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Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon 6.5 Creedmoor


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.

First Impressions

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.

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A hunter shoots the Hell's Canyon X-Bolt
The Hell’s Canyon X-Bolt is a good-looking gun, and it did well in our range testing after some honing. 

I bore sighted the rifle before I left the house, so it was straight to the paper at 100 yards when I got to my range. It only took a few adjustments to get the rifle zeroed, and I was ready to start some serious shooting in earnest. My hopes for the Hornady American Gunner were not quite met. The groups averaged around an inch, which isn’t terrible, but not good enough for me.

Some of my reloads averaged around the same. I expected that the 1:7 twist of the Browning would stabilize them well, but perhaps it just didn’t like those loads either. Adding a suppressor to the rifle improved the shot pattern. Closing most of the groups down to sub-MOA and even half-MOA accuracy with certain loads.

The four-round magazine of the Hells Canyon rifle is fantastic. Its magazine is rotary, allowing for four 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges to be preloaded in the rifle. This is more than enough for your average big game hunt. If it’s not, I’m sure Browning will sell you additional magazines. The polymer magazine feeds flawlessly, probably in part due to its slippery surface. It fits snugly into the bottom of the rifle and is easily removed by pulling on a hinged catch at the front of the magazine.

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Long-range Shooting

Shooting the Hell’s Canyon rifle out in the mountains where it would be used was my next task. With the rifle zeroed and predictable accuracy, I decided to take it out a little further. We first started with a target at 440 yards. Which is a very realistic shot in these steep canyons of the Rocky Mountains. With a spotter on the target and ballistic data estimated, I dialed the scope for my shot and put my finger on the golden trigger. Wind was coming from my left at about 4 mph. So I gave a slight favor to the wind and gave the trigger a gentle squeeze.

Browning Hell's Canyon X-Bolt and a dog in a field
The X-Bolt handled long-range shooting well, especially with a suppressor
A shooter with the Hell's Canyon X-Bolt on a hill
Even shooting from elevated positions, the gun was more than capable of claiming prey beyond 400 yards

Watching the bullet impact is a big part of shooting at these kinds of distances. The muzzle brake on the front of this rifle helps reduce the movement of the gun. This so the shooter can spot those impacts. Recoil felt behind this rifle was quite modest, and spotting shots as close as 400 yards was doable. We fired several shots at that target before we moved to another. And we managed to hit it over and over with very predictable results. Hitting a deer or elk properly at that range would be very likely with this rifle. But I wanted to see how much further we could shoot and get the same results.

Further Still

We took it further downrange just to see how it would do. Another target that would make a nice addition to the rifle’s envelope lay at 660 yards. I dialed the 3.6 MRAD indicated by my ballistic computer and again estimated the wind for the shot. Next up I picked a target that was about 10-inches wide. Which is about right for a kill zone on a deer and exactly what this rifle was built for. The 800 milliseconds it took for the bullet to get there were easily viewed through the scope as the trajectory arched into the target. As the bullet crashed hard in the middle, it created a puff of gray.

Over and over, we sent shots downrange. I imagined each one as a potential buck sneaking away, but the little Browning was just the right tool for preventing such a scenario.


Browning Hell's Canyon X-Bolt on a hill
My only complaint is the non-common threading, though I was able to find a custom adaptor for my suppressor

I was very excited to find the muzzle was threaded on this rifle. Surely I was going to mount a different brake or a suppressor for part of my testing. To my shock and horror, Browning had gone to all the work of threading the barrel. But it wasn’t threaded in one of the common thread patterns used for muzzles. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to use any of my muzzle trinkets unless I wanted to recut the threads. Luckily, I found a thread adaptor made by X Caliber Firearms designed specifically for the X-Bolt. This allowed me to install suppressors on the rifle, which made it even more fun and accurate to shoot.


After having spent some time with this rifle, I can see why so many have chosen it. Besides its good looks and construction, the X-Bolt has all the quality features that your American hunter would like. It has a great trigger, intuitive controls, an excellent magazine feeding system, a recoil-reducing muzzle brake, and more.

It doesn’t surprise me that I like this rifle. Browning has a long, distinguished history of producing great rifles. What did surprise me was how hard it was to let it go.


If you like this X-Bolt, here is another one you might like