Creating a custom rimfire masterpiece from a Bergara B14R
PUBLISHED: 11:05 02 January 2021
Broadsword takes a stock rifle - the Bergara B14R - and turns it into something really special with some off-the-shelf upgrades
There is always something special about a really good rimfire as it’s the gun most of us use all the time and probably take for granted. Often seen as just a vermin tool or a target gun, the humble .22 LR is one of my favourite cartridges of all time.
Everyone should have one good rimfire. I have always liked the custom Remington 40X Models or Anschutz Meister grades, but there is one rimfire rifle that has totally blown them out of the water in my view in terms of pure accuracy and functionality and that’s the Bergara B14R.
The B14R mimics the footprint of the Remington Model 700 rifles so any Rem 700 aftermarket accessory such as scope mounts, stocks and triggers can be fitted to customise a B14R to your own tastes. Neat!
It is offered as an all steel or carbon wrapped barrel version as a complete rifle with the adjustable HMR stock (HMR meaning ‘Hunting Match Rifle’ in this case) as seen on their B14 centrefires but more interesting to me also as a barrelled action only, so you can customise it to your requirements. I can always make an excuse for getting a new .22 so I ordered a barrelled action all steel model and awaited eagerly for the post.
Specs & upgrades
Truthfully, there is very little I would change on an original B14R except the stock as I like thumbholes. So, let’s start there. Being a Rem 700 footprint any such inletted stock will fit. Or will it?! Yes and no. The barrelled action slipped into all of the stocks I had to look at, but because the detachable box magazine is slightly different in dimensions to a standard Rem 700, a small amount of Dremel tool action is necessary! 30 minutes max.
The McMillan Lazzeroni thumbhole would be my first choice, but I decided on something different so went more towards laminate for a change and had a Form Carros and GRS – both excellent stocks but my heart was set on a thumbhole, so at £298 a Boyd’s Lightweight Sporter thumbhole in Pepper laminate thumbhole was bought.
This stock has two steel strengthening bars across the action area and a well free-floated barrel channel, three vented slots to the fore-end and a generous thumbhole design. True, the original Bergara HMR had adjustable everything but I liked the Boyd. No chequering on the stock but you don`t need it, as the fore-end is lightly beavertailed and balances really well.
The action is a thing of diminutive beauty in a smart matt blued finish with a full-sized action profile but machined to accommodate a rotating bolt design with a floating head and non-rotating gas shield section.
The bolt, as with many rimfires, locks with two bolts at the midpoint where the front section stays in the horizontal plane. You have twin claw extractors for a firm grip of the cases rim and ejection is accomplished by a fixed spur in the action that briskly ejects spent cases.
The bolt handle has a straight profile and good-sized teardrop steel and knurled knob for easy manipulation. You also have a steel scalloped bolt shroud with a protruding red cocking indicator. None of these needs modifying at all, as it is both smooth and very positive with excellent bolt lug contact in the abutments.
Scope mounting is via the standard Rem 700 type 6-48 screw drilled and tapped stepped receiver top, allowing a whole host of aftermarket bases to be fitted instead of the solid two-piece Weaver type supplied.
Personally, I would go with the one-piece mount Picatinny rail, so you can easily fit not only any size scope but also any thermal or NV set-up.
Zeigler, Recknagel, Ken Farrell, Spur, Barton Gunworks, Warne are all excellent choices but my favourite are still the Tier One mounts made in Britain. RUAG must think so too as they sell them for these rifles and I opted for the 20 MOA one-piece mount to centre by scopes reticule and maximise adjustment range.
Trigger wise, I was going to fit a Jewell trigger HVRS model but to be quite honest the original Bergara Performance trigger with its adjustment if desired and factory setting of 3.15lb was so crisp with no backlash, or overtravel, so I left it as is. The option is there for a Timney trigger or any other that takes your fancy – it’s all down to personal choice and budget.
The detachable magazine is an ACIS style, so full size with a 10-shot single stack .22 rimfire insert. It has polymer lips and followers and I had no hang ups with standard ammo.
Finally, the most important part, the barrel. The carbon wrapped option lightens the rifle by over a pound but I liked the all steel version and both have a No 6 Varmint profile.
There’s no denying the barrelled action is heavy but that’s the point, it’s made to simulate a centrefire rifle and that extra heft is really good for consistent accuracy. At 18” with a twist rate of 1 in 16 it’s no surprise that the bore scope revealed very smooth internal surface with very few machine marks. Begara’s reputation was built on excellent barrels.
The muzzle thread is the finer ½ UNEF which does not eat too much into the metal of the muzzle but all my rimfire mods are ½ UNF, but MAE and A-Tec came to the rescue. The MAE LR22ST stainless steel blacked mod is slim line and profiles the barrel perfectly whilst the A-Tec Wave is lightweight and super quiet too – it’s your choice.
Interestingly, and as is the case with shorter .22 rimfire barrels, the velocity increases due to less drag/friction from the longer target barrels. So, some of the marginal subsonic rounds like the heavier Win Max, SK Long Range and CCI rounds all broke the sound barrier, so bear that in mind. Also, some of the longer, heavier 42+gr bullets, especially the blunter designed hollow points, often hung up on the lip of the chamber. This was easily remedied by a little judicial honing of the ramp. Not a problem at all, just mentioned so you are aware.
Accuracy wise it was really difficult to discriminate between the differing bullet weights styles and velocities in truth – that’s the mark of a very good barrel and well-honed and concentric internal bore. There was none (or very little) of the dreaded lead ring just forward of the chamber where the lead bullet compresses into the rifling and often fouls badly, not so in this Bergara, even after all the testing.
Best accuracy went to the Norma Subsonics with their 40gr hollow point design. The B14R achieved a sedate 1001 fps for 89.0 ft/lbs of energy, so very quiet with the A-Tec Wave mod and some superb 0.45” five-shot groups. If you want to increase velocity then, again, the RWS HP HV round with its 40gr bullet travelling at 1232 fps and 136.8 ft/lbs was the best; the HV round at 0.40” groups. The CCI Velocitors generated the highest speeds at 1478 fps, delivering 194.1 ft/lbs, but accuracy, as with so many hyper-velocity .22 LRs, was relatively poor at 0.95” on average.
I was quite surprised that the reduced velocity Winchester Z Longs, which I really like despite their solid round nose 40gr lead bullet that does not expand, achieved only a 0.85” group at 50 yards, which is slightly odd as it usually provides a super quiet and accurate moderated round that’s ideal for head shots only - travels at 744 fps and delivering 35.7 ft/lbs energy.
One round I was really keen to try was the new SK Long Range 40gr cartridge. Specifically designed as a match grade .22 rimfire bullet for 100 yards and beyond. That’s right up my alley as a little long-range quiet crow sniping in Scotland is always good sport.
With an average velocity of 1126 fps it delivered 112.6 ft/lbs of energy, so that short barrel again was upping the velocity a little and tipping the bullet speed over into supersonic. This means a noisier report and possible transonic ballistic disturbance down range, which proved incorrect as we had superb 0.47” 50-yard groups and sub-MOA at 100 and 200 yards on steel crow targets!
An outstanding cartridge & rifle
I initially fitted a Leupold scope then switched to the Hawke Vantage 30 WA SF IR 4-16x50mm via some Leupold QD rings and Tier One 20 MOA one-piece base. Zeroed at 50 yards first with the Norma Subsonic loads, you have a ½ mil dot ratio on the reticule when the power is set at 10x. I ran the ballistics through Hawkes X-ACT program that matches reticule to ballistics at any mag setting so you can familiarise yourself and use the stadia for distant shots with a quick reference.
Even with the Yukon N470s fitted and despite the overall weight gain, the B14R just sits perfectly balanced and feels solid in the aim, enabling accurate shots even in odd or contorted positions.
The first evening out with a Leupold scope fitted and shooting off sticks and stalking along the field margins and woodland edges we had nine rabbits during the evening, all cleanly taken with a near-silent report, save the head shot ‘thut’.
The large magazine was actually an asset as it was very easy to handle and reload in the gloom, with the fast lock time and lovely trigger assuring an accurate shot if I didn’t wobble!
The best shot had to be with the SK Long Range. I was practising on the 100- and then 200-yard steel crow targets in Scotland with uncanny windless days. I had shot a stag and strategically placed some gralloch on a log at 200 yds beneath a well-used hooded crow sitty tree. With four out of five shots at this range hitting within less than 2”, I was confident. Sure enough, a hoody perched himself aloft and a quick adjustment of aim toppled him. Zeroed at 50 yds the SK bullet would connect at 200 yds on the bottom vertical stadia, not ideal, so a re-zero to 150 yds meant 50 yds was at the bottom of the top vertical, 150 yds the central cross and now 200 yds was the fourth mil dot down. After a bit of adjustment, it got the job done.
I am well chuffed with this Bergara. It delivered, as expected, superb performance – not only in accuracy, which for a rimfire is exceptional, but also overall build quality. Add to this the ability to customise to your heart’s content with aftermarket Remmy items and you too can build a .22 LR of your dreams, I have.
RUAG Ammotec UK Bergara Norma: 01579 362319
Viking Arms SK ammunition: 01423 780810
Hawke Optics Hawke scopes: 0345 345 5555
Sportsman Gun Centre Boyd stock: 01392 354854
JMS Sporting MAE: 07771 962121
Jackson Rifles A-Tec, Jewell triggers: 01644 470223
Norman Clark scope mounts triggers: 01788 579651
Tier One Scope mounts: 01924 404312
Ammunition: Donaldson`s Gunsmiths: 01908 377144
Optics Warehouse mounts & scope bases: 01803 611895
Product: Bergara B14R Bolt Action Rimfire Rifle in .22LR
Steel barreled action: £749 - carbon version: £845
Complete steel rifle: £1,145 - complete carbon rifle: £1,238