Thanks to the rack-and-pinion gear
design of the lever/bolt relationship, ejecting a fired case and chambering a fresh round
takes 1.25 to 1.5 seconds, according to my stopwatch. With a bit of practice that might
even be reduced a bit. Even so, thats faster than any other lever action I ever
Lockup is tight - and positive. The
BLRs bolt head is adorned by six healthy locking lugs. When the bolt slides forward,
each lug cams into a corresponding slot milled in the barrels breech. Not the
receiver, mind you - the breech. That surrounds each cartridge head with a ring of steel,
just like a bolt action does. Empty cases are flipped to the right, out an ejection port
milled in the receiver. That last, machined from an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy,
encloses the entire action. Its solid top permits scope sights to be mounted low and close
to the eye.
No matter how well conceived the
design, there always seems to be at least one fly in the ointment. In this instance, its
the trigger/sear relationship, which is sadly reminiscent of the late and mostly
unlamented Model 88 Winchesters.
Like the 88Õs, the BLRs
trigger is pinned to the lever assembly. Consequently, it loses contact with the sear each
time the action is opened and closed. As a result, let-off is anything but crisp.
When the trigger is pulled, the
actual sequence of events goes something like this: First, theres .08 inch
(measured) of free travel as finger pressure is first applied. Next, as finger pressure
slowly increases, the trigger begins to move rearward, by fits and starts, for
approximately 1/16 inch or more before the sear releases and the hammer falls. That
distance is approximate because I wasnt able to devise a foolproof method of
measuring it. According to the RCBS scale, pull ranged from 6 3/4 to 7 1/4 pounds.
Being a graduate of the Winchester
Model 88 School of Trigger Management, I simply took my time at the bench and applied
pressure against the trigger as slowly and as consistently as possible. The result, on
target, was amazing!
A certain amount of luck may have
been involved in the range results since all the rounds fired were handloads. Its
possible I may have stumbled on just the right combinations to get the best out of the
When Nosler 150-grain Ballistic Tips
were seated over 50.0 grains of W-760 and touched off by Remington 9 1/2 Magnum primers in
Winchester cases, velocities, 15 feet from the muzzle, averaged 2,631 fps. At 100 yards,
three-shot strings grouped from 1.5 to 1.25 inches. (They tightened as I became better
acquainted with the rifle.) In fact, the last string fired clustered into exactly .5 inch
- but that was judged a lucky fluke.
Switching to Nosler 125-grain
Ballistic Tips and 50.0 grains of W-748 plus Remington standard 9 1/2 primers gave average
velocities of 2,833 fps 15 feet from the muzzle. Out at the 100-yard line, three-shot
strings were reassuringly consistent, grouping from 1.0 to 1.1 inches.
Three-shot strings were fired
because that slender, 20-inch barrel heated rapidly. A few experimental four-shot strings
fired in the beginning revealed that fourth round was usually .25 to .5 inch apart from
its predecessors. Traditionalists may insist on five or even 10-shot strings, but as far
as Im concerned, if a lightweight hunting rifle can keep three rounds inside an inch
at 100 yards - consistently - it needs no apologies.
Short, light rifles merit short,
light scopes, so a Burris Compact 4x was selected for the range tests. It is only 8 1/4
inches long. Clamped to the BLRs flat-topped receiver with the aid of Burris alloy
mounts, it brought the rifles weight up to 7 1/8 pounds. Its bright, clear
sight picture was worth every one of those additional ounces. At 100 yards, it was no
problem at all to quarter the 10-ring with the duplex crosshairs. No two ways about it,
that little Burris scope deserves its share of credit for those bragging-sized groups.
Best of all, adding the small scope
had no adverse effect on the rifles balance or handling. In my opinion, one of the
factors that contributed to the demise of Winchesters Model 88 and the Savage Model
99 was that neither rifle was scope-friendly.
When an iron-sighted Model 99 was
carried by one hand, that hands thumb could be curled comfortably across the top of
the receiver. A 99 could be carried that way for hours and, whenever the need arose, could
be shouldered quickly and easily.
If they were scoped, both 88s and
99s felt top-heavy. They tended to cant to one side or the other, placing a strain on a
hands muscles. As a result, most wound up being slung over a shoulder - and it takes
considerably more time to bring a shoulder-slung rifle into action than it does one
dangling from a hand. When scoped, neither rifle was as handy to carry as they should have
been and that, Im convinced, cost them a lot of popularity among lever lovers.
Not so with the BLR. Thanks to its
relatively narrow (1 1/4-inch) receiver, it can be carried in one cupped hand for hours at
a time. That permits it to be brought into action with one quick lift to the shoulder,
supporting hand under the forearm and finger on the trigger.
Would a larger, more powerful scope
have an adverse effect on a BLRs balance and handling qualities? Possibly. In any
event, selecting a scope for any lever-actioned rifle deserves a lot more thought than it
Fit and finish are typically
Browning, which is to say, first-class. Steel and aluminum are burnished blue-black. No
run-overs could be found in any of the checkered panels, and the diamonds were sharp,
offering a good, solid grip. Some may feel the buttpad is too thick, but it was certainly
comfortable against my shoulder. Best of all, it tamed recoil at the bench and made the
light rifle a lot more controllable there.
Browning depends on a natural
product called Kanabe to coat its stocks. No doubt its durable, but it gives a
varnish-like finish and glitters in bright sunlight. That isnt a particularly
desirable characteristic on a hunting rifle. Seems to me that something duller, less
conspicuous might be in order.
Short-actioned BLRs are chambered in
.22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester. All sport
20-inch barrels. Long-actioned models are offered in .270 Winchester, .30-06, 7mm
Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. The .270 and 06 rifles have 22-inch
barrels and their catalog weight is listed as 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Magnum versions carry
24-inch barrels; their advertised weights are 7 pounds, 12 ounces.
Brownings Lightning BLR
represents a clever combination of traditional and modern design. Its easy-toting,
responsive and accurate; offered in a wide range of useful calibers too. A trigger tune-up
wouldnt hurt though. - Al Miller