Originally making high-quality barrels for larger manufacturers, Spanish company Bergara branched out into custom builds. This naturally progressed onto producing its own line of hunting rifles built using tried-and-true manufacturing practices and their own bespoke barrels. The initial line was built and designed by a team of mostly ex-military gunsmiths headed by Master Sergeant Dan Hanus who was part of the globally respected Precision Weapon Section (PWS) of the United States Marine Corp. The PWS was responsible for many high-level operators, special forces soldiers and snipers’ firearms being up to the task of winning wars, and as such, the PWS knew what they were talking about. Initially, Bergara focused heavily on a small line of rifles that covered all the main categories, but they’ve since branched out. The original line-up of rifles by this largely unknown manufacturer quickly gained a reputation for out-of-the-box accuracy and excellent features coupled with very competitive pricing. The B14 is part of this broadening of the range of models on offer and part of a response to Bergara’s market research which told them they needed a ‘all-weather’ model.
The trigger is crisp; it comes factory set at around 3lbs and is adjustable to around 2lbs which is a good weight for a hunting rifle. A lighter trigger in a hunting scenario can become problematic especially if you have cold hands; although many do use a lighter trigger, it’s best left to experienced hunters. Adjusting the trigger is very simply achieved by a small nut on the front of the trigger.
The safety catch has quite a long reassuring throw which makes it difficult to be accidentally applied during stalking/general use. When the safety is set to ‘Safe’ the bolt is still able to be operated which, from a MSC firearms instructor’s perspective, is a great added safety feature. The safety is colour coded with the standard ‘red’ for danger and ‘white’ for safe. It’s worth mentioning that although the position of the safety is in the same place as most safeties, the opposite colour will be prominent when viewed from above. If you have an inexperienced person using the B14, please take the time to make them aware of this. It’s not a negative point – it’s just a point of difference.
RECOIL LUG AND STOCK DESIGN
Recoil lugs, stock design and bedding have a crucial role in the repeatability or consistency of your rifle’s accuracy. The very fine interaction between the stock and action during firing is crucial to accuracy but also repeatability. Add into the equation the increase in heat after firing a string of shots and any weaknesses in the recoil lug, bedding and stock fit will affect your repeatability. The B14 uses a standard Remington style lug which is tried and tested over years to be simple, effective and, when fitted uniformly with consistent bearing surfaces which is apparent with the B14, produces exceptionally accuracy. The stock uses aluminium pillars which is reassuring for a mid- to economy-priced rifle. Often – in the race for economy – accuracy, pillars, bedding and stock design are areas where manufacturers will use cost-saving techniques.
CERAKOTED ACTION AND BARREL
The B14 Extreme Hunter has the unique feature of coming off the shelf with a stainless steel action and barrel that have been cerakoted as well. Coupled with the tough all-weather stock, this is the perfect rifle for our New Zealand hunting conditions – great value for money.
After spending a day firing the unsuppressed .308 on the range, I had to acknowledge the fact that the recoil was very mild considering the short overall length and weight; these two factors normally contribute to recoil. Apart from the placement of the butt in relation to the barrel, the main reason is the well-designed recoil pad.
Some may consider it a minor feature, but I love the inclusion of solid bottom metal on the B14 range. A lot of economy rifles in this price bracket will forgo bottom metal for plastic. To me, this just adds in another variable and possibly even affects the stock’s rigidity. Having sturdy bottom metal maintains a consistent housing for your magazine that won’t warp or wear away and adds to the rigidity of your rifle.
The B14 arrived fitted with a Leupold VX Freedom 3-9 x 40 scope which has the Illuminated firedot duplex reticle and is well suited to the B14 from a bush hunting perspective. For this test fire, we had a good cross section of economy to premium .308 ammunition. Grouping was conducted at 100m with a slight left to right breeze and consisted of firing a number of three-round groupings and measuring those groups against each other.
I realise to get a full set of data, 5-shot groupings or more are favoured, but for a hunting rifle, it’s always the first three shots at most that are the clincher! If you compare the placement of the groupings, you can get an accurate measure of the rifle’s mechanical accuracy.
As you can see from the photographs above, the results were so consistent it was hard to tell the groupings apart. Everything from the 178gr Hornady ELD-X to the Nosler 150gr Accubond shot around, on, or just under MOA. Interestingly, as you can see, two shots are always close with one being about 1 inch away. The furthest shot in the grouping was always the first or cold-barrel shot, and with the use of the chronograph, you can see the velocity of the first shot often has the lowest velocity; this may or may not be the deciding factor, but it merits exploring. Although velocity change would more likely cause a vertical string this isn’t always the case. Although it may not be immediately apparent, I would like to stipulate here that a rifle that will shoot such a wide variety of factory ammunition with similar good results like these is the Holy Grail! The consistency is exceptional and not often found, meaning this rifle will also be very susceptible to a hand load tune-up which should see you go well under an MOA.
The B14 Hunter Extreme is a short-barrelled rifle that’s ideal as a tough, all-weather, all-rounder rifle due to its compact nature, hardwearing stock and design features. The short-barrelled .308 has always been a favourite for bush hunters because of its ease of carriage in the rough stuff; but even with the 18-inch barrel, you can still shoot out to 4-500m if required which is why it bridges the gap nicely.
All the features Bergara are known for are present … such as good triggers, smooth action, out-of-the-box accuracy and solid engineering. These design characteristics seem to be hallmarks of the Bergara line of rifles and the B14 Extreme Hunter is no exception.
With a price tag within the middle to economy bracket, what you get is a well-designed rifle with all the basics done extremely well and none of the frills. When you factor in the connection to military (PWS), you can see Bergara – like the military – want simple, robust yet accurate rifles, and the B14 Extreme delivers. Dare I suggest this is the new Remington 700 reinstated to its former glory?