Bergara Long Range Hunter: A Bearing Arms Rifle Review

I can’t recall if I’d heard of Bergara USA prior to attending the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) conference in Knoxville, Tennessee in March. If I’d heard of the company, it was likely about the quality of their rifle barrel division. I’m quite sure that I hadn’t heard of their custom rifle shop, which is still very new. I spoke to several of the factory representatives during the course of the conference, and made sure to find them on the firing line at media day.

The first Bergara I fired that day was the BCR20 Heavy Tactical Rifle, which utilizes the Ashbury Precision Ordnance SABER-FORSST chassis system with a rear monopod, a bipod, and a Bushnell ERS scope.

The author, firing a Bergara BCR20 Heavy Tactical Rifle in a APO SABER-FORSST chassis.

The BCR20 is a very serious rifle for very serious shooters, and capable of incredible sub-minute-of-angle (sub-MOA) accuracy. My trigger controls needs work—I write too much, and shoot too little—but the rifle was incredibly accurate. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that if someone asked you to shoot a dime at 100 yards with a properly set-up BCR20, the only question you should ask is, “which part of the dime?”

bergara long range hunter
Bergara Long Range Hunter (BCR15) on Range Day at POMA 2014.

The second rifle I fired at POMA was the Bergara Long Range Hunter (BCR15), a much more conventionally-styled rifle that has features that split the difference between Bergara’s tactical rifles and the company’s dedicated line of hunting rifles. I liked it immensely as it simply seemed to be a well-balanced, all-around rifle.

It comes with a 24″ Bergara barrel and bolt-action, a McMillian A3 Sporter stock, and has a bunch of other cool specifications that you can read about here.

Not too many weeks after POMA a Long Range Hunter in .308 Winchester outfitted with a Vortex Viper PST 4-16×50 front-focal plane scope showed up at my FFL. Being the Appleseed-trained shooter that I am, the first thing I did with it was to add one of the G.I. web slings I keep around the house. I did some (not enough) dry-firing in advance of taking the rifle to the range, and brought the Long Range Hunter with me to a designated marksman’s match several weeks ago to do a little plinking at 200+ yards before the competitors arrived at the stage. Several picked it up and admired the rifle’s balance and relatively light weight compared to the much heavier tactical rifles they were toting around.

It wasn’t until last week that the weather co-operated and I was able to take the Long Range Hunter to Ramseur, NC, to use the Revolutionary War Veterans Association’s 500-yard known distance range.

When I arrived at the range I was surprised and a little alarmed; the gate that was supposed to be locked was open, and a number of sheriff’s deputies had their cars parked at the range. They eyeballed me as I pulled in and slowly turned around, pulling up to park behind them.

As it turned out, they had a deal with the range owner to use the range to qualify and train department snipers, and they simply got to the range earlier that day than I did. They informed me that they only had two more shooters to qualify, and so I hung around to watch them shoot.

15 minutes later they were done, and they were even nice enough to leave me a nearly new cardboard target backer, with just a few holes left over from their qualifying round.

I put up a pair of targets on the backer at the hundred yard line, found a bench with a ripped sandbag, and prepared to go to work.

Here is what my view from the firing line looked like (below).

View of RWVA Range #1 from the firing line.
View of RWVA Range #1 from the firing line.

Here’s that same view, with the target locations pointed out using my impressive MS Paint skills (below).

View of RWVA Range #1 from the firing line. There are steel targets on the left, right, and center of the range at various distances.

You’ll note that most of the targets are rather difficult to see, with the exception of the targets on the backer at the 100 yard line. The 100-yard gong is mostly obscured, peaking out of the high grass several feet to the shooter’s right in relation to the backer. you can seen the strip of grass the deputies mowed to enable them to see the target from a prone position.

The rest of the targets I was shooting at were visible through the Viper PST scope. I focused most of my early shooting on the steel targets on the middle and left side of the range, out to 400 yards.

Targets were engaged at 100 yards, 225 yards, 325 yards, 400 yards, 460 yards, and 500 yards

The rifle was zeroed dead-on at 100 yards. The breeze was straight in at about 5 mph when it wasn’t dead calm, so I didn’t have to make any wind calls.

Being a bit rusty, I warmed up with the several shots on the 6″ gong at 100 yards before working my way out to the 225 yard rack of steel targets and back. The first thing I noticed about the rifle as I started shooting was the lack of recoil. The APA Bastard (hey, I didn’t name it) brake knocked the recoil down to nothing, and while it still sounded like a .308 rifle, the recoil was more akin to that of a .223 Remington.

The APA Bastard muzzle brake reduced the .308's recoil to almost nothing.
The APA Bastard muzzle brake reduced the .308’s recoil to almost nothing.

I then tried to fire a group at my Shoot N See target, and it was frankly embarrassing.

There was nothing at all wrong with the rifle, but my trigger control was horrible. All three rounds were called fliers. I walked downrange and put up pasters, glad that sheriff’s department snipers had gone home and I was on the range alone.

I really needed to relax and focus on my fundamentals, and so I started back on the steel targets and tried to simply relax, and fall back on the basics.

While I didn’t have a data book for the rifle/ammo combination, I started approximating hold-overs the best I could, using the mil calls I remembered the shooters using from the designated marksman’s match a few weeks before. I started settling down, and the few misses I had can be chalked up to either not knowing the dope on the rifle/load combination at first and shooting low at the longer distances, or from rushing the shot and forcing the trigger.

After going up and down the range on steel targets for 40 rounds the “range rust” seemed to have worn off, and I was feeling much better. I opened the action of the Long Range Hunter to cool, as the barrel was too hot to touch for more than a few seconds due to the sustained fire. After a quick water break (for me, not the rifle), I shot the following 3-shot, 100 yard group.

Three shot group with the Bergara Long Range Hunter. Not the pasters from the earlier first attempt.
Three-shot group with the Bergara Long Range Hunter. Not the pasters from the earlier flinch-filled attempt.

Though I was firing from a leaking sandbag on a slightly wobbly bench and was still fighting my tendency to flinch, the first two-shots struck dead center. I rushed the 3rd shot just a little bit, or they would have all been in one ragged hole. When you consider that this group was fired with bullets 40-42 in a still hot and dirty gun, I think it says a ton about the ability of the Bergara Long Range Hunter to shoot all day and maintain a near perfect zero.

bergara rest
A nice spring day, a leaking sandbag, and a Bergara Long Range Hunter topped with a Vortex Viper PST 4-16×50 FFP scope, fed with 168-grain Norma Match ammunition. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Now feeling a bit more confident after checking and pulling the Shoot N See, and having figured out my hold-overs at longer ranges, I decided to see just how well I could shoot with the next ten rounds (five in each magazine).

I shot steel at 100, 225, 325, 460 and 500 yards just as quickly as I felt I was able to make good hits, and then I did again.

I took out the bolt on the  Long Range Hunter and racked it to let it cool, and headed off down the hill to see how the rifle performed.

The 6", 100 yard gong was pretty chewed up, but the freshest shots in in the center, and I'm taking credit for them.
The 6″, 100 yard gong was pretty chewed up, but the freshest shots are in the center, and I’m taking credit for them.

One of the first things that I noticed about the steel targets is that they seemed to come in varying levels of thickness and hardness. The targets I shot were a mix of very thick but relatively soft targets that left a fresh, light gray crater that showed precisely where my shots hit, while some of the harder targets simply turned the bullets to dust on impact, and it was impossible to tell fresh hits from old hits visually.

The 100 yard gong was my most frequently shot target since I used it to work out my “range rust” and get my trigger finger functioning as it should. As a side note, I really should dry fire a lot more than I currently do.

The shots on the "can" at 225 yards were nicely grouped.
The shots on the “can” at 225 yards were nicely grouped dead-center. I counted six clustered shots.

The “can” was part of a cluster of targets at approximate 225 yards out from the firing range on the shooter’s right. It was a little difficult to see with the naked eye (at least for this 43-year old), but was very easy to hit consistently with the Long Range Hunter, whether I was shooting from the sandbag, or “slung up” in a hasty sling. I would not hesitate to take a field shot at this distance with this rifle on a game animal. It balances superbly, which is very import for a gun designed to be fired in the woods or the plains, and not from a bench.

The "D" target at 325 yards seems to have been made of tougher metal than the other targets. It was difficult to verify hits, but I'm talking credit for the two darker ones in the lower center as they seem slightly fresher.
The “D” target at 325 yards seems to have been made of tougher metal than the other targets. It was difficult to verify which hits were mine, but I know from the sound that I scored hits.

I knew that I was getting good hits on the military-style “D” target at 325 yards from sight and sound from the firing line, but it was made of much stronger steel than he targets at 100 and 225 yards, and so I couldn’t tell for certain which hits on the target were mine.

It was on the 10″ gong at approximately 460 yards where I did my best verifiable shooting.

I might not ever top this... and I'm okay with that. 2 touching hits in the center of the 10" gong at 460 yards.
I might not ever top this… and I’m okay with that. Two touching hits in the center of the 10″ gong at 460 yards.

There were several targets at 460, and it took me a couple of shots on one of the other targets in this cluster earlier in the day to figure out my hold-overs to get a hit. I fired at this 10″ gong with the Viper PST on full 16x magnification from the bench, and simply could not ask for better results than these two shots, one in each of my last two strings of fire.

500 silo
Much like the “D” target at 325 yards, this small silhouette at 500 yards registered hits with a “ping,” but it was made of material that didn’t betray which hit was the freshest.

Like the “D” target at 325, the roughly knee-high mini-silhouette at 500 yards was made of very strong armor steel, and it simply deflected the bullets away as if they didn’t matter. If it weren’t for the dust shaken from the target in the first solid hit and the satisfying metallic “ping” afterward, it would have been tough to verify the hits I was getting.

View of the firing line from the 500 yard steel target.
View of the firing line from the 500 yard steel target. I was shooting from the middle bay, in line with the strip of lighter-colored mowed grass.

While long distances may seem like nothing to those of you in the wide open spaces, there simply aren’t that many places with a 500-yard sight-line in many parts of the Piedmont, where the terrain is mostly low rolling hills and thick forests. Many shooters in Eastern states simply don’t know what a shot from this distance looks like. Theses pictures from the perspective of the 460 yard and 500 yard targets hopefully provides a little context.

View of the firing line from the 460 yard gong.
View of the firing line from the 460 yard gong. The minivan 20 yards beyond the shelter over firing line might provide a little bit of a sense of scale. I’m still a little amazed that I put two shots on top of each other from this distance with the Bergara Long Range Hunter.

What are my overall impressions of the Bergara Long Range Hunter?

bob owens woodys 1
The author, with the Bergara Long Range Hunter at Stage 5 of a Designated Marksman’s Match.

I think that the Bergara Long Range Hunter a a very well-made, well-balanced, and soft-shooting rifle equally at home as either a hunting or tactical rifle. It is easily the most accurate rifle I’ve fired to date, and I simply regret that I’m not a good enough shooter to wring that out in a tiny cluster at 100 yards from a bench that people think is important in hunting rifle… as if you lug a bench with you into the woods.

The Long Range Hunter will make an excellent rifle for someone who wants a rifle capable of sub-MOA accuracy, and which in this review experienced with no change in zero, regardless of the amount of ammunition sent downrange with precision.

The incredible, repeatable accuracy of such a rifle doesn’t come without a substantial price, however.

The base model Long Range Hunter starts at $4,000, and depending on how you choose to customize it, the price can rise quickly from there. Obviously, it isn’t a mass-market rifle, but is instead designed for highly-skilled shooters who intend to invest both substantial time and money developing themselves into the very best riflemen they can be. What separates the Long Range Hunter from many rifles in its class is that it seems to straddle the line between a rifle that can provide the precision and volume of fire that tactical rifle shooters demand, while still being several pounds lighter than these rifles, so that it can excel as a rifle for hunters at any distance.

My sole complaint involving the Long Range Hunter is that they cruelly insist on making me send it back to them now that I’ve completed my testing and evaluation period.

For a company that just entered the custom rifle business several years ago, Bergara certainly seems to understand what it takes to make a world-class rifle.