 sports a 22-inch medium heavy contour barrel rifled at a rate of 1 turn in 10 inches. The muzzle is threaded m14x1.0mm and supplied with a thread protector that when fitted is hard to spot. The factory literature states that the barrel is hand chambered – all I know is that the chamber was well cut with no drag marks or rings. A target crown is machined into the muzzle and the outside is Cerakoted over the top of a fine bead blast finish. No open sights are fitted.

 

“The AB3 sports a 22-inch medium heavy contour barrel rifled at a rate of 1 turn in 10 inches. The muzzle is threaded m14x1.0mm and supplied with a thread protector that when fitted is hard to spot.”

 

THE SUPPRESSOR

Cameron Sports kindly supplied a Sonic “Stealth” suppressor. First impressions were that it was very well made although I doubted that such a small unit would be up to the job. I could not have been more wrong. The unit provided excellent suppression and recoil damping, while being compact in length and small in diameter. The unitized construction is excellent and on inspection beautifully made.

 

The compact Stealth suppressor was well-made and did a great job.

 

My only gripe is that one of the threaded baffle sections came loose during one of my hunts, something that was easy to remedy, but nevertheless it’s something to watch. If the unit was mine, I’d put a small dab of Loctite or nail polish on each threaded section – then they’ll never loosen!

 

IN THE FIELD

I did a couple of range sessions with the ammunition kindly supplied by Federal (Sportways), and also shot a few hand-loads with the excellent Hornady ELDX projectiles left over from my reloading series. The Federals shot very well for factory ammunition giving consistent groups of 21mm, while the hand-loads shot slightly better at an average of 18mm. Neither shot any bad groups.

 

ABOVE & LEFT: The Federal factory ammunition produced regular sub-MOA groups averaging 21mm. Craig chose these for his hunt.

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I decided to use the Federals for the stag hunt, although as I had a limited supply, I was forced to use hand-loads for the remaining trips. For the roar we headed into a DOC block near Kaikoura. I think we left our run a bit late as there were no animals roaring. We accessed the block via a long riverbed boulder hop.

 

Craig harvested the fallow with a quick 200-yard shot.

 

My companions were kept amused when I took a dunking in one of the river crossings (mossy rocks!). We dumped our packs at a likely looking campsite then headed a couple of hours further up the river to do some glassing. Failing to spot anything but goats, we headed back to our packs as the day was almost over. As we started to make camp my son hissed to our mate Robert, ‘Bob look! There’s a stag on that slip!’. Sure enough there it was just 250 yards from camp.

 

“Another quality innovative product from Browning. The whole package represents great value for money and shot extremely well with both factory ammo and hand-loads.”

 

A good rest was found on a handy rock and the stag was knocked off the bluff with the Browning. James and Bob climbed up the face and found the deer (I stayed on a big rock at the bottom offering advice!). We dragged it into a small clearing and took the photos. No, it won’t make it into the record books, but it was Bob’s first public land deer which to him was just as good as a 20-pointer. We butchered the animal and celebrated the next day with a good old-fashioned bomb up on the goats which is where the last of that Federal ammo disappeared to!

 

In the Kaikoura hill-country Bob knocked the spiker over with a 250-yard shot – his first deer taken on public land.

 

 The Browning also went on a successful fallow venison hunt. There is not much to the story, we just spotted a deer while we were driving through a friend’s farm to go wallaby hunting. Following a very short stalk in my town clothes and work boots, I managed a one-shot kill at a bit over 200 yards.

 

WRAP-UP

Another quality innovative product from Browning. The whole package represents great value for money and shot extremely well with both factory ammo and hand-loads. No problems whatsoever were encountered with the rifle, scope or suppressor. If I was looking for a dependable, accurate companion for my hunting excursions I would definitely consider a Browning AB3, and personally of course I’d buy it in .270 Win calibre.

 

Safe shooting

 

Craig

 

Browning firearms are imported and distributed by Cameron Outdoors:

www.cameronoutdoors.co.nz

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