The DIY Hunter

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Magazine Styles

X-Bolt (Top) with detachable rotary magazine.A-Bolt (Bottom) with hinged floorplate and detachable leaf spring magazine. 

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Left Side

A-Bolt (Top) X-Bolt (Bottom)The A-Bolt having a larger bolt release button.

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Bolt Lugs

A-Bolt (left) X-Bolt (Right) Both bolts having three lugs forming a "A" shape.

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Bolts

X-Bolt SA (Top) and A-Bolt SSA (Bottom)The A-Bolt bolt rotates inside a three grooved sleeve through the middle section of the bolt. Where the X-Bolt's entire front half of the bolt rotates. 

X-Bolt Safety in Fire Position

X-Bolt safety in fire position showing the bolt unlock button (at the top of the bolt handle) in the down position. 

X-Bolt Safety in Safe Position

X-Bolt safety in safe position showing the bolt unlock button (at the top of the bolt handle) in the  up position. 

A-Bolt Recoil Pad

A-Bolt's hard rubber recoil pad. 

X-Bolt Recoil Pad

X-Bolt's softer recoil absorbing, Inflex recoil pad. A great option this recoil pad system offers is the abilty to easily add length via spacers to the X-Bolt's length of pull. See: Easily Adjust the Length of Pull on a Browning X-Bolt Rifle

X-Bolt and A-Bolt 60 Degree Bolt Throw

X-Bolt (Left) and A-Bolt (Right) Showing the bolts in their top position, 60 degrees up from the bottom closed position, offering excellent bolt handle clearance with the rifle scope. 

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Bottom Magazine View

X-Bolt SA (Top), A-Bolt SSA (Bottom)

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Recessed Muzzle Crowns

A-Bolt (Left), X-Bolt (Right) Recessed muzzle crowns. 

X-Bolt A-Bolt Stainless Stalker Comparison

Right side view of Short Action (SA) X-Bolt  (Top) and Super Short Action (SSA) A-Bolt (Bottom). 

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Magazines Top View

A-Bolt leaf spring magazine with alternating 243 WSSM cartridges. (top)X-Bolt magazine with rotary magazine and 270 WSM cartridges.

X-Bolt Magazine Cartridge Shoulder Bumpers

The X-Bolt rotary magazine has a ridge-line going through the magazine providing a "bumper" against the shoulder of the cartridge that prevents the bullet tips from being damaged during recoil. 

X-Bolt and A-Bolt Magazines

Side view of a Super Short Action A-Bolt Magazine (Top) and a Short Action X-Bolt Magazine (Bottom).

X-Bolt Action Trigger Assembly

X-Bolt Action and Trigger Assembly

X-Bolt Recoil Lug Bedding at Front of the Action

X-Bolt Recoil Lug Bedding at Front of the Action.

X-Bolt Bedding at Rear of the Action

X-Bolt Bedding at Rear of the Action.

View of Inside of the Forearm of X-Bolt Stock

View of the inside of the forearm of X-Bolt stock.

X-Bolt Recoil Lug

X-Bolt recoil lug.

X-Bolt Trigger Adjustment Screw

X-Bolt trigger adjustment screw.

X-Bolt Trigger Guard Assembly

X-Bolt metal alloy trigger guard assembly and composite magazine.

A-BOLT UPDATE: In 2012 Browning introduced the AB3 (A-Bolt III) and has been fazing out the A-Bolt II shown in this article. Check out my X-Bolt vs AB3 (A-Bolt III) Comparison article to see the new AB3 and X-Bolt comparisons.

Now that I own a X-Bolt I took a few photos and wrote some descriptions of the differences between these two Browning bolt action rifles.

Because I only have Super Short Action (SSA) A-Bolts and my X-Bolt is a Short Action (SA) the photos show the X-Bolt with a longer bolt, action, magazine etc. which would not be the case if they were both the same action length.

The first thing that comes to mind that is different between the rifles is the trigger system. The trigger on the X-Bolt is amazing for a factory trigger, not that the A-Bolt trigger is bad, it has a great factory trigger, the X-Bolt's trigger is just better.

I have been really impressed with how the X-Bolt trigger feels when you shoot. Both the A-Bolt and the X-Bolt have a trigger adjustment screw that can be accessed by removing the trigger guard assembly. I always back my trigger adjustment screws out to get the lowest trigger weight available. It's a simple procedure just follow the directions in the owners manual.

Both the X-Bolt and A-Bolt have top tang safeties that are easily operated with your thumb. The Safety is in the perfect spot to operate and still keep your head and hands in alignment as you are preparing to take a shot. No taking your eye or hand off the rifle to take the safety off. I really like top tang safeties.

The X-Bolt has a bolt unlock button on the top of the bolt handle. By pressing this button when the rifle has the safety on you can open the bolt and remove the unfired cartridge.

The magazine on a X-Bolt is a composite drop-out variety. The magazine also has some really nice features. It is a rotary style that places the cartridge in straight alignment with the chamber for a smooth straight shot to the chamber. The X-Bolt magazine also has shoulders or a ridge line that prevent the the tips of your bullets from getting smashed into the front of the magazine when the rifle recoils. This ridge-line in the magazine stops the cartridge by preventing the shoulder of the cartridge from moving forward.

A-Bolt magazines are metal with a leaf spring and a stacked alternating cartridge design. The magazine snaps into a hinged floorplate.

The X-Bolt has four screws per base while the A-Bolt has two. In theory with four screws per base it will give you a more solid mounting for your rifle scope.

Both rifles are made in Browning's Miroku Japan Factory and Miroku is know for making good rifle barrels.

Both rifles have recessed muzzle crowns to prevent damage to the rifling at the tip of the muzzle.

Both my X-Bolt and my A-Bolts have been bedded with free floating barrels. The X-Bolt was bedded at both the recoil lug at the end of the barrel and at the back of the action. I have not had to do anything with bedding to get my barrels free floated, they're bedded and free floated right out of the box.

Both the X-Bolt and A-Bolt Composite stocks have a right hand palm swell which not only feels nice but also helps with a more comfortable alignment for your index finger and the trigger.

The X-Bolt has a recoil pad that is designed to deflect the stock down and away from your face. The A-Bolt has a hard rubber recoil pad. In fact I don't really think it could be called a recoil pad, it's more like a black rubber eraser.

Most of the X-Bolt line currently has more of a Euro styling in the stock where the A-Bolt has a more traditional lines and checkering.

I believe the X-Bolt is lighter but, upon reviewing it appears that a comparable A-Bolt to X-Bolt has the A-Bolt at about 2 ounces lighter than the X-Bolt??? I really think it should be the other way around. I'll see if I can get two comparable models and weigh them myself to see.

I own a couple of A-Bolt rifles and an X-Bolt and really like all of them. If push were to come to shove I would chose the X-Bolt over the A-Bolt. Mainly because of the trigger, the bolt unlock button and the magazine's cartridge shoulder "bumpers".

When the X-Bolt was first introduced I had a bad taste in my mouth about the "plastic" magazine. I thought it should be metal but now that I have an X-Bolt I am very happy with the plastic magazine and can see how it is a better material for the task. The plastic provides a very smooth surface for the cartridges to slide along, self lubricating is one way I have heard it described and the plastic is actually stronger in my opinion. Could you imagine standing on a X-Bolt plastic magazine and a metal A-Bolt magazine or better yet driving a truck over the two? The A-Bolt metal magazine would get all bent out of shape and the X-Bolt plastic magazine would be just fine.

Now when shooting off the bench the A-Bolt is easier to single feed a cartridge by opening the action and just placing/setting the cartridge in on top of the magazine and then just close the bolt. The X-Bolt's magazine protrudes up higher into the open action thus when you single feed a cartridge you have to push it forward near the chamber with your fingers before attempting to close the bolt... so for shooting off the bench on the range or on a varmint hunt, I like the A-Bolt better. Now for big game hunting I prefer the ultra smooth feeding straight into the chamber X-Bolt magazine system.

The X-Bolt has been designed with a sleeker lower profile than the A-Bolt. One problem this can create is with shell ejection using a scope that has a long windage turret and the short, fat WSM cartridges. The long turret, WSM combination can prevent shells from ejecting from the X-Bolt.

I get great out-of-the-box accuracy with my A-Bolt rifles and my new X-Bolt's accuracy has also been great. However out-of-the-box I think the X-Bolt could give a little better accuracy because of the trigger, not that the A-Bolt trigger is bad but I think the X-Bolt's trigger is even better. I do wish that the X-Bolt came in a Super Short action with a bolt and magazine to handle a 243 WSSM but alas it doesn't. :(

  • X-Bolt vs AB3 (A-Bolt III) Comparison
  • Read about the Accuracy of my new X-Bolt 270 WSM on it's first trip to the range.
  • View photos of the drilled and tapped X-Bolt receiver in my article titled: Setting Up The Nikon Monarch 4-16x42SF BDC Rifle Scope On My X-Bolt
  • See my thoughts and solutions on X-Bolt shell ejection problems with rifle scopes that have long windage turrets
  • 2013 setting up my X-Bolt with a 20 MOA picatinny rail and Vortex Viper HS LR rifle scope.