By Jace Bauserman
Published on September 29, 2023
I was new to the predator-calling game. My buddy, Jason, was not. He was a wise veteran. The coyote was coming across the sage-sprinkled prairie on a string. Jason silenced the remote caller, and the dog kept coming. At 80 yards, he whispered, “Take him, he’s yours.” I took him all right but only hit air. Frantically, I scrambled to work the bolt on my janky .223. Then, I heard the thunder of Jason’s rifle. I looked up in time to see the song dog crumple. Jason worked the bolt flawlessly, swung the gun to his left, and hammered a second fleeing coyote. That was the first time I saw a Browning X-Bolt in action. Since that hunt, I have purchased three X-Bolt rifles and have fallen in love with their fit, feel, and rapid-cycling.
Enter The X-Bolt Mountain Pro Burnt Bronze
After 23 years of bowhunting pronghorn on the Colorado plains with OTC tags, I took a 2023 leap. I cashed in my points and drew a premium rifle unit in the Centennial State. I researched and opted for Browning’s X-Bolt Mountain Pro Burnt Bronze chambered in 6.5 PRC. I wanted speed, precision, and knock-down power. I only took one look at the X-Bolt Mountain Pro’s carbon fiber stock with accent graphics and Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish, and I was in love. A newer member of the X-Bolt Family, the Mountain Pro looks like a custom-made rifle with its specialized finish, actual carbon stock, and other features.
Let’s dive in!
Sleek and slim, the carbon fiber stock helps the rifle achieve its uber-light 6-pound 2-ounce weight. The stock has noise-dampening foam inside, and the butt-end features Browning’s Inflex II Recoil Pad. The Inflex II Recoil Pad is comfortable and Browning engineers crafted the pad to direct at-the-shot recoil down and away from the shooter’s cheek. I have triggered many rifles fitted with Browning’s Inflex Recoil Pad, allowing me to stay in my scope, hold my cheek weld, and deliver accurate follow-up shots. The fore-end of the one-piece stock is thin-rounded and showcases a raised grid pattern that promotes fit and feel. The front of the fore-end features a Picatinny accessory rail, which is excellent for mounting a bipod.
Action, Receiver, & Barrel
Pure butter, the X-Bolt Mountain Pro action is a dream to operate. The spiral-fluted bolt, like the rest of the barreled action, is in Burnt Bronze Cerakote that adds protection from the elements and ups concealment. The short 60-degree bolt lift will make you smile whenever you manipulate it. There isn’t a better bolt-lift out there. The head of the bolt drops toward the top of the trigger guard and sits in the middle of the guard. This makes for intuitive cycling and the speed of the throw means lightning-quick reloading. The bolt release button is on the left side of the receiver, and the slide-forward-to-fire safety sits in the center of the stock’s throat behind the bolt. Another notable feature that increases overall safety is the Bolt Unlock Button. This button works in concert with the top-tang safety and allows the bolt to be opened with the safety in the on-safe position during checking and unloading of the chamber.
The receiver is drilled and tapped and I had my Leupold VX-3HD 4.5-14×40 scope mounted in no time. The X-Lock mounting system uses four screws to lock down scope bases firmly. Browning built this rifle to be functional and purposeful from the ground up, and I promise the mission was a success. A 24-inch barrel in Cerakote Burnt Bronze is free-floated, ensuring maximum stability and insane accuracy. Browning uses a proprietary lapping process to boost accuracy and make cleaning the bore ultra-easy. At the muzzle end is Browning’s Sporter Recoil Hawg muzzle brake. Noted by Browning to reduce felt recoil up to 76 percent, this brake plus the Inflex II Recoil Pad minimizes shock to the shoulder.
Wait, There’s More
I applaud Browning’s Feather Trigger and the sizeable trigger guard. The trigger piece is slim, perfectly angled, and sits toward the back of the trigger guard, allowing plenty of room to the front of the guard. The trigger screw is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds, but I found the set-from-the-factory 3 1/2-4-pound pull to be perfect for my liking. The magazine is detachable, and its function is smooth. It is made from lightweight polymer, and the feeds cartridges from the center where they can be sent straight into the chamber by the bolt. The magazine release is in front of the magazine and a simple press is all that is required to drop it from the rifle.
On The Range
After a quick bore sight, I went to work. This rifle shoots like a custom build, and after three shots at 200 yards and a quick barrel scrub, I stacked a three-shot group that I could cover with a medicine bottle cap. These shots were from BOG’s DeathGrip Infinite Carbon Fiber tripod, not from a bench. I shot 22 rounds over two days from distances between 200 and 650 yards, and the rifle’s accuracy never wavered. I love its in-hand feel; the rifle sits like a well-trained retriever when the trigger breaks. Shoulder shock was minimal, and my cheek stayed glued to the carbon fiber stock. This is the type of lightweight, travels-well-with-the-hunter rifle that builds supreme confidence. It will perform if you can do your job and get steady on your target.
In The Field
Though my pronghorn opener is still weeks away, I recently got the X-Bolt Mountain Pro into the field. In my neck of Colorado, elk sightings are few and far between. I’m several hours from the mountains, but occasionally, we get a bull or two to wander through Cedar Canyon country. Colorado labels this tag as a List C tag, meaning they are unlimited in number and that a hunter can possess the List C tag and still have their primary List A tag. I always buy my List C Plains Elk Tag every year, but only twice have I filled it.
It was September 13, and monsoon rains had swept through our area. This is one of the best times to hit the cedar and piñon pine hills and look for fresh tracks. An hour into my trek, I thought I heard a cow elk mew. I stopped, ducked in front of a giant cedar for some back cover, set my Mountain Pro in the BOG DeathGrip, and called back. A group of cows emerged 325 yards away. The wind was fickle, and after a minute of milling around looking for the lone lady that had wandered in, they caught my human stink and started trotting across an opening. I followed them in my scope and then swung back to the opening. A lone four-point bull was standing right where the cows had come out. The bull broke into a run to catch the fleeing herd. I stopped the bull with a quick call, got a range, dialed my scope to 350 yards, and sent a round downrange. The shot was perfect — it needed to be. In this hunter’s opinion, a 6.5 PRC 130-grain bullet is a tad light for elk. Still, I felt comfortable with my hold, and the round put the bull right down.
As I noted in this article, this type of rifle fills a hunter with confidence. Its accuracy reigns supreme, and its lightweight nature makes it a dream to carry and handle. It shoots well off-hand, prone, kneeling, etc. The X-Bolt Mountain Pro Bronze is a bolt-action win and one of the finest X-Bolt models I have ever triggered. Pronghorn beware!