Choosing the cartridge
This is a very important step in determining what rifle you are going to be purchasing. If you are in the market for a new rifle like I was. I wanted a rifle that I could take hunting and also do some long-range target shooting with. I think the biggest need was a cartridge capable of being used for both elk and deer hunting. I chose to go with the Remington 7mm magnum. This option gives me the capability of shooting some light bullets for deer and some heavy bullets for elk. I feel that the range the 7mm magnum provides is an ideal cartridge for hunting the large landscapes of Idaho.
What rifle to buy
With so many options these days and so many great options it was a difficult decision. I looked at several options from most popular brands. I heavily looked at the Mossberg Patriot, T/C Compass, Bergara B-14 Hunter, and Remington 700 Sendero.
I ultimately chose the Browning X-Bolt Stalker Long-Range. Two reasons I chose this rifle. I have experience shooting in the in 30-06 caliber. And the fact that it has tons of nice features for a great price. The Stalker Long-Range has a 26” sporter barrel that is threaded and come with a brake installed but can be removed and either capped or suppressed.
What I like about the rifle is the fact that it is still pretty light even with the 26” 1:8 twist heavy sporter barrel coming in at 7 lbs. 10oz. With the Vortex 4-16X44 I installed it tops out just shy of 9 lbs. It could certainly be lighter with a scope geared more for hunting. But, since this is what I had on hand this is what I installed. Also, better for shooting longer ranges and also works for hunting just fine.
The fit and finish of this rifle is amazing. The bolt does not stick or bind and has a 60-degree throw. Which is great for clearing scopes. The rifle is coated with a dura-Touch Armor coating. The adjustable trigger is very crisp with zero creep. Out of the box the trigger broke consistently at 3.5 lbs. Another feature I really like is that it has the ability to open the bolt while the safety is on.
What I don’t like about the Stalker Long-Range is the stock. It is a stock. It is adequate, but I am left wanting a taller stock. I had to add quite a bit to mine in order to obtain a proper height for my cheek weld. That is honestly the only real issue I have with the rifle.
As I mentioned above the scope I mounted to the Stalker Long-Range is the Vortex Viper HS-T 4-16X44 with the MRAD reticle. I have had this scope for a while now and really like it. Since I am going to be doing some longer range shooting I mounted a browning 20 MOA base to it. I have read a few reviews about mounting bases to this rifle. Several reviews claim the standard screws that come with the base are garbage. My experience was very smooth. All the screws worked perfect with absolutely no issues. The scope rings are Vortex rings that I have lapped. Pretty standard set up really.
Working up loads
Since I hand load a majority of my ammo, along with the rifle I purchased everything I need to reload the 7mm magnum. I have always been a fan of heavier bullets. This cartridge is no different to me. I chose to use the Hornady ELD-X bullets. The powder I used for this was H1000. I had no experience reloading for this cartridge so between my Lyman reloading manual and some firsthand knowledge from some a few people that do reload it. I came to the conclusion that I needed to be around the 68-grain area for this bullet. So, I started at 67 grains and worked my way to 69 in .2 increments.
When I reached 68 grains even I shot a sub ½ inch group at an average speed of 3030 ftps. Due to time restrictions that is where is stopped. So, I loaded 25 rounds the next day and returned to the range to zero the rifle. Once it was zeroed I took three shots at 200, 300, and 550 yards then back down. At 550 yards my group was just over 2.5 inches. That satisfied my needs for the elk hunt I was going on. Had I been smart I would have kept my targets, but I was in a hurry and threw them away.
Shooting the Rifle
Like I previously stated I have shot the 30-06 and 7mm magnum in the Stalker Long-Range. I found both of them to have a similar recoil. The rifles both are easy to shoot and very manageable recoils. This in part is due to the length and weight of the gun, but the brake is the biggest reason. I really enjoy shooting this rifle and cannot wait to work up some more loads for the Stalker Long-Range.
Packing and Hunting
The weight of the Stalker Long-Range is really not a big issue at least for me. The extra length of the barrel really had no effect on trudging through thickets and aspen trees. The pack I use carries the rifle fairly low, but other packs may carry rifles higher and that could be an issue for some. However, definitely not an issue that I would consider taking it off the list for.
This rifle is fantastic and should definitely be considered if you are looking for a new hunting rifle. Although this is a limited-edition rifle, so there are not too many out there. If you’re lucky enough to snag one you will not be disappointed. The link I provided take you strait to the X-Bolt Stalker Long-Range page where you can review the offered calibers and specs.