Dominic Griffith tests the Browning A Bolt 3 rifle. This entry-level rifle comes in two calibres and impresses on nearly everything, not least the price
The Browning A Bolt 3 follows the much-respected X-Bolt and represents the firm’s entry-level rifle, intended to compete with the likes of the Ruger American or the Savage Axis. Like the Ruger, the Browning A Bolt 3 punches well above its weight in terms of finish and quality and it is currently available in .243, .308 and 30-06, with .223 on stream shortly and .270 soon available as a special.
BROWNING A BOLT 3
Finished in matt black with black composite stock, the Browning A Bolt 3 features a recessed unload button, a composite five-shot detachable box magazine, an Inflex recoil pad and factory screw cutting, all of which represent much more than you might expect from an entry-level rifle.
The action is based on a three-lug, short, 60-degree bolt lift with a small extractor and plunger-style ejector. The oversize bolt cycles smoothly enough and has an offset and flattened bolt handle designed for a natural and ergonomic grip. The clearly visible cocking indicator is located under the enclosed bolt shroud and protrudes up to about 5mm when cocked. The Browning A Bolt 3 has an unload button situated just behind the bolt handle which enables safe unload without having to set the safety to fire. The safety catch itself is of a simple forward/back tang design but it is disconcertingly noisy to switch between the two – loud enough potentially to alert your quarry and extremely difficult to do quietly however much care you take.
The composite stock is straight combed with a right-hand palm swell and textured side panels for better grip. The Browning A Bolt 3 makes much of the Inflex recoil pad which is designed to deflect and absorb recoil by as much as 25%. Certainly, with a moderated .243 this might seem unnecessary and even with an unmoderated 30-06 punching out 150-grain ammunition I struggled to measure any significant reduction over normal recoil. However, in its defence, even unmoderated, the 30-06 was as much a pleasure to shoot as the .243, giving no more than a firm and deliberate push and certainly no thump.
A recessed magazine release button situated just forward of the magazine should protect against frustrating and unintentional release when, for example, crawling through heather into the final approach when stalking on the open hill.
BROWNING A BOLT 3: A NEW TRIGGER
The Browning A Bolt 3 features a new trigger designed to be crisp and creep-free. Although rather large and enclosed in plastic, the trigger really did live up to those claims but, as with all American rifles, was factory-set too strong.
I tested the Browning A Bolt 3 in both .243 and 30-06. With factory M14x1 threading I was able to use my own Hardy Gen 5 Moderators on both. The rifle comes with steel mount bases designed for Weaver-style mounts and, mounted with a Swarovski Z5 5-25×52 scope, the rifles weighed well under 9lb, making either a light option in today’s market.
On the range I shot the 30-06 with Winchester 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip but chose some Lapua 100-grain Soft Point for the .243. The A Bolt’s stock fits me well and is completely instinctive to mount and shoot. The bolt cycled smoothly and reliably with no feed or extraction issues with either calibre. Over a warm and windless morning both rifles grouped consistently at an average of just over an inch, which is quite as good as many rifles costing more than double the price. If one could just lighten the trigger a bit I have absolutely no doubt that the group could tighten further.
BROWNING A BOLT 3: HIGH QUALITY AT A LOW PRICE
There is nothing about the Browning A Bolt 3 that looks or feels cheap. In fact, it is a good-looking, well-finished, comfortable and high-performance piece of equipment that should fulfil the needs of most stalkers and deer managers whether on the open hill or in woodland. The A Bolt 3 is the product of an aggressive pricing policy by Browning in response to a very competitive market; well worth taking advantage of while you can.
Browning A Bolt 3: £508 incl VAT
Where to buy the Browning A Bolt 3: Visit www.browning.eu/map/dealer or call 01235 514550