Back on my post of November 20, I wrote about a new rifle company called Bergara, based in Georgia, the offshoot of the Bergara Barrel Company in the town of that name in the Basque region of Spain. Bergara is heavy on the tactical end of things, but they also make three hunting rifles: the Long Range Hunter, the Sport Hunter, and the Mountain Hunter. This last is a lightweight (5.85 pounds without scope) little gun with a 20-inch barrel, and since you don’t see many rifles of this type these days, I thought I would give it a try. Glad I did. It is perfectly astonishing.
The thing to keep in mind as you read what follows is that the Mountain Hunter is a highly portable sporter that is designed for hunting at short and medium range—creeping through the peckerpole pines or busting brush. It is not a target gun.
There are two ways you can build a rifle. You can make/buy components that are pretty damned good, assemble them with an eye not only to quality but to the clock and the cost, and you will get a pretty damned good rifle that will make 99 percent of hunters very pleased indeed. Or, you can do what Bergara does, which is make/buy components that are damned near perfect, modify them until they are perfect, and then assemble them with a degree of precision that would be unattainable to almost anyone else.
The basic components of the Mountain Hunter are as follows:
A Stiller TAC 30 left-hand bolt action (all Bergara rifles are available right-hand or left-hand) that has been modified to save weight with some artfully done metal removal. Since Stiller actions are made for tactical, target, and benchrest shooters, they are dimensionally perfect.
A High-Tech Specialties fiberglass stock.
A Timney trigger specially made for Bergara. It has a wide shoe and an extra long sear which gives greater leverage, enabling the gunsmith who sets it up to get a better, more consistent pull. My rifle has a 3-pound pull that is virtually perfect.
A 20-inch #2 contour stainless steel Bergara barrel that has been hand-lapped. The standard twist for .30/06, which is this gun’s caliber, is 1-12.
Blind magazine. You can, if you want to waste weight, get an Oberndorf-style trigger guard/floorplate.
Warne steel scope bases.
All the metal is nitrided, so there’s no maintenance. My rifle sat soaking wet in a truck overnight and nothing happened.
My rifle is an ’06. You can also get .243, 7mm/08, .308, .270, .30/06, and .300 Win Mag. If you feel there’s something you can’t do with these, other calibers are negotiable.
If you’re lacking in manhood, you can have a KDF muzzle brake screwed on, and if you yearn for other than solid colors, camo is available.
I said it shoots, so let’s get to the numbers.
The only load it did not shoot below a MoA was Federal Gold Medal match ammo, which is strange because every rifle shoots it well. The Mountain Hunter produced groups that averaged 1.4”. Go figure.
New Winchester ammo, which will not be out until April, 150-grain: .428
Handload, 150-grain Barnes TSX: .640
Handload, 165-grain Hornady SST: .757
Handload same bullet, factory test target: .791
Handload, 180-grain Hornady SST: .765
Now this is only half the story. The other half is, every one of these loads shot to the same point on the target — three different weights, five different loads, into the same group. This does not happen. I have never seen it, or anything close to it, before.
And, to make things slightly more uncanny, of the handloads, I did no tweaking and tuning. When you switch bullets, you always have to make adjustments in your powder charge, or powder type, or primer. Here, nothing. I used Lapua brass, Federal 210 primers, and 57 grains of IMR 4350 (55 with the 180-grain bullet) and whatever I stuck in by way of a bullet shot well under MoA. I’ve never seen this before, either.
I asked Dan Hanus, Bergara’s Production Manager, what are you guys doing down there in Georgia, and Dan sent me a list of 16 steps that just about everyone in the rifle business would consider crazed, compulsive, obsessive, redundant, nitpicking, or all of these, but which Bergara does as routine. I don’t have space to list them all, but here are a few:
The barrels, which are rigorously inspected at the factory and come from Basque country with already-smooth bores, are re-inspected and hand-lapped.
All diameters are cut to exact measurements. There are no plus or minus allowances.
The centerline of the bore, after the barrel is screwed into the receiver, must be true to within .0002-inch.
The action is pillar-bedded in a compound called Marine-Tex, which is impervious to chemical breakdown and has almost zero shrinkage over time. Before the action is glued in, the components are dry-fit until they match perfectly, rather than working on the theory that if you get a pretty good fit and then sling in enough epoxy, that will do the rest.
Chambering is done by hand, and the reamer pilots are individually ground for each barrel. Bergara does not use a standard pilot.
Threading is done by hand, and each action is hand-lapped to the barrel to ensure proper lockup-thread engagement. There is zero crush factor (lug setback) in the action.
And so on.
Any questions as to why this ordinary-looking rifle costs $3,750?
Now, as I said in the first post, this unearthly-accurate carbine will probably not get you a single head of game more than a far less exalted and much less expensive rifle will.
The reason people will buy a Bergara, I’m sure, is the same reason they will buy a Patek Philippe watch, or an AMG Mercedes-Benz, or Leica binoculars. Because: Of its type, it’s the best that can be done by people who are very, very good at what they do. It’s the product of unreasonable expectations that have been met by being slightly crazed. It means having something slung on your shoulder that looks like every other rifle, but is not.
I get a huge kick out of that–$3,750 worth.