Shooting at long range has been a hobby and a profession of mine in one way or another for almost 15 years. In that time I’ve had the opportunity to use many different kinds of rifles, optics, and ammunition that continually push what we commonly thought was the limit. It’s common in many industries that the when something is new, the cost to produce that product is high but as things progress, processes become more efficient, and costs come down. Not that long ago if you had asked me to find a rifle with a street price under $1,000 that had a fully adjustable stock with a detachable magazine system, was suppressor capable, was compatible with some Remington 700 parts, and had a 1 MOA guarantee, I would’ve said no way. However, Bergara USA has delivered just such a rifle in the form of their B-14 Hunting/Match Rifle (HMR) that was released this year at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
I’m not going to lie or try to gloss over my previous experience with Bergara rifles, last year I reviewed the Bergara Premier LRP (click this link for the review) and in truth it didn’t go so well. However, I believed that the rifles had a lot of potential. So, when I received the opportunity to try out either their new BMP or HMR, I jumped at the chance to check out the new HMR. There was something about the rifle that appealed to me and I was excited to see if this rifle could redeem the performance problems I had experienced in the previous article. In short, mission accomplished.
- Chambering: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Barrel: 22 inches
- OA Length: 41.5 inches
- Weight: 9.25 pounds
- Stock: Bergara Molded Polymer with Aluminum Chassis
- Sights: None
- Action: Bolt-action
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 5
- MSRP: $1,150 (starting price)
So very briefly, for those that may be hearing about this company named Bergara for the first time, they are a company from Bergara, Spain, that got started making barrels. Despite being relatively new to the mainstream here in the United States, they are actually a very well established company so it’s very unlikely that they are going away anytime soon. Most people have never heard of them because for the most part they have stayed behind the scenes in the firearms industry. They have been an OEM provider for many companies in the industry, supplying AR-15 and pistol barrels by the thousands. A couple of years ago, though, Bergara started doing custom built rifles based on their own actions and then moved into factory-built rifles to tap in to the growing precision rifle market. They have done very well so far and I believe the HMR is proof that they can provide a quality product at a reasonable cost for those on a budget.
Threading the Needle
Now as the name of the rifle implies, the Hunting/Match Rifle (HMR) is aimed at two ends of the shooting community that are often at different ends of the spectrum. Hunting rifles are often lightweight so they can be carried for long periods of time through the woods or up mountains. Match rifles are typically much heavier to help soak up recoil with fully adjustable stocks so that they can be configured perfectly to the shooter for ultimate accuracy. Trying to put together a rifle that can bridge the needs of both markets is a tall order because you run the risk of the rifle being too heavy for hunting and too light for match use. The Bergara HMR executes this balance very well by making reasonable compromises with respect to the stock design and barrel contour, but these compromises should not be construed at cutting corners. The cost of the Bergara HMR is not due to cutting corners but I think it’s owed to the fact that the HMR is a Bergara rifle through and through. Everything on the rifle was manufactured by Bergara in Spain and imported into the United States by Bergara USA.
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To me the most striking feature of the HMR that caught my eye is its stock and I have to be honest, it’s what drew me towards choosing this rifle for review. The stock is polymer with an aluminum skeleton embedded within it to give it strength and rigidity while also being impervious to the elements. Owing to its design as a hunting rifle, the stock is thin and trim without a wide forend or palm swells that would make the stock overly wide. To appeal to the long range target shooters though, the stock is designed with a beavertail stock that is adjustable for length of pull via a spacer system and a very well designed adjustable cheek piece. When I first got the rifle in my hands I was curious if the adjustment screw that is used to tighten down the cheek piece would loosen up under recoil. This is a problem that has plagued many an adjustable cheekpiece and I’m happy to say that it doesn’t appear the HMR suffers this issue. The cheek piece screw locked down tight with thumb pressure and didn’t move at all throughout the day of shooting.
The stock also features multiple sling mounting points for both flush cup and standard sling swivels which shooters from both sides can appreciate. There are three sling swivel studs along the bottom for attaching a bipod and sling while the left and right side of the stock feature flush cups. The detachable box magazine (DBM) system accepts AICS compatible magazines and it ships with a Magpul five-round polymer magazine. One could debate whether a DBM is required on a hunting rifle but it in any case it makes loading and unloading the rifle safe and easy. In my opinion the HMR stock checks all of the boxes for a dual use stock that’s going to see use as both a hunting rifle and a match rifle.
The barreled action on this rifle is interesting for a few reasons too, and it’s not just because everything on it is from Bergara. The action is made by Bergara and it follows the Remington 700 footprint but it has some features that I thing make it a little better than the typical Remington 700 action. The action does accept Remington 700 short action bases, which is great because that gives the shooter a huge range of options for scope mounting. I used a Weaver 20 MOA Picatinny Base as it is a very budget friendly base that is made in the USA and would give the Burris XTRII scope I used plenty of elevation for long range shooting. The bolt has a 90° bolt throw like the Remington, actuated with the help of oversized bolt knob, but it has a coned bolt face and a Savage-style extractor. This arrangement helps with reliability during feeding and extraction, something that is beneficial for hunting and match shooters. The barrel is 22 inches long with a contour that is what Bergara calls a #5 contour and I would characterize as a Bull Sporter. It’s not as heavy as a Remington Varmint but it’s not exactly a pencil barrel either. Again, this is something of a compromise to create a rifle that is capable of doing two different roles and it works; I can see Bergara’s logic here.
When it came time to do some shooting I gathered as many different brands of ammunition as I could from local sources. I had a small stash of 6.5 Creedmoor at home so I ended up with a few flavors from Hornady and Winchester’s 6.5 Creedmoor Match ammunition. A Burris XTR II 4-20X was mounted up and I was off to Peacemaker National Training Center to put this rifle through its paces. I treat every rifle that I get in for review as if it were my own; I tear it down, check it out, make sure the scope is set up just right, and gather dope on it out to the longest range possible.
This time was no different so I started out at 100 yards and started out with some Hornady 140 gr AMAX to get an initial zero, and the accuracy was quite good. If you remember, one of my issues with the last Bergara rifle that I reviewed was with regards to accuracy. To be fair, I ended up only being able to test using one type of ammunition, so the statistically the sample size was too small to garner any useable information. In this case though the HMR started out putting five rounds of the Hornady 140 AMAX into a group that was easily 1 MOA. From there I proceeded to test some of the other types of ammunition that I had brought along, namely Hornady’s American Gunner 140 BTHP, Precision Hunter 143 ELD-X, and Winchester’s 140 BTHP. Hornady American Gunner and Winchester’s Match ammunition performed very well and for the most part produced equivalent groups at 100 yards. I think this rifle needed a little bit of breaking in though because the groups seemed to get better by the end of the day, but that could also be due to be getting used to the trigger.
The tigger is also completely made by Bergara and it is a very good trigger, just a little on the heavy side for pure long range shooting. There was zero creep and it broke cleanly at about 3 1/2 pounds with a little over travel. In short, the trigger is set up well for the dual roles of hunting and match shooting that this rifle was designed for I think.
Once I was satisfied enough with the performance of the rifle at 100 yards to be able to take it out farther, I set my sights on some of the long range steel that was in place. My first stop in gathering some dope on the rifle was the 10 inch plates at 300 yards. Since I did not have a chronograph with me during this session, and no ballistic calculator, I was pretty much going off the ballistic data that I used for my 24-inch match rifle, also chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. That being the case I could expect my dope to be a little bit off but close enough that I should be able to spot impacts and make the necessary corrections. A quick dial up to 1.0 mils on the scope and a brief moment later I was rewarded with a loud “ping” signaling a good hit. It was slightly low, owing to the lower muzzle velocity compared to my 24-inch barreled 6.5 Creedmoor but a good hit nonetheless. I put four more shots on steel before I moved out to 825 yards to shoot a large IPSC steel target.
My first few shots proved to be just off the target as I worked out the actual elevation setting and wind call, but once I had it I easily put a couple rounds on steel. Transitioning over to the 1/2 size IPSC at 478 yards I once again SWAG’ed my elevation setting based on what I’d use with my other 6.5 Creedmoor and held the left edge of the plate. The flatter trajectory of the 6.5 Creedmoor means that you have more leeway with regards to elevation setting; I can be a little off on my setting and still get a good hit.
In this case, I was right on target and effortlessly went five for five. I only had a few rounds remaining from my stash so I decided to go back to my 100 yard target and confirm the zero. The goal was to see how well the rifle shot when it was hot, like you would experience after a long string of fire during a competition and also see how well the scope returned to zero. This “hot and dirty” group was by far the smallest of the day, coming in at less than ½ inch and I think a testament to the quality of rifle that I had before me.
During different parts of the testing that I did on the range I alternated using a Hellfire muzzle brake on the end of the muzzle, graciously provided by the manufacturer Area419. The Hellfire brake is a self timing brake that requires little in the way of tools to install and it can be done in less than a minute. In fact, I installed the brake right there on the range, tightening down the universal adapter with a common 5/8 inch wrench, and eye balling the alignment of the gas ports. The threads on the muzzle brake collar are left hand thread so they will not come loose during recoil but will loosen easily when you want to remove the brake. The brake was also extremely effective; it’s three chambers direct gases back and pretty much negated the recoil of the rifle. Concussion back at the shooter was also barely noticeable, which can be a problem for some muzzle brake designs. The ease with which you can attach and detach the brake makes it perfect for a rifle that will see dual use as a hunting and competition rifle.
There is so much more that I can write about concerning this rifle but I can only go on for so long. I think the loudest critics of HMR are going to take a look at some of the features and probably the rifle’s weight too and say that it’s useless as a hunting rifle. I’ve seen this come up many times before but often the comparison is drawn to your average deer hunting rifle used the dense woods of the Eastern United States. To that end I grant you that I would not recommend the HMR to go hunting whitetail in the woods of the eastern United States. I would probably point you in the direction of one of Bergara’s other rifles such as the B-14 Timber. However, consider that there are other types of hunting that this rifle would be suited for, such as varmint and predator hunting, where a slightly heavy rifle that is very accurate is perfectly suitable. Nowhere else I have been able to find a rifle quite like the HMR at anywhere near the suggest retail price of $1,150. Not even the Tikka T3X CTR (click this link for the article) that I tested last year can really be a direct comparison, albeit probably the most direct competitor. The Tikka still lacked an adjustable cheek piece, as many sling mounting points and styles as the HMR, and a detachable magazine that cost less than $100. In my opinion, the Bergara HMR is an absolute steal in terms of features and performance. For a novice looking for a rifle that can fill many roles, I think the HMR should be at the top of a very short list.
For more information, visit http://www.bergarausa.com/bergara_b-14_series_hmr_hunting_and_match_rifle.php.
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