May 16, 2018
Had I just heard what I thought I did? I was sitting on a couch in the basement of Castle Valley Lodge in Emery, Utah, with three other outdoor writers while the team from Winchester was giving us a breakdown of the new firearm products. The SX4 semiauto shotgun was the biggest news item, but the XPR bolt-action rifle family—which was introduced in 2015—was continuing to grow. Specifically, the company was launching a brand-new chassis version of the rifle that was designed for the increasing number of long-range shooting enthusiasts.
Known as the XPC, this new rifle utilized the XPR push-feed action and mated it with a lightweight chassis and heavy barrel. That wasn't what made me pause mid-sentence while I was taking notes, though. Here is the phrase that I circled three times and underlined twice:
"Done about all they can with the Model 70...XPR is the future."
Please pause before writing any profanity-laden emails or letters to Winchester regarding the brand's shameful disregard for the venerable Model 70. The Rifleman's Rifle isn't going anywhere, but the XPR—Winchester's new budget gun—is the rifle line that will receive the most expansions and upgrades in the future.
The Model 70 is available in a wide range of variants for everything from coyote hunting to dangerous game safaris. The XPR, however, represents an economical, accurate rifle that was born in the modern machining era. They're less expensive to build than the Model 70, but they shoot very, very well.
While the Model 70 will maintain its position as Winchester's flagship turnbolt, the XPR line will continue to grow at a rapid rate. Like so many modern bolt-action rifles, the XPR (and, by extension, the XPC) utilize a full-diameter bolt—a fat bolt, if you prefer. Bolt bodies that are the same diameter as their locking lugs are less expensive to machine than bolts that are smaller in diameter than the lugs (such as the Model 70).
And with today's technology, manufacturers like Winchester can produce bolts and tubular receivers with extremely tight tolerances, and there's no need to machine raceways into the receiver. Plus, the three-lug design requires a shorter, 60-degree bolt lift than two-lug designs.
The XPC has a push-feed design with a short extractor and plunger-type ejector. The bolt body itself is made from through-hardened chromoly steel bar stock, and it is then nickel Teflon coated for a smooth bolt stroke and added protection against corrosion.
Unlike the XPR, the XPC rifle comes with a fluted bolt. Another feature that separates the two is the design of the bolt handle. The XPC has a two-piece bolt handle and an oversized bolt knob that's much larger than the XPR's. The XPC also features a through-hardened chromoly receiver with a durable black Permacote finish set in a lightweight aluminum chassis.
A small red cocking indicator is just visible beneath the enclosed bolt shroud, and unlike with some competing rifles, the ejection port is wide enough to allow easy access when single-loading. That's a big plus for a lot of shooters.
Die-hard Winchester purists will be happy to know the XPC comes with the same M.O.A. trigger system found in modern Model 70 rifles. The components of the XPC's M.O.A. trigger are made from hardened carbon steel, and like the bolt, the sear and actuator are treated with a nickel Teflon coating for reduced friction and wear.
The design uses a pivoting lever, and the trigger travels half the distance of the actuator so there's little take-up or creep. It's a simple, highly effective design that's safe and simple to adjust for overtravel and pull weight. Adjustment screws are located on the front of the trigger housing. The overtravel adjustment screw is located on top with the weight adjustment screw positioned just below it.
The rifle I tested came set at exactly three pounds, and when Winchester promises no creep or take-up, the company means it. The M.O.A. system is light and crisp. Incidentally, after I completed range testing the XPC, I sighted-in an XPR in .300 WSM for an upcoming Montana hunt. The trigger pull on that rifle was exactly three pounds as well, so there seems to be a high level of consistency among XPR/XPC guns leaving the factory.
If you're a Winchester purist you may not, however, be so pleased with the XPC's safety design. It functions well—the safety retracts the trigger away from the actuator—but it's a significant departure from the three-position wing design on the Model 70.
Here's a sliding two-position, bolt-locking safety on the XPC's receiver, and just in front of it is a button that allows you to cycle the action with the safety engaged. It's an intuitive system—easy to learn, safe and convenient since the safety and the release lie so close to one another.
The XPC rifle I tested in .308 Win. came with a 20-inch button-rifled chromoly steel barrel (the 6.5 Creedmoor and .243 versions come with a 24-inch pipe) with 5/8x24 threads for mounting muzzle devices as well as a target crown. The barrel is mated to the receiver using a barrel nut for tight headspacing.
Designed specifically as a long-range hunting and target rifle, the XPC drops the polymer stock found on its XPR kin in favor of a fully machined, Cerakoted alloy chassis frame with M-Lok attachments. Also included is a Magpul MOE-K grip with a steep vertical angle for comfortable shooting in the prone position and a Magpul PRS Gen3 stock mounted on an A2 buffer tube.
The PRS (Precision Rifle/Sniper) stock allows the shooter to adjust for length of pull and comb height using aluminum detent knobs, and the rear buttpad is adjustable for cant and height. Rounding out the stock are limited-rotation QD attachments and M-Lok slots for mounting a monopod. The XPC's 20 m.o.a. top rail makes mounting large-objective scopes simple—and of course furnishing plenty of elevation—and the rifle is fed via a Magpul AICS detachable 10-round box magazine.
"The XPR gave us a platform to expand beyond the traditional 'hunting' rifle that Winchester is well known for," says Rafe Nielsen, Winchester's marketing communications manager. "So with the addition of the XPC, as a chassis model of the XPR, we've been able to expand into the precision, long-range and customizable-rifle market. Whether it's for hunting or for target shooting, the XPC fits a market segment that has been virtually untouched by Winchester in the past."
Indeed. But how does it shoot? Unlike with most rifle tests, I had a chance to experiment with the XPC in two different parts of the country and under very different circumstances. The first test took place in my home state of Ohio at my local rifle club. On a cloudless summer afternoon, I slid the XPC .308 into a rest and adjusted the focus on the Leupold VX-6 3-18x44 scope it wore until the lines on the target were crisp.
My first impressions were of a well-constructed and purpose-built rifle. The fat bolt design and nickel Teflon coating produced a noticeably smoother bolt stroke than some competing rifles, and the oversized bolt knob and near vertical grip were welcome additions.
The AICS magazine fit securely into the rifle and the extended magazine release—which is sandwiched between the front of the trigger guard and the magazine itself—was intuitive and easy to operate.
There were no issues with feeding, extraction or ejection throughout the hundred-plus rounds of the test, and the M.O.A. trigger was superbly light and crisp. The smallest groups turned in my first day were just at 0.8 inch and were produced with the Barnes OTM. The Federal Edge TLR fodder was close behind and produced one sub-m.o.a. group with an average that was just over an inch at 100 yards. The Super-X Subsonic ammo averaged right at 1.4 inches, but its low report and mild recoil were a refreshing break from the faster stuff (see sidebar).
My second opportunity to put the XPC through its paces came several thousand miles away at Castle Valley Outdoors in Utah. Castle Valley is best known as a bird hunting destination, but manager Jim Fauver has set up an impressive long-range course just outside the back door of the main lodge that offers a chance to shoot targets from 100 yards to more than a mile.
Bang A Gong
In short order, I rang the gongs at 600 and 700 yards with the XPC, as did a handful of other outdoor writers. We stretched things out a bit and engaged a steel antelope target perched high on the opposite hillside at just over 1,000 yards, and the XPC had no trouble delivering at that distance.
At 10 pounds the recoil from this rifle is manageable, and the stock design is perfect for serious shooting at extended ranges. Plus, the added versatility of the infinitely adjustable PRS Gen3 stock meant that each shooter could quickly and easily customize the rifle to fit properly. The vertical grip was comfortable and stable as well.
While the XPR family, including the XPC, will never replace the legendary Model 70, it does fill a gap that existed in Winchester's lineup—an affordable, modern turnbolt capable of superb accuracy that can be expanded upon to fill every niche of the bolt-action universe in the decades to come. As the first bolt-action design to follow in the footsteps of the Rifleman's Rifle, the XPR/XPC rifles have enormous shoes to fill, but Winchester has done its homework, and this gun is a worthy addition to the brand's growing firearms family.