The DIY Hunter

Browning AB3 and X-Bolt rifles

The X-Bolt (bottom) has a sleeker looking profile much of this coming from the magazine being lower than the bottom of the stock on the AB3.

The X-Bolt also has a lower profile receiver. Notice how much higher the top of the receiver is above the bolt showing in the ejection port on the AB3. Then notice how much larger the diameter of the bolt is on the AB3 in an image of the bolts shown lower on this page.

AB3 and X-Bolt Palm Swell

Both rifles have a nice feeling right hand palm swell in the pistol grip area of the stock. You can also notice that the stock of the X-Bolt on the right has a softer looking finish from the  Dura-Touch Armor coating (discontinued in 2019).

AB3 and X-Bolt bolt release buttons

The release button to remove the bolt is located on the left, top rear of the receiver on both rifles.

Lately I have noticed that the traffic to my X-Bolt vs A-Bolt Comparison page on my website has been increasing. I find this interesting because the A-Bolt has actually been discontinued by Browning being replaced by the new AB3. I figure a lot of this traffic is because of confusion that the AB3 is the A-Bolt.

In 1985 Browning introduced the A-Bolt and in 1994 with the introduction of the BOSS system Browning introduced the A-Bolt II. In 2012 Browning introduced the AB3. With the introduction of the AB3 Browning has been fazing out production of the A-Bolt II.

To help deconfusimy the differences and names of the new AB3 I borrowed an AB3 to get some photos to shows the differences between it and the X-Bolt.

Browning's AB3 is stamped with a "A-Bolt" on the barrel. I'm not sure why. All of it's marketing material calls it AB3. AB3 obviously stands for A-Bolt III but the name is clearly AB3. The AB3 is a pretty drastic change from the design over the A-Bolt II which has commonly been referred to as just the "A-Bolt."

I own three A-Bolt II rifles. They have all been great rifles for me. I really like them. A few years ago I picked up my first X-Bolt rifle in 270 WSM. This too has been a great rifle for me. You can read many entries in my blog using my X-Bolt and A-Bolt rifles.

AB3 and X-Bolt Magazines

Here's a top view of the detachable AB3 magazine (above) and the detachable X-Bolt magazine (below). The AB3 magazine has a leaf spring and staggers the cartridges alternating side to side. The X-Bolt magazine is a rotary style giving the top cartridge the same position right at the top and center for an easy feed straight into the chamber.

AB3 and X-Bolt Recoil Pads

Both rifles have the Inflex recoil pad system. This is a nice recoil pad and if you need to add a little length to the stock it is easy done with Browning shims. (see: Easily Adjust the Length of Pull on a Browning X-Bolt Rifle)

Here's a rundown on what makes the two rifles different and sometimes very similar.

Both have a top tang safety.

The X-Bolt and AB3 both have a bolt lock override button. This allows you to open the action of the rifle with the rifle on safety.

The X-Bolt composite stock has Dura-Touch Armor coating(Dura-Touch was discontinued in 2018) that feels really nice where the AB3 does not.

The magazine on the AB3 is a leaf spring with alternating cartridges from one side to the other where the X-Bolt is a rotary style with each shell lined straight with the bore. The magazine style of the X-Bolt has really  smooth feeding.

The AB3 has a composite trigger and trigger guard assembly. The X-Bolt has a metal trigger and trigger guard assembly.

Both triggers provide a nice crisp break. The trigger on the X-Bolt is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and factory set at 3 1/2 pounds. The AB3 is listed as being between 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds... I'm not 100% sure that it is adjustable just yet. I'm still checking on this one.

The bolt diameter is much larger on the AB3.

The safety switch on the AB3 is larger providing lines that are not as clean looking as the X-Bolt.

The drilled and tapped receiver has 4 holes for each base on the X-Bolt and the AB3 has 2 holes each. You will also not want to get confused with using A-Bolt bases on an AB3. The AB3 requires AB3 specific bases.

AB3 and X-Bolt bolts

The AB3 bolt (left) is mostly round and larger in diameter than the X-Bolt bolt (right) that has flat surface plains the length of the bolt.

AB3 and X-Bolt bolt faces

X-Bolt (left), AB3 (Right) Both bolts have three lugs forming a "A" shape.

AB3 barrel stamp

The AB3 is stamped with "A-Bolt" on the barrel. Not sure why but it is.

X-Bolt Barrel Stamp

Here's the stamp on the barrel of the X-Bolt.

AB3 and X-Bolt bare actions

Receiver and trigger groups. AB3 (top) and X-Bolt (bottom).

AB3 and X-Bolt magazines

Here's a side view of the half metal, half composite AB3 magazine (above) and the composite X-Bolt magazine (below).

AB3 60 Degree Bolt Lift

AB3 bolt lever in top position 60 degrees up. This allows for faster cycling and plenty of clearance from the scope.

X-Bolt 60 Degree Bolt Lift

X-Bolt bolt lever in top position 60 degrees up.

I know the X-Bolt shoots really well from the experience I have had with my Stainless Stalker in 270 WSM and I'm confident the AB3 should also shoot well. I have no doubt that is does shoot well. Both rifles are made in the Browning Miroku factory in Japan and I know they make great rifles and barrels in that factory.

My favorite rifles of all time the Model 1885 (John M. Browning's First patented firearm) are made in the same factory and they all shoot really well for me.

Obviously the AB3 is a much lower priced rifle than the X-Bolt. Lower price doesn't necessarily mean less accurate but the components and aesthetics just are not quite as nice. Basically more plastic and not as pretty.

I think of the AB3 as a work horse rifle, like a truck that you're not afraid to get scratched, yet a rifle that should provide great accuracy and dependability.

The AB3 is well built and value priced whereas the X-Bolt and A-Bolt are premium built bolt action rifles. As far as I know the AB3 is the first firearm that Browning has ever built value oriented. It's definitely not your typical Browning.

I think if you are in the market for an "entry level Browning" the AB3 is going to be a great rifle for you. If you are expecting the AB3 to be a Cadillac of a bolt action rifle like the A-Bolt 2 is, you are going to be disappointed.

AB3 bedding in stock

The AB3 stock is bedded at the recoil lug.

X-Bolt bedding in stock

The X-Bolt stock is bedded at the recoil lug and between the trigger and magazine. Basically right where both screws hold the action to the stock.

AB3 Disassembled

Simple disassembly of the AB3. Remove the two allen wrench bolts on both sides of the magazine well, slide out the bolt and this is what you get.

X-Bolt Disassembled

Simple disassembly of the X-Bolt.

AB3 reciever drilled and tapped for scope mounts

The front and back of the receiver on the AB3 have a two holes drilled and tapped for scope bases.

Note: Make sure you are getting AB3 bases as A-Bolt bases will not work on this rifle.

X-Bolt reciever drilled and tapped for scope mounts

The front and back of the receiver on the X-Bolt have four holes drilled and tapped for scope bases.

AB3 Magazine release button

The AB3 magazine release latch is found on the front of the magazine port.

X-Bolt magazine release button

The X-Bolt magazine release latch is found on the front of the magazine.

AB3 trigger adjustment screw

The hole at the back of the composite trigger guard appears to be a port to use an allen wrench to adjust the trigger pull however I have been told that the trigger is not adjustable. The Browning catalog says "The crisp trigger breaks between 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 pounds."

X-Bolt Trigger adjustment screw

To get to the trigger adjustment screw on the X-Bolt you will need to remove the trigger guard. The adjustment screw is covered in red locktite in front of the trigger. This trigger is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and factory set at 3 1/2 pounds.

AB3 muzzle crown

The recessed muzzle crown protecting the riflings on the AB3.

X-Bolt muzzle crown

The recessed muzzle crown protecting the riflings on the X-Bolt.

AB3 Safety On

AB3: This shows the top tang safety and the bolt lock override button. The bolt lock override button is on the right side of the stock just behind the bolt lever. Pressing this button allows you to open the action and eject a cartridge when the gun is on safety.

X-Bolt Safety On

X-Bolt: This shows the top tang safety and the bolt unlock button. The bolt lock override button is at the top of the bolt lever.

AB3 safety off

Here's another view of the AB3 safety shown in the fire position.

AB3 Trigger assembly

AB3 composite trigger and trigger guard.

AB3 loaded magazine

The AB3 magazine holds five 270 Win. shells in a alternating stack.

X-Bolt loaded magazine

The X-Bolt magazine holds four 270 Win. shells in a rotary system giving the top shell a position lined up straight with the chamber on every shot.

AB3 and X-Bolt loaded magazines

Another view of loaded magazines from the AB3 and X-Bolt rifles.

AB3 Magazine

View of empty AB3 magazine.

Strelok Pro with Samsung Galaxy S4 Phone sensors

This screen in the Strelok Pro android app on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone shows the option to read the three internal atmospheric sensors: Atmospheric Pressure, Temperature and Humidity.


Strelok Pro with Samsung Galaxy S4 Phone Table View

For hunting, I like to set leave the Strelok Pro android app in table view set to 1000 yards in 50-yard increments. I just have to unlock the screen and I can quickly view MOA adjustments for shots out to 1000 yards.


270 WSM Berger VLD Hunting Bullet

My favorite long-range load a very accurate hand loaded 270 WSM Berger VLD Hunting Bullet: 270 WSM - Shooting 150 Gr. Berger VLD Ladder Test at 300 Yards

I have been using the free Strelok ballistics calculator app on my Samsung phones for a few years now. The app has been wonderful in calculating long-range shots. Over the years I have learned a few things. For instance, on my last trip shooting at Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf range I found that I didn't have the atmospheric pressure correct. I also found that the bullets dropped more than anticipated at ranges beyond around 700 yards. After reading up on the G1 and G7 models for ballistic coefficients I realized that with the bullets I am using the G7 would be a better model to calculate my longer-range shots.

For the past several months I have been researching apps and analyzing how I could calculate my shots better and shoot better at longer ranges. I started looking for expensive Kestral weather devices to help give me accurate atmospheric conditions. In the process of researching Kestral devices and apps that would automatically feed the data from the Kestral via bluetooth I stumbled on the fact that my Galaxy S4 phone has had the sensors built-in all along.

Knowing my phone had built-in sensors I now needed an app that could automatically feed from those sensors. I narrowed my app search down to Applied Ballistics, Shooter and Strelok Pro. I could find that they all appeared to be able to feed via bluetooth from a Kestral but I could only find that Strelok Pro would feed directly from my phone.

Just to be sure I emailed the Shooter app's developer and waited and waited, never getting a reply. After waiting a couple weeks I emailed Strelok and within a couple of minutes the developer, Igor Borisov replied that his Pro version of app would do it.

A trip to the Google Play store and I now have Strelok Pro and love it. The interface is already familiar to me from using the free version for years. I now can use the G7 BC model and get atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity readings directly from my S4 phone. With the exception of measuring the wind, I have one device to calculate my shots and no manual inputting of atmospheric conditions. Yeah!

Another really nice feature I recently found on in Strelok is the ability to "use camera for slope angle." This makes using my old reliable Bushnell Elite 1500 that doesn't measure the angle work just fine. No need to upgrade my range finder.  I can get the range from the range finder and then use the app to calculate the angle and weather factors. I really like this app!

Below are a few videos from my last trip to Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf when I was using the free Strelok app. I shot fairly well but I'm feeling much better with using Strelok Pro for the next time I head out the range.


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 3 shot group

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 1 5/8" three shot group at 100 yards with a 1x scope! I was shooting 300 Gr. Hornady SST bullets, in front of 100 Grains of Triple Seven FFG powder.

Velocities for these three shots were 1842, 1870, and 1821. I also recorded a 1841 on another shot to verify the scope adjustment before taking the 200 yard shot below.


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 200 yard shot

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 200 yard shot with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 300 Gr SST bullets and 100 grains of Triple Se7en FFG powder.

There was a left to right wind so the drift right of center would be expected.


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter, EGW Rail, 1x20 Nikon Scope

The EGW rail, medium height Weaver four bolt tactical rings and 1x20 Nikon scope fit the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter nicely.

There is just enough clearance to move this extra long eye relief scope forward, still clear the hammer spur and keep the scope nice and low.


After my first time out with my new TC Encore muzzleloader I wasn't super happy with the accuracy. It shot the 250 Gr. SST bullets pretty well but not as good as I would have liked. I'm betting that the bullets were not to fault but the Triple 7 pellets.

After researching more on the web going with loose powder appears to be the ticket for consistent velocities. For this time out to the range I decided to try the 300 Gr. SST with Triple 7 FFG loose powder.

I went with 100 Grains of Triple Seven FFG powder and the first three shots with this load produced a 1 5/8" group at 100 yards. Awesome! This really amazed me as it is with a 1x scope. This is the accuracy I was looking for when I upgraded to the TC Encore Pro Hunter this year. I'm happy with the accuracy now. I also noticed that the velocities are more consistent with the loose powder over the pellets.

I wonder what kind of groups this combination could do with a scope that had some magnification? Hmm...

I researched a lot of muzzleloaders this past summer. I looked at all sorts from Knights to Gunwerks' 5k muzzleloaders. After all was said and done I felt the Thompson Center Encore offered the best accuracy and quality for the price. And to be quite honest the Encore is a pretty nice looking modern muzzleloader. So many of the modern muzzleloaders have such a goofy look to them.

After shooting the three shot group I adjusted the scope to get the point of impact dead on for 100 yards. I then plugged in the conditions, velocity etc into my Android Strelok app and came up with 5.46 MOA for a 200 yard shot. I dialed up 5.5 on my Nikon 1x20 scope and took a 200 yard shot and hit a 5 inch diameter bullseye. Awesome! Just what I want to be able to do in the field like I do with my high power rifles. I love dialing up the shot and holding dead on.

One thing I found while shooting this muzzleloader is that Winchester primers which includes the shotgun and Triple Seven primers are just a hair too long for the action on this muzzloader. When you try to cock the hammer it won't cock. I have to open the action and shut it a couple times to bend the primer enough to allow the hammer to cock. I may have to pre-bend some primers before I hunt with them so I am not opening and shutting the action over and over in the field.

Less than a month to go till the Utah muzzleloader deer season. I'm feeling pretty confident with this setup.

Here's what I saw on my first mule deer scouting trip.