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In this, the best of all possible worlds, you can spend very little money and get a very good rifle in the bargain. It will be accurate, function reliably, and serve you for years and years. The hitch is, it will likely be a gun that looks, feels, and is cheap. If none of that is important to you, fine. But there are shooters who are driven to barking madness by mediocre machinery.

If you are one of those to whom a rifle is more than a tool for turning live animals into dead ones, you have not been forgotten—and you do not have to spend a fortune to satisfy your refined taste. As a class, superior-quality rifles that cost half of what they could are not new. They riseth up and then are cut down like flowers. But there are several new ones this year, all near or under $2,000, and each an exemplar of the gunmaker’s art.

Bergara Rifles Premier Series BPR-16


The Stalker has a fiberglass stock; the Classic comes in walnut.

Located in Georgia, Bergara Rifles is an offshoot of Bergara the Spanish barrel maker. It’s run by Dan Hanus, a retired Marine who headed up the Corps’s Precision Weapons Section. The new BPR-16 comes in two models, the walnut-stocked Classic and the fiberglass-​stocked Stalker. Each has a Timney trigger. The slick, compact Premier action is ­Bergara’s own, as is the 416 SS barrel. These rifles are built by hand, including a lengthy and painstaking bedding process involving Marine-Tex epoxy, which is a pain in the butt to work with but gives permanent, bombproof results.

All the Bergara rifles I’ve examined, including this one, are virtually perfect firearms; you can go over them with a magnifying glass and find not a flaw. They come in a limited choice of calibers, all of which make sense. Of the two I’ve shot at length, one, a .30/06, was the most accurate ’06 I’ve ever used, and possibly the most accurate sporting rifle. The other, a tactical .308, simply shot everything through the same hole. Both of those rifles, however, were north of $3,500. The new BPR-16s offer similar quality for quite a lot less, at $2,200. If that’s still too rich for you, look at the new Performance Series BPR-14s, which are machine-produced at the barrel factory in Spain with more economical components, but at $825 for the synthetic Hunter and $950 for the Walnut Timber Rifle, they are still a lot of gun for the money. bergarausa.com

Legendary Arms Works Professional


A new rifle from a new maker, it pairs Ed Brown’s 704 action with a High Tech stock.

If the Professional were a racehorse, you’d say it has outstanding bloodlines. Its action, the Model 704, was designed by Ed Brown Precision for that com­pany’s wonderful but short-lived line of rifles. Legendary Arms guns are made by Mark Bansner, who designed and produces High Tech synthetic rifle stocks and has 30 years of building top-end hunting rifles.

This year at the SHOT Show, Legendary Arms debuted with three models, two of which go for under $2K: the Closer and the Professional. The Closer is a standard-weight model; the Professional is a lightweight with a fluted barrel and muzzle brake.

Bansner is not only a gifted gun builder but an extremely serious hunter, and his rifles show it. All the metal has a Cerakote finish, so you can ignore the weather, and the 704 action is a controlled-feed model, so it is going to work every time. (I have an Ed Brown rifle in .338 that has been across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans with lethal intent and is as close to an infallible machine as I know of.)

These past few weeks I’ve been shooting a Professional in .30/06, and while it’s a fussy rifle, it’s also a spectacularly accurate one when you find out what it likes to eat. How about sub-half-minute accuracy, folks? The Closer retails for $1,600; the Professional, a little over $1,800. legendaryarmsworks.com

Montana Rifle co. Extreme X2


All stainless steel with a glass-reinforced, ­pillar-​bedded stock, the X2 is indestructible.

Montana Rifle got its start in the early 1990s as a barrel maker. Keith Sipe, father of Jeff, who now runs things, saw a few years later that there was a real demand for Mauser-type actions that did not cost a fortune, and so he came up with a refined version of the Winchester Model 70, original trigger and all, and in 1999 created the Montana Rifle Co. to produce complete guns.

There are nine standard models, plus custom versions, and it’s obvious to even the dullest observer that these are rifles designed by people who hunt, not industrial engineers. There are big-game models and dangerous-game models and a tactical rifle, and all of them are first-rate.

Between the Montanas in my gun closet and the ones I’ve tested and returned, I probably have experience with eight or so. Most come in a dizzying choice of calibers. All have been very accurate, very nicely put together, and among the most mechanically reliable rifles I’ve ever used.

The newest in the lineup is the Extreme X2. I have one in .30/06, and it is virtually indestructible. The X2 is all stainless, has a newly designed synthetic stock that’s glass-reinforced and pillar-bedded, comes in left- or right-hand, is chambered in calibers from .22/250 to .338 RUM, and costs $1,299, which is no more than a lot of high-end factory rifles. montanarifleco.com

Four More Deals

Of course, a rifle needn’t be new to be superior or affordable or both. To wit:

Forbes Rifle Model 24 Though machine-made, it’s produced with the same care as Melvin Forbes’s handmade New Ultra Light Arms guns, but at one-third the price (around $1,400). forbesriflellc.com
Kimber Model 84M Classic I’ve never shot an 84M that I did not lust after. The Classic has everything you can want in a sporting rifle, and the price is $1,223. If they built it left-handed, I’d own six. kimberamerica.com
Sako 85 Classic I bought my first Sako in the mid 1960s and saw instantly that it was a rifle of a different order. The Classic is the traditional big-game rifle done about as well as it is possible to do, for about $2,000. sako.fi/rifles
Weatherby Accumark I owned one in .300 Weatherby for years that shot around 1⁄2 inch. I used to disassemble it on state occasions to admire how beautifully it was made. Prices run just over $2,000. weatherby.com