The US brand Winchester is associated with all kinds of firearms. However, it mainly gained notoriety for its underlever rifles. In less gun-related circles, the brand name has even spread as a designation for lever-action guns as a whole – regardless of the manufacturer. However, the company, which belongs to the Herstal Group (as does Browning or FN, for example), now has a significantly wider range of products in the rifle sector.
Visually and technically, the rifle that is the subject of this article is very far from an underlever: it is a semi-automatic rifle for driven hunting. And it goes by the name of SXR Vulcan Camo Blaze Fluted. This name already tells us something about the features of the gun: it is a semi-automatic from the Vulcan series, with camouflage pattern and in blaze orange color. In addition, the test rifle has a fluted barrel.
The only question that remains is the caliber. And here the testers opted for the .30-06 Springfield – it forms the energetic middle ground in the caliber range. Also available in this variant of the Winchester SXR Vulcan are the two .308 Winchester and 9.3x62 calibers. The test model changes hands for 1199.00 euros. Before taking the test gun to the shooting range, all4hunters.com first took a look at the exterior and other equipment details of the semi-automatic rifle intended for driven hunts.
How has Winchester equipped the SXR Camo Blaze?
The most obvious feature of the SXR Camo Blaze is the stock. It features a camouflage pattern on a blaze orange background. When the Winchester arrived at all4hunters.com, the rifle virtually lit us up. At first impression, one of the testers assumed that the stock was a plastic part. Far from it! It is made of wood and covered with the coloring material on the outside. However, in a way that one can assume a plastic stock. This finish definitely said yes both in visual and in the first impact tests. Under the buttplate, the stock is hollow. This saves weight, but of course it also makes it more fragile. The situation is similar with the forend: it also seemed threateningly thin to us in some places. A compromise between stability and weight. However, practical problems did not arise on this point.
Hidden under the forearm is the gas system, which drives the system that locks with a rotating bolt. The gas extraction can be adjusted by a gunsmith and adapted to the ammunition. The shooting test, however, made it clear that there is probably no need for this. To access this component, the forearm must be removed from the rifle. According to the testers, this has been solved well: for this purpose, there is an attachment nut on the front of this gun part. Three-millimeter holes are drilled in this nut, and a corresponding pin can be inserted through it to loosen it. After that, simply pull off the forearm – done. This is very convenient because the forearm is not firmly attached to the barrel. This optimizes the vibration and heating behavior. Consequently, there is only a connection to the aluminum receiver of the SXR Vulcan.
On the receiver top, Winchester has drilled four holes sealed with grub screws. These are used to mount a Picatinny rail. The shooter can then attach an optic to it. In the case of a rifle intended for driven hunts, a red dot sight or a scope with low magnification is naturally a good choice. For the test, all4hunters opted for the latter, as seen in the pictures. Consequently, the driven hunt sights, which are also present on the Wichester SXR Vulcan, remained unused. However, a look over them made us feel positive. With a few attempts at aiming, one always sat quickly and intuitively on target.
The trigger assembly and the magazine well are located on the underside of the receiver. Unfortunately, there is a lot of plastic here: the trigger guard, the magazine release lever in front of it, and the magazine base. The magazine itself, however, is made of sheet steel. A closer look at the receiver reveals something missing: the bolt catch lever. Consequently, after the last shot, it is the magazine that holds the breech open. To lock the unloaded gun, you must remove the magazine before operating the charging lever. Incidentally, the hunter can secure the semi-automatic rifle by means of a safety acting on the trigger.
The barrel, which is about 0.65”/16.5 millimeters thick at the muzzle, has a non-continuous fluting. It begins about 0.6”/15 mm behind the muzzle and extends over 9.8”/250 mm. Directly behind it, the barrel has a thickness of 0.74”/19 mm.
Winchester SXR Vulcan specs and price
|Model:||Winchester SXR Camo Blaze Fluted|
|Price:||1199 euro (price may vary in your country)|
|Caliber:||.30-06 Springfield (also available in .308 Winchester and 9.3x62 mm)|
|Magazine Capacity:||2 + 1 cartridges|
|Overall Length:||39.9”/1015 mm|
|Barrel Length:||18.6”/473 mm|
|Barrel Twist Rate:||1/10" (254 mm)|
|Trigger Pull Weight:||61.37 oz/1740 g|
|Weight:||6.86 lb/3114 g with rail|
|Notes:||Semi-automatic gas-operated rifle with rotating bolt.
Driven hunt sights and push button trigger safety. Aluminum receiver.|
With the Winchester SXR Vulcan semi-auto on the range
With a few hunting and training cartridges, the testers headed to the 100-meter range common for large-caliber rifles. Here, the first task was to break in the rifle and gain initial experience with it in firing. Here it was also immediately noticeable that the loading process caused slight problems. With a full magazine and locked breech, it proved particularly difficult to maneuver the ammunition container into the rifle. The resistance was too strong to reach the engagement position. There were also problems when the breech was open. The magazine must be inserted accurately with the long end facing forward, then pushed down the rear. If the hunter wants to bring a spare magazine and reload quickly, it will take some practice time. We suspect the problem arises from the fact that the Vulcan is available in versions with interchangeable and fixed magazines. In some countries, the law prohibits the use of interchangeable magazines in hunting rifles. In order to offer "one size fits all" here, they apparently simply got the corresponding connection between parts wrong. Furthermore, the loading process could be more pleasant with a somewhat larger and easier-to-grip charging handle. Taking the safety off was a loud and not very smooth affair. However, the safety did what it was supposed to and protected against any accidental discharge by acting on the trigger. With the safety off, the testers fired the test series. The participation of three all4hunters.com editors was not only an advantage in gathering different opinions, but also relieved the shoulder pain – the SXR Vulcan Camo Blaze in .30-06 Springfield kicks like a horse. In addition to the fairly light weight associated with the caliber, shooters also pinpointed the buttplate as a causative factor for this. This is essentially a piece of hard plastic, and almost nothing is absorbed.
The results from these series were average. The GECO Plus, with a bullet weighing 170 grains, came out on top with a grouping circle of 2.44”/62 millimeters. It was closely followed by the 5-grain lighter Exergy Blue from Sellier & Bellot. For a driven hunt rifle, these top groups are quite acceptable. However, shooting also showed that the trigger does not exactly make it easy for the shooter to punch good groups into the target. For example, the trigger weight of 1740 grams is still within reason, but on its way the trigger creeps a bit. Even audibly, as one of the testers noticed. However, the reliability of the rifle was assured over the entire test. All of the loads cycled into the gun did not cause any malfunctions or problems.
Winchester SXR Vulcan Camo Blazed Fluted: wrap-up
Within the market of decidedly hunting semi-auto rifles, the SXR Vulcan Camo Blaze Fluted ranks in the lower price range at only 1199 euros in EU markets. Of course, this is also reflected in the equipment, so the hunter must be aware that he cannot expect features like those of a much more expensive rifle. Nevertheless, the testers would have liked to see some features: a rubber recoil pad, for example, could greatly increase shooting comfort for a fairly manageable additional price. Likewise, a simple push-button safety acting on the trigger is no longer up-to-date. And you shouldn't skimp on safety anyway. However, the other criticisms mentioned can be forgiven from the point of view of the all4hunters.com team because of the price point. To come to a final recommendation: the owner-to-be must ask himself whether he can live with the missing bolt catch, with the unpadded butt plate and thus a brutal kick, the magazine that is difficult to insert, as well as the audibly creeping trigger. However, if you are looking for an affordable hunting autoloader and are willing to ignore these aspects, the Winchester SXR Camo Blaze is a very well performing driven hunt rifle with satisfactory accuracy and some sacrifices in features.