BERGARA B14 HMR IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR (LH) - test & review
PUBLISHED: 11:56 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:56 30 January 2020
Gun guru Chris Parkin puts the Bergara B14 HMR in 6.5 Creedmoor to the test, and is absolutely full of praise for this cracking, great-value rifle
BERGARA B14 HMR IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR, LH - BRIEF OVERVIEW
PROS: Fantastic value for money ; An exceptionally good stock design both ergonomic and mechanically; You can have a left hander; Had I no other gun, this is one I would buy
CONS: The best I can come up with is they don't make a 223 but that does not apply to this gun!
OPINION: Choosing a left-handed rifle has forced me to consider the relative needs of rifles shot from either shoulder, thereby highlighting just how good the HMR is overall regardless of which side you shoot from.
Overall length - 44.5"/1134mm
Weight - 11.6lbs/5.26kg
Magazine capacity - 5+1 (AICS compatible)
Trigger - Single stage, 900gr (oz.)
Barrel length - 24"/610mm, 1 in 8" twist (200mm) Button Rifled
Stock material - Synthetic Tactical stock with internal Aluminium spine and bedding block
Length of Pull - 14.5"/368mm including three 10mm spacers
Bergara B14 HMR in 6.5 Creedmoor, Left-handed - £1,175 (£45 premium over RH)
Zero Compromise Optic ZC527 - £3,400
Tier-One 36mm Picatinny Rings - £152.95
Tier-One 20 M.O.A. Picatinny rail - £ 68.95
Norma 6.5 130gr BTHP Ammunition, Consult your dealer
RUAG 01579 362319 www.ruag.co.uk
Hornady 147 TAP FPD ammunition www.edgarbrothers.com 01625 61317
BERGARA B14 HMR IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR, LH - DETAILED TEST & REVIEW
The Bergara B14 has been around for a few years now and the HMR format, although slightly confusingly named, has proven to be as I predicted from the moment I first lay my eyes on it.
It seemed a logical test bed to revisit it after two years and also to showcase the fact it is available as a left-hander - a trusted gun I could use to test my own abilities from the alternate shoulder and look at more of the limitations right-handed rifles pose to a left-shoulder marksmen.
It's not all doom and gloom, though, as there are times when swapping sides can make a shot easier based on rest position or in functional terms. The downsides are that when prone, the supporting hand, either on that fore-end or under the butt, has to leave position to operate the bolt causing significant physical disruption. For me, using a left-handed rifle made me look at these factors from the perspective of a lefty when using a righty rifle.
The muzzle of the B14 shows a dished crown, capped with an 18x1 thread for a moderator or brake. I shot this rifle 'naked' for a change and loved the connection with recoil from the mild 6.5 Creedmoor - in .300 Win Mag, it still shoots really well and shows inherent balance.
To get it out of the way, I don't own a Creedmoor personally but have three other 6.5mm guns in my collection. The Creedmoor is a great cartridge, but let's not get bogged down with its intrinsic capability beyond any .260 or 6.5x55; let's just say it is a ballistic delight, mainly improved by more compact modern packaging, and leave it at that.
The HMR has a 21.6mm muzzle tapering straight to the action with just a slight swell in the reinforce. The action is Remington 700 footprint but modernised with encapsulated recoil lug (preventing rotation rather than just sandwiched) and slight coned wings to the twin lug bolt-face. This is a push-feed, sprung-plunger ejector and inlaid extractor claw in the left side of the bolt-face - a perfect mirror image of the righty.
Move back along the 17.6mm shaft to the handle - a 33mm extension with 36mm conical bolt-knob at the end - ample for rotational leverage to perform cammed primary extraction, yet avoiding excessive linear leverage that would make the bolt stutter. It runs in two raceways through the action bridges, with an external bolt-release catch on the right rear for simple removal.
The safety sits on the left; two positions with forward to fire and rear for safe with trigger locked, yet the bolt still free to operate, followed by a rear cast aluminium shroud with a lower cocked indicator. A few of the older rifles have seen some problems with these shrouds but all has been sorted and, when closely inspected, you can decock the bolt's firing pin and recock it with just finger and thumb pressure, unlike the similar Remington which needs a slightly more brutal approach. The bolt lifts through 90° with a 103mm draw out to cycle the 'short' action.
Excessive force isn't needed to open the bolt and recock, and there's plentiful primary extraction and secondary ejection with a nice firm halt when fully rearward. Going back and forth, even with me operating deliberately clumsily 'wrong-handed', showed slick travel, no juddering and the bolt-handle doesn't bounce when the gun is fired. The Bergara is a generation on from its respected but ageing father. Both lugs showed 100% equal contact from their abutments' wear marks and they are nicely blacked, from the contrasting silver steel shaft.
The receiver shows a gas escape port to the left of the 24"/610mm barrel's breech. When pinned, the encapsulated lug allows a switch barrel in theory, the lug cannot lose rotational position when the barrel is removed. The top sees four threaded holes for scope mounts and RUAG supplied both Tier-One 20 MOA rail and Torx fittings to mount it. Bergara provide a slim spacer if you want to tweak elevation alignment slightly, but in the six B14s I have used, I've never seen the need.
Ammunition feed is from a single-column AICS-compatible magazine. A polymer five-rounder is supplied that won't score brass, and this popular system allows for multiple spares and 10-rounders. An ambidextrous release catch sits at the front of the trigger guard, which is part of the aluminium bottom metal. Plenty of space for a gloved finger in front of the 8mm wide curved blade makes a for an all-season rifle.
Perfectly crisp breaks were delivered by this single stage unit at 730g. The design is 100% Remington 700 compatible, so can have any aftermarket trigger fitted, but I just wouldn't bother. All my own Remingtons have Jewell triggers and more recent brands, including Trigger Tech, are equally superb, but I just cannot fault this adjustable unit for a predictable blade feel, acceptable weight and crisp breaks, with no trace of thread locking compound daubed anywhere either. I put three turns on the externally accessible adjuster grub screw to achieve a 1,100g trigger pull and still liked the unit, thereby delivering a little bit more feel in thick gloves.
Twin screws anchor the action into the stock, these are front and rear of the flush fitting bottom metal. The action lifts free of its moulded inlet in the polymer stock, which although not visible to the naked eye, incorporates an aluminium spine from fore-end tip to the base of the grip for added stiffness. I actually liked the fact that this polymer unit is beefy where needed, with interface between recoil lug and aluminium sliding snugly into that pocket and remaining firmly in position.
Twin fore-end studs are provided for both sling or bipod fit, again anchored to the spine. If you want a Picatinny rail fitting simply remove the studs and these points will offer a secure fixing point. Quick-release stud cavities are shown on the sides of the stock, front and rear for biathlon sling and here is where I start to think just how right Bergara got the HMR first time.
When the action screws are fully tightened the solid incompressibility of the stock is revealed; ease off the rear screw and there is no movement between the barrel and fore-end whatsoever - meaning there's no bending stress between the two inlet pillar locations and, although not quite a full bedding job, it means Bergara have made no mistake to correct. Excellent work that exceeds most peers, certainly at this price.
The stock shows a stippled texture on the grip and fore-end sidewalls with a mottled colour scheme of black and sand. This won't be loved by everyone, but I like the fact it breaks up the gun's profile while avoiding a camouflage pattern. A 2mm all-round free float remains constant along the length of the barrel.
The magazine stands proud of the stock's underside so is easy to slot in and draw out without being excessively tight, which is often a fault on rifles designed for fast fire and competition use. A tight fit is not always better, another upside being that when super fast mag changes are required, it drops free under its own empty weight.
The release catch is compact but accessible and won't catch easily on clothing. It is firmly sprung to avoid accidental loss and just the right reach to push your index finger onto it with your hand still fully engaging the vertical pistol grip. This allows a thumb-up hold that is deep enough to keep all your fingers on without spilling off the base of the slightly curved shape.
Stippling gives plentiful grip and there is a nice deep web for the base of your thumb to rest in. You can hold the rifle firmly with very little effort - the stock is a close approximation to the McMillan A3/5 design, which I really like, so I am perhaps a little biased. A whole 145mm section of the comb lifts up for sight alignment and this has been kept slim with a 35-37mm taper at the rear.
The rectangular locking knob sits on the left side of the stock and again, a rectangular shape is easily gripped and tightened without excessive force; small round- and star-shaped fasteners always need more grip to apply torque and Bergara have got this feature correct. I think they actually listen to shooters! Elevation of 30mm is available - no lateral movement, but this gun is already doing a hell of a lot for the price, so I'm not complaining.
Further back, the recoil pad is a solid 30mm rubber profile that's grippy in your shoulder with no pressure points to dig in. Radiused ends prevent snagging and three 10mm spacers are supplied to tailor length of pull to your needs. With all three fitted, LOP is an excellent 14.5"/368mm, dropping down to 13.3"/338mm when removed.
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The Creedmoor cartridge enjoys plentiful ammunition types, using ballistically efficient bullets with appropriate velocities and pressure. I used a variety through the gun but found best results on paper and with consistency from Norma 130gr BTHP that showed muzzle velocity of 2835 fps. +/-17fps. Hornady TAP FPD 147 ELD-M with a higher BC bullet offered 2683 fps with slightly lower 14 fps variation.
I didn't have the opportunity to go beyond 450m but based on my experience of other guns beyond 1,000m, extrapolating out would produce ¾ MOA across the board and indeed on paper at 100m from this rifle. My 450m steel plate was still showing 100mm splash grouping on a windless, late afternoon shoot.
Economy of movement when shooting shot strings is always preferable and although I shot slightly better right-handed than left, this is the kind of thing that reminds me of the benefits of a 'correctly handed' rifle. Retention of point of aim through recoil was excellent (again, more deeply demonstrated in .300 Win Mag) and I was able to comfortably see my own bullet splash at 150m. A moderator would have further cut recoil, but I like to feel some recoil and the Creedmoor is a delightful cartridge to shoot.
Feeling in the field
I had a walkabout with the rifle and found HMRs shoot unnervingly well from quad sticks which lock into the butt-hook and flat underside on the rested fore-end. Again, this rifle is very well suited to me, as it is similar to my own chosen types and those to whom I have recommended the gun have, to a man, all expressed customer delight.
After several boxes of ammunition and cleaning, the rifle returned to 100m paper targets and improved further with groups closing tantalisingly close around ½ MOA, putting the factory test target to shame. The gun is run in a little more by this point and although Bergara do hone their bores, nothing is as good as a few bullets and time to settle.
I'd be a bit of a kidder if I said I didn't like the Bergara B14 HMR. I have used several of them in a variety of calibres and found them to be honest, reliable, accurate rifles, easy to shoot and get the best out of regardless of skill level. They seem to be the evolution of a rifle Remington never pursued and although I have several Rem 700s, all custom, that customisation made them essentially what the HMR is as standard.
But why…? Well, I have had a bit of an epiphany. The weight of this gun and positionally versatile stock without excessive bulk are what make it a Hunting and Match Rifle (HMR). It is a damn shame Bergara are not allowed by Spanish law to make this in a .223 Remington chambering as it is, quite simply, a superb rifle with which I find no downsides.
When it comes to that, after 20 years shooting and 10 years reviewing rifles, I have quite a few personal favourites, yet I can pick at least one fault with any of them, either technical or in terms of their intended purpose, judged against peers of similar price. That must therefore make the B14 HMR the best rifle in the (my) world…