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Gun Review: Bergara Hunting Match Rifle (HMR)

Four years ago the Ruger Precision Rifle hit the scene and changed how we view factory rifles. There were many compelling things about that rifle, but the most important was the price tag – $999.99. Other rifle manufacturers took notice and have since started a trend of more affordable, but accurate factory rifles.

Bergara thought the market needed something like a custom barreled action dropped into something like a McMillan A5 that cost somewhere around $1000 and needed no other work – with those requirements in mind, they introduced the Hunting Match Rifle (HMR). To develop it, Bergara assembled a group of employees to help design a rifle that they, serious enthusiasts and former military, would be willing to actually own and shoot. The end result is a harmonious marriage between shooter and accountant that seems to satisfy all. 

I first shot the HMR at SHOT Show 2017 Range Day. To my surprise, it was nice and comfortable and I had no problem hitting enormous torso-sized targets at a quarter-mile, even in 20 mph winds. Shortly thereafter, this tester HMR arrived at my FFL. In the past two years, I’ve shot it informally at both paper and steel and formally at a weekend precision rifle class. The pile of dirty brass in my reloading room tells me that the total round count is approaching 700 rounds.

Accuracy

Most of my measured five-shot groups across a range of factory ammo types resulted in .7 to 1.1 MOA. In one case, using Hornady’s 140 gr. factory A-Max load, I shot six back-to-back five-shot groups that measured under .9 MOA. If you cherry pick three-shot groups, this is a half MOA gun. If you operate in reality, this is a reliable sub-minute rifle.

During the aforementioned weekend class, I took the HMR and a much more expensive Remington 700 wearing a 308 Win chambered Rock Creek barrel and a McMillan A5. I put 250+ rounds through both rifles over the course of two days and came away impressed with the HMR, especially compared to a worked over Remington 700. In the end, my .308, though chambered in a nearly dead and archaic cartridge, hit more targets. At three times the cost of the HMR– I’d expect it to do that!

Action

The HMR uses Bergara’s B14 action, a Remington 700 clone, updated to address some common issues and problems with the factory 700 action, including it’s (lack of) left-handedness.  

First, a stronger bolt stop. Word on the internet is that a stressful pull on the bolt, like in competition or gunfight, might break the flimsy stock stop on a 700, resulting in the bolt being yanked right out the back. Bergara addresses this by integrating a much stronger bolt stop right from the start. No need to fumble around near the trigger to release the bolt, just pull it to the stop, press the big lever on the left-hand side of the action, and remove the bolt.

Second, they’ve modernized the bolt knob. Assuming your 700 knob isn’t one of those that’s filled with air pockets from poor casting, you can pay a gunsmith to thread it and screw on a big knob from somebody reputable. Bergara threads the handle and screws on their own big knob right from the factory.

A two lug coned bolt is advertised to offer smoother, more reliable feeding. I had no issues feeding from the supplied magazine they send with the gun. You’ll also notice that Bergara has elected to punt the puny 700 style extractor for something with a bit more strength. This is another common upgrade your gunsmith will happily charge you for, though they’ll likely go to either a Sako or M16 style extractor. Bergara uses a Savage style extractor. It’s not a Sako/M16/Mauser claw, but it’s arguably a bit nicer than the stock 700, and worked fine during the duration of this review. 

Early runs of the B14 action like the one reviewed here had a firing pin that was a touch undersized and allowed the primer to “flow” a bit earlier than you’d see with another action. Factory Hornady ammo shows what looks like primer cratering where other actions don’t.  Bergara’s VP of Sales, Ben Fleming responded to let me know that Bergara has addressed this issue: 

“One quick note to update you on is the firing pin and firing pin hole. We adjusted the tolerances way down on this during the later half of 2018 and everything in 2019 will be smaller to avoid the need for bushing firing pins like you indicated.  We certainly listened to the users and our market on that one.”

You can likely pay a gunsmith to bush the bolt for less than $200. If you only shoot factory ammo, this likely won’t be a problem for you. If you reload, and you like to push it, you run the risk of blowing a primer and potentially causing a lot of damage.

A gunsmith I know got an early vintage HMR action to play with and reported that it needs blueprinting like a factory Remington 700. This will only come up at rebarrel time. Depending on the guy running the lathe, this can be $100 – $300.

Bergara fixed every issue that the bean counters at Remington created. It’s not a Stiller, but it is MUCH better than a factory 700 and I’d argue is a much better place to start if you’re planning upgrades down the road.  When upgrade time comes, the most you could possibly do is true it, bush it if it’s pre-mid-2018, and convert it to a Sako/M16 extractor. 


Chamberings

Bergara offers the short action HMRs in a variety of barrel lengths and chamberings for both right and left-handed shooters. Oddballs include a 1:9 twist 22-250 and a 20-inch 1:24 .450 Bushmaster. Most commercial rifles in 22-250 use a much slower twist – 1:12 or 1:14. That 1:9 should be fast enough to stabilize bullet weights up to 80 grains. Competent reloaders can safely push 75 gr bullets to 3000+ fps. That’s one hell of a varmint rifle, especially with a can screwed to the end.

In a long action, there’s a 24-inch 1:9.5 twist 7mm Rem Mag and left and right-handed 26-inch 1:10 twist 300 Win Mags. Both feed from AICS magazines. 

Controls

Like most short action rifles you’ll see at a weekend match, this one feeds off AICS magazines. Bergara includes a 5-round Magpul magazine, a nod I’m sure to the lower profile required for a hunter. Feeding from that magazine is flawless. Bergara’s bottom metal is well thought out and seems to eschew a big single lever like Badger’s M5 in favor of a lower profile ambidextrous paddle style. I like it and didn’t find that it caused any issues with magazine changes.

In a nod to the classics, Bergara has elected to go with a curved trigger vs. the much more tactical flat-faced triggers you see in today’s market. Bergara’s manual says the trigger is adjustable from 2.8 to 4.4 pounds and is set a notch above 3.5 lbs from the factory. The trigger that came in this gun originally measured at 6 pounds. I called Bergara and they sent me a new one that measured at 3.5 pounds. The replacement trigger adjusted within the range specified and passed a drop test. It’s a 700 pattern trigger, so if you hate it, you can punt it and replace it quickly. You shouldn’t though because it’s a perfectly fine trigger and doing so will disqualify you from Production class in PRS.  

Stock

I own one dedicated match rifle and it wears a McMillan A5. If finances allowed a second match rifle, it would wear an A5 as well. But I’ve hunted with that rifle and found that the A5 is a poor stock for a hunting rifle. Compromises must be made and Bergara did a fine job.

I’ll start with the only big negative. You have to lower the cheekpiece to remove the bolt for cleaning. This is a first-world problem. Fix this by either marking your perfect adjustment on the pillar or taking a Dremel to the cheekpiece. The cheekpiece requires no tools to adjust for comb height and is symmetrical so no adjustments are necessary for support side shooting. My face seems to demand a higher than normal comb on all rifles, but I had no issues adjusting the cheekpiece for usage with a 50 mm objective scope in a set of tall rings. 

Length of pull is modified using spacers between the stock and the buttpad. Three spacers are included. If you’re really lanky, you can purchase additional spacers from Bergara for $5. The buttpad is squishy and helps soak up the recoil of 6.5 Creedmoor.

The buttstock is what’s popular in the precision rifle game for shooting off a rear bag with your hand-hooked in on the stock. A pure hunting stock would smoothly transition from butt to grip and have no hooks that could snag on branches or gear. It would probably also be walnut. That’s fine, this is a match rifle that sometimes hunts, not the other way around.

With the lines of a classic hunting stock, the forend tapers nicely while providing a flat bottom like a match rifle. There’s some nice texturing for your fingers, and the end result is a stock that’s pleasing to shoot offhand, off a bipod, or sandbag. Bergara has thoughtfully molded in QD swivels on both sides of the buttstock and the forend – great for carrying the rifle flat across your back on a long hike. No QD swivels or pic rail on the bottom of the forend. Instead, Bergara put two traditional swivels to match the traditional one on the buttstock. 

Bergara calls this a #6 taper in their literature which I assume is a Krieger #6 Heavy Bull Sporter. It’s a profile that manages to be beefy enough for match use while still cutting enough weight that you won’t hate yourself when you bring it on a hunt. Your eyes are not deceiving you, the barrel is ever so slightly off-center in the stock. Functional impediment? Not unless you have crippling OCD and this sort of thing sends you into a spiral.

The real star of the show is something you can’t see. That is unless you peel off most of the stock to expose the fat chunk of aluminum that comprises the skeleton of the HMR stock. This a very good thing. The reason chassis are the hotness in PRS/NRL? They’re stiff and therefore very strong. The mini chassis idea isn’t new, but it’s very rare to see in a mass-produced firearm, and rarer still is one that hits the streets for less than $1000.

What it is: An accurate, magazine-fed bolt action rifle, offered in a dizzying variety of long and short action chamberings as well as left and right-handed versions. 

Who is it for: Those looking to dip their toes in precision rifle competitions. Hunters who care about a shooter oriented rifle. 

What I found: Not quite custom, but better than most factory rifles. It’s based on the Remington 700 footprint, so accessories abound. If you like to load your own ammo beyond max, you should but a 2019 rifle. Otherwise, buy it, mount a scope, and shoot it until the barrel is worn out.

Retail Price: $1150 – $1179

Street price: $949-$999


Visit https://www.bergara.online/us/rifles/b14/hmr-rifle/


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