Winchester XPR - in depth rifle review
- Credit: Archant
Chris Parkin presents an in depth review on the unknown Winchester XPR in 30-06 Springfield
Total functionality without looking cheap
Amazing value for money
The trigger, although crisp, is very heavy and I’d have that locking compound off for a look straight away
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I can’t think of any situation where this gun wouldn’t have handled all my requirements on deer. The price is almost unbelievably low, yet the gun punches far, far above its weight
Swillington Shooting Supplies for the loan of Burris 3-12x56 riflescope
0113 286 4097
PPU ammunition, Henry Krank & Co.
0113 256 9163
Tier One Spartan III sound Moderator, from £255
Overall length: 1060mm/41.75”
Weight: 3.93kg/8.65lbs (inc scope and mounts)
Length of Pull: 345mm/13.5”
Magazine capacity: 3 round detachable (+1 in the chamber)
Trigger : Single stage, 3lb pull
Barrel length: 18”/457mm
Recommended retail price:£442… I still don’t believe that is correct!
As I sit to write this mini review with two disassembled rifles at my desk, I can’t help but notice the similarities between the two. One is the latest Tikka T3x – an unquestionable; a market leader – but the other, this Winchester XPR, is somewhat of an unknown… is it a class apart?
What I refer to as ‘Walmart rifles’ are increasingly popular, and although the pricing concept never quite seems to reach the UK, this rifle carries none of the characteristic design elements that so easily differentiate such guns from their more upmarket rivals. The ‘Winchester’ name stands at 150 years of age, and the XPR has the intention of bringing ‘The rifleman’s rifle’ back to the forefront of the market. The legendary Model 70 still exists, but this gun seeks to modernise and economise, while maintaining all the performance of its forebears.
Available in .270, .30-06, .300 and .338 Win Mag for over a year, a .243, .270 WSM and .308 Winchester are now available too. There are no smaller calibres or cases dropping into the .22/.250 or .222/.223 centrefire market, but across Europe these all seem to drag behind. Threading has also been adopted and barrel length modified to suit the likelihood of a moderator rebalancing the rifle; the 30-06 I have here on test drops to 21”. Twenty-one inches may not seem to get all the benefit from a .30-06, compared to a 24” barrel .308, but they handle big, heavy bullets with ease and velocity alone isn’t everything. Smooth mag feed with 100% reliability and cases that are easy to load when fumbling with cold hands in gloves is something no modern ‘shorty’ cartridge can do quite as well as the old masters, like this and the .270. As an aside, Winchester have been smart enough to leave the threaded .243 at 22”, which will keep it on the right side of the letter of the law.
First handling of the gun points to a 22mm diameter bolt with three lugs for a 60-degree lift, alongside adequate leverage and scope clearance from the 55mm ball-ended bolt handle. The safety to the right side of the action locks the bolt, but does make the tiniest of clicks when operated, even with full thumb pressure to dampen any noise. A second button sits to its front, allowing the bolt to be opened on ‘safe’. This is very discreet but ideally shaped with an angled tip, and positioned to work with the bolt-opening fingers, so everything can be done in unison without fumbling – very subtle, but such a nice touch.
The bolt ‘push’ feeds cartridges from a single column detachable polymer magazine, holding three rounds, plus an extra pre-chambered if required. It will also feed rounds dropped into the spacious ejection port directly from the top of the mag follower. Winchester’s MOA trigger sells itself on simplicity, and I have to say it is a job done well. It breaks very cleanly with a predictable and consistent feel, especially in gloved hands, but it is running at over 2,000g. My trigger scales were actually out of capacity, and a less accurate but more generous set gave me a 2,200g reading. Disassembly of the gun shows precise machining of all action, bolt and trigger components, but there is a huge blob of white sealant over the trigger adjustment screws. It is easy to get a crisp release with minimal sear engagement when using very stiff springs, but although I was unable to venture further, something about the look and feel of this unit – the neat machining I saw within the trigger mechanism itself – tells me a decent gunsmith will be able to fettle this unit to perfection. If the gun were mine to play with, I would have done it already. I’m sure it is all deliberately artificially hampered to keep the legal eagles at bay. That is not to say that I can’t shoot the gun well, but the squeeeeeeeze of that trigger takes a long time and great patience, and there are limits to how long I, or the quarry, can hold a stationary position when releasing a precision shot.
Great pains have been taken by Winchester to describe the barrel’s button rifling, and extensive thermal stress relief to avoid shot position spreading as the tube heats up. As a stalking rifle, I don’t intend on getting this one baking hot. Getting it deliberately hot can highlight faults here though, and I was pleased to see that, when initially zeroing and running in the gun with strings of seven or eight rounds, no great issues were evident; my first batches of PPU 180gr soft-point ammo planted groups of around 1½” at 100 yards. I have since received the latest 150gr Extreme Point ammunition from Winchester, and this premium ammo should improve upon that; although, in terms of real deer stalking, a reliable 3” group at 200 yards should handle any likely eventuality when actually stalking, rather than just shooting.
A barrel nut is used on the XPR to control head-spacing, and it has been done so neatly that I hardly noticed it. This is seemingly one of the few measures taken to minimise manufacturing costs, but one I consider to rarely be a downside when executed correctly, as it seems to be here. The barrels and action are all blacked with a matt finish to the steel, which combines modern looks with good wipe-clean ability. It isn’t so rough that it takes the skin particles/dust off your fingers, but has fended off wet weather corrosion so far with nothing but an oily rag wiped over it after use. Threading at the recessed crown on the muzzle was extremely smooth – it didn’t leave a mark or cut, even when actually squeezed while spinning it in your fingers. This is a sure sign of manufacturing quality control in my eyes, as so often it looks like a rushed afterthought… not on this Winny!
Polymer stocks are rarely exciting, and this one is not really much different. It is functional but a little short for me with only a 345mm/13.5” length of pull. Still, the Inflex recoil pad fits nicely into your shoulder and, for what is a fairly punchy calibre in a light gun, the rifle shot with little discomfort or recoil misbehaviour. Although seemingly bigger than .308, .30-06 always seems a little steadier and progressive in recoil than its smaller, snappier brother. Given the use of heavier bullets, I must admit it was pretty good for a cheap gun. The fore-end, like the grip, shows moulded-in stippling for grip. The grip is a little slim to my mind, and a little short in reach to the trigger too, but within acceptable limits. The fore-end is slim but, with a slight beavertail, does fit the hand with the usual caveats of keeping your thumb and fingers clear of the barrel it free floats. It is quite stiff, so there were no problems when transitioning to prone off a bipod from other types of rest bags, freehand and sticks. I have added a Tier-One Spartan III sound moderator to the gun, and a Harris bipod, and intend to hang on to it for a few months on extended test. The gun was supplied with a nice set of 30mm Talley scope rings, which bolt to the paired screw holes atop each action bridge, retaining the modest but refined styling of the gun. I shall be using it with whatever optics come my way on test, so it will get a thorough assessment. Yes, this gun has an RRP of £442 (£427 unthreaded!), which is, quite frankly, ridiculously cheap for what it is.
Considering the Winchester side by side and ‘naked’ against the new Tikka T3x, it is not (as the price would suggest) only half as good as the Tikka. It may not have quite the slickness and polish of the Finn, but if it weren’t printed on official documentation in front on me, I wouldn’t believe it was really this cheap, and I want to destroy my own stereotypical gun snobbery.