Review: Bergara BCR 17 Medium Tactical

You may recall that last fall, I tested a .30/06 carbine made by Bergara Custom Rifles. It was not only the most accurate ’06 I’ve ever shot, but one of the most accurate rifles I’ve ever shot, and I concluded by wondering if this is how their light, 20-inch-barreled sporter shoots, what must the Bergara tactical rifles shoot like?

And so I got hold of a Bergara BCR17 Medium Tactical Rifle and found out. The BCR17 is a compact rifle made in .308, with other chamberings on special order. It has a 22-inch #5 taper Bergara stainless barrel, a Bergara custom action, Macmillan A1-3 fiberglass stock, and either a Shilen or Timney trigger, your choice. It comes with Begara’s own 20 MOA Picatinny rail, and weighs 9.85 pounds without scope.

Those are the specs. These are the intangibles: Bergara rifles are built by, and under the supervision of, retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Dan Hanus, who ran the Corps’ Precision Weapons Section at Quantico, Virginia.

Master Gunny Hanus is a perfectionist, as are the three gifted young gunmakers who work for him. If you look at the BCR17 closely, you see that “overbuilt” hardly begins to describe it. The rail is not only screwed, but pinned to the receiver. The recoil lug is the heaviest I’ve ever seen on any rifle. The receiver and the butt end of the barrel are bedded in Marine-Tex, a super-tough compound that is impervious to everything and never shrinks or alters its dimensions. The barreled action is set in there so tight that I didn’t bother to try and take it out, but if the urge should strike you, the number of foot-pounds of torque that you need to re-tighten the bedding screws is printed on a piece of paper that’s the first thing you see when you open the case on your new rifle. That’s they way they do things in the Bergara shop.

The other thing that leaps out at you is that this is perfect work. (It reminds me of the rifles built by the late John Noveske.) You go over it minutely, with a magnifying glass if you like, and you can’t see a ding, a blemish, anything that shows that a corner was cut or that someone wanted to get the rifle into UPS that much quicker. Everything is glassy smooth and immaculately fitted. The trigger is a perfect 3 pounds. The finish is flawless. The BCR17 is the very definition of Nice Machinery.

The target that Bergara sent me was three Sierra MatchKings that went into .308-inch. But since I have a whole bunch of Lapua Scenar-S 155-grain bullets waiting to be shot, I used them and, with a mild load of RelodeR-15, I got an average of .507-inch. I can get smaller groups, but with a considerably heavier powder charge, and the scant fraction of an inch is a poor tradeoff for the benefits of a nice, light powder charge. With a half-minute rifle, you can clean an F-class target at 600 yards, what I’m getting is all I need.

With a 5X-25X Nightforce ATACR scope on board, the BCR17 weighs 11.5 pounds which means that, with the bipod required for F-Class Tactical Rifle shooting, you can hold it steady as a rock, and you get hardly any recoil. This is nice because muzzle brakes are not allowed in NRA matches, and you’ll be shooting between 60 and 70 rounds before you’re done. (If you want a muzzle brake, Bergara will install one on the rifle, but don’t bring it to the competition.)

The BCR17 will also, as all true tactical rifles must, shoot over and over to the same point of impact. It takes about 20 minutes to finish a string of 20 rounds in competition, and by the time you’re done, a sporter-weight barrel will be hot enough to cook a decent quiche, and will have begun to walk its shots hither and yon, which is not good for your score. I’ve put 20 rounds through the BCR17 in well under 20 minutes, and the last shot goes to the same place as the first. This is the function not just of a heavy barrel, but of a very good heavy barrel.

The MSRP for the BCR17 is $4,000. I won't give you a lecture on the rifle's being worth every cent; we are all gentlemen here and can take that for granted. For more particulars, go to Bergarausa.com and click on Rifles.

(A brief aside. If you have any interest in shooting at ranges in the 300- to 600-yard bracket, start competing in F-Class shoots. You can learn more in an afternoon spent on the firing line than you can from all the blogs on the Internet. You don’t need a $4,000 rifle; you’ll see a great many Savage target guns that cost half that much and are fully competitive. You’ll find that the guys who win are not the ones who spend the most money, but the ones who have been at it longest and are the most skilled. I have no hope of winning. I’m too old, and have lost too much, and got my start too late. But so what? If I can shoot a little better each time and escape disgrace, that’s enough for me.)