The A-Bolt, introduced in 1984, has been largely supplanted by the X-Bolt, but with everyone now making "value" rifles, Browning introduced the A-Bolt 3 (AB3) a couple of years ago. It was first available only with a synthetic stock, but last year the company brought out a wood-stocked Hunter version chambered in nine cartridges from .243 Win. to .300 Win. Mag. At a penny under $670, this rifle is going to appeal to many.
The finish is smooth as silk and evenly applied. There is more than ample checkering, with two panels on the fore-end and one on each side of the pistol grip. Executed in a point pattern, the diamonds are nicely pointed; there is a border around each panel; and for right-handed shooters there's a comfy Wundhammer swell on the pistol grip. Neither the fore-end nor the pistol grip features a cap. Browning's Inflex recoil pad comes standard on all calibers.
It has clean, classic lines, and while the wood is select grade, I would put it slightly above that level. In addition to my test gun, I looked at nine samples in one of the major sporting retailers in my area, and there was not a bad piece of wood in the bunch. Sure, you will find a few pin knots, but the grain runs true.
Stock inletting is well executed, and you will find glass bedding forward of the magazine in two places, each roughly an inch square. The rear stock screw is also bedded to help stabilize the action.
Removing the twin stock screws allows the action to be removed from the stock — but with a twist. The trigger guard is held in the gun with the rear stock screw, but use caution when removing it. While the rear screw holds it in place, at the rear of the trigger guard is a small nub that fits into a recess within the stock.
Remove the guard by lifting the front of it up slightly and moving it forward.
Most AB3 models come with a 22-inch barrel. Exceptions would be the 23-inch barrel on the .270 WSM and .300 WSM; the 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag. rate a 26-inch tube.
No sights are included, but the receiver is drilled and tapped. However, be aware that previous A-Bolt mounts will not fit on this gun. I used Browning's new AB3 Integrated Scope Mounting System, which matched both the gun and the Bushnell 3-9x40mm scope perfectly.
Like the rest of the action, the barrel is finished in a matte blue, and it's button-rifled, tripled checked for uniformity, interior finish and straightness. Barrels are free-floated, hand chambered and finished with a target crown.
Browning kept the distinctive "A" look for the receiver. The bolt is machined from solid steel bar stock and is .878 inch in diameter. It locks up via three lugs and, as is the case with the A-Bolt and X-Bolt, features a 60-degree throw for fast, easy operation. The chrome-plated bolt has an angled knob and glides through the receiver with ease. It has a blade extractor and a plunger ejector. Bolt removal is accomplished by pushing in on the bolt release on the left side of the receiver.
The gun features a tang safety. When the gun is on Safe, pushing down on a bolt lock override button, located just behind the bolt handle, allows you to operate the bolt to load or unload the rifle.
When the gun is cocked, there is a cocking indicator located under the shroud that shows red. This is duplicated on the tang safety with a red dot showing when the safety is off. The trigger has a polymer finger lever, and while crisp it broke a little heavy at five pounds.
The detachable magazine is the trend in hunting rifles these days. It's a good way to have extra rounds in
your pocket, and depending upon your choice of cartridge, the polymer magazine will hold three, four or five cartridges. When the magazine is in place, the bolt just kisses the top of the follower, adding to the overall smoothness of the rifle's operation.
At the range with factory .243 Win. ammunition, I found the gun a pleasure to shoot once I got used to the rather heavy trigger pull. The stock fit me in all the right places, and with Browning's proprietary recoil pad, the push-back was soft.
Since my primary hunting deals with varmints — read woodchucks — this rifle with a pocketful of Hornady's Superformance 58-grain V-Max bullets could easily keep me occupied on a long, balmy summer afternoon. For larger game, both the Remington and Winchester heavier bullets would fill out deer hunting duties with aplomb.
While this AB3 only occupies only two pages in the catalog, to me sales of this particular version will be significant. It's a winner for nimrods and veterans alike.