Improving on perfection is difficult, but Browning was fearless in trying. Testing proves that the new-for-the-year X-Bolt 2 Speed trumps the original X-Bolt and provides the hunter with a trusted field companion that will fill the freezer and create memories that will last a lifetime.
by Jace Bauserman
I’ve been an X-Bolt lover for an extended period. Thanks to models like the X-Bolt Hunter, X-Bolt Speed LR, and X-Bolt Mountain Pro Tungsten, my freezer is typically full, and my tagging punching memories are many.
What first pulled me in the X-Bolt direction was the short 60-degree bolt lift. The design ensures rapid cycling, and my hand has never contacted the scope during the reload process. A locking lug trio increases strength, and the solid steel build boosts longevity.
Of course, it wasn’t only the bolt that created my X-Bolt love affair. My first-ever X-Bolt, the X-Bolt Hunter, chambered in 22-250 Remington, provided the perfect blend of length, balance, and control. The rifle threw down like a dream, and whether on sticks with my crosshairs settled on a coming-to-the-call coyote or offhand sending lead after fleeing feral hogs, the 22-inch barrel, 6.6-pound rifle proved uber-accurate.
A New Sheriff In Town
In early September of 2023, Browning’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Rafe Nielsen, informed me that Browning was adding a new member to the X-Bolt line.
I wasn’t surprised. Browning typically grows its X-Bolt collection every year. Whether it be a new caliber offered in a current X-Bolt make, a SHOT Show Special Edition, or a new technology, Browning’s X-Bolt line continues to grow.
I was surprised, however, when Nielsen told me that in 2024, Browning would launch an all-new X-Bolt 2. The quick 411 from Nielsen was that the new-for-2024 builds showcased a reconfigured receiver with an increased bolt guidance surface area to ensure even smoother operation. Also new was a redesigned bolt with a unique, ergonomic hand shape.
There were other new features, too, like the Vari-Tech stock with adjustable length of pull, comb, and interchangeable grip modules. Nielsen also told me I would enjoy the over-molded grip surfaces on the comb, grip, and under the forearm.
Time For A Change
I was smack in the middle of an X-Bolt kind of fall — two public land DIY bulls down with one tag to go. My X-Bolt Speed LR chambered in 7MM PRC was driving tacks out to 800-plus yards, and frankly, I wasn’t too excited about swapping out rifles for my last elk hunt in 2023. That was, until I unboxed the rifle, gave it a quick once over, and started my field test. With each step in the testing process, my “want” to take the rifle afield grew.
The X-Bolt 2 Speed Ovix was an out-of-box stunner. I love how the Ovix camo pattern on the stock blends seamlessly with the Smoked Bronze Cerakote finish on the barrel and most metal parts. Cerakote looks sweet, and the finish better protects the metal parts from the elements better than traditional bluing.
Chambered in 300 PRC, a caliber I wanted to test, I also took notice of the blind holes in the rifle’s forearm for adding rails and accessories. I was worried about the bolt redesign. I’m in the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. Because the throw of the bolt is a favorite X-Bolt feature of mine, I wanted the new, more ergonomic bolt to be good.
With the removable magazine out and the chamber clear, I closed my eyes, pulled the trigger, and cycled the bolt. Then, I did it again, and again, and again. The lift is still fast and ultra-smooth, and the improved ergonomics and styling of the bolt were evident.
One of my favorite X-Bolt Speed LR (Long Range) features is the adjustable comb height. Use an Allen wrench to remove a pair of set screws, and the comb height is adjustable to five positions.
I love an adjustable comb. When I get my cheek into my stock, I want a repeatable position. I want a position that promises exact eye-to-scope alignment. You’ll never be as accurate of a rifle shooter as possible if you have to stretch or scrunch your neck to get into your scope.
The X-Bolt 2 Speed, like the Speed LR, is comb-height adjustable. The process, though, is different. To make a comb-height adjustment on the X-Bolt 2, insert an Allen wrench through the recoil pad. The process isn’t overly complex but does take some time and tinkering. Comb height is adjustable via six going-up positions.
The length of the pull is also adjustable. The stock ships at a Browning standard of 13 5/8 inches but adjusts down to 13 1/8 inches and up to 14 1/8 inches with the standard 1 1/4-inch recoil pad. Adjustments are made by adding or subtracting internal spacers. Browning also offers a 1-inch recoil pad for shooters who want an even shorter LOP.
On The Range
Bolt removal for a 50-yard bore sight is elementary. After peering down the barrel and lining the bore up with the center of the on-the-target 2-inch orange dot, I locked the gun vise in place. Next, I walked the crosshairs to the dot and sent a round downrange.
The 50-yard shot was on paper, and after a few more trigger pulls, I had Hornady’s 300 PRC 212 gr ELD-X Precision Hunter impacting the target 1-1/2 inches high of the bullseye at 100 yards.
I appreciated the clean, crisp, and, most importantly, repeatable DLX trigger. The multi-lever design optimizes sear weight and trigger movement to ensure an ultra-consistent, crisp trigger brake. The trigger is adjustable down to 3 pounds.
After six shots, using Hornady’s on-the-box ballistics and a little common sense, I could turn my CDS-Dial and put three rounds inside a sliver dollar at 300 yards. It didn’t take long for this rifle to grow on me. I appreciated the removal magazine as well.
A 300 PRC round looks like a small surface-to-air missile. One would assume a round of this size holding a 212-grain ELD-X bullet would rock the shoulder. The good news is that assumption would be dead wrong.
Browning went to great lengths to ensure X-Bolt 2’s bark was much worse than its bite. The fluted, sporter contour barrel with radial muzzle brake vents gases and the recoil pad, combined with the over-molded stock comb, rob this rifle of recoil. I had zero trouble squeezing off a round, staying in my scope, quickly cycling another round, and sending it downrange.
It would make much sense to craft a rifle with a genuinely exceptional bolt if the rest of the rifle’s build didn’t complement that bolt. What would be the advantage of a 60-degree smoother-than-silk bolt throw if the rifle rocked you out of the scope and prevented a quick follow-up shot? Browning engineers think when they build, and their 2024 X-Bolt 2 Speed is a winner.
Over several days, I shot the rifle prone off a backpack, from BOG’s DeathGrip Infinite — Carbon shooting sticks, from a bench and offhand. No matter the rest style or my body’s position, recoil was minimal, and accuracy was easily achievable.
A Streamlined Shooter
On the brink of my third and final elk hunt of 2023, I didn’t have time to send my CDS Dial into Leupold and let them work their custom yardage magic. Instead, I went old-school and built a dope card beyond 800 yards. My last shot with the rifle before returning to the Colorado plains was from 826 yards.
When the trigger broke, the six-inch orange plate made a distinct ting. This made me smile. It also filled me with lots of confidence.
Toting the rifle around, up, and down the cedar-sprinkled canyon country of southeast Colorado was a joy. It carries like a dream for a long-range shooter and is easily maneuverable.
On the second morning of my plains elk hunt, my buddy Jay Waring and I were in the middle of rut fest. There was no need to call. A trio of satellite bulls and a herd bull shattered the frosty morning air every few seconds.
We trailed the symphony using the terrain until my crosshairs settled on a big-bodied 300-inch bull at 363 yards. My rest was BOG’s DeathGrip Infinite — Carbon, and after adjusting the CDS-Dial, I took a breath and squeezed.
The 212-grain bullet hammered high shoulder, exactly where I held, and the 6×6 crumbled at impact.
Later in October, my 18-year-old son Hunter took a beautiful pronghorn buck with the rifle, and after 23 years of applying, I finally drew a coveted pronghorn tag in a mountain unit. The shot at the buck we named Freak Show was 200 yards, and once again, the X-Bolt 2 Speed did its job. From the plains to the Rockies and everywhere in between, Browning has crafted an X-Bolt 2 model to meet and exceed your needs.
Whether you’re looking for a new-for-2024 hunting rifle or want to boost your X-Bolt collection, you can’t go wrong with this remarkably accurate big-game wrecker.