By NRA’s American Rifleman
Spanish-made Bergara barrels have a good reputation for performance, and the company’s U.S. branch produces several models of rifles for uses ranging from hunting to tactical. Bergara’s production manager is former Marine Dan Hanus, who before retirement served at Quantico as the Production Chief and Chief Instructor for the Marine Corps Precision Weapons Section. The Long-Range Hunter (BCR15) rifle certainly reflects his background, fitting right into the present American style of such specialized guns.
The BCR15’s stock is the McMillan A-3 Sporter, featuring a vertical pistol grip, a non-adjustable cheekpiece, and a lighter fill than McMillan’s adjustable tactical stocks. The stock comes in an olive/tan/black “marble” camouflage, with a black Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad installed. There is an extra sling swivel stud on the fore-end for attaching a bipod.
The Bergara Custom action is pillar-bedded with steel-filled Marine-Tex epoxy, and the 24-inch barrel is free-floated. The barrel’s diameter at the muzzle, just behind the optional KDF muzzle brake, measures 0.725 inches. All the metal, including the steel Badger M4 bottom metal with hinged floorplate, features a black nitride finish for extreme weather resistance. The wide, oval trigger guard has enough room for a forefinger in a medium-weight glove, and the floorplate release is a slightly raised flat inside the guard, which is impossible to trip accidentally.
The BCR15’s advertised weight is 8 pounds, 8 ounces. The test rifle came with a 4-16X 50 mm Vortex Viper mounted on Bergara’s 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail, which is standard on the BCR15 and is both screwed and pinned to the action for stability. With the scope and mounts the rifle weighed 10 pounds, 1 ounce, a good compromise between portability and stability for this sort of specialized hunting rifle.
The action is typical of modern long-range bolt rifles, a push-feed design whose bolt has two forward-mounted, horizontally opposed lugs, it also has a plunger ejector, toggle Sako-style extractor, spirally fluted bolt and extra-long bolt handle. Like many such actions, it has a Remington Model 700 “footprint,” and in fact a 700 short action slipped easily into the stock.
Bergara uses both Timney and Shilen triggers with trigger blocking, two-position safeties—the bolt handle can still be manipulated on “safe.” The safety lever is positioned just to the right of the bolt shroud, exactly where it is on the Remington 700. Our test rifle’s Timney trigger broke crisply at 3 pounds.
Removing the stock from the barrel action revealed a perfect bedding job, with the oversize recoil lug fully bedded on all sides. The bottom of the barrel channel is hollowed, and the washers for the sling swivel studs also appeared to be attached with Marine-Tex.
The initial test-shooting took place on a warm summer morning with a mild breeze from the left measuring 2-5 m.p.h. on a Minox Windwatch, with occasional “gusts” to eight. (The shooter attempted to miss the gusts, but sometimes got caught.) The BCR15 was sighted-in using a handload with 180-grain Hornady InterLock Spire Points that had shot well in other .300 WSMs. After three shots to foul the clean bore and get on paper at 100 yds., three more shots went into the same hole, the “group” measuring slightly under 0.1 inch center to center—certainly impressive performance!
Three factory loads were then shot in rotation, with the barrel cooled between the five consecutive, five-shot groups fired with each load. The rifle didn’t much care for Federal’s Vital-Shok 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip, a bullet that usually shoots pretty well, but did much better with NormaUSA American PH ammo featuring its 165-grain Oryx bonded bullet.
It also eventually grouped very well with Nosler’s Trophy Grade load with the 180-grain AccuBond. The Federal and Norma groups remained about the same size throughout the shooting, but the Nosler groups continually shrank, the first measuring more than 2 inches and the last 0.94 inches, the smallest of the test, with the last three groups averaging slightly more than 1 inch.
After the groups, more shooting was done with the Harris bipod provided, and point of impact didn’t change. After close to 100 rounds fired and a few brush strokes to remove most propellant residue, a Hawkeye bore-scope revealed only tiny hints of copper fouling in the very smooth bore. According to the Bergara website the barrels are not lapped, like many other custom barrels; instead, after drilling the initial hole the bores are honed, rather than reamed, leaving a very smooth finish before being button-rifled. In the Hawkeye the bore resembled exactly the hundreds of lapped bores I’ve scoped through the years—with just as little fouling.
The next morning several groups were shot at 400 yards in a mild following breeze of 2-4 m.p.h., since, after all, the rifle is intended for longer ranges, using the Nosler load since it had ended the 100-yard test so well. Three, three-shot groups (used because the ammo supply was limited) averaged 3.29 inches, pretty good for factory ammunition.
Next, one minor problem and tech specs