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Browning’s T-Bolt Speed: A straight pull and a straight shooter

By Don MacDonald

Today’s New Zealand hunter expects something a little more special when purchasing a rifle in the current climate. They cannot afford to simply buy any tool for small game or pest control with all the outlandish regulations now pressed upon us.

 

If you are going to purchase a rifle you want to be fully satisfied and know you're getting something you can enjoy hanging on to. The rifle needs to be super accurate, reliable and have stylish features, making it an asset worth fighting for. The Browning Speed in .22 WMR calibre does this in more ways than one.

 

Browning is a company well respected in New Zealand. They are producing some excellent rifles currently, with style and accuracy assured for the out of the box consumer. Their higher calibre models have been flying out the door according to Wayne Golightly from my local Gun City store in Timaru. “People are wanting the best they can afford at the moment and the Brownings are simply the top rifle for the money; customers are extremely happy with them.” 

 

Browning small calibre rifles are no exception but unlike its big brother the rimfire action is “a little out there”. The T-Bolt design is unusual at first glance but not new: Browning previously produced T-Bolt mechanisms around 1970. The straight pull was found to be fast and reliable back then and I am expecting it to be even better with today’s close tolerance machining and manufacturing.  

 

FEATURES

Right from un-boxing the rifle I was taken aback at the quality of the T-Bolt. I quickly got excited about the many features I could see even before picking the rifle up. The rifle supplied is a .22 WMR so high-country hares and wallabies beware!

 

The rifle is also available in two other popular calibres, .22LR and .17HMR. The rifle has a comfortable composite or synthetic stock finished in camo. This is a slender, lightweight, raised comb design making it an easy option for both left and right-handers and those with smaller hands. The stock is nicely finished with chequering on both the palm pad and the forearm.

 

The bolt locking lugs that give the T-Bolt its name.

 

Browning has also free-floated the barrel from the front of the chamber giving the rifle a statement of accuracy right from the factory. The recoil pad is synthetic and encompasses the spare double helix magazine, which completes the shape of the pad.

 

With the mag removed it does leave a somewhat sharp hole to put up to your shoulder if you're wearing light clothing but hey, it's only a rimfire and you do get a spare 10 shot magazine so no complaints there.

 

The Double Helix™ rotary box magazine hold 10 rounds. A spare magazine can be stored in the stock of the rifle.

 

The barrel is a 22-inch tapered sporter with flutes running along its length until the last terminal 2 inches. The muzzle is finished with an inset target crown that aids in protecting the end of the bore from accuracy-destroying knocks or bumps.

 

The barrel and the entire action including the bolt have been completed with a nice golden brown cerakoting, which really completes the ensemble of this stylish rifle.

 

“The T-Bolt design is unusual at first glance but not new: Browning previously produced T-Bolt mechanisms around 1970.”

 

The standout feature is, of course, the T-Bolt action. This is a very smooth, straight-pull design. There is no up or down to be done with this system. The bolt itself has a pivot on the bolt handle that engages the strong lateral bolt pin snugly into both the right and left sides of the receiver walls when pushed fully forward. This is incredibly smooth and picking up a round and chambering it takes minimal effort.

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Ejecting a spent case is simple. Just pull the bolt handle backwards and the twin extractors complete the job after the lateral pin moves outward and the bolt slides back. Extracting the bolt completely from the rifle is a bit fiddly; it's via a knurled catch/release on the back of the receiver under the rear of the bolt. I found this a little difficult especially with a scope fitted.

 

The trigger and safety are located in the same housing fitted to the receiver. The trigger is factory set to around the 4lb mark but is adjustable. I found it a little heavy but it broke cleanly and had a nice feel to it. Browning has finished the trigger with a gold coating that looks smart against the black trigger guard.

 

The Speed features a top tang safety and cocking indicator.

 

The safety is located on the back of the rifle and is a sliding tang-type design similar to those found on some shotguns; it is smooth and draws the trigger backwards to a set position.           

 

PERFORMANCE AND FIELD TEST

With the scope fitted it was time to test the rifle. Ammunition choice for this calibre was pretty impressive and varied. I decided to go for a 40 grain CCI round for the budget conscious and a slightly more expensive 30g V-Max round by Hornady.

 

Worthy of a mention at this point is Hornady’s “critical defence” ammunition in this calibre. This is some seriously impressive stuff loaded with 45g FTX bullets. Great for those who are targeting the larger of the smaller game animals such as wallabies, goats and maybe even the odd fallow deer that pops up now and again during a bunny shoot. These are the rounds to use, offering great penetration and expansion qualities. 

 

Don used a variety of ammunition during both the range and field testing.

 

With a target positioned at 60 yards I proceeded to fire a single shot into the box noting that recoil on this rifle was virtually non-existent. I adjusted the scope close to the centre of the shot then fired a 3 shot group that extended to 5 then 10 shots using the CCI ammunition. Hell, this thing is not bad!

 

I excitedly dropped the magazine in with the premium Hornady ammunition and after the initial 3-shot group lost it completely. I kept firing, almost willing a flyer to show up, but no, just one ragged hole from 15 shots. 

 

The Speed produced consistent one hole groups.

 

The rifle itself was as impressive as its accuracy, the straight pull T-Bolt was flawless and incredibly smooth to use. I also really liked the magazine on this rifle, it was easy to load, and compact with the helix design. It delivered rounds into the chamber efficiently without any sign of hinderance. Another standout feature I noticed was the lack of any sort of canting of the rifle due to the straight pull design.

 

With traditional bolt actions the lifting upward of the handle can inadvertently cant the rifle to the left which must be rectified before the next shot. With the T-Bolt this doesn't happen and makes for a very fast shot turnaround.
Hunting with the T-Bolt was a real pleasure even without earmuffs, I was quickly reminded how nice the .22 WMR round sounds in the hills.

 

In the hills with the Browning Speed.

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I followed my two boys Max and Ben who carried and used the rifle with ease, casually shooting rabbits as we went along. I shot a couple of rabbits myself that were sitting side by side, and after the first shot it was simply a case of flicking the bolt before a quick next shot. 

 

Max decided he wanted to get a wallaby and after a short search one presented itself by a dry creek bed around 50 yards away. The .22 WMR dropped the big guy on the spot with a perfect shot from Max. We continued on, found a small hill overlooking some good country for wallaby and settled in for a waiting session. One was soon spotted by Ben who convinced Max to have a crack at it.

 

Dons two son's Max (left) and Ben working some pest control on a local property.

 

I could not see it from where I was sitting and it wasn’t until the last few seconds when I heard Ben advising a “top of its ears hold over...” I realised it was a long shot. Before I could say anything, BOOMF! Max sent the shot away and we heard a solid thud from a hit. I noted a wallaby tumbling down the hill 150 yards away.

 

Holy Hell, who needs a .223? With pest control done we headed home with the main topic from the boys being - we really needed to purchase this rifle!           


CONCLUSION

If you’re considering a nice lightweight, stylish small calibre rifle with loads of great features this is the one. From the incredibly fast and easy mechanism to the rifle’s good looks and extreme accuracy I don’t think you will be disappointed. It was a real pleasure to use both on the range and out on the hill.

 

I don’t think there was a single thing I disliked about this rifle, other than the fiddly bolt extraction. For a .22 rimfire it is as high quality as its larger calibre brother and a great asset for small game hunting. Cameron Outdoors are importers of Browning rifles into NZ and I want to say thanks to them for sending me the T-Bolt to review.

 

“The rifle itself was as impressive as its accuracy, the straight pull T-Bolt was flawless and incredibly smooth to use.”

 

I really didn’t want to give it back and received some stern looks from the boys as I packed it up. A big thanks to Wayne at Gun City Timaru for transporting.

 

He was also very impressed with this rifle. He will be stocking this model and is happy to put a ready-to-go scope package together to give hunters an excellent rig they will not regret buying.

 

Good shooting (and voting)! 

 

Don      

 

Browning T-Bolt Speed .22 WMR
Calibre:  22 WMR
Barrel Length:  22”
Overall Length:  40 1/4”
Length of Pull:  13 1/2”
Weight (bare):  4 lbs 9 oz
Magazine Capacity:  10 (comes with 2 mags)
Twist Rate:  16”
Barrel Finish:  Burnt Bronze Cerakote
Stock Finish:  A-TACS AU
Receiver Finish:  Burnt Bronze Cerakote
Barrel Contour:  Sporter
Stock Material: Composite
Recoil Pad:  Plastic Buttplate/Mag Storage Compartment
Checkering:  Textured Grip Panels
Sling Swivel Studs:  Cerakote
Receiver Material:  Steel
Trigger Finish:  Gold Plated
Magazine Type:  Double Helix
Trigger Material:  Alloy
Trigger Guard Material:  Composite
Drilled & Tapped:  Yes
Importers:  Cameron Outdoors

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