Browning Eclipse Target Rifle Review
By John Johnston
Every year it is interesting to see what the rifle manufacturers come up with to pique the interest of the long range shooters. The Eclipse Target Rifle chambered in .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor proved to be a viable entry into long range arena. It might be a little bulky and heavy for the hunting crowd, but for those who shoot paper or steel it may be just fit the bill. F class shooters will love this rifle as you can buy it one day, scope it, go to the store for some Amax’s and you are ready to compete.
In the 1960’s Browning and Weatherby were the top of the line American made rifles. With their beautiful wood and high gloss blue, they were indeed beautiful. Fast forward to 2016 and it seems all rifle manufacturers have changed gears. Purpose built, functional, affordable and most importantly accurate rifles are what is in demand.
Browning seems to be putting their efforts into the Xbolt model. This year the Xbolt has three models designated as “long range” rifles. They changed their trigger to what they call the “Feather” trigger. It is adjustable but the one on this rifle broke at a little over 3 pounds right out of the box with little or no creep. I found it very usable, and I am particular about triggers.
The Eclipse model can be easily identified by the grey laminated thumbhole stock, which comes standard. I have never been a big fan of a thumbhole stock but after shooting the Eclipse I found it to be comfortable, plus it readily absorbed the recoil. Weighing in at ten pounds three ounces it is not light, but is heavy enough to allow the shooter to shoot comfortably all day at the range.
The barrel is a varmint contour and twenty-eight inches long. This made the rifle a little barrel heavy but did give the ammunition a few more feet per second in velocity. The length of pull was the standard thirteen and three fourths inches. If you took the rifle down you would find the action and recoil lug are hand bedded. The barrel is free floating.
I did notice that there were some initials in chalk in the barrel channel. Browning did not know exactly why they were there but I can only assume the technician who bedded the action was proud to sign it, and he or she should have been. It took a lot of convincing to get the barreled action out of the stock.
The action was the standard Xbolt, which has been around for several years. The bolt has a release button that allows the shooter to open the bolt when the safety is in the “on” position. The 60 degree bolt lift takes away the knuckle busting that happens with the 90 degree bolts when you use the large scopes commonly used for long range shooting. The drop box magazine is easy to get to but not subject to accidently dropping. The rotary design makes loading easy and sure. The function of the action was smooth and did not have any hiccups while testing.
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Browning Eclipse Target Rifle ReviewThere is a swivel stud up front for the attachment of a bipod. Your sling can be attached with the flush mounts installed at the factory. This is nice for the bench shooters so your barrel studs do not tear up your rests. I mounted my Swarovski X5 .34-18x56 and headed to my bench. The Eclipse has four mounting holes front and rear. This is evident when you pick up a new one and you will see a plastic “X” front and rear of the action. These connect the hole plugs. Currently Browning sells a ring/base combination for the rifle. It is the same design as the DNXZ, one piece base and bottom ring. There are other suppliers selling compatible scope bases. Personally I cannot see the need for four hole bases, but it worked well for me.
For testing I pulled together most of the available 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition on the market including a new comer, Prime ammunition out of Las Vegas, NV.
Five shot groups were fired at 100 yards and three at 200 yards. These were the best groups of several days at my range. It was unusual in my experience for nearly all the ammunitions to shoot so well. The exception was the Hornady Superformance which shot well enough for a hunting round but did not stay up with the others. With Nosler Match I shot an amazing five shot group at 100 yards but at 200 yards the new Hornady ELD M shot the best with a .765” group. My results are a testament to the potential accuracy of the new Eclipse Target rifle.
The Prime ammunition I used was their 130gr. HPBT match round. It performed very well considering the competition. It actually had the third best five shot group at 100 yards. RUAG Ammotec makes the ammunition. This company is based in Switzerland and is well known in Europe for its dependability, consistency and accuracy. The 6.5 Creedmoor is also available in a hunting round. This ammunition can be purchased directly from Prime, saving the markup of a middleman.
At a suggested retail price of $1069.99, the Browning Eclipse Target Rifle is a great value for an exceptionally accurate factory rifle. It is definitely not your grandfather’s Browning.
After twenty-five years with a major law enforcement agency, John Johnston retired to the hill country of central Texas. His law enforcement career was diverse with assignments with the tactical/motorcycle unit, patrol, and criminal investigation. After retiring, writing became his calling. He started with a newspaper column which, he still writes and then moved up to major magazines in the area of shooting and hunting. He is known for his unbiased product testing and evaluations. Having a full size range from 25-450 yards next to his home was his dream come true. 2010 marks his fiftieth anniversary in the hunting, shooting and reloading sports. You will notice his writing style is quite relaxed and he prefers to write like he is speaking to you around a camp fire. John welcomes questions and comments whether good or bad. You can reach John at [email protected].