Switch it up

01_IMG_0026Having made a name for itself in the custom rifle world, Bergara is branching out. And the all new ‘semi custom’ switch barrel BX11 is definitely one to watch, says Tim Pilbeam.

The name ‘Bergara’ is well known in the custom rifle world for high-quality barrels. Hailing from the Basque region of Spain, the company supplies gun manufacturers all over the world. Heading up the team since the late 60s is Ed Shilen of Shilen Barrels, with a reputation for producing some of the most accurate barrels out there, aided by high quality steel and superb engineering. Recently, Bergara decided to diversify into the assembling of ‘semi’ custom rifles, and over the past 12 months a new generation of switch barrel design emerged.

Bergara’s offering is more than capable of competing with fellow switch-barrel models from Blaser, Mauser, Sauer and Merkel, and has a lower price tag to boot. So when I received a phone call from UK importer RUAG asking if I wanted to test one, the answer was a resounding yes.

03_IMG_0042The Bergara BX11 multi-calibre rifle is available in either a standard American Walnut or, as supplied, a Synthetic stock in a wide range of calibres from .243 to .375 H&H. The one on test was the popular .308. Once shouldered, the rifle feels much lighter than the stated 3kg, well balanced with a firm grip. The ‘palisander’ inserts of the pistol grip and forend give it the ‘soft touch’, as clearly stated in the promotional literature. When tapped, the stock does feel hollow, maybe not reflecting a rifle of this quality. As for the forend, it has a shotgun type of release mechanism to facilitate the removing of the barrel, resulting in a loose-fitting affair. There is a pressure pad to the front that rests against the barrel, giving it more rigidity for the fitting of a bipod. To the rear, the synthetic model comes with a meaty pre-tightened recoil pad and inserts for length of pull adjustment. Overall, the stock might have had the feel of a budget build, but it nevertheless worked well in terms of grip and comfortable ergonomics.

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The receiver was supplied with a picatinny rail, allowing easy fitting of a variety of scope mounts and night vision optics. The bolt is long, which is common for most switchable systems, with two easily removable heads to accommodate all the different calibres. The six lugs engage directly into the barrel, resulting in a tight 60-degree throw. To remove, simply prise the two levers located just behind the head outwards, and pull off. The bolt is reasonably smooth, aided by a decent-sized bolt handle and knob, with safety being a simple two-position device located to the right of the action.

The steel magazine holds four rounds and sits a little proud of the underbelly of the stock. It was not the easiest to insert or remove, but I put that down to it being a new rifle. Feeding and extraction worked well, and loading was easy. The trigger is fully adjustable from 2lb to 3lb, but is not the most crisp I have tested.

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The heart and soul of the rifle is the 24in lightweight barrel made from AIS14140 carbon steel finished in matt black. To change barrels, simply remove the forend and loosen the two hex-head screws clamping the barrel to the lower part of the action [06/05]. With a firm tug, the barrel slides straight out of the action. To replace, carefully align a locating lug, and reverse the process. For a multi-barrelled design, it is straightforward and relatively quick to implement.

The BX11 was put through its paces on the range, shooting by day and by night. For accuracy I fitted a Kahles 3-12×56 using 170-grain Geco soft-pointed ammunition, also supplied by RUAG.

At 100 yards, a more than acceptable group of 1in was achieved. This was narrowed to 0.75in with lighter ammunition. I removed and replaced the barrel on three occasions, and the point of impact moved by about 1in. Again, this could be down to the rifle having to bed in from new. At night, I used a Pulsar Digisight N750 – courtesy of Thomas Jacks – that yielded three foxes at distances from 60 to 150 yards. I took two off sticks, and the other off a bipod. I found the recoil was less noticeable than many .308s. The .308 is not the most suitable calibre for foxes, but it really allowed me to test the Bergara in the field.

006_IMG_0057Attaching a bipod to the forend was not the firmest fit I have witnessed, but this is designed as a lightweight, all-round rifle, not the sort a bipod user typically goes for. As previously mentioned, the trigger was a little too spongy for my tastes – I had a bit of trouble anticipating the breaking point.

The BX11 is certainly an accurate rifle, and so it should be considering its provenance. If you want a competitive, switchable system that performs, the Bergara BX11 is worth serious consideration – not least because most other models retail at over £2,500. Extra barrels won’t break the bank either – they’re cheaper than other manufacturers at about £300. All in all, the Bergara would be a worthy addition to many gun cabinets. For those who enjoy a spot of African or European hunting and could do with two calibres, it’s a must.

Technical specifications:

Model: Bergara bX11 Multi calibre

Calibres: .243, .270, 7×64, .308, .30-06, .300 Win, 8×57, 8×68, 9.3×62, .375 H&H

Overall Length: 46in

Barrel Length: 24in

Weight: 6.7lb

SRRP: Approx £1,500

Importer: RUAG ■ 01579 362319 ■ www.ruag.co.uk

 

Scope: Kahles Helia 3-12×56

Weight: 20oz

Tube diameter: 30mm

Turret adjustment per click: 1cm

Field of View: 13.66-3.39 at 100yd

Eye Relief: 3.5in

Length: 14in

SRRP: £1,224

Importer: RUAG ■ 01579 362319 ■ www.ruag.co.uk

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