Built somewhat on the company’s famed A-Bolt rifle design, first introduced in 1985, the new AB3 seeks to incorporate that same precision and quality that A-Bolt fans celebrate, while eliminating some of the more costly bells and whistles.
There’s nothing fancy about this rifle, but then, for a price-conscious hunter looking for a gun that can put a shot where aimed there doesn’t need to be anything fancy about it. The metal finish is matte blue paired with a matte black synthetic stock that conceals well and can take a beating with little consequence.
The AB3 boasts a new bolt design with a mere 60-degree lift for fast, easy shot cycling that doesn’t force the shooter to lift his cheek from the stock. The bolt is plated with matte electroless nickel for smoother operation and added resistance to corrosion.
The AB3 also copies some features from Browning’s popular X-Bolt line, chiefly, the way the barrel is made. The rifle’s free-floating barrel, like the X-Bolt, is made from cold-rolled steel that is then button-rifled, a process that greatly aids accuracy in modern rifle design.
A target-type crown allows for the uniform release of gasses as the bullet exits the muzzle to prevent potential shift in trajectory.
The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and Browning even makes mounts for the rifle. The standard length steel action is also designed to allow for close mounting of the scope to the receiver for a better sight line when aiming.
Other features include a top-tang safety, a bolt unlock button that allows the chamber to be unloaded with the safety in the on-safe position, a detachable 4- or 3-round box magazine depending on caliber, an Inflex Technology recoil pad designed to direct recoil away from the face and shoulder, textured gripping surfaces and steel swing swivels for ready attachment of a sling and/or bipod.
The AB3 Composite Stalker is available in four chamberings—.300 Win. Mag., .270 Win., .30-06 and 7mm Rem. Mag. The rifle retails for just under $600.
As for the performance in testing of the .300 Win. Mag. AB3 model, it shot precisely as I expected a rifle of this blend of value and features would.
If you’re looking to shoot competitively, you may have to settle for second or third place. If you’re looking to punch a hole into the vitals of a heavy-racked buck without draining your bank account on a firearm, game on.
I tested three different loads in the AB3 including a 180-grain Winchester Accubond CT, a 150-grain PHP Winchester Power Max Bonded load and a specially handloaded round from Massaro Ballistic Laboratories pushing a 180-grain Scirocco.
The rifle was settled in on a Champion Premium Shooting Rest and tested on Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets set at 100 yards. The the initial groups with each load were decent, the Power Max Bonded and Massaro loads both producing groups inside 1.5 and 2 inches, while the Accubond CT strayed a bit more with groups at 2.5 inches.
But then, between the 91-degree day (and I was shooting in direct sunlight) and the scorching heat generated by the magnum cartridges, the barrel turned sizzling hot and the accuracy eroded, placing flyers sometimes an inch or two outside the rest of the group.
Heat can have that impact on any barrel, and when allowed to cool before shooting, the groups tightened right back up. Fortunately, when taking that all-important shot at a trophy animal, one shot is all you will typically need. For that, the Browning AB3 Composite Stalker is certainly up to the task.
Browning AB3 Composite Stalker
Caliber: .300 Win. Mag. (tested), .270 Win. Mag., .30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag.
Action Type: Bolt-action
Receiver: Matte blued steel
Barrel: 22-inch button-rifled matte blue steel with 1:10-inch rifling
Magazine: 3-round detachable box (magnums), 4-round detachable box (standard calibers)
Trigger: 3.5-lb. pull integrated trigger with oversized guard
Sights: None, receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounts
Stock: Matte black synthetic
Weight: 6 lbs., 13 oz.
Overall Length: 42 ¾ in.
Accessories: Inflex Recoil Pad, swing swivels
This article is excerpted from the October 9, 2014 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.