Winchester SXR Vulcan autoloader hunting rifle

Winchester SXR Vulcan .30 - 06
The Winchester SXR Vulcan in .30-06 caliber tested with the Mepro 21 collimator

Testing the SXR Vulcan we have been impressed by its reliability, toughness, ergonomics and accuracy, all inherited from the Browning BAR and Long Trac rifles, transplanted in an solid product featuring an excellent price.

In fact, the Vulcan is essentially a Browning Long Trac with a completely redesigned stock, a new barrel length and brand new sights package (including a Picatinny rail); it also lacks  the hold open release lever.

The Vulcan holds all the good features that the Browning BAR developed over many decades, which are now available in a modern, streamlined and stylish, simple yet fully featured semi automatic hunting rifle.

The version we tried was chambered for the classic .30-06 Springfield caliber, but the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle is also available in 7x64mm, .308 Winchester/7,62x51mm, .300 Winchester Magnum and .270 Winchester Short Magnum calibers.

As far as it concerns typical hunting situations in southern Europe, the latter two calibers may be overkill and just not as flexible as the others. However, when it comes to hunting in other "theatres" − such as in northern Europe, eastern Europe or abroad − the 53cm-long barrel will allow proper handling of the high ballistic efficiency of all the available calibers.

The issued box magazine holds two rounds, and a third can be hosted in chamber. Extended magazines are available too, boosting the overall capacity to five rounds for standard calibers and to four rounds for "Magnum" and "Short Magnum" calibers. All magazines available for the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle are double-stack and detachable-

The magazine catch/release control is found right in front of the trigger guard, in form of a slightly curved push-type lever; quite a clever design and location if you ask us, allowing a quick reach and a flawless operation.

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All controls are completely ambidextrous, except for the cocking handle
Winchester SXR Vulcan .30 - 06
The pistol grip features a deeply etched machined checkering

All components of the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle are built at the Company plant in Belgium, and assembled in Portugal. The fluted barrel comes with a mirror or matte black surface finish; the frame is instead machined out of a single block of aircraft-grade, 7075-T6 ERGAL lightweight aluminium alloy.

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The handguard is fastened to the rifle with a cyinder that also doubles as a sling attachment point

The Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle is a gas-operated, locked-breech, rotating bolt design sporting a Browning BAR-style adjustable gas valve; this option enables the shooter to enjoy flawless operation and maximum performance with any available load.

Despite borrowing a lot from the Browning BAR rifle design, the Winchester SXR Vulcan layout has been modified under two key points.

First of all, the travel stop block located right behind the gas piston is manufactured out of polymer rather than metal, and dubs as a recoil buffer.

Said modification was conceived to drastically reduce the vibrations, impulse and mechanical shock levels, increasing the overall lifespan of the gun.

Another modification includes a flat − not round − bolt return spring, which improves the coaxial movement transmission of the gas piston.

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We tested the .30-06 caliber Winchester SXR Vulcan hunting in the field, with the iron sights zeroed at 50m, and the Meprolight MEPRO-21 reflex sight zeroed at 100m

The Winchester SXR Vulcan autoloading rifle sports a cross-bolt safety button located on the rear portion of the trigger guard, which can be reversed for left-handed users.

A bright red-colored bolt lock indicator can be found on the cocking level, which may be useful should the need arise for a silent cocking.

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Detail of the Browning BAR based bolt head, with 7 locking lugs, claw extractor and spring loaded ejector

The Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle retains the Browning BAR's quintessential bolt design, which includes the rotating bolt head with angled locking lugs that provide a primary level of extraction in early phases of the reloading cycle, helping the spent case to disengage from the firing chamber walls as the bolt travels back for the first few millimetres. A tried and true design, after all, so not actually worth the hassle, and the risk, to tinker with it in any way.

The Winchester SXR Vulcan autoloading hunting rifle comes with an internal hammer, a standard claw extractor mounted on the bolt head and a fixed spring-loaded ejector.

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The fluted barrel muzzle is crowned to protect the bore rifling

As stated above, the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle barrel is a fluted design, with a different profile than the Browning BAR's; this makes it technically lighter and allows quicker heat dissipation.

Its standard lenght is set at 53cm/20.87", halfway between the Browning BAR's "Battue (50,5cm/19.88") and "Affut" versions (55,5cm/21.85").

In our opinion, the "intermediate" lenght actually enhances the overall performance of the .30-06 Springfield round and of the two higher available calibers (.300 Winchester Magnum and .270 Winchester Short Magnum), while at the same time maintaining the gun very easy to handle overall.

For the tested .30-06 caliber version, the barrel comes with four right-handed grooves and a 1:10” pitch. Both the chamber and the gas block are internally chrome-lined, so to extend their operational lifespan.

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The buttpad is manufactured out of hard Bakelite, and in our opinion the final user should consider its replacement with a more efficient aftermarket component, such as a Pachmayr Decelerator

The stock of the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle is a small jewel of simplicity and efficiency: the comb is straight (no Montecarlo-type cheekrest), and the pistol grip comes with a medium contour and checkered surfaces.

The stock is not attached to the frame of the rifle in a glued or continuous style; two metal lugs protrude from the frame, which makes it impossible to fit spacers or attachments that would adjust the drop at heel or at comb.

The handguard sports a medium, well-rounded profile, which will suit mostly any hand size; a polymer notch on the front portion hosts the release catch that will allow the removal of the handguard itself.

Said notch comes with drilled holes that can either be used to host pin pushers − which may be useful to put the handguard back in position following a field-strip − or to fit a front sling ring.

The side panels are also checkered, providing a firmer grip. The overall quality level of the walnut furniture can be considered more than acceptable if compared with the overall cost of the gun, and so is the quality level of the finish. The only "thumb down" here is for the buttpad: manufactured out of hardened bakelite, it will not last long and should be replaced even before firing the first shot.

The Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle is 3100 grams/6.83 pounds heavy overall and exactly 1 meter/39.37 inches long, which makes it extremely maneuverable for shooters even after they spent hours motionless on still-hunting.

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The new polymer Battue rear sight is not adjustable, and is mounted on the barrel with set screws
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The completely adjustable front sight features a thin, red fiber-optic bead and a white guide line

The first version of the Winchester SXR Vulcan autoloading rifle sported some very basic sights setup, with a fixed triangular-shaped rear sight with a white see-through tunnel for quicker acquisition.

The front sight very small, manufactured out of a red polymer piece mounted on a metal bloc and adjustable through two screws.

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The trigger guard includes the cross-bolt safety button and the magazine release catch

Many of the first users complained about this sights configuration − and rightfully so: the front sight couldn't be adjusted accurately, and the white inlays could confuse the shooter under certain environmental lighting conditions.

The Company thus conceived a new and improved sighting setup, including a similar non-adjustable rear battue rib which is more linear than the earlier model, and thus quicker in aligning the shooter's eye towards the front sight and thus towards the target.

The new front sight is slimmer than the earlier version, it is easier to adjust, and sports a glowing red fiber-optic inlay.

Shooters who already own the first-production Winchester SXR Vulcan model can purchase the new sights setup as an optional aftermarket kit to replace their old sights with.

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The MEPRO M21 reflex collimator manufactured in Israel by MEPROLIGHT uses both natural light and an H3 Tritium capsule to power the illuminated aiming dot, so that no batteries are required

The top portion of the frame is drilled and tapped to allow the quick installation of commercial optics through the use of a MIL-STD-1913 "Picatinny" rail.

In our case, we tested the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle with a military reflex collimator which turned out just perfect for battue hunting: the Israeli-manufactured Meprolight MEPRO M21 model.

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The standard detechable magazines for the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle hold three rounds, but four-rounders are also available

Meprolight's MEPRO M21 requires no battery to operate: it is an open reflex gunsight, featuring a dichroic glass reflecting an illuminated reticle (an amber-colored dot, in our case) whose illumination comes from environmental light, which is captured through a fiber-optic insert; in low-light conditions or at night, the illumination comes through a tritium source, the same used on TRASER military timepieces.

The body of the Meprolight MEPRO M21 gunsight is extremely sturdy and sports an integral interface system with two adjustable quick-detach brackets. The use of a key on two screws is required to zero the MEPRO M21 in for windage and elevation.

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Winchester SXR Vulcan semiautomatic hunting rifle, .30-06 Springfield caliber, seen from the right side
Winchester SXR Vulcan .30 - 06
Winchester SXR Vulcan semiautomatic hunting rifle, .30-06 Springfield caliber, seen from the left side

We were able to test the Winchester SXR Vulcan with a Meprolight MEPRO M21 outside of a standard hunting battue; we had to settle for a range shooting session and a few informal tests on moving silhouette targets..

First of all, it should be pointed out that the MEPRO M21 sighting line is quite high when installed on the SXR Vulcan rifle, and the shooter will have to keep his or her head equally high when aligning the dot to the target; it's something that will be easy to get accustomed with after a few training sessions at the range. Furthermore, the MEPRO M21 shows a visible parallax error at very short ranges (<5mt) which will gradually reduce at longer ranges.

On the other hand, the MEPRO M21 is extremely fast to collimate, and sports the undeniable advantage of doing without a battery: there's nothing to be turned on or off when using it, and the lighting level of the aiming reticle or dot is regulated by the environmental light.

Zeroing the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle on a 50-metres range required quite a few test shots, due to the extremely basic sights layout (the setting screw for the front sight were to be extremely well calculated), but results finally came in form of a very tight group (27x13mm), an excellent result that rewards both the Company's choice for a 53cm-long barrel and our own choice of high quality ammunition.

Furthermore, the recoil and muzzle climb remain under more than acceptable levels thanks to the extremely well engineered ergonomics and stock design of the gun, allowing more accuracy in quick follow-up shots. The replacement of the factory buttstock with a better aftermarket model will provide even better results. The factory trigger on the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle is not adjustable, but stands pretty practical at a 2-kilograms pull.

Final Considerations

Winchester SXR Vulcan: high quality at a low cost. Shooters who trusted their performance, and money, on Browning's semi-automatic battue rifles will find in the Winchester SXR Vulcan a trustworthy alternative, providing results on the field and a considerable saving on the street price.

Personally speaking, we love the ergonomics and the 53-centimetres barrel of the Winchester SXR Vulcan rifle, a perfect blend to get the best out of battue hunting ammunition. At last industry realized that 20-inches barrel are not the best for the newest-generation, lead free!