When it comes to hunting rifles and recreational firearms, I have a certain taste. Blue steel and walnut appeal to me. I love older rifles and the face of a historic rifle. The 1895 Winchester is one, although my version is a modern rifle marked Browning. Then there is the Browning High Power rifle, also known as the Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR.
Not to be confused with the war-winning machine rifle. In the event I need a SHTF rifle, I have several good — very good — AR-15 rifles. I appreciate America’s rifle. I don’t always look at the crossover between hunting and personal defense. This certainly exists with lever-action rifles, as they are often useful in many roles.
Single-shot and self-loading hunting rifles are not always as versatile. By the same token, every rifle doesn’t have to have a role to earn its keep. It just has to please me. Among the most engaging and enjoyable rifles in the accumulation is a Browning Automatic Rifle in .300 Winchester Magnum.
Writing about these rifles involves a lot of abstract thought. As in how I might best enjoy such a rifle. That is balanced with the reader’s expectations of concrete logical thought concerning performance. The following review demanded a lot of thought and effort. Firing over 60 rounds in a .300 Winchester Magnum is a little punishing…
I own four handguns for every rifle. However, the rifle is so effective in each role that I don’t need many. The Browning High Power rifle was introduced in 1967. Most of us call the rifle the BAR — and add more than a little respect and affection.
My 1968 rifle is among the first chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum. While there were previous semi-automatic hunting rifles, including the Remington Model 8 and Winchester’s .351 rifle, most were chambered for cartridges in the .30-30 class — at best. The .351 Winchester is about in .357 Magnum category.
Remington’s 742 was proving popular, however, and it chambered full-size hunting cartridges. The BAR is offered in many popular calibers to compete. The .300 Winchester Magnum cartridges give the BAR the power to take on the largest North American game, save for perhaps, the biggest grizzlies.
But then again, I have no experience with those bears. Unlike some attempts at a sporting self-loading rifle, the BAR has sufficient accuracy for hunting. It isn’t quite as accurate as a good Browning X Bolt, but it is accurate enough for most chores to 300 yards.
Features of the BAR
The rifle illustrated features a steel receiver. The bolt is designed with seven locking lugs. The blue finish is beautiful, and the walnut stocks are gorgeous. There is sufficient checkering to make certain you have a good grip on the rifle. The BAR is supplied with an adjustable rear sight and a hooded post front sight.
When the rifle was designed, there was a desire to have a certain resemblance to the famous Browning Auto 5 shotgun. The rifle resembles the Auto 5, but the receiver hump isn’t as pronounced. The action soaks up some of the recoil of the cartridge and the weight (8 pounds) is comfortable enough when firing the .300 Winchester Magnum.
You get a whack! for certain. If you find the .308 Winchester a smart kicker, don’t move up to this caliber. On the other hand, with careful load selection, the .30-06 Springfield will nip at the heels of the .300 Winchester Magnum, while using much less powder doing so. In the final analysis, you may not need a .300 Winchester Magnum. It is all in the application.
Browning’s Belgian hammer-forged barrels are the stuff of legend. Quality control and air gauged specifications ensure the rifles are consistent. The BAR’s 24-inch barrel is a good compromise length that is ideal for most hunting chores.
The barrel twist is one turn in 10 inches. This twist will stabilize bullets up to 220 grains, but it is also accurate with 150-grain bullets. Lockup is tight. A rotating bolt has plenty of leverage. All this steel is comforting when you touch off a high-pressure loading.
The Browning Automatic Rifle is a gas-operated action with operating rods that drive an inertia block rearward. Inertia systems are famously reliable, and the BAR is no exception. A three-round magazine is housed in a hinged compartment making for an unusual, but workable, system.
At the Range
The rifle is accurate, no question there. A rifle that has proven accurate from the benchrest gives you confidence in offhand fire. Just the same, my first shots with this rifle were offhand.
I had previously fired a bolt-action .300 Winchester Magnum that kicked like a kangaroo and untied my shoelaces. Well, it felt like it. The BAR has recoil, certainly, but it is manageable. It is about a pound heavier than the offensive bolt-action rifle, and the added modulating effect of the gas operation is a big plus.
After assuring the rifle would not knock my eyeballs out of socket in offhand fire, I rested the rifle as comfortably as possible and tested the rifle with several loads. Iron sights are good to a bit past 100 yards. I would love to have a set of aperture sights, similar to the 1895 Browning rifle, on the BAR. The BAR rifle sights are very precise, however.
As it was, the rifle is capable of three-shot groups in two inches at 100 yards. I found the rifle to be about as accurate as the average Springfield M1A, after some acclimation and trying different loads. A three-shot group of 1.5 inches isn’t out of the ordinary, while a 2.0-inch group on demand is realistic. This is under perfect shooting conditions on the rifle range. I suspect mounting an optic would make a huge difference.
My favorite game is wild boar. Deer meat, however, is more palatable. I base my practice on field experience. Nothing like sitting in a stand with this rifle, watching the sun rise ready for a hunt. Better yet, there’s nothing to settle the digestive system like fresh wild meat.
I like to practice with a rifle at distances of 50–100 yards. This includes quickly taking a shot standing at the shorter distance and going to a sitting position using available bracing — usually a column at the range shed.
Caliber: .300 Winchester Magnum
Barrel: 24 inches
Length: 45 inches
Weight: 8 pounds
Stock: High-grade walnut
Sights: Fixed post front adjustable rear
The .300 Winchester Magnum Cartridge
With lighter bullets, the .300 Winchester Magnum is deadly on deer and boar. I don’t like to comment on game I haven’t taken and things I have not done — I suppose I am an exception — but the .300 Winchester Magnum enjoys an excellent reputation for elk, moose, bear, and other game. I have handloaded the cartridge, carefully full-length resizing cartridges in the autoloading rifle is necessary with some success.
With 150-grain bullets, 3,300 fps is possible. With 165-grain bullets, 3,100 fps and this seems a sweet spot for accuracy. 180-grain bullets may reach 3,050 fps. This is real power.
The heavy 210–220 grain bullets are useful for some chores. I have not tested these, but loading manuals state these heavy loads will reach 2,600 fps. This is a powerful and accurate number. While it isn’t for everyone, the world is better for such an awe-inspiring cartridge.
Conclusion: Browning Automatic Rifle
The BAR has rifle accuracy but handles somewhat like a shotgun. The BAR gets on target quickly with an outstanding natural point. The rifle swings from one target to the other quickly and offers fast handling and shooting for hunting in the woods. The BAR is comfortable in every firing position.
In practical accuracy, the rifle is the equal to anything I have fired. An experienced hunter, much my senior, remarked that he used a single-shot rifle when hunting, and felt that misses were less than with a bolt action. He noted that a follow-up shot on game was about as fast with a single shot as a bolt gun. Well, maybe and maybe not, but I get his point. The BAR actually offers a useful rapid follow-up shot.
The BAR is easily handled. Open the magazine plate and load the magazine. Close the plate and rack the bolt. Place the safety on. It is that simple. The rifle is also easily unloaded. If climbing the deer stand, chamber empty is my rule.
I like the old BAR very much. A friend tells me that modern Browning Automatic Rifles are even more accurate. I own only the one BAR, and it certainly serves my needs.