Mark Ripley gets his hands on the Bergara B14 Varmint, and finds that this Spanish-made rifle is a quality package that’s easy on your pocket
As a rule of thumb, the old saying “you get what you pay for’ is very true when it comes to buying a new rifle, but after reviewing the latest offering from the Spanish manufacturer Bergara, I wonder if that theory has been blown out of the water.
I was looking for a rifle to review that was aimed at the shooter on a budget that could be used for deer stalking, foxing and long- range shooting all in one when I came across an advert in this magazine for the B14 Varmint rifle, which immediately caught my eye.
I’d seen some of the Bergara range of rifles on display at the British Shooting Show and had been impressed with the company’s rifles, and more so with its price tags.
The B14 Varmint is the most recent addition to the range, which includes the already popular B14 Sporter that won the Rifle Of The Year award 2016. A quick email to distributors RUAG resulted in a parcel delivered to me for review a few days later. To say I was impressed with the looks and build quality of this rifle, especially keeping in mind its attractive price, is an understatement.
This rifle is rather like a Remington 700, Tikka T3 and Browning X-Bolt all rolled into one. The basic footprint of the rifle is very much a Remington 700 and aftermarket extras for the 700 should also be compatible with the Bergara.
The rifle has a pleasingly shaped sporter stock made from polypropylene and fibreglass, incorporating a raised comb, which I particularly like, making for a very nice handling rifle which immediately felt like a rifle I’d owned for ages. The stock felt a lot more solid and better made than most plastic factory stocks on the market, and is finished with the crushzone recoil pad and practical chequering.
On first handling this rifle, several things really impressed me. The first was how silky smooth the bolt cycle was; secondly the crispness of the trigger; and thirdly how smoothly the magazine functioned. The bolt incorporates two large strong looking lugs and a round, easily gripped bolt handle that sits nicely off the stock with a 90-degree opening.
The trigger comes set from the factory at 3lb, and though it can be adjusted, this pull weight felt practical and broke crisply with little or no creep. I’m led to believe they are fitted with Timney triggers as standard – if this is not the case, it comes close in terms of functionality.
The magazine is, like most factory rifles these days, made from a type of plastic polymer. At first I wondered if this was a little on the cheap side, but in use, it actually engaged and ejected easily from the rifle. The magazine was also easily filled, holding three rounds (a four-round floorplate version is also available), and rounds slid smoothly from the magazine into the chamber when cycling the bolt.
Bergara has always been well known for its quality barrels and accuracy, and the 24in 1-10 twist varmint barrel, finished in a matt bluing and free-floating in the stock, certainly looked promising. It came threaded with an M18x1 thread and thread protector. This rifle weighs in at 3.8kg with an overall length of 1060mm and, keeping in mind this is a heavy-barrelled rifle, makes for a comfortable weight for stalking.
The rifle is supplied with a set of Weaver bases, and RUAG kindly also sent a Geco scope and Hausken moderator to completed the package. Although the Geco scope performed very well, I wanted to test this rifle at longer ranges, so when the long-distance portion of the range test came round, I plumped for a Viper Pro scope with dialable turrets that I also had on test.
Included in the box was a test target from the Bergara factory showing a reasonable group using Geco ammunition. Unfortunately, my local shop didn’t have any Geco ammo in, so I opted to test it with some Hornady Superformance in 150-grain .308, .308 being the only calibre the B14 Varmint is currently available in.
The rifle was very comfortable to shoot and, as I expected, shot very well, immediately giving groups of around an inch once zeroed, though I’m sure that with a little testing of different factory ammo or hand-loading the rifle would be capable of groups half the size – especially once the barrel was properly broken in.
In the field
To give the rifle a good test I took it up on to the hills early next morning, and with the help of the phone app Strelok and the suggested muzzle velocities printed on the ammo box, I soon had the rifle shooting out to longer ranges with consistent results. Once I had the drops confirmed, I went on to shoot a few rabbits for ferret food, the first couple at around 250 yards with a final one at 511 yards demonstrating the Bergara’s true potential.
The B14 is certainly an appealing rifle at a reasonable price, and will be in direct competition with giants such as the Tikka T3. With a build quality that’s, I have to say, better than some rifles costing at least 50 per cent more, you can see why it’s popular.
As for whether the Sporter or Varmint is the better choice, it could be too early to tell. Certainly, if Bergara could improve on this rifle, it would be by expanding the range to include other popular calibres such as .243 and .223 in the Varmint model. A left-hand option available for those with my particular ‘disability’ would also go down well.