When I first saw the Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon 6.5 Creedmoor at SHOT Show, I remember thinking to myself that many folks were going to eat it up. And as years have passed it surely has become one of the most talked about hunting rifles out there. So when I finally got a chance to check it out myself, I was eager to see if all the hype was well founded. I had already been playing with a different X-bolt model, so I was pretty familiar with it before I even opened the box. What I didn’t realize was just how deep into Hell’s Canyon I would descend.
My very first impression of the rifle was not unlike my feeling when I saw it at SHOT Show, it was just a plain handsome rifle. A bronze colored Cerakote job and similar A-TACS camo pattern clearly sets this rifle apart on the rifle rack. The fluted barrel and it’s inconspicuous muzzle brake flow seamlessly into the receiver, all of which is set nicely into the camouflaged composite stock. A nice soft recoil pad at the back was a welcome feature, as was the detachable box magazine. And like other X-bolts I’ve shot, it was just smooth. The sixty-degree bolt design makes shorter and faster operation, and the gold-plated trigger breaks as clean as most any hunting rifle I’ve ever pulled from a shelf. The X Bolt action features a bolt release button to unlock the bolt when the safety is on, a very cunning and intuitive design. If this rifle shot as good as it looked, I was going be hard pressed to let go of it.
I wanted to get straight to the range with this rifle, but first I had to get a scope mounted. Selecting a one-piece scope base that uses eight screws to hold it down to the top of the receiver. I found this to be a superior mounting system than the traditional four screws that most manufacturers use to mount scope bases.
I tried a couple different mounting systems and riflescopes. First a Nikon 4-16 scope which worked great, but was too high. I ended up with the system that seemed to work the best, a Crimson Trace 3-12 mounted in Warne rings and bases.
I had a small amount of Hornady American Gunner 6.5CM ammo that I could test in the rifle, but I wanted to try more than one thing just in case the rifle didn’t care for it. So I sat at my loading bench to crank out another couple options. Hoping at least one of them would provide me with the exceptional accuracy I was hoping for. After that, I installed a Harris bipod so I could get this rifle into the field and shooting.