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Testfire: Winchester XPR Cerakote .223 Remington

By Nik Maxwell

media-publication/354/Winchester-XPR-223-Cerakote.jpg

Winchester XPR .223 Cerakote + Scope + Suppressor

  • 4/5

Rain, snow, sleet or mud - you name it and the XPR can handle it.


I first reviewed a Winchester XPR way back in issue #164 of NZG&H. That particular gun was chambered in .243 Win, and throughout my time with that rifle I carried it around the hills with trips to the Boyd Hut in the Kawekas and a red deer mission in the Kaimais, as well as the usual range time.

 

Upon receiving the rifle, this review was shaping up to be much the same. I planned on hitting the range straight away and then get out chasing the local fallow around the Te Puke hills.

 

However, it was not to be. Our country faced unprecedented circumstances as it went into a 4-week total lock down in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, with all that going on, the hunting and shooting was a no-go for the time being.

 

For hunters and shooters this was a heavy blow as it essentially cancelled out both the roar period and the duck season opening morning, two of the biggest calendar events for New Zealand hunters. However, as soon as we went into Level 2, I (and everyone else!) were right into it, albeit for me on a different tack.

 

OVERVIEW

The Winchester XPR is a standard bolt action rifle marketed towards the price conscious hunter and/or shooter. There are few differences between this model and the one I reviewed prior. The only real exception being the Cerakote finish on this review model.

 

Cerakote is a chemically applied surface coating that provides exceptional durability qualities. I had it applied to my older model Sako M591 and not only did it enhance the visual appeal, it also guarded it from any kind of surface rust. Something the ol’ Sako suffered from regularly.

  

Action, trigger & safety: Coated with Nickel Teflon, the XPR bolt glides smoothly throughout the cycling operation. Couple that with a shot 60° throw and you have a pretty slick bolt.

 

It features a strong 3-lug setup with a robust case extraction claw and ejector. The claw worked flawlessly and rightly so; it is most likely engineered to handle the bigger calibres on offer in the XPR. Removing the bolt is achieved by pressing the large metal thumb button lever positioned on the left hand side of the receiver.

 

The bolt shroud is plastic but does not feel or look tacky and its matte finish compliments the Cerakote look. As mentioned, cycling the bolt is smooth and picking up the cases from the magazine was effortless. I will give it to Winchester, the cycling and feeding of rounds was very good. I put through just over 100+ shots and everything ran great.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The XPR bolt (right) compared next to a Sako A1 Hunter bolt chambered in .222 Remington; the receiver features a large ejection port; Winchester’s XPR trigger is fully adjustable; the XPR two-position safety and bolt tab that allows unloading of the rifle with the safety on.

 

The bolt on an XPR is fairly big, in fact it is unnecessarily big for something chambered in .223. However, the reason for this is simple. It is all about keeping production costs down. A large diameter bolt allows the manufacturer to craft everything from the larger calibres right down to the .22 calibre chamberings, all they need to do is change the case head specs during the manufacturing process, simple.

 

Labelled the M.O.A. Trigger System, the trigger breaks cleanly at 3.75lbs, however, there is a small amount of take-up before you touch off. Winchester stipulate that there is zero take-up but that was not the case with my review model.

 

While trigger creep was not apparent, likewise any discernible over travel, what I did find was that the trigger would slightly shift to the right when I began to squeeze it. On closer inspection, there looked to be too much play between the trigger, the trigger housing and the pin holding it together.

 

The two-position slide safety is positioned just to the right of the bolt shroud and is easy to operate. There is a red coloured cocking indicator in the rear of the bolt. Just forward of the safety is another small push button that allows the user to cycle the bolt with the safety on.

 

Barrel & suppressor: The button rifled barrel is manufactured from chromoly and is secured to the receiver via a barrel nut. Winchester opted to use a barrel nut as it allows for more precision when setting the headspace - where the cartridge case head meets the bolt face.

 

Our review rifle came with a STEALTH Max 40 suppressor. STEALTH suppressors are constructed from aircraft grade aluminium and feature a stainless-steel core.

--- Article continues below ---

 

Stock & magazine: The matte black coloured stock is constructed from a hard-wearing composite with textured panels on both the fore-end and pistol grip sections. The butt section is hollow and does echo slightly with a knock. A thick rubber butt pad reduces felt recoil.

 

Sling swivel studs are fitted and there are some contouring lines throughout that add to the overall aesthetic appeal and ergonomics.

 

The detachable plastic magazine holds 5 rounds of .223. Cartridges are single stacked vertically, and thumbing rounds into the mag was easy. The mag release button is located in front of the mag and pressing that pops it right into your hand. Both the trigger guard and floor plate are made from polymer.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: A thick and soft rubber butt pad reduces felt recoil; the magazine has a 5-round capacity; the XPR’s steel recoil lug is integrated into the stock.

 

The action is not bedded and there is a large steel recoil lug positioned just forward of the magazine well. Two large hex head bolts secure the action to the stock.

 

Recoil is tamed with a big ol’ fat rubber butt pad. While I didn’t experience much recoil shooting the .223, I would expect this recoil pad to come into its own on the larger calibres.

 

ON THE RANGE:

For testing purposes I used three brands of ammunition; some locally brewed Belmont 55gr loaded with generic Hornady Soft Point pills, Nosler SSA 63gr Soft Point ammo (Thanks to NZ Ammunition Co and Belmont Ammunition for supply of the ammo!) as well as some Federal Fusion 62gr Soft Pointed rounds. 

 

I fitted my trusty Vortex DiamondBack HP 3-12x42 BDC scope to the XPR. This scope has done some miles and is a proven workhorse, they are well priced too.

 

Initial zeroing and grouping with the Belmont 55gr ammunition, a great result.

 

Being a brand-new rifle, some initial rounds down range seemed required but pretty much out of the box, groups were hovering around sub MOA @100m, mint!

 

The Winchester preferred the heavier 63gr projectiles in the SSA ammo but not by much. The Belmont ammunition regularly achieved good groups provided I did my part.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: SSA (by Nosler) 63gr Soft Point; Federal Fusion 62gr Soft Point and Belmont 55gr Hornady Soft Point ammunition; 100m groupings with the SSA ammo on a wet and windy day at the range.

 

It is important to note the price of the Belmont ammunition. At $38.00 for a 50-round box, this is excellent value for money. The 55gr soft point is suitable for both small and medium sized game and at that price, you can peel through the ammo without too much guilt!

 

With the XPR ready to go and having not been the hill for weeks, I was satisfied with the range testing and moved to get out for some rabbit control.

 

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Note: I ended up putting over 100 rounds of factory ammo through the XPR. The rifle will shoot sub MOA @100m with little effort. Had there been more time available, it would have been interesting to test the accuracy potential with some premium ammunition and dedicated load development.

 

ON THE HILL

Due to the lockdown, I had limited availability to get out for any deer hunting. However, the rabbit numbers had increased over the summer period on the farm I hunt on and the suppressed XPR would be ideal for the area in which the main population of rabbits resided.

 

Typically, the bulk of the rabbits were living in the horse paddocks at the front of the property where putting pressure on them required minimal disturbance to the horses. It is important to knock the rabbit numbers back as their warrens have the potential to injure the horse’s legs as they move around the paddocks.

 

“The rabbit numbers had increased over the summer period on the farm I hunt on and the suppressed XPR would be ideal for the area in which the main population of rabbits resided.”

 

Over the years I have used .22s, 17HMRs and even a .30 Cal air rifle to control the critters. Apart from the slug gun, both the .22 and the .17 did the job adequately but it generally meant getting in a little closer to the stock than I was ‘comfortable’ with.

 

With the .223 chambered and suppressed XPR, the plan was to sit back at around the 150m mark and snipe from distance. Fortunately, there is an excellent vantage point that overlooks where the rabbits. From this position, I could shoot with authority while keeping the disturbance to a minimum.

 

Another successful evening performing some rabbit population control.

 

It worked out well. Over the course of a few evenings, I managed to clean up numerous rabbits. I even smacked over a cheeky magpie, although I actually missed with the first shot. Magpies can be difficult to shoot as they will often stop and start when walking along the ground.

 

My first attempt, at around 100m, just missed as the bird jumped the shot. It flew off and landed further away, about 150m. The next shot hit right on the mark; this magpie clearly unfamiliar with the ballistic advantages of a centrefire rifle!

 

CONCLUSION

The XPR is positioned alongside other common rifle builds such as the Tikka T3X, Ruger American, Remington 700, Sauer 100 and Howa 1500 etc, all of which are competitively priced and deliver consistent accuracy and performance.

 

Having spent quite a bit of time hunting and shooting with a couple of these XPR Winchesters, I would happily recommend this rifle to anyone in the market for a well built and dependable gun which won't break the bank!

 

The XPR is a decent rifle for the price, and with the right ammunition, is easily capable of shooting consistent sub MOA @100m groups, straight-out-of-the box, all day long.

 

Winchester XPR Cerakote rifles are imported and distributed by locally owned and operated Cameron Outdoors and are offered as a full package deal. Check out the Where to Buy product links located above and below this article!

 

Nik

 

Winchester XPR Cerakote .223 Remington
Action Length:  Short Action
Calibre:  .223 Remington
Barrel Length:  22"
Overall Length:  42"
Length of Pull:  13 3/4"
Drop at Comb:  1/2"
Drop at Heel:  3/4"
Weight:  6 lbs 12 oz
Magazine Capacity:  5
Twist Rate:  8"
Barrel Contour:  Sporter
Magazine Type:  Detachable
Drilled and Tapped for Scope:  Yes
Importer: Cameron Outdoors

media-publication/354/Winchester-XPR-223-Cerakote.jpg

Winchester XPR .223 Cerakote + Scope + Suppressor

  • 4/5

Rain, snow, sleet or mud - you name it and the XPR can handle it.

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