Browning X-Bolt 2 Pro McMillan Carbon Fiber

(The name’s a mouthful)

By Joe Ferronato 

I’m sure even Tom Brady had a beef about some aspects of his chosen profession, and while I have little to complain about, the bullshit of being an outdoor writer, or if you are old and douchey “Outdoor Journalist,” is you never get to hunt with your favorite rifle—the one given to you by your father that was passed down through generations, or the one you saved every hard earned penny to buy after college. Nope, you get whatever a manufacturer wants you to test. Occasionally the rifle is a complete garbage, but most are solid, and very rarely a new test rifle is exceptional.  

Considering I was heading into the remote Alaska bush to kill a grizz, I hoped that this “wiz bang wonder”  was of the rarity type. 

Hunting Alaska is a progression of smaller planes. Jets to start, often followed by twin engine prop jobs and ultimately ending with Cessnas, Maules, Huskies or Cubs. My blood alcohol level was critically low when I finally left the dry native community of Kotzebue and I threw my pack, rifle, and tired carcass into the cramped interior of the Cessna 180. 

The rifle was Browning’s newest iteration of their successful X Bolt line—aptly (if not uncreatively) named the X-Bolt 2, specifically the Pro McMillan Carbon Fiber. It was topped with Leupold’s VX-5 HD. Luckily every X-Bolt and Leupold I’ve owned has worked flawlessly. I was confident this combo would be the same. 

In bush planes, ounces add up to pounds, and in shitty Alaskan weather, pounds can become problems. Good thing this rifle is lightweight. The McMillan’s Game Warden stock helps with that—the Preferred Barrels carbon-fiber barrel, and Spartan Precision bipod cut even more weight.

First night in camp was calm, more waiting as you can’t hunt the day you fly. All was quiet, except one bear, that the guides said wouldn’t come into camp, came into camp. Barefoot outside the tent, I stared right at the standing, chuffing bruin at sub 40 yards. What’d I do? Hit him with ol’ “hey bear.” I said it calmly, but with authority—the type of authority you need to land the 6 still sitting at the bar at closing time. At least the bear got the point. He sauntered off, just like those days at the bar. 

I dragged the new rifle through the wet bush for a couple of days that tested its durability. It proved to hold up well only showing a little spot rust on the muzzle brake after being soaking wet for nearly the whole time. I should have brought some Ballistol wipes, but no major loss—muzzle brakes suck for hunting, but are great for hearing loss, and as effective as this one was, I was looking forward to getting home and screwing a can on anyway.

The first couple days were promising, and my buddy even punched his tag on a beautiful, old blonde sow. Though he had found success, the weather had me thinking I might not get a chance to squeeze the trigger myself. 

On the third day after spending most of it hiding out from the weather, the rain slowed, and we were glassing atop a bluff overlooking the river bottom hoping a bear would offer a stalk opportunity. Sitting there eating Mountain House with a side of white sox flies made me wish the wind and rain would pick up again to keep the tiny insects at bay. 

It didn’t. But the bears were moving, so that was at least a consolation. 

With bugs crawling in my eyes, I glassed a good bear swimming across the river and moving fast. I slung my pack on and grabbed the rifle. We slipped off the bluff to the river bottom as fast as possible, there was no time to waste; this bear was on a mission. 

Busting through the alders to the riverbank my nerves were through the roof as the possibility of having an up-close-and-personal encounter was high. Breaking out of the brush the bear was moving quickly up the river. As I planted the bipod in the sand and got comfortable, the rifle felt like an old friend. With a few mouse squeaks from the guide, the bear stopped, and I squeezed off the first shot. 

The commotion thereafter was blur. The bear roared and spun. I cycled the bolt quickly and placed another 190-grain Hornady CX into it. Both were good hits. As it started to run, one more bullet met the vitals. From start to finish, it was less than a minute and my bear was down, and a dream tag was punched. 

“Yeah, being an ‘outdoor scribbler’ is a pretty good gig” I thought as I stroked the bear’s fur, even if I never get to use my own favorite rifle. But after a few seasons with this Browning, it might just become my new favorite and one I pass down to my son someday. I just hope he picks a more honorable profession where he gets to use it…maybe he’ll play football better than I did. 

Cost: $3999 MSRP

Pros: lightweight, accurate, smooth-cycling, comes in most all popular hunting calibers of today including the PRC line. 

Cons: You might have to grab a hammer a smash the piggy bank to buy it. The brake is loud AF.

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