May 22, 2018
One very popular category of the shooting sports is long-range shooting. And a subcategory of the long-range rifle has evolved called the "chassis rifle."
Webster defines "chassis" as "the supporting frame of a structure," and that surely fits these mechanical marvels. You start with a basic barreled action and then bolt on components similar to those on an AR, i.e., an adjustable stock, a handguard, and (usually) a long Picatinny rail. A high-capacity magazine is a plus, and a bolt knob the size of a Coke bottle is de rigueur.
A Real Crossbreed
The company says the XPC is a "long-range precision rig built for punching paper, ringing steel, or hammering coyotes and hogs over in the next zip code." And it is manufactured at Browning's modern factory in Viana do Castelo, Portugal.
The XPC is chambered for three popular cartridges: the .243 Winchester, the .308 Winchester, and the 6.5 Creedmoor. Never one to procrastinate, I grabbed the first XPC I could get my hands on. It was chambered for the .308 Win. and was an impressive piece of machinery.
At 10 pounds, 3 ounces with an empty magazine and without a scope, the XPC is hefty. The receiver is machined from chrome-moly bar stock, and it has an enlarged ejection port for easy loading of single rounds or the recovery of fired cases. On top is a Picatinny scope base that is 6.1875 inches long with 15 cross-slots. The base is attached with sturdy 8-40 screws. The front of the base is about 0.110 inch lower than the back. Winchester says this provides a 20-MOA slant so the shooter doesn't have to use up all the scope's adjustment range for long-range shooting.
The barrel on my .308 XPC is 20 inches long and has a 1:10-inch twist. The XPC models in .243 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor have 24-inch barrels with 1:10 and 1:8 twists respectively.
The diameter of my rifle's muzzle is 0.750 inch and is threaded 5/8-24 for the addition of a muzzle brake or suppressor, and a thread protector is provided. The barrel is free-floated, has a target crown, and is button rifled.
The bolt is 0.875 inch in diameter, and the three locking lugs are the same diameter. This provides a short 60-degree bolt lift. The bolt has a slick Teflon-nickel coating and a guide groove in the bottom of the bolt that allow it to glide back and forth almost effortlessly. The bolt handle is "two piece" in that the cone-shaped knob screws onto the handle.
The bolt has a cocking indicator that shows a red dot when the gun is cocked. The two-position safety is located at the right rear of the receiver. The bolt is locked down when the safety is "On," but just ahead of the safety is the bolt-release button that allows a loaded chamber to be emptied, if necessary. I think it's a great safety feature.
The XPC has Winchester's MOA trigger that is user adjustable, has almost no take-up or overtravel, and is incredibly crisp. Winchester notes that this trigger's parts are hardened and polished super-smooth and have a 2:1 "mechanical advantage." The one on my rifle is as good as triggers on rifles costing much more. My trigger broke at 3 pounds, 12.9 ounces. The MOA trigger is user adjustable, and though I was tempted to adjust it a little lighter, it was so nice and crisp, and the gun shot so darn well, that I left it alone.
The magazine is a 10-round Magpul PMAG AICS. The Winchester website says the XPC also comes with a five-round MDT magazine for hunting, but my test rifle arrived without one. The internal length of the magazine is about 2.8 inches, the maximum cartridge overall length for the .308 Win.
The stock is a Magpul PRS Gen III, mounted on an A2 buffer tube- there's that AR influence again. It is fully adjustable for length of pull and cheekpiece height. The stock has a one-inch recoil pad.
The stock is attached to the action by two large screws, and three hex screws hold the buttstock to what Winchester calls the "fore-end." To me it looks for all the world like an AR handguard.
A Bonafide Shooter
Okay, I know what you're thinking. How does it shoot? Here's the bottom line: Both factory ammo and handloads averaged right at 1 inch, and some were much smaller than an inch.
Shot from a Lead Sled DFT, the recoil was just plain minuscule. I fired 10 factory loads and 12 handloads over the course of several days from my shooting building. One fouling shot was fired before shooting groups for record. The barrel was allowed to cool, and I cleaned the bore after every 15 rounds. I used Federal cases and Federal No. GM210M primers for all handloads.
The shooting results verified that the XPC was a shooter. The 10 factory loads averaged 1.08 inches, and exactly half of them averaged under 1 inch. The load that turned in the smallest group average of 0.66 inch was from Fort Scott Munitions. This ammo is loaded with FSM's 165-grain Solid Copper Spun bullet that is made on a CNC lathe. Close behind were the two Match Grade loads with Custom Competition bullets from Nosler. The 155-grain bullet averaged 0.71 inch, and the 168-grain version averaged a tidy 0.67 inch.
These days, it's getting harder to make handloads that beat modern factory loads, and that was on display with the XPC. Overall, handloads averaged 0.97 inch. Tops was the Sierra 175-grain MatchKing HPBT over 45.5 grains of CFE 223. Velocity was 2,584 fps, and the combination delivered an average of 0.55 inch.
Federal's new 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip is one of my favorite game bullets, so I had to try it. It averaged 0.86 inch with Hodgdon Varget. The highest velocity load with 165-grain bullets was with the Trophy Bonded Tip and 49.0 grains of Alliant Power Pro 2000MR, and groups were slightly tighter at 0.84 inch.
As expected, the target powders- CFE 223, IMR 8208XBR, and Varget- delivered excellent accuracy. The new IMR 4166 Enduron powder shot fine, but the velocities were lower than with other powders.
Note that the cartridge overall length (COL) of many of the handloads was longer than 2.8 inches, so they had to be loaded singly. This is probably not a detriment for the long-range XPC shooter working off a bench.
Overall, the XPC was just plain deadly accurate with just about every load I fed it. Really, there were no bad loads. I didn't try any lightweight bullets, but I'd wager that they'd be a called-in coyote's or a cross-canyon rockchuck's worst nightmare.
Winchester's latest addition to the family looks to be a chip off the old XP block. However, I must admit that I am a little puzzled by the short 20-inch barrel for the .308-chambered long-range rifle. It seems to me that a longer barrel, as furnished in the .243 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor versions, would boost velocities a bit and help flatten trajectories.
I also must report one "negative." With all the bolt-on parts, black synthetic add-ons, and overall look, the rifle has all the aesthetic appeal of a lug wrench. But, as my brother says, in function there is beauty, and the XPC really functions great at putting bullets close together.