When the X-Caliber arrived, I was excited about shooting something so bizarre and definitively ugly. I compared the X-Caliber to the weird kid in class: the one who’s fun to hang out with but tanks your popularity. I found the opposite to be true. Everywhere I took the X-Caliber, people wanted to shoot it. With each shot, I wanted to hang out with it less and less…
The X-Caliber is marketed as a survival rifle of sorts. The “gun” can shoot both .22LR and 12 gauge. With the addition of any of the eight barrel inserts that come with the gun, it can be made to shoot the following:
- 9 mm
- 40 S&W
- .45 ACP
- .357 Magnum/.38 Special
- .44 Magnum
- .410/.45 LC
- 20 Gauge
The idea is very attractive. Theoretically, you could toss this gun in your truck or your pack, grab some hard cast .44 Mag for the big critters, a box of .22 for the small critters, a handful of 2-3/4″ 12 gauge for the flying critters, and the barrel inserts to shoot anything else you find along the way. About the time you really get lost in fantasy land, the harsh reality of the practical limitations of the X-Caliber will give you a cold, wet slap to the face.
The first and most pressing wake up call: the .357 barrel flat out didn’t fit. I tried it with the gun cold. I tried it with it hot. No dice. In fact, the whole premise of large caliber barrel inserts scared me a bit. I didn’t try the .44 Mag barrel. Call me a wuss all you want in the comments, I don’t mind. Much.
The second downer: how damn unwieldily the little bugger is. You’d figure that a gun that looks this light would be ya know, light. But it weighs nearly six pounds. And for that kind of weight, you could just keep a minimalist AR 15 with irons in two pieces in a bag. While interesting looking, the stock’s made of styrofoam and steel. It’s not comfortable to shoulder at all; the only place to grip with your support hand is right in front of the trigger guard. This makes the X-Caliber downright uncomfortable to shoot in most practical positions.
Once you break the shot, you break the action open and then flip out the spent casing with your thumbnail. No assisted ejection here. Oh sure, that sort of thing would be impossibly expensive to engineer, but it sure would allow you to put a follow up shot downrange within a few seconds of the first one versus the nearly ten seconds it takes currently. And forget about quick barrel changes. The watertight tool kit included in the stock includes a very purpose-built pick that is the perfect size for prying out barrel inserts. Once you get the hang of it, you can change barrel in less than a minute with far fewer four letter words.
I let several people shoot this gun. Every person nervously asked, “How bad is it shooting 12 gauge?” To put it bluntly, it’s blunt. The lack of cheek weld, the short length of pull, and the six pound weight combine to make the X-Caliber a pain to shoot. I put five rounds of 2-3/4″ steel shot down the pipe to confirm that it functioned and threw shot in the general direction of my aiming point.
I outsourced the rest of the functional testing to unwitting onlookers at the range. Twenty five yards seemed to be about the maximum range of patterning that would cover a squirrel or rabbit with a few pellets. Hungry hunters would be best served getting a little closer. The 20-gauge barrel is a bit more acceptable from a recoil perspective, the .410 even more so. Like the 12 gauge though, expect to stalk-up close to your prey if you’re interested in ethical kills.