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Browning X-Bolt Pro .28 Nosler & Kite KSP HD2 2.5-15X56

By Hayden Sturgeon

With custom rifles being the craze these days rifle manufacturers need to be working hard to out-stage their competitors and build something off the shelf that not only catches the hunter’s eye, but also meets the high expectations that come with a semi-custom rifle. 

 

Browning’s new X-Bolt Pro has all the specs - but will it shoot as good as it looks? After reviewing the Hell’s Canyon model in .300WSM back in NZG&H’s September/October issue #168 it was a pleasant surprise when Cameron Sports (the Browning agents for NZ) asked me to review the X-Bolt Pro in my favourite all-time calibre, the .28 Nosler. 

 

Out of the box this rifle has a ton of features, not only giving it the custom look, but also adding functionality to the rifle. Out of all the features the stock caught my eye first. Browning has gone for a carbon fibre material they call the “second generation” - it’s a carbon weave that covers the stock 360 degrees and helps add superior strength and durability.

 

The stock also has a noise dampening internal filler that doesn’t produce that tinny sound some light-weight carbon stocks do when they’re knocked against a branch in the bush. 

 

“Out of the box this rifle has a ton of features, not only giving it the custom look, but also adding functionality...”

 

The hand and palm swell areas are a rubber composite that’s nice to hold and offers a good grip. To finish off there’s a Browning Inflex recoil pad to soften the blow from the magnum calibres on offer. 

 

Next comes the bolt that now sports spiral fluting along the shaft to help save weight, along with small flutes to the bolt knob. Bolt-wise Browning has gone for the 3-lug system with M16 style extraction that works flawlessly even when you’re running top-end loads.

 

Browning has opted for a 60-degree bolt lift instead of the more usual 90-degrees to provide a shorter bolt lift. Functionality is improved by using an overall longer length bolt handle. 

 

Fluting on the bolt handle and bolt reduces weight while increasing the aesthetic appeal.

 

Browning’s two-position tang safety sits in line with the bolt race and gives easy access with smooth on and off control. There is a built-in indicating button at the top of the bolt that can be pushed down with the safety on and allows you to work the bolt to unload without disengaging the safety.

 

Overall I really like this design and believe it’s a winning feature compared to the more common wing-type designs. 

 

Browning’s “Feather" trigger is nice and smooth but the break test showed it was set to just over 3.5lb which was a bit heavy for my liking. With some small adjustments it was brought down to just on 3lb. Barrel-wise the X-Bolt Pro runs a 26” sporter contour with shallow flutes featuring a new proprietary lapping process.

 

The fluted bolt revealed; the magazine holds 3 rounds and is constructed from polymer plastic..

 

Browning believes this will stop fouling of the bore and require very minimal break-in, if any, from the shelf. Another feature is a cut thread to allow the radial type muzzle brake to be fitted for those long strings of shots or range work. If you are stalking, a flush finish thread protector can be fitted. 

 

Other touches are the tough polymer-material rotary magazine that holds three magnum calibre cartridges or four non-magnums. The mag fits flush with the carbon stock. Glass bedding, and drilled pillar mounts, along with a free-floated barrel all help improve accuracy down range.

 

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Burnt Bronze Cerakote covers the stainless steel surfaces for durability and gives this rifle both a unique look and finish.


KITE KSP HD2 2.5-15X56

The scope provided for this review was a Kite 2.5-15x56 and on first impressions it was a clean looking unit with all the features that matter without going over the top. Kite scopes are manufactured in Japan but the final quality control steps are taken via their Belgian headquarters where they have been producing optics since 1992.

 

With a 2.5-15x magnification range it fits into the right zone for hunting in New Zealand where shots can be taken from close up to much further away, depending on where you are. 

 

Kite has set the eye relief at 98mm which is plenty for avoiding eyebrow contact on steep angled shots or dealing with magnum calibres with no muzzle brake fitted. Windage and elevation turrets are capped with adjustable turrets underneath. The adjustments are fine and sometimes felt a bit cheap but they did adjust the ¼” that they were set for.

 

On the range with the Browning X-Bolt Pro and Kite KSP HD2 2.5-15X56 combo.

 

This was the only area I could fault the scope in, and feel that it could do with some improving. No parallax adjustment is provided with this model but the housing is filled with a CR 2032 coin battery that powers an 11-level illuminated red dot, which is well defined even in sunny conditions. 

 

The illuminated dot can develop a halo around it but this is easily fixed by adjusting its brightness down. Kite glass is clear with good contrast and colour, along with flatness of field through the magnification ranges, and with decent low light ability helped by the big 56mm objective lens.

 

Kite has also added the HBR reticle where at full magnification the hash tags can be used to estimate distances. You can compare the size of the target against the hash tags from 100 metres to 500 metres.

 

I feel there is room for error here so if you’re going to shoot long range with this scope the dial system matched to a drop chart is the way to go. Overall weight comes in at 687grams or 24.2oz which is midrange for a scope of this size. The unit has a matt finish and of course, a lifetime warranty. 

 

RANGE & FIELD

After doing extensive load development for my own custom .28 Nosler over the last couple of years I felt I had a good base of info to start with. NZ Ammunition Co. supplied me with 165 grain Sierra GameChangers along with 150gr long-range Accubonds to get the handloading underway.

 

Powders that I found work the best are Reloder 33 and the ever-reliable ADI 2225, coupled with Federal premium primers and Nosler brass. 

 

A selection of quality reloading components.

 

My loads varied in seating depth from 15-40 thou, but even the longest of them fitted into the magazine which can sometimes be the hardest part when you’re building up a custom load.

 

Working with the 150gr Accubonds gave me an average group size of 1”, but straight out of the box the Sierras shot better than 3/4” with a couple of groups of just 12mm (1/2”) and smaller which was very impressive out of this rifle. 

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Load development with the .28 Nosler provided great results. The Browning X-Bolt Pro can shoot.

 

These loads were fair humming at 3170fps, giving them very flat shooting, long-range capabilities. I have found these Sierras, with a weight of 165 grains and BC .610, to be very accurate along with being very good on game. This package was capable of hitting the gong at 550 yards and a couple of mates had no trouble either ringing the steel at this range. 

 

This rifle performed very well, loading and extracting without any fuss and the very smooth bolt race made it an easy operation. A call from a mate who was having trouble with goats in his pine trees was the perfect opportunity to take the X-Bolt Pro with its Sierra loads for a walk to see if we could knock the population back.

 

“These loads were fair humming at 3170fps, giving them very flat shooting, long-range capabilities. I have found these Sierras, with a weight of 165 grains and BC .610, to be very accurate...”

 

That afternoon we took over a dozen goats at ranges from 100-400 yards where the rifle/load package worked very well. The projectiles’ speed did whip them straight through some of the smaller goats but they were devastating on the bigger billies. 

 

The lads also picked up a solid boar with the dogs.

 

While making our way back out we came across boar marks leading from the pines to the native edge so we rushed home and got a couple of handy dogs. Long story short - we nailed a 140lb boar that finished off what was a cracker day!

 

Overall the X-Bolt Pro performed as we’d hoped and was pretty well-balanced to carry, although at just over 9lbs, a bit on the heavy side as a rifle/scope package. 

 

CONCLUSION

Browning has packed the X-Bolt Pro full of the features you’d expect in a custom-built rifle. It’s a big upgrade to their original X-Bolt which makes the extra expenditure worth it. This rifle shot extremely well with excellent accuracy. As a factory package Browning has the recipe right.

 

With the market packed with accessories and custom parts a lot of people go down the road of building their own rifles – yes, a lot shoot very well but there are also horror stories too, some of which I have unfortunately experienced first-hand!

 

If you’re looking for a rifle that suits NZ conditions with a ton of custom features make sure you don’t look past the Browning when you are shopping around for a semi-custom rig. Weighing in at 6lb 10oz bare this rifle is an ideal platform for a light-weight long range scope. As tested the total package came in at just over 9.1lb.

 

Hayden

 

Browning X-Bolt Pro
Action Length Long Action
Calibre  .28 Nosler
Barrel Length  26”
Overall Length  46 3/4”
Length of Pull  13 5/8”
Drop at Comb  11/16”
Drop at Heel  1/2”
Weight  6 lbs 10 oz
Magazine Capacity  3
Twist Rate  9”
Barrel Finish Burnt Bronze Cerakote
Stock Finish  Burnt Bronze Cerakote
Barrel Material  Stainless
Receiver Material  Stainless
Barrel Contour  Sporter
Stock Material  Carbon Fiber
Recoil Pad  Inflex 1
Pistol Grip Cap  None
Checkering  Textured Grip Panels
Sling Swivel Studs  Cerakote

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