Budget rifle alert! While we never pass up an opportunity to play with the fancy stuff, your humble TTAG scribes are always on the lookout for affordable performance. With retail prices starting around $469, Winchester’s new-for-2017 XPR line certainly gets the “affordable” part right. So . . . how ’bout that performance?
Already available in a dozen calibers from .243 Winchester to .338 Win Mag and in at least 14 configurations and styles — from the base model seen here to various flavors of camouflage to a high-tech aluminum chassis — the XPR bolt-action rifle line is a veritable firearms farrago. TTAG borrowed this XPR chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor for testing.
I’m not a Winchester Repeating Arms Model 70 historian. So I won’t be running down the exact differences between the Model 70 and the Winchester XPR rifle. Or examining Winchester’s assertion that they’ve kept some of the proven Model 70’s features alive in the XPR while streamlining the rifle’s design and manufacturing processes to reduce costs. But that’s the company line.
One obvious change (at least as compared to the current and original Model 70): The use of a 3-lug, push feed bolt with a plunger ejector. This is simpler to make and less expensive than a Mauser-style controlled round feed design.
The XPR’s nickel teflon-coated bolt operates smoothly. It isn’t much of a looker, but it doesn’t bind and it locks into battery like a key into a lock. It unlocks just as easily, cocking the striker upon bolt lift without manhandling. The cocking indicator on the bolt shroud offers both a tactile and visual reference of the rifle’s cocked/uncocked condition.
Every XPR rifle has a two-position safety that’s convenient to operate with the thumb of your firing hand. The XPR’s thumb safety slider is a simple affair; back for Safe and forwards for Fire. On Safe, the bolt is locked and can’t be manipulated. A bolt-release button is positioned in front of the safety. Pushing forwards on this button unlocks the bolt allowing for unloading or disassembly while the gun is on safe.
The XPR’s one-piece bolt handle doesn’t allow for bolt knob swapping, but the factory knob balances comfort, purchase, and a low-snag design. It’s just right for a hunting rifle.
A prominent lever on the receiver’s left side makes removing the XPR’s bolt a doddle. Simply push the serrated front end inward like a magazine release and slide the bolt out.
Of course, that isn’t how the XPR’s actual magazine release functions. In typical bolt-gun fashion, a flappy tab (up front) locks the magazine in place. Pull it towards you and the magazine drops free.
The Winchester XPR ships with two detachable box magazines. In 6.5 Creedmoor, the mag holds three rounds. At $20 for a spare, they’re inexpensive enough to carry a couple loaded backups on your hunt.
The polymer mags leave plenty of room for even the longest 6.5 Creedmoor loads. For both of you handloaders who work up custom loads for sub-$500 rifles, this is sure to be appreciated.
The polymer stock’s forend and grip are covered a sandpaper-like finish. The texturing looks and feels vastly superior to the molded-in checkering found on most plastic rifle stocks.
Slim and lightweight, the base model XPR’s stock isn’t specific to right- or left-handed shooters. Comb, grip area, and cast are all mirrored or centered.
Winchester’s Inflex Technology recoil pad appears to be made of some exotic leather (rhinoceros, perhaps?). It turns out it’s rubber. Regardless, the pad creates a comfortable shooting experience, providing the right amount of cushion while squishing in a fashion designed to pull the comb away from the shooter’s face.
For a few bucks more, Winchester will sell you a suppressor-ready XPR with threaded muzzle. Our base model — and most of the fourteen-plus variants — culminates in a recessed target crown on its 22-inch, sporter profile barrel. The barrel is button rifled in 1:8″ twist, then treated with Winchester’s black Perma-Cote (appears to be nitrided) for durability.
Hitting the range with some Halloween pumpkins, the XPR proved itself reliable and accurate on its first outing. I had it sighted in with three shots and didn’t get worn out, even after blowing through eight boxes of ammo.
While the XPR was accurate enough to carve a face in a pumpkin at 100 yards, 6.5 Creedmoor was a mite too destructive on the orange gourd to git ‘er done. My pumpkin failed on the third shot (the nose). Trying for destruction, though, worked pretty well, with Winchester Expedition Big Game Long-Range ammo doing a heck of a number on a water-filled pumpkin.
The XPR’s factory-adjusted M.O.A. trigger certainly helped in the accuracy department. It broke cleanly at a hair under 4 pounds with no slack or real creep of which to speak. The trigger guard is wide and comfortable.
The XPR’s stock is a bit of a disappointment. Sure, it feels and looks hollow and cheap and plastic (which it is). That’s to be expected in a budget rifle designed for hunting, field, and generally rough use, though. But the stock’s comb is too skinny and lacked adequate height, even with the scope mounted as low as possible.
Winchester offers the XPR with a laminate thumbhole stock, a walnut stock, and an aluminum chassis, too. But if this base model were my rifle I’d add a cheek piece right away. And budget-priced or not, the stock could also use a tad more touch-up at the factory, with visible mold flashing more obvious than it needs to be.
Hornady American Gunner 140 grain BTHP at 0.965 MOA.
Hornady BLACK 140 grain BTHP at 0.961 MOA.
Hornady Match 120 grain ELD at 1.378 MOA.
Hornady Match 147 grain ELD at 1.052 MOA.
Turning in the tightest group: Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range 142 grain Nosler AccuBond Long Range at 0.844 MOA.
I reckon the XPR’s sporter barrel is slightly affected by heat. I kept shooting tight three-round groups but didn’t have the patience to let the barrel cool when shooting more. A 10-round group, fired fairly quickly, opened up to 1.4 MOA, which is likely a combination of me failing to keep it together for that many shots in a row and a hot barrel.
Overall this is a fairly minor walk for a skinny-barrel hunting rifle, though, and a lot of that is thanks to the XPR’s free-float design and steel recoil lug bedded into the stock. Additionally, Winchester stress relieves each XPR barrel after manufacture, which is a nice touch that reduces heat-induced movement.
In most rifles we expect to see MOA-or-better accuracy by the time we hit $1,000 MSRP. In the case of the Winchester XPR, we’re easily beating one-minute accuracy at half that price.
The XPR has a nice action, great trigger, detachable box magazine, and quality metal finish. For shooters seeking an affordable, accurate hunting or general-use rifle, the XPR lineup absolutely demands a look.
Specifications: Winchester XPR in 6.5 Creedmoor
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (also available in 11 other calibers)
Barrel Length: 22″
Barrel Twist: 1:8″
Overall Length: 42″
Length of Pull: 13.75″
Weight: 6 lbs 12 oz
Magazine Capacity: 3 rounds
Stock Material: composite with steel recoil lug
Receiver Material: chromoly steel barstock
Barrel / Receiver Finish: matte black Perma-Cote
Bolt Finish: nickel teflon
Trigger: Winchester M.O.A. Trigger System (single action, approx 4 lbs, adjustable for overtravel and pull weight)
Scope Mount: receiver drilled and tapped for four, 8-40 bolts
MSRP: $549.99 (check recent price on Brownells)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and appearance * * *
The base model XPR is a no-frills, basic hunting rifle.
Ergonomics * * *
I appreciate the relatively flat bottom of the fore-end and like the grip texture, but the stock’s comb doesn’t do it for me. The recoil pad is great, though, and the bolt, safety, and trigger’s ergos are excellent.
Customization * *
Other than swapping the stock for a different one, there isn’t much you can do to the XPR aside from minor trigger adjustment and slapping on a bipod or sling.
Accuracy * * * * *
With sub-MOA accuracy and a street price in the mid-$400 range, the XPR is way ahead of the curve here. Winchester’s chassis rifle variant should be giving the Ruger Precision Rifle a run for its money.
Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues. Ran smoothly and properly as a bolt gun should.
Overall * * * *
Winchester’s XPR is a bang-for-the-buck bullseye.