Between the recent SHOT Show and our SCI Convention, both held just 10 days apart in Las Vegas, several interesting new rifles debuted.
Winchester’s new XPR had to happen, given that Winchester was our only major bolt-action centerfire rifle manufacturer not represented in the red hot “value priced” marketplace. I mean, Ruger has its American, Mossberg its Patriot, Remington its 783, Savage its Axis, and Thompson-Center its Venture, all of which sell at street prices under $500. So now Winchester has its player in the XPR.
There is nothing unique about this rifle, but it does incorporate some nice features. First off, it’s of the “fat bolt” genre like the Ruger American and T-C’s Venture, meaning it has three locking lugs up front and a 60- rather than 90-degree bolt rotation; that makes for a shorter handle lift and more clearance between the hand and the
ocular bell of the scope. Being a push-feed action, the bolt face is recessed and features a plunger-type ejector and an extractor that slides radially within a T-slot in the face of the right-side locking lug. The bolt body is treated with Nickel Teflon, which provides both lubrication and corrosion protection. The bolt can be stripped without tools–always a plus. And as one would expect, like so many other value-class rifles, the receiver is tubular to minimize the amount of machining needed. A feature I especially like is that the receiver is drilled and tapped for the larger and much stronger 8-40 screws instead of the industry standard 6-48s.
The one feature the XPR shares with its pricier Model 70 sibling is the M.O.A. trigger system, which claims zero take-up, zero creep and zero overtravel. It is an excellent trigger, but if it truly had zero movement, the damn thing wouldn’t fire! A 2-position side safety works in conjunction with a bolt lock release button positioned just ahead of the thumbpiece. The barrel is fitted and headspaced using the lock nut system first seen in 1957 on the Savage 110-series. However, instead of using the washer-type recoil lug sandwiched between the barrel and receiver, they’ve gone to a system whereby a perpendicular slot milled into the floor of the receiver engages a projecting steel plate imbedded into the injection molded stock. I believe this role reversal as it were, was first seen on the Finnish Tikka, and a conceptually similar system is seen on Ruger’s American, though on the Ruger they serve as V-blocks for bedding the receiver as well as recoil abutments.
The detachable polycarbonate magazine is of the single stack type that makes for the smoothest and most reliable feeding. Capacity is three rounds in both standard and magnum chamberings.
All in all, this new XPR looks like a real winner, and as such may create the same issue at Winchester as similar rifles have at Ruger, Remington and Weatherby. By that I mean, their respective value-priced rifles are as accurate as their flagship siblings, and often more so. Also, with the exception of the Weatherby Vanguard, they are of more contemporary design; they cycle and feed more smoothly; and have superior magazine systems. And being roughly half the price, they end up competing within their own family. Consider: the XPR carries an MSRP of $549; that less than half that of the average Winchester Model 70. –Jon R. Sundra