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RECOIL Review: Bergara’s New B14-R Rimfire Trainer in 22LR

The recent explosion of interest in precision rimfire rifles feels new, but the fuse was lit more than a decade ago. That’s when guys began scouring shops and shows looking for rare 22LR Remington 40x repeaters, or less rare single-shot 40x actions that could be converted into repeaters. Shooters wanted sub-caliber clones of their .308 bolt actions that dropped into their Remington 700 footprint stocks for inexpensive, effective training. But few wanted to drop the thousands of dollars it’d take to get there.

At risk of sidetracking this article, we have to acknowledge the godfather of the 40x repeater conversion is Mike Bush. He’s the guy who figured out the most effective way to feed the tiny 22LR round in the larger 40x/R700-sized action was adapting a modified AICS-dimensioned magazine. That was back around 2011, and his magazine ultimately became the basis of today’s Vudoo Gun Works V-22 rimfire repeater system. The R700 footprint V-22 is widely viewed as the Lexus of 22LR precision trainers, with barreled actions costing $1,770. While they’re cheaper and easier than dealing with a 40x conversion, it’s still an expensive proposition, leaving the door open for a more economical alternative.

That brings us to the 22LR Bergara B-14 R, which is based on Bergara’s B-14 centerfire action … which is based on the Remington 700. The Bergara brand is relatively new, beginning its successful OEM barrel-making business in the late 2000s, it graduated to the custom bolt-action rifle market in 2012 with its line of Remington 700-based clones, then jumped into the production rifle market in 2015 with complete rifles built on its own, improved 700 clone action.

The B-14 R’s trigger is the same unit Bergara uses in its B-14 centerfire rifles, making the 22LR a perfect subcaliber trainer for its larger-caliber siblings.

The B-14 R is based on that centerfire action, and Bergara’s Director of Technical Development Dan Hanus tells us the rifle comes from customer request for a 22LR trainer to use with their B-14-based centerfire rifles. Hanus was the original gunsmith in Bergara’s custom rifle shop. He took the job after leaving his post as the chief instructor and production chief of the USMC’s Precision Weapons Section. Part of the Marine Corp’s Weapons Training Battalion, PWS is where the Marine Corps develops and maintains its warfighting and competition precision weapon systems.

ACTION BASICS
Bergara describes the B-14 R’s action as a 90-degree bolt throw, short stroke, push-feed, rimfire action. Most notably, it’s built on a Remington 700 footprint and works with the massive array of aftermarket R700 stocks, chassis, and triggers. This means guys can run it as a training twin for their stock B-14 centerfire rifles, use it as a base to build a 22LR trainer for their R700 or custom-clone, competition rifles, or trick it out and use it as a practical precision rimfire competition rifle in NRL22 matches and the like.

Our top, our rifle came with a Bergara factory 20 MOA Picatinny scope base, though the rifles sold at retail will not. The hole pattern is the same as the centerfire B-14 scope base, so you can hit Bergara or the aftermarket for other scope base options.

We slapped our scope on with a set of rings after realizing our scope mounts wouldn't work. Bergara's scope base has two pic-patterned areas with a center section between them that features the Bergara logo. All our scope mounts have a recoil lug in the middle that prevented them from seating because of bases raised center section. Traditionalists might wonder why we'd want to put a tall scope mount on the rifle instead of getting it as low as we can with a set of rings. The short story is that scopes positions are getting taller in practical precision competition as new trends in barricade techniques result in more upright and centerline shooting postures. We were looking to try out a heads-up shooting posture with the B-14R. But, that'll have to wait 'til we can get a scope base with pic slots that run its whole length.

The B-14 R is built on Bergara’s HMR (Hunting Match Rifle) stock. It's the same stock used in its HMR centerfire rifles.

The B-14 R is available as a complete rifle with Bergara’s HMR stock or as a barreled action. At press time, rifles are on retailer’s shelves, and Hanus says barreled actions should join them by March 2020.

It’s fitted with a Bergara’s #6 (heavy) profile 18-inch, 4140 chromoly steel barrel that’s given a SAAMI match chamber and threaded ½-28 for a suppressor or muzzle device. Things start going Euro here, as Bergara uses metric M27x3 threads on the barrel shank, likely a manufacturing artifact stemming from the barrel’s Spanish manufacture. Rimfire barrels don’t wear out quickly, if at all, but Hanus is aware that guys will want to have the option of some Strange. So, he let us know Bergara’s working on getting its barrel tenon drawings to U.S. barrel makers and gunsmiths who want to support the B-14 R.

]If you’re tracking so far, you might have guessed this isn’t a lightweight plinker. The steel action is big for a rimfire. It’s got to be, since it’s extended to match an R700’s action screw and recoil lug layout. Add to that the heavy profile barrel plus the adjustable stock and you’ve got just over 9 pounds of 22LR in the complete B-14 R. That’s comfortably in the realm of the centerfire rifles it’s meant to stand in for. A B-14 in 6.5 Creedmoor weighs about 9.5 pounds.

The action is a mid-lug design, a standard layout in rimfire rifles. That little 22LR round needs all the support it can get during feeding, which means the feed lips need to be close to the chamber, and that chamber is much higher in relation to the magazine on a R700 clone than on a purpose-built 22LR action. Placing the lug abutments amid-action leaves the chamber end of the action the room engineers need to place the cartridge stack as close to the chamber as possible. And that space is filled with the B-14 R magazine’s feed tower.

The B-14 R’s HMR stock comes with a couple of sling studs up front. We replaced them with a Henderson Precision Universal 5-inch ARCA Rail. The Henderson rail installs in seconds with included hardware fitting into the sling stud sockets.

MAGAZINE
One of the ways rimfire rifles lose accuracy is by bullet deformation. Soft lead bullets are easily engraved if they rub anything as they feed. So, instead of using a feed ramp, which would surely deform bullets as they scrape their way into the chamber, the magazine feeds from a tower that provides the round a short, sweet journey from feed lips to chamber. Even if Bergara calls the action a push-feed, it’s effectively a controlled round feed system. Once the round in the feed tower clears the feed lips, it slips upward and under the extractor and tensioner arms. While feeding, the two arms hold the cartridge base against the breech face, keeping the round straight and level as it’s fed into the chamber. This method cancels bullet deformation by preventing the bullet from touching anything as it’s fed, and we first saw this cartridge handling method used in the Vudoo Gun Works V-22.

Look closely. One of these arms is a hooked extractor, the other is a diamond-shaped tensioner.

While often thought of as dual extractors, the two arms on the face of many rimfire rifle bolts aren’t both extractor arms. Close inspection reveals the outside arm of the B-14 R is a hooked extractor that grips the cartridge under the rim while it’s in the chamber. The opposing, inside arm has a diamond-shaped head and applies tension to just hold the rim, rather than gripping it with a hook. The arrangement biases the retracted case to the outside as it hits the ejector and assists in its evacuation off the bolt face and out of the action.

While we’re talking about extraction and ejection, Hanus tells us Bergara came up with a novel way to ensure reliability despite the gun’s match chamber. “One of the things we noticed during testing was,” Hanus says, “as the chamber area started to get dirty and gummed up, we began having issues with extraction. We weren’t getting enough bite on there. We ended up making some clearance cuts on the sides of the chamber in the extractor slots.” He says the clearance cuts form slight recesses, only 0.007-inch deep, but that’s all it takes to make sure the extractor and tension arms maintain a solid grip on the cartridge, preventing it from sticking in the match chamber, no matter how much wax and carbon build up in there.

The B-14 R’s magazine features a tall feeding tower that locates the feeding cartridge up in the action, almost in line with the chamber.

BOLT
The B-14 R’s bolt looks like it was inspired by the 1980s Ruger 77/22. It’s a similar, two-piece design with the locking lugs on the rear. As the rear of the bolt turns to lock, the forward section rides, without rotating, into the breech face with wings that key into raceways for stability. On the old 77/22, the bolt halves weren’t really a precision fit. Guys would add shims to tighten things up, ostensibly, to increase accuracy, or more likely, to ease OCD.

The Bergara B14-R's two-piece bolt features a spacer/shim that sets the rifle's headspace. Bergara plans to offer a spacer kit that will allow headspace adjustment in 0.001 increments.


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A key difference between the 77/22 and the B-14 R bolt, the Bergara bolt halves are precision fit with shims at the factory to set the rifle’s headspace. This method supports affordable accuracy, because it allows the factory to inexpensively and effectively account for slight variances in barrel seating depth and extractor cut timing. Hanus says Bergara will release a performance kit containing a set of shims in 0.001-inch increments. Popping a roll pin and replacing the factory shim with one from the kit lets end users optimize their rifle’s headspace from 0.059 to 0.066 inch — something guys might do if they want to dial the headspace in for the rim thickness of their favorite cartridge.

TRIGGER TIME
Despite what the lawyers say in the manual, the B-14 R’s ignition system is compatible with all those aftermarket Remington 700 triggers. The included Bergara trigger is a decent factory single-stage trigger. Ours averages 2 pounds, 4 ounces at its lowest setting with the pull weight adjustment screw removed (Bergara says it’s safe to run the gun without the screw.) With the screw all the way in, we get a 3-pound, 3-ounce pull, on average. The adjustment screw offers no helpful feedback in the form of clicks as it’s turned, but adjustment is easy enough since the screw is accessible without pulling the action from the stock. The trigger’s got a firm break with noticeable overtravel. It’s not terribly crisp compared to aftermarket triggers; the break feels more like tapping a block of hardwood with an on-edge penny, as opposed to tapping that penny on a steel surface.

We had no trouble swapping Bergara’s B-14 rifle trigger with a Timney HIT trigger for Remington 700s.

After an initial 100-round range session with the rifle in its stock configuration, we swapped the trigger for the same Timney HIT trigger we’re running in our Proof Research/Bighorn TL3 PRS competition rifle. Set to 8 ounces, it’s reliable, clean, consistent, and free of any creep or overtravel. We had no trigger trouble with the gun running either the stock or the Timney trigger.

We also used the included HMR stock for that initial outing. It balances well and has enough comb height and length of pull adjustment to fit a wide range of people, large and small. It’s a traditional polymer stock with an aluminum skeletal frame that runs from the two front sling studs to a little ways behind the grip area. Bergara calls it a mini-chassis, but it’s more of a stock with pillar supports under the action screws and in the recoil lug pocket. It’s an excellent OEM stock that won’t hold back 70 percent of the shooting public.

Bergara B14-R in an MPA Matrix chassis topped with a Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27 x 56 and an MDT Ckye-Pod out on the Matrix's spigot extension. We moved the Matrix's clip-on NV bridge closer to the scope, reversed it, and removed the Picatinny rail. This gives us a platform to hold the front of the gun down on a barricade without putting pressure on the barrel.

As good as the HMR is, we were excited to run the B-14 R as a trainer for our centerfire, 6.5CM PRS rifle. We’re using an MPA Matrix chassis this season, and the B-14 R dropped right in. The 10-round B-14 R mag fit and latched securely without needing to touch the Matrix’s adjustable mag catch.

The heavy (for a 22LR) barreled action simulated the feel of a centerfire rifle quite well, offering similar balance and feel on barricades, ropes, and tank traps. To get a feel for it on the clock, we ran this trainer setup in an NRL22 match. Topped with our Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27 x 56 and topping 22 pounds, the weight of the gun was overkill for a rimfire match, but it did simulate the handling of our centerfire rifle well. We had no issues with the rifle shooting groups or training in the backyard, but we did outrun the bolt twice during the match. While running the bolt in the middle of a stage, it hung up as if it double fed. Both times, though, it was a lone, live round loose in the action that popped off the feed lips and didn’t seat under the extractor/tensioner arms. These were the only two malfunctions we had during the 800+ rounds we put through the rifle.

Bergara's stagared column B14-R magazine, front, compared to Vudoo Gunworks' single-column V-22 magazine, rear. Both have a raised feed platform that vertically positions rounds for short ride into the chamber.

We’ve heard differing experiences with guys running Vudoo Gun Works mags in their B-14 Rs. So, we slapped a V-22 mag in the B-14 R and ran about 100 trouble-free rounds before calling it compatible. Though, your milage may vary on this point.

Putting up third-inch groups at 50 yards from the prone on an MDT Ckye-Pod, the rifle achieves its goal of reliability and accuracy as a sub-caliber trainer. In fact, the gun wasn’t meant to put benchrest bugholes on paper, but you could spend more and do worse trying to turn some other barreled actions into benchrest guns.

WRAP-UP
As the popularity of 22LR trainers takes off, the B-14 R is ideally positioned to steal the show with its mix of accuracy, reliability, and value. There’s a cloud over the B-14 R in the form of a Vudoo Gunworks magazine patent application that could cause some trouble for Bergara if it’s granted. But, at press time, Bergara says it’s confident the B-14 R doesn’t infringe on any patents. The gun is a blast to shoot, works well with match and training ammo, and, with its R700 footprint and trigger compatibility, provides excellent adaptability — all this at an attractive price for an R700 footprint rimfire trainer.

Specs:

  • Caliber: 22 Long Rifle
  • Barrel Length: 18 inches
  • Overall Length: 37.35 inches
  • Weight: 9.25 pounds unloaded
  • Scope Base: Not included
  • Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
  • MSRP: $1,150
  • URL: bergara.online/us/

Accessories Discussed:

 


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Disclosure: These links are affiliate links. Caribou Media Group earns a commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

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