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Bolt Action Rifles

Review: Winchester XPC Rifle

by Robert W. Hunnicutt   |  November 16th, 2017   |   0
Winchester's new XPC is typical of bolt-action rifles that have features shooters have learned to love on their ARs, like adjustable stocks and M-LOK handguards.

Winchester’s new XPC is typical of bolt-action rifles that have features shooters have learned to love on their ARs, like adjustable stocks and M-LOK handguards.

Expectations of what a bolt-action rifle can be have changed a lot in the last few years. It used to be that a bolt-action was either a hunting or target gun. Any sort of defensive use pretty much died out with the 03A3 Springfield.

Today, everything seems to be tactical, and it’s even having an effect on the staid world of the bolt-action. In the last couple of years of Davidson’s Gallery of Guns, we’ve covered the Howa Chassis Rifle, the Ruger Precision Rifle and the Weatherby Vanguard Modular Chassis Rifle. Mossberg has the MVP Light Chassis, while Remington has the Model 700 Tactical Chassis.

WinXPCRightSide

The XPR action is supported in an aluminum chassis to which the handguard and buttstock are attached. The chrome-moly barrel is completely free-floating for accuracy.

Winchester now has joined the fun with the XPC, which as you might suspect, combines the XPR action with an aluminum chassis.

Why all the chassis when for years we got along just fine with wood or synthetic stocks? Shooters got used to home gunsmithing and accessorizing their ARs, and wanted bolt-actions that would let them do the same. Mounting the barreled action of a bolt gun in an aluminum chassis lets you substitute buttstocks, handguards, pistol grips, magazines, etc., just the way you can on an AR.

An aluminum chassis also eliminates worries about stock flex or warping. I suppose a body-builder could put enough sling tension on an aluminum chassis to bend it, but it’s no worry for the rest of us.

The XPC’s chassis is quite substantial at 1.73 inches wide behind the bolt. The trigger guard area is quite robust, as is the magazine well and the support at the front for the MDT handguard. That part is secured with a trio of hex socket screws.

The handguard has M-LOK slots at the 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock positions and has a distinctive angled front end. The top surface has 14 inches of 1913 rail that join with 6 inches more of rail atop the receiver. It’s hard to imagine a device or combination of devices that would need more rail. As is so often the case these days, the magazine and furniture come from MagPul. The magazine is the PMAG 10 7.62 AC, which is compatible with all short action AICS (Accuracy International Chassis Systems). A flared floorplate at the bottom allows easy removal for cleaning.

Two safety buttons? Nope, the front button releases the bolt with the safety  applied, allowing safe unloading. There’s a red cocking indicator at the bolt rear.

Two safety buttons? Nope, the front button releases the bolt with the safety
applied, allowing safe unloading. There’s a red cocking indicator at the bolt rear.

The pistol grip is the MagPul MOE-K, which is a modestly sized grip without a beavertail. That’s just fine in this application, as there’s no place for a beavertail to fit, anyway. There’s also no secret compartment, so you’ll have to store your batteries elsewhere.

The buttstock is the relatively new PRS Gen 3, a substantial piece with both pull length and comb height adjustment. Sturdy aluminum thumbwheels that engage positive detents let you accurately select your desired pull length or comb height. They’re recessed into the stock to prevent inadvertent turning.

The cheekpiece elevates a total of .48″ in 12 increments, so you get .03″ elevation per turn. The buttplate moves a total of 1.4 inches in 40 increments, giving you .035″ movement per click. Crank it all the way out and you have a manly 14½-inch length of pull.

Turn out a pair of hex socket screws and you can move the inch-thick black rubber recoil pad .8″ up or down. You can also twist it a bit left or right.

There’s a QD sling swivel socket on the wrist area, and an adjustable 1¼-inch aluminum sling loop that can be reversed from left to right. M-LOK slots on the underside of the stock allow you to mount what British writer Ian Hogg called “that useless Continental appendage, the butt monopod.”

The action is from Winchester’s XPR rifle. The old classics like the Remington 700, Savage 110 and Winchester Model 70 are great guns, but can no longer be made to sell at mass-market prices. The Remington 783, Savage Axis and now the Winchester XPR are designed to be sellable at your local Walmart, and manufacturers have managed to make them good shooters at the same time.

The MagPul PRS Gen3 has enough adjustment for anything below the Olympics. You can raise or lower the cheekpiece and adjust pull length with sturdy wheels.

The MagPul PRS Gen3 has enough adjustment for anything below the Olympics. You can raise or lower the cheekpiece and adjust pull length with sturdy wheels.

The XPR recever is essentially a tube. The forged recoil lug that was a selling feature of the Model 70 is long gone; the lug is now in the stock, engaging a slot in the receiver bottom. The trigger assembly is pinned to a lug at the bottom rear of the receiver.

The barrel is fitted with a barrel nut, a technique that dates at least as far back as the Savage Model 340 of 1950. Unlike the splined Savage nut, it’s smooth here, with a hole in the bottom for a pin spanner.

The barrel nut allows both very rapid assembly and very accurate headspace adjustment. I’ve watched them barrel actions at Savage, and it takes a lot less time to do it than to describe it.

The Model 70 trigger everyone knew and loved is long gone, replaced by the M.O.A. trigger. It’s a two-lever system in which the upright forward lever engages a notch at the front of the sear. When you pull the trigger piece, it pushes on the forward lever, moving it out of engagement with the sear, which then disengages from the cocking piece, which is free to move forward and fire the rifle.

You can’t expect to sell a trigger that can’t be adjusted, and the M.O.A. has a pair of very small hex socket screws at the front of the trigger body. The top one regulates overtravel, while the lower one adjusts pull weight.

The result is a relatively light, crisp single-stage trigger. If you’re a target shooter used to a two-stage trigger, it will require some familiarization, because takeup is almost zero. Pull on it and it breaks. The sample rifle’s trigger broke right at the specified 3½ pounds.

The trigger housing also incorporates a two-position thumb safety on the right side. Moving the safety button to the rear raises a stop that engages a half moon-shaped cut below the bolt handle, preventing the bolt from turning.

The M.O.A. trigger is adjustable for overtravel and pull weight. The sample rifle came with a crisp 3½-pound single-stage pull that enabled good scores.

The M.O.A. trigger is adjustable for overtravel and pull weight. The sample rifle came with a crisp 3½-pound single-stage pull that enabled good scores.

Press forward on the button in front of the safety to lower the stop, allowing you to eject a loaded round with the safety engaged.

The bolt release button must be depressed each time you want to turn the bolt. Since all XPRs use a detachable magazine, the logical way to unload is to remove the magazine, press the bolt release and eject the chambered round. There’s no need to crank the whole load through the action.

The bolt itself is, like most modern designs, a full-diameter piece in which the bolt body fills the interior of the receiver, stepping down to the locking lugs at the front. There are three lugs, giving a 60° bolt lift.

For years, purists insisted on the Mauser-style 90° bolt lift on grounds that cocking effort was less. If you’re shooting high power at Camp Perry, that’s still an excellent point of view.

But scopes have gotten bigger and bigger, with the once beefy 30mm tube becoming almost standard, and 34mm tubes becoming common. You need plenty of clearance between your fingers and a fat scope, and the 60° lift provides that.

Though Winchester advertising materials show a smooth bolt body, the sample rifle’s was fluted, and Winchester says that’s how they will look going forward.

The bolt handle is a separate piece, and at 3¾ inches, it’s plenty long for an easy grasp. The length gives you plenty of leverage to make up for the short bolt lift.

M-LOK slots in the handguard allow  easy and secure installation of a bipod,  vertical foregrip, light, laser, IR  designator: whatever you care to carry.

M-LOK slots in the handguard allow
easy and secure installation of a bipod,
vertical foregrip, light, laser, IR
designator: whatever you care to carry.

The barreled action is secured to the chassis by two action screws. One is visible in front of the magazine well, while the other is hidden under the magazine release lever. Stick a hex key behind the lever to turn it out.

No sights are provided, but there’s a .44″ 1913 rail with 20 moa of elevation. It’s secured by four husky 8-40 screws.

The chrome-moly barrel is in Heavy Contour Sporter configuration, tapering from 1.155 inches at the receiver to .750″ at the muzzle. It has a recessed target crown, and is threaded at the standard 5/8×24 for installation of a muzzle device or suppressor. Twist rate is 1:10.

My first experience with the XPC was at Castle Valley Outdoors (castlevalleyoutdoors.com), a huge ranch about three hours southeast of Salt Lake City. Its main business has been bird hunting, but it is expanding its offerings into long-range shooting, a field for which it is admirably well-equipped, with terrain allowing shots up to 2000 yards, uphill or down.

Shooting the XPC from the bench was, as you would expect, very comfortable. Shooting .308 from a gun with a scoped weight close to 12 pounds and an adjustable buttstock is going to be pretty carefree. If they made the XPC in .300 Win. Mag., the fun could reach out even farther.

It only took a few shots to get used to the single-stage trigger; you just have to accept that there’s no takeup. As soon as you pull it hard enough, it’s going.

Accuracy, as you would guess, was superb, with Winchester’s 168-grain match ammo producing 3/4″ groups wWinchesterXPCTableith no great effort and its 150-grain Deer Season XP yielding results almost as good.

My only complaint is that the MagPul buttstock was not especially compatible with a standard bench-rest rear bag. I rested the bottom of the butt on a full box of ammo, which steadied the crosshairs fairly well, but groups could have been better with a sturdier hold.

An easy way to accomplish that would be to replace the PRS with a regular old A2 buttstock when bench-resting the XPC. Sometimes, the old ways are the best.

I suspect we are going to see more and more bolt-actions in this category. They are perfect for what a lot of shooters spend their time doing: shooting from a bench. A rifle like the XPC doesn’t kick, doesn’t toss brass into the tall grass, and immediately yields good groups. That’s just what a lot of shooters need. It looks, great, too, so how can you go wrong?

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