column By: Lee J. Hoots | July, 17
Given an increasing interest in Bergara rifles, as noted by queries from readers, not to ignore questions from hunting buddies and from perfect strangers at the local public shooting range, it seemed appropriate to dig into a subject that, in some ways, can be a little confusing. The trouble with asking questions that are sometimes difficult to respond to is that many manufacturers in the firearms business often are unwilling to divulge certain information, or “trade secrets,” for public consumption. This is not an uncommon situation in many industries, even though most, if not all, information eventually becomes available over time. Employees change employers a lot in the firearms trade.
In the last several years, I have been somewhat able to follow the progress of the Bergara brands, and unlike some others, the company fortunately is quite open to providing information. A little recent research helped fill in much of the unknown that may be of interest to U.S. hunters and shooters. In order to better understand the various facets of the Bergara brand, a short version of the company’s evolution is warranted.
BPI Outdoors is the oversight company to Connecticut Valley Arms (CVA muzzleloaders and rifles, established in 1971) and several other firearms-related manufacturing efforts. This includes Bergara USA, a company originally founded in 2013 as an importer of barrels from Dikar S. Coop, a manufacturing entity based in Bergara, Spain. This quickly evolved into a large, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) opportunity in the U.S., not only as a barrel supplier for CVA but for other rifle manufacturers and custom riflemakers as well, including barrels for AR-15s. It was related that if 10 ARs of different make are pulled from a gun store’s rack, several of them are likely to have barrels made by Bergara. That statement in itself is quite telling in regard to Bergara barrel quality. This market for barrels quickly became a global one, and the demand for its product, finished and unfinished, has been growing ever since.
A couple of years following the 2013 announcement of a new Bergara Custom Rifles company, Dudley McGarity, CEO of BPI Outdoors, passed around a bolt-action rifle that was still in the white (or it may have been stainless, but no matter). More important – or at least of greater surprise and interest – it featured a striking walnut stock with fine-line, hand-cut checkering on the grip and forend. The stock was oil-finished. This “preview” took place at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) in Las Vegas, and the rifle was obviously a prototype being shared with the industry (and no doubt sales teams and dealers) to gauge overall interest.
It took most of a year to get that rifle into some semblance of production, and a finished 6.5 Creedmoor sample with “grade 5 walnut” and machine-cut checkering, called the BPR-16 Classic, was tested for accuracy and used for the cover image of Rifle No. 284 (January 2016), which, if a reader is interested, included a report on the rifle along with impressive accuracy results using both handloads and factory ammunition. That particular rifle, due to wavering walnut supplies, unfortunately is no longer available. Since then, Bergara USA has also made a few other changes to its rifle offerings due to rapid expansion.
It was a natural that BPI considered using Bergara barrels as a basis for Bergara Custom Rifles. It was then hoped that the custom rifles could lead to a line of production rifles, and so it has. The current B-14 rifle series is manufactured in Spain, including chassis rifles, long-range target/hunting rifles and three options for shooters preferring more traditional bolt-action sporters. This includes the Timber, Woodsman and Hunter. The Timber and Woodsman, as might be expected, feature walnut stocks with a Monte Carlo design and a classic stock version with straight lines, respectively. These stocks are nice, but they are not in the same class as that found on the BPR-16. The Hunter model features a synthetic stock. Retail prices for all three are set to compete with other major U.S. manufacturers’ offerings. As of this writing, available cartridges include the .300 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06, the .270, .308 and .243 Winchesters and the 6.5 Creedmoor. As is typical these days, B-14 rifles come with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee.
Current Bergara Premier rifles feature barrels from Spain, but all other components are made in this country. Final assembly, including barrel threading and chamber reaming, is performed in Lawrenceville, Georgia, resulting in a hunting rifle that is more along the lines of an upgraded “custom-production” offering. For example, the stainless steel barrels are CERAKOTED, as is the bottom metal, and the Stalker and Mountain variants feature carbon-fiber stocks and Timney triggers. The bolt is a double-lug pattern of Bergara’s own design. MOA accuracy with factory ammunition is guaranteed.
The Premier series also includes chassis rifles and long-range hunting/target rifles. Barrels with a No. 3 contour are standard on sporting models, the Stalker and Mountain, each of them coming with either 22- or 24-inch barrel lengths, cartridge dependent. At the time of this writing, cartridge options include .300 Winchester Magnum, .30-06, the .270 and .308 Winchesters, .280 Ackley Improved and 6.5 Creedmoor. Suggested retail price is roughly twice that of the B-14 rifles.
The Bergara Custom Shop, when it first revealed several rifles at the 2013 SHOT Show, displayed several bolt actions made with a variety of components. Receivers consisted mainly of trued-up (blueprinted) Remington Model 700s or Stiller actions. The man running the outfit is Dan Hanus, a retired U.S. Marine who earned his riflemaking reputation as an instructor at the Marine Corps Precision Weapons Section at Quantico. Bergara also had on staff well-known custom riflemaker Mark Hendricks. With this duo, along with other talented staffers, many of them retired military veterans (a conscientious decision BPI is very proud of), the sky became the limit.
Soon the custom shop was using mainly Stiller receivers branded for Bergara but now uses mainly its own Premier receiver design, which is not largely different from Remington or Stiller receivers yet suits the manufacturing needs of Bergara USA and the company’s custom shop. (The same receiver is also used on the Premier rifles.) Regarding custom Bergara rifles, “Nearly everything is available,” Hendricks says. “We have built lightweight mountain rifles, heavy .338 tactical guns, sniper rifles for SWAT teams and safari rifles.”
The one theme that has been a constant for all Bergara rifles is the Spanish-made barrels and the quality control they are subjected to before and during assembly, from the B-14s to the Premier series and custom shop rifles.
This magazine is very carefully written and edited so as not to make blatant value judgments on products. Rifle simply gives the facts as they are known, and readers can make up their own minds. That is the way it has always been. I am somewhat compelled, however, to share what was said during a conversation with a custom barrelmaker.
Here in Prescott, Danny Pedersen, proprietor of Classic Barrels & Gun Works (www.cutrifle.com), is well known and respected for his barrel-making, and he specializes in cut-rifled barrels and reboring worn barrels to accommodate other cartridges. In the seven or so years that I have been a frequent visitor in his shop, I have never known him to say much, good or bad, about another riflemaker. When the subject of Bergara came up recently, however, he said that he had been impressed with the consistency of quality and tolerances he had seen in Bergara rifles that he had been able to examine – the company’s barrels in particular. Very few words with quite a bit of meaning.