Browning introduces the 26 Nosler in the X-Bolt rifle line.

Release Date: 2/5/2015

A detailed look at the performance of the Nosler 26 caliber -- now available in the X-Bolt rifle.

At the 2015 SHOT Show Browning introduced several new X-Bolt models chambered for the Nosler 26 cartridge, The cartridge was introduced at last year’s SHOT Show to much fan fare. The 26 Nosler was a significant introduction as it eclipsed the performance of existing high velocity 6.5mm/.264 caliber cartridges such as the 6.5 x 284 Norma, the 260 Remington, and the 264 Winchester Magnum, providing superior velocity in a non-belted case that fits in a 30-06 length action.

The 26 Nosler Cartridge.

The X-Bolt Western Hunter in Mossy Oak Brush is a fantastic platform for this cartridge. It features a chrome lined bore to alleviate concerns for throat erosion from the high velocity 26 Nosler. Additionally, it is one of the first X-Bolt models to come standard with a compensator.

6.5mm or .264 inch caliber bullets have become increasingly popular in recent years. If you don’t already know, the driving reason is that for a relatively small bullet, you get an amazingly high BC (ballistic coefficient). The high BC allows these streamlined bullets to “buck the wind” and retain velocity at longer ranges – allowing for greater long range performance without dealing with higher recoil (and greater expense for hand loaders) of rounds like the 300 Winchester Magnum. Bolt-action shooters have embraced the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 6.5 Grendel has gained a decent following among users of the AR15 platform.

Nosler seems to be marketing the 26 Nosler more toward traditional hunters, focusing on the 415 yard point blank range of the cartridge. Contrary to the use of the term “Point Blank Range” in the news, movies and TV shows, point blank range refers to the maximum distance you can shoot a bullet at a target of a given size without having to use holdover. With most hunting calibers, a 200-250 yard zero will allow you to hit within a 5-7″ diameter circle at a distance from the muzzle out to 300 yards or so. If you don’t want to mess with a laser range finder, target turrets/ballistic drop compensated reticles and drop charts/smart phone apps, the 26 Nosler may well be the cartridge for you. Continued below . . . 

Nosler® produced video promoting the introduction of the 26 Nosler.

For the modern hunter and shooter, the 26 Nosler presents an amazing opportunity to push the limits of the round. Taking shots at steel plates out to 1,200 yards and beyond prepares Western hunters to easily and ethically take shots on big game at 600 yards. In fact, many of us are spending more time “ringing steel” at extended ranges simply because it’s a fun way to hone skills with a dedicated rifle that would otherwise spend 11 out of 12 months gathering dust in the safe.

As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Critics have expressed concern over the potential of the 26 Nosler to be a “barrel burner”, due to it being such a hot loaded cartridge.

X-Bolt Western Hunter Mossy Oak Brush

X-Bolt Long Range Hunter Stainless Buckthorn Tan

This is a legitimate concern, but I’d counter with the fact that many varminters buy rifles chambered in 22-250, that they will fire a few hundred rounds through in a single afternoon, without giving it a second thought. The 26 Nosler is designed for and marketed to big game hunters. Even long range shooting enthusiasts will probably fire 40 rounds at most through their barrels in one sitting, and most likely at a much slower rate than a varmint hunter thinning out the prairie dog population. Likewise, if the barrel life of a 26 Nosler rifle is as low as the most pessimistic of critics claim (about 800 rounds), how many rounds does the average hunter or shooter put down the barrel of his rifle each year, or in some cases over their lifetime?

Regardless, the designers at Browning have anticipated the barrel life concern and mitigated it by chrome lining the barrels of our 26 Nosler rifles. This will slow throat erosion in addition to making the barrel easier to clean and alleviating the need for any kind of break in process.

Article copyright Browning 2015. Written by Browning staff writer Stewart Brough. This article/blog entry is for discussion purposes only and does not reflect any specific advice or instructions from Browning regarding the 26 Nosler caliber. Many comments represent the author's opinions only. For anything related to ammunition contact the ammunition manufacturer. In this case: