Bergara rifles have really become a big hit here in the United States with a lineup of rifles that have been shown to shoot very well and are built with excellent quality. While the popularity of their rifles has taken off recently, the history of the company is much longer. Bergara Barrels has been building high quality barrels for many decades at their factory in Bergara, Spain. Their barrels are known for their high quality and are used by many custom rifle builders from around the world. But we are not here to talk about their barrels, we are here to take a look at their rifles. Bergara has a standard line of rifles known as the B-14 which are very nice factory produced rifles that are built at their factory in Spain. Above the B-14 they have their high end Premier Series of rifles that are actually built here in the USA by a very unique team of rifle builders that are all former Military or DOD. If the Premier series is still not good enough for you, then they also offer a full Custom build service as well. For this review, we had the opportunity to perform a full evaluation on one of their Premier series rifles, known as the LRP chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Thanks to a loyal Sniper Central reader for making this review possible.
The LRP we had for review is a few years old and Bergara has changed a few items, which we will mention as we go through the review. Normally, when doing a rifle review we do not mention the actual case that the rifle comes in. Most factory rifles simply ship in a cardboard box. But as you go up in price, sometimes a hard case is used, such as with Steyr and others. When you go to the very high end custom built rifles, typically they will ship in something like a Pelican 1750 with cutout foam just for the rifle. In this case, we have a factory rifle, but built in their custom shop and it ships in a case that is not custom cut like a Pelican, but is rigid and custom made for the rifle, and it is nice. There are straps to hold the rifle in place, and a large enough scope area to fit a wide variety of scope options. Its may not be a Pelican or Storm case, but it is still very nice.
Included with the rifle is a small instruction manual and a test target, which we assume was fired at 100 yards, to verify accuracy. The LRP is available in several different chamberings, but our test rifle was chambered in the popular, and capable, 6.5 Creedmoor which means it has a bit longer barrel than the .308, but a bit shorter barrel than the 6mm Creedmoor. Everything else on the LRP is the same between the different cartridges.
The Premier LRP comes from the Bergara custom shop located here in the USA and is a chassis style of rifle. Chassis systems have become increasingly more common and it seems every rifle builder now has one. The chassis on the LRP is made by XLR Industries and is aluminum and built in conjunction with Bergara. The buttplate has a large rubber recoil pad to help manage the recoil and it is mounted on a buttplate that is adjustable for length of pull. The skeleton style buttstock area has a flush cup receiver as well as a rail mounting area on the bottom where a mono-pod was mounted on this test rifle.
The cheekpad is a hard curved Kydex piece that wraps over the top and is somewhat plain in design and appearance. It also has some soft rubber attached to it to provide comfort and a good gripping surface for your cheek. It works well in wet or sweaty conditions, though it is soft and appears like it may take a beating with normal tactical use. It is adjustable for height and can be tilted forward, or back to minor extent. The buttplate extension and cheekrest are mounted to a MSR style buffer tube assembly that does not fold. It is a straight forward design without much fancy stuff and seems to just simply work.
Like most all of the modern chassis system setups, the LRP utilizes an AR style pistol grip. In this case it is a contoured hard rubber grip with some aggressive texturing and a mild palm swell that fills the hand nicely. It is more than likely one of the common grips like a MOE or ERGO from a known manufacturers, but we were unable to determine which one. The aluminum XLR chassis appears somewhat boxy with lots of straight lines, but it is well made, rigid, and seems durable. The trigger guard is also blocky and rectangular but is large enough to use with gloved hands with plenty of room to spare. The bottom of the trigger guard has a lightening hole cut into it to help remove an ounce or two of weight
Bergara indicates that the current versions of the LRP utilize the excellent TriggerTech triggers, but our test rifle here had a Timney, also an excellent trigger, with a straight and wide trigger shoe. With the pistol grip, the hand is perfectly placed for excellent trigger control and the straight shoe helps even further. The trigger was set at an average pull weight of 2 pounds 13 ounces (2.81 lbs / 1.28 kg) according to our trigger scale, and broke very cleanly. At the front of the trigger guard a small magazine release lever protrudes down for easy access with the trigger finger. The AICS style magazines drop freely even when empty. The current LRP rifles ship with a 5-round Magpul PMAG, but this one had an offbrand steel AICS 10-round magazine.
The action on the LRP rifle is one of Bergara’s own Premier short actions. This action is built on the Remington 700 footprint, which makes it easier for parts selection such as the stock and trigger. But the action itself has several of its own unique design features and is made here in the USA. The rear tang of the action is the same as a Remington 700 action and as you would expect, the safety is the same as well since it uses Remington triggers. That safety is the traditional two position safety located on the right hand side of the tang. Forward for fire, rear to put it on safe.
On the left hand side of the action there is a bolt release lever that requires a hefty amount of pressure to push it in and then pull the bolt out of the rear of the action. The action has the same rounded profile as a Remington action but on the left hand side there is a flat area up near the top where they put the company name. The ejection port is closed on top, unlike on a Remington, and this helps create a stiffer action and should help contribute to better accuracy, but it is a bit more difficult to access the chamber area with fingers to remove brass or to single feed.
The action also has a shroud that covers the recoil lug between the barrel and the action which gives it a nice finished look, as if the barrel were mating direct to the action. There is one large gas port on the right hand side of the action to help protect the shooter in the event of a catastrophic failure. Bergara does not manufacture their bolts but another prominent machining company in the industry that has extensive experience making rifle bolts, does. The rear bolt shroud has an angled sharp look to it and features a cocking indicator that protrudes from the rear of the shroud when the bolt is cocked and ready to fire.
The bolt body is fluted, not only for aesthetics, but also to help the bolt cycle and expel foreign debris that may have found its way into the action. The bolt has two large lugs, like a Remington, which constitutes a 90 degree bolt rotation. Importantly, the extractor is a semi claw style extractor with a plunger on the opposite side of the bolt face. When combined, this makes a far better extractor setup than the Remington C-clip extractor. Additionally, the bolt head itself is a free floating style that allows for a bit of movement to help the bolt lugs mate up with the action lugs nicely without going to the extent of lapping and/or machining them perfectly. Personally, I like the concept of keeping the bolt a solid one piece and precisely machining and lapping the lugs, but this method works as well and also allows for easily changing the bolt head to change the bolt face diameter for different cartridges, saving costs. Savage does the same.
The bolt handle is a straight handle that cants back toward the operator ever so slightly and has a bolt knob that is slightly larger than a typical bolt knob, but would not be considered a large knob. The handle is matte black that matches the shroud, and the bolt body is bare metal. Cycling the bolt reveals a very smooth stroke indicating high levels of polished finish on the rails inside the action and the bolt. There is a little bit of movement of the bolt from side to side, slop if you will, which could be tighter, but does allow reliable operation in less than ideal conditions. Overall the action and bolt has a high precision quality feel to it, the same that is found on custom built rifles.
The forearm area of the chassis is blocky and is not really contoured for off hand use, but is setup for the attachment of rails and other accessories as needed. From the factory there is a single sling swivel stud up front to mount a Harris style bipod to. It is interesting to note that while the rear skeleton style buttstock has a flush cup receiver, there is not one on the front of the stock, rendering the one in the rear as pointless. Looking at the Bergara web pages reveals that the most recent pictures of the LRP rifle no longer shows the flush cups, so they probably realized the same pointless nature of having them there without one up front. The forearm of the chassis also has a very wide barrel channel which will insure a free floated barrel.
The barrel itself is one of Bergara’s own Permium 416 stainless steel barrels. The contour is a heavy Palma contour which they call a #5.5 contour. We are a fan of the Palma contours on tactical rifles as it allows for a good rigid heavy barrel but saves some weight over a straight taper contour. For those of you not familiar with a Palma contour, look at the barrel in the picture above and you can see where it has a definitive step down about three inches in front of the action and then carries an almost straight profile the rest of the way to the muzzle. Yes, technically the standard Remington heavy barrel profile is a Palma profile. It tends to work well on tactical rifles as well as Palma match rifles compromising weight savings and accuracy. The barrel length is 24″ on the 6.5 Creedmoor LRP rifles, 20″ for the 308’s and 26″ for the 6mm Creedmoor. At the muzzle, the LRP comes from the factory with a 5/8″-24 TPI threaded barrel with a cap. Our test rifle had a Dead Air Armament Keymount muzzle brake installed. This brake is a QD style brake used with the Dead Air suppressors.
The barrel and action are finished in a matte black Cerakote finish that is even and smooth everywhere it is applied and gives an excellent finished look to the rifle. The fit and finish of the rifle are way above factory production standard, as it should be since the rifle is marketed as a custom built rifle. The look of the rifle is that of a typical chassis based rifle and it certainly looks up to the task for tactical use.
So with the detailed examination complete, it was now time to see how the rifle actually does out at the range.
Our evaluation rifle already had a 20 MOA canted rail attached as well as a nice Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14x50mm LR/T scope with TMR reticle setup and ready to go. That made things easy for us and we headed out to the range with four different types of factory 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition. With the increasing popularity of the 6.5 CM, it has become easier to get different loads as there are a lot more options now available. This trend will likely continue. The four loads we tested with the rifle were the Hornady 147gr ELD, Winchester Match 140gr, Federal American Eagle 120gr OTM and the Choice Ammunition 130gr Berger. The Winchester load has become our standard load that we test in the all the 6.5 CM rifles we test and the American Eagle is our more affordable ammo selection. The other two provided further variety of bullet weight and style.
If you are not familiar with how we perform our rifle tests, please read our page How We Test Rifles and Scopes. The weather was a beautiful 54 degrees (F) with a 1-4 mph wind. The results of our 100 yard accuracy test are listed below.
|Ammo||Average Group||Best Group|
|Winchester Match 140gr||0.764″ (0.730 MOA)||0.484″ (0.462 MOA)|
|Fed. American Eagle 120gr OTM||0.849″ (0.811 MOA)||0.702″ (0.670 MOA)|
|Hornady Match 147gr ELD||0.762″ (0.728 MOA)||0.418″ (0.399 MOA)|
|Choice 130gr Berger||0.467″ (0.446 MOA)||0.262″ (0.250 MOA)|
As is evident in the test results listed above, the rifle shot very much like a custom built rifle, excellent. The rifle ships with a test target, which with this rifle measured .501″ center to center, sub .5 MOA. We do not know what ammo they used or how the rifle was setup. The current web page indicates that they send all of that data with their rifles now, but this rifle is a few years old and it appears they have changed their procedures. Regardless, the rifle shot very well, especially with the Choice 130 gr ammo. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how well the more affordable American Eagle ammo shot. The AE ammo did not print any exceptional groups, but it was very consistent and still averaged well under 1 MOA. Speaking of 1 MOA, that is actually the only accuracy guarantee that Bergara offers on these rifles, even their Premier and Custom built ones, which seems a little odd for a $2000+ rifle.
The action continued to impress us through the tests with its smooth operation and precise feel, even when cycling it rapid fire. The magazine does rattle when it is in the chassis, which is a bit annoying and noisy, but that is a product of the chassis more than the rifle. If the magazine well was made smaller, or tighter, it would be more difficult to rapidly insert the mag, so there is a trade off. Ejection is very positive on the rifle with a firm ejection of the brass both backwards and out of ejection port. We never had any extraction issues, but once, during a slow bolt manipulation drill, a piece of brass ejected and bounced back into the chamber. It only happened once and we are not sure why or even how it happened. We chalk it up to a freak occurrence as we closely watched further extractions and could not replicate this event.
The recoil on the rifle was actually not as well tamed as many other rifles with similar style brakes and it had a sharp impulse to it. Don’t get us wrong, it was still a mild recoil with reduce muzzle flip and movement, but other multi-chamber brakes like this seem to do better. It would have been interesting to test the rifle with and without the brake on, but it was not our rifle to fiddle with. The trigger was very nice and we had no issues with it during our tests. One thing we did have some issues with was with the barrel heating up. The smaller Palma contour makes for a lighter and more handy rifle, but the barrel heats up quite rapidly. After the only seven shots, we began to fight with heat mirage in the scope caused by the warm barrel. We took our time testing to try and compensate for the mirage off the barrel and let the barrel cool, but it was a struggle we wrestled with throughout our testing. By the end of the shooting session, even the aluminum forearm was warm to the touch. This is certainly not a build quality issue, but just an observation that introduced a challenge. The combination of the hot 6.5CM cartridge and the thinner profile barrel combined to rapidly heat it up. We still like the benefits of that Palma contour for a tactical sniper rifle, but if you are looking for a competition rifle that will fire many rounds in a short period of time, you will need to make arrangements with a barrel band, long sunshade/tube for the scope, or some other solution. The rifle certainly would do well performance wise in competition. For sniping, firing only a round or two at a time, this is a non issue.
With the performance of the Choice ammo at 100 yards, it was an easy “Choice” (forgive the pun) as to which ammo to choose for our 300 yard rapid fire head shot test. It only took 4 MOA of up elevation to dial in to adjust for the increased range to 300 yards and a slight right correction (.5 MOA) for a slight right to left wind that had picked up. With the rifle setup and the ready to go and the stop watch waiting, we fired our test, all from the prone. We had let the rifle cool for about 30 minutes to try and help with scope mirage and the barrel was just warm to the touch, but the mirage came back a bit after those first two rounds and it effected our 300 yard group. The rifle functioned flawlessly and was easy to cycle and get back on target rapidly, taking only 20 seconds for the three rounds. The group measured 3.110″ (.990 MOA) with two of the rounds only 0.4″ apart. The smoothness of the action helped with bolt manipulation and the rifle fed very well from the magazine through all of our tests. Additionally, the rifle single feeds by just dropping a loose round in the empty chamber without any problem. Handy.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (20 secs)||48|
|Accuracy Score (.990 moa)||60.6|
Without a doubt, the rifle is capable of even better results at 300 yards, as the performance impressed us throughout the day. Overall, these Bergara Custom and Premier series rifles are quite nice and really can perform well. Due to our wrestling with the mirage constantly, we know there is even more performance in the rifle than our group sizes indicated… and those group sizes were already good.
So that brings us to the conclusion, where we need to step back, look at the rifle as a whole and decide if it is a rifle that can get the job done. Certainly it is. The size and weight are well within reason, especially for the capability the 6.5 CM provides. We have mentioned the barrel profile a number of times because it is worth mentioning, both the pros and cons. It saves a good amount of weight yet still provides the accuracy needed, which also is due to the quality of the barrel itself. That weight savings does come at a price though, that barrel heats up quick. On a whole, the rifle offers a great amount of capability with potential well beyond 1000 yards, yet it is still sized for serious sniper work in the field. If you like, or are in need of, a chassis rifle, this is one that should be looked at. $2000 is not cheap, but it is much more affordable than a full custom rifle and it has performance that is just as good. We are impressed enough with the LRP that we plan to look at one of the lower cost, non premier, Bergara rifles in the upcoming months. We are expecting good things from that rifle as well as the Bergara company.
Sniper Central 2018