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This year, at the SHOT Show, among the skull crushers, eyeball gougers, pseudo-SEALs, and flesh flayers, and $400,000 armored cars, was a truly new type of rifle. It’s a hybrid, because it’s a rifle with features drawn from hunting, target, and tactical guns, and because it can dance nimbly among all three endeavors.
I found out about the need for hybrids in 2013 because I used a hunting rifle to shoot at targets in what the NRA calls an Any-Any match (any rifle of less than .35 caliber and any scope is acceptable) and found that a hunting rifle on a target range is inadequate, to put it kindly. The rifle in question was a very accurate hunting model chambered for the .30/06.
I mounted a target scope on it, worked up a handload using Lapua 155-grain Scenar bullets, and found in short order that the rifle was too light, kicked too much, had a comb that was too low for the prone position, and that the barrel tended to throw shots when you got it hot enough to cauterize arteries. I qualified, but not much else. It was still like putting the family Lab on a racetrack with a pack of greyhounds.
Which brings us to the Bergara B-14 HMR, which stands for Hunting & Match Rifle. The HMR enables you to hunt with it and compete with it without wishing you had something else. There’s everything you need and nothing you don’t need. And the real-world price is well under $1,000.
The HMR is based on Bergara’s own B-14 action, a two-lug bolt with a coned nose and a Sako-type extractor. The B-14 is extremely smooth and slick; it fairly flies back and forth, and is aided by a tactical bolt knob. The trigger is Bergara’s own; the one on my rifle is dead clean and breaks at 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Feeding is from an AICS detachable magazine, and is flawless.
The barrel is by Bergara, of course, and is a chrome-moly #5 contour, which is considerably stiffer than a sporter barrel (About the heaviest you see on these rifles is #3) that’s threaded for a can or a muzzle brake and comes with a thread protector. Barrel length depends on which cartridge you select. If you opt for a .308, you get a 20-inch tube with a 1/10 twist’ if you buy a 6.5 Creedmoor, you get 22 inches of barrel and a 1/8 twist. Either barrel is heavy enough to steady a big scope and not walk when it heats up, but not so heavy that you’ll be unable to haul it through the woods. The weight for the .308 is 9.15 pounds; for the 6.5 it’s 9.25.
For the stock, Bergara has gone with a vertical-grip synthetic model that’s adjustable both for length of pull and for comb height. The stock is stiffened by a molded-in aluminum girder that runs from the pistol grip up into the fore-end. There are two sling swivel studs, numerous sockets for QD swivels, and nothing else because you don’t need anything else.
The HMR does not have the carved-from-one-block-of-steel-and-fiberglass look and feel that Bergara’s Custom Shop guns do. Those firearms fit together so tightly you can’t blow smoke past the inletting. The HMR, on the other hand, has a gap between the barrel and the fore-end under which you could chase a well-fed wombat. If this bothers you, remember that the HMR is one-fifth the price of the custom Bergaras, and is entitled to a gap or two.
Next: How does it shoot? Hoo boy.