Barrett Fieldcraft .308 Win review

Barrett isn’t all about big military-style rifles, as Stuart Wilson finds as he tests the lightweight Fieldcraft in .308

Barrett are best known for producing larger-calibred military .50 BMG rifles, so it was intriguing to hear that a lightweight mountain rifle had been produced bearing their logo. I have to admit, light rifles aren’t my favoured choice. Nonetheless, I was keen to shoot this cheeky little rifle. Before it arrived, I knew it would be light, and I knew there was a fair chance it would recoil a touch more because of this lack of overall weight, I am not overly recoil-sensitive so I went for some Winchester 150gn ballistic silver tips and some Winchester 180gn soft points ready to see if I could shake any fillings loose.

Simplicity in action: Bolt, safety, and the firing pin showing the rifle is cocked

The Barrett Fieldcraft .308 Win arrived with rail and moderator from Edgar Brothers, the importer and UK distributor, and first handling revealed an extremely light rifle. It got me thinking about weight, and in pacticular the ever-increasing amount of gear I have to lug around when I try to film for The Shooting Show and shoot at the same time. It stands to reason that whatever the reason, a light rifle will find favour as long as the accuracy is acceptable. Sticking with the lightweight theme, I chose to slip my smallest scope on top, an old but reliable BSA scope – rough and ready but tried and tested on some lively centrefires over the years, always holding zero.

Initial zeroing was performed over the bonnet of my truck – this gives me a safer angle of fire, but more importantly the standing-type position does negate felt recoil, while shooting prone accentuates it. Shooting prone would usually be done from a bipod as well, and this was something I was keen to keep away from with the Fieldcraft, predominantly because the forend is fully bedded, so there is no clearance for the barrel in the barrel channel. This is intentional and is something that Barrett do to each and every Fieldcraft rifle – fully bedded, in house.

The trigger: minimalist, neat and functional

At this point I couldn’t help but have a peep inside. Closer inspection, after removing two hex-headed bolts, showed a full-length bed all the way from the rear tang forwards to the whole of the barrel channel. A neat job, which usually leads to a very stable rifle, with no movement after firing, and also a rifle that goes back exactly where it came from after a strip down.

While the stock was off the barrel and action, the Timney logo on the trigger was plain to see, as were the adjustment screws. It’s not only a good quality rifle trigger, but also has adjustment if needed. The pedigree is certainly there, and I was impressed with the build quality and attention to detail, and after producing sub-MOA groups at 100 yards and 200 yards after zeroing, I was ready to dissect the rifle and cover the main component parts in detail.

Barrel and action

A mod is a good choice for this rifle

The 21in barrel is stainless-steel light profiled, button rifled with a 1-in-10 twist rate in .308 Win calibre, threaded ½x20 UNF to allow easy moderator fitting if required. A muzzle cap protects the thread when a moderator is not fitted.

The test rifle came with a lightweight aluminium moderator that tipped the scales at 250g and certainly did a good job of taming the recoil. Barrett manufacture all the major component parts that go into building the Fieldcraft, apart from the Timney trigger group. Designing, developing and then manufacturing allows for the tightest of control, with no compromise on the tolerances laid out on the blueprint table – This is how things are built to turn out excellent performance. The barrel slips inside a recoil lug, and then screws into a neat little action. All this assembly work is completed to Barrett’s exacting standards, and the finish of the barrelled action is superb, with a matt satin finish completing the job.

Angular action sides and spiral fluting on the bolt provide weight savings, and they’re also pleasing to look at

A substantial ejection port sits on the right side of the action, allowing good access to the blind box magazine, which holds four double-stacked rounds. Round profiled front and rear action tops are drilled and tapped to take a variety of mounting options, in this case a one-piece weaver rail, again my preferred option, for functionality and added strength. Weight saving is apparent in the angled sides of the action, removing unwanted steel, and also creating some aesthetically pleasing lines in the process. Finishing the aesthetics are the engravings – I’m not sure if these are stamped or, more likely, CNC engraved but either way the logo and rifle details are neat and minimal.

The bolt is a twin-lugged design, offering quite a low throw angle on the bolt due to a recess cut into the side of the action and stock. The bolt handle is sleek, with a weight-saving hole drilled into the end of the bolt knob. Despite its slender dimensions the bolt handle cycles the spiral fluted bolt effortlessly, and dry cycling highlighted that this rifle will not impede a quick second shot whatever the circumstances. The spiral fluting on the bolt, again saving weight, also reduced friction – and it looks great, with the Sako-style extractor spitting spent rounds out with a vengeance. The bolt release is a standard button depress to the rear left of the action – simple and effective.

Trigger and Safety

The Timney trigger unit is always a solid, dependable choice

The Timney trigger group was a surprise for me. I try to avoid reading other reviews on a rifle to avoid any bias I may pick up and allow me to get my own feel for it. Once I popped the action out of the stock, the logo to the side of the trigger gets your attention; on discovering this I wasn’t unduly shocked as the trigger performed really well. It’s a nice broad blade that breaks crisply and cleanly. I felt no need to search for any adjustment, but all the same it is there to be adjusted if the shooter requires. The Fieldcraft, being a blind box magazine, doesn’t need a floor plate; consequently it has a minimalist trigger guard finished the same as the barrel and action. A standard two-position safety catch sits on the right-hand side rear of the action, easily accessible by the trigger hand’s thumb, quiet in operation if you are careful. The safety is a no-frills affair: forward for fire, rearward for safe, with the bolt free to operate regardless of the safety position.

Stock

The stock is made from hand-laid carbon fibre, made in house by Barrett, resulting in a lightweight, rigid stock that is an essential component in the overall feel of the Fieldcraft rifle, but more importantly, the performance of the whole package. The forend feels good in the hand, and I found the rifle shot best securely gripping the forend, whether shot from a bag, sticks or bipod. Supporting that forend helps with the recoil to maintain sight picture, and you develop good repeatable technique to get the best from a fully bedded barrel.

The full–length bedding provides stability and consistency to barrel, action and stock

The textured finish of the stock is grippy enough, and the mottled colour blends nicely, with sling swivels fore and aft. The dimensions also worked for me – the length of pull is a full 14in, and the butt pad smoothes the felt recoil well. The comb is the perfect height for scoped shooting, which I would assume 95 per cent of shooters lean towards, with a slight cheekpiece giving good cheek weld on shooting. The semi pistol grip does what’s needed in getting the trigger finger where it should be.

Final thoughts

The Fieldcraft has planted a few seeds for me – firstly a hankering to hunt somewhere really wild, where lightweight gear will be the order of the day. It has maybe even spurred me to streamline my own outline a little…

The accuracy the Fieldcraft produces has left me wondering if it’s time to give a lighter rifle a longer trial in my own hunting forays. Pondering this, I flicked through the available calibres and was pleasantly surprised at what is on offer, even more so the barrel twist rates for a specific calibre, chosen to provide optimum performance from the barrel length, and more importantly for heavier bullets for longer range shooting, while remaining very tolerant of most factory loaded rounds. A lightweight, accurate, good looking rifle that will shoot out to longer ranges – perhaps I need to do another review to test those capabilities more.

It’s nice to shoot from a set of quad sticks, if a little lively

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