The AB3 is Browning’s hat in the ring on an inexpensive bolt action rifle. It combines components cheaper than their more premium X-Bolt (X-Bolt review here) while still offering some of the premium Browning features. How does it fit in the crowded budget bolt action rifle market with the Remington 783, Savage Axis II, Ruger American, Weatherby Vanguard, and Mossberg Patriot? Read on and find out! The Browning AB3 goes for about $650 in Canada.
Browning AB3 Models
- Comes in Hunter (wood stock) and Stalker (synthetic stock)
- Micro Stalker has a shorter 13″ length of pull and 20″ barrel for youth or lady shooters
- Comes in 243, 6.5 Creedmoor, 270, 270 WSM, 7mm-08, 7mm rem mag, 308, 30-06, 300 Win mag, 300 WSM,
- 22″ barrel on standard cartridges, 23″ on WSM, and 26″ on magnum cartridges
- Around 7 lbs depending on cartridge and barrel length
Browning AB3 Video Review
Browning AB3 Features
- 3 lug bolt with 60 degree throw
- Safety locks bolt shut when engaged
- Detachable magazine
- Bloody fantastic trigger
How About that Trigger?
I don’t normally dedicate a section to a trigger, but the AB3’s trigger is fucking amazing. It’s plastic, has barely any travel, and is nice and light at 3.8 lbs. The design of it is pretty interesting in that it has a basic fulcrum for the plastic part and it presses on a very compact mechanism that stays on the action. The fact they managed to squeeze such a nice trigger, safety, plus a bolt locking mechanism all in there with so few parts is incredible. Super elegant design.
Browning AB3 Usability
The bolt is a mix of good features and ones I’m less pumped about. The full sized shank of the bolt makes it heavy and doesn’t help make it smooth to operate. Some oil on the bolt really helps. Aside from that, it’s got a few interesting features: such as the 3 lug design to make for a shorter bolt throw, bolt locking mechanism, and cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt. The bolt is easily removed using a button on the left side of the receiver.
The tang safety is perfect in placement. Note that when the bolt is locked and safety on, you can still unlock the bolt for cycling by using the little “gas pedal” on the right side of the receiver.
The magazine is a marriage of steel and plastic in an interesting fashion: running plastic on half the mag and metal on the other half. It locks firmly into the stock with a high pitched “click” when inserted, but I didn’t really like how firmly it had to be inserted to lock in place. The magazine also sticks out the bottom of the rifle, which kind of breaks up the lines of the rifle and doesn’t look fantastic.
The stock is a basic synthetic one without Browning’s nicer “soft touch” coating on it. Interestingly, the stock has a pretty big palm swell on the right hand side of the grip.
To get a scope on this rifle, I’d really recommend Browning’s integrated base/ring combos they sell specifically for the AB3. They’re not super expensive, and they’re a nice match to the rifle.
With the free floated barrel and 3 lug bolt, I could pull groups right around 1″ at 100 yards, some smaller and some larger. The trigger really helps with getting practical accuracy out of this rifle.
In a crowded marketplace, the AB3 differentiates in some interesting ways. The locking bolt is not available on most budget bolt action rifles and the trigger is way better than most of the competitors at this price point as well. The rifle itself comes in a bit heavy at about half a pound more than an Axis II. Overall, the AB3 is a great value for the money and a strong competitor with the other budget bolt action hunting rifles. So if you’re looking for a budget bolt action rifle with a few extra features, check out the Browning AB3.