Much ink has been spilled by the modern gun writer about the sanitization and sterilization of today’s modern rifle. Blame the AR-15. Blame the kids. Blame the scapegoat of your choice. But as I sit here rediscovering recently-christened Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, I can’t help but quote the man – “the times they are a changin’.”
Whether we care to admit it or not, today’s masses desire (and buy) plastic stocked, cheaply manufactured space guns. For years, the bolt gun was safe from all of that. But as manufacturing and marketing caught up, someone had the wise idea to put a solid bolt action with a good button rifled barrel in a plastic stock with a good trigger and sell it for something slightly more than a song and a dance.
I assume Savage started the trend, but Ruger and Mossberg have gone hog wild with the concept. Perusing the shelves of my hometown gun shop, the walnut stocked guns are few and far between while the shelves are dominated by these plastic fantastics.
And why wouldn’t you buy one? For less than $400, you can buy a sub MOA rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor from Ruger that will poke holes in things just as easily as the rifle you see here. That rifle, incidentally, is the B-14 Woodsman from Bergara. This is a rifle with real world pricing at just a few Hamiltons over $700…right in the ballpark of major manufacturer’s walnut stocked, blued actioned bolt guns.
Bergara’s Woodsman is assembled in the same factory as the identically chambered LRP Elite I reviewed earlier this year. That rifle, as you’ll remember, retails for nearly $2700. So what does the Woodsman give you for $300 more than the price of a Ruger American Rifle Predator edition?
First, a very sturdy hard sided case. Now, I fully recognize that a rifle case doesn’t make a damn bit of difference in the field, but this is every bit as nice as some of the Plano hard cases I’ve seen.
I wouldn’t trust it for TSA approval, but it’s good enough for range duty, and a quick rain shower on the way home proved that it will keep the rifle dry in the bed of a truck.
The second thing you get for the extra samolians is a very nice Remington 700 style action. There are some subtle differences between the two, but those familiar with the placement of controls will recognize the B-14 action for what it is; a somewhat updated version of the venerable favorite. Should you ever choose to replace parts like the stock, Bergara tells me that the B-14 should mate up nicely with Remington 700 spec parts. And should you ever need or choose to rebarrel, the work will be very familiar to your gunsmith.
Where the Remington 700 extractor is sometimes credited with being a little weak, Bergara has chosen to upgrade to a slightly more substantial claw extractor. I found it to be functional in kicking spent cases out of the action reliably. The only time I was able to trip up the ejection process was giving a quick enough flip of the bolt to get some bounce at the end of the stroke. Even then, it was about only about one in every ten cases that did a little flip and stayed in the action.
One other quirk I found was that the firing pin hole was a bit oversized leading to primer cratering in factory and handloaded ammo. This never presented any reliability issues, but it was a curious thing that led to an evening of Googling bushing firing fins, and whether primer cratering is a good indicator of overpressure.
I conferred with Bergara’s folks at the Texas Firearms Festival who indicated they know about the issue and don’t consider it a problem. Further validating this was that I got primer cratering at very low powder charges in my hand loads, well before I started seeing ejector swipe and sticky bolt lift. The factory loaded cases that I re-sized and de-primed didn’t have any loose primer pockets which I’ve found to be quite common in the factory Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor brass.
Further back, the controls are well laid out and similar to those familiar with the Remington 700. Where Bergara has changed things: on the bolt shroud and bolt knob. There isn’t really anything wrong with the 700 bolt. It’s just that the Bergara bolt features both an exposed portion to let you know it is cocked as well as a bright red stripe. The tactile and visual cues that your gun is cocked and ready to fire are definite improvements.
The bolt knob is oversized by most hunting rifle standards and shaped really well. The lollipop on the end of a stick style feels really close to the bolt knob on the Accuracy International AT that I tested earlier this year which is as ringing an endorsement as you can make. In the field and on the range, it feels great in the hand and works really well.
The B-14 trigger is an absolute joy, on par with many of the custom 700 triggers I’ve had the opportunity to sample. The manual indicates that it’s adjustable, but I saw no reason to fiddle with it as it consistently broke at a hair over four pounds – perfect for a hunting rifle.
The B-14 features an ever-so-slightly recessed target crown which, if you’re not going to thread the barrel, is a perfect way to finish a hunting barrel. It protects the crown from scratches and dings. About that muzzle threading though; I wouldn’t even mention it otherwise, but Bergara is owned by BPI who also owns Dead Air Silencers. It seems almost criminal that this gun isn’t threaded to accept a silencer or even a muzzle brake.
I shot a variety of factory loads from Hornady and Winchester through the B-14 and found that the 140 gr. (ish) loads like the 143 ELD-X, ELD Match, and Sierra Match King shot in the general neighborhood of 1.1-1.25 MOA for five shots. I never really got it to do much better than that, though every now and then I’d sneak a five shot group just barely under 1 MOA. Reasonably speaking, I would call this a 1.25 MOA rifle…perfectly adequate for hunting purposes.
I’ll detail my reloading process with this rifle in a separate article, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that using a Berger 140 VLD, I was able to easily achieve sub minute five shot groups with two different powders. It seemed to take a more immediate liking to 40.1 grains of H4350 as you can see above. Of course, that’s contingent on the shooter doing his or her part, again, something you can see in the photo above. Most of my developed handloads using the Berger 140 VLD came in right around the 3/4 MOA size for five shot groups.
Bergara also makes this rifle in a composite stock and calls it the B-14 Hunter. Doing so knocks $125 off the MSRP…and isn’t something you should do. I say that because the walnut on this rifle looks so damn good. The picture above was the best I could manage, but it doesn’t capture how good the wood looks in direct sunlight.
Here’s what the B14 isn’t: a cheap beater bolt gun that borders on disposable. If that’s your thing, there are about a thousand other rifles that will fit the bill. What this rifle is: A field accurate, quick handling sporter with a great trigger, a smooth action, and a really good looking stock. It works well for actually hunting. And looks great in a cabinet or on the wall as well.
I have rifles that are more accurate than the B-14 in the safe. I have rifles that are more ergonomic. I have rifles that can take a silencer. But if I wanted to don a red flannel hat with some ear flaps and take to the woods on a crisp winter morning in search of an elusive whitetail buck, this would be the rifle I’d choose.
Specifications: Bergara B-14 Woodsman
Weight: Long Action: 7.4 lbs, Short Action: 7.1 lbs
Magazine: Hinged Floor Plate or Detachable Magazine
Magazine Capacity: 4 Standard and 3 Magnum in Floor Plate, 3 Standard and 2 Magnum in Detachable
Trigger: Bergara Performance Curved (adjustable)
Barrel Length: Long Action: 24”, Short Action: 22”
Barrel Taper: #3
Stock: American Style Walnut
Calibers: .300 Win, .30-06, .270, 7MM Rem Mag, .308 WIN 6.5 Creedmoor (Tested Model)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * *
The level of quality is top notch, with clean transition points between steel and walnut. The stock was fully free-floated and even on both sides. The action feels smooth, and the magazine floorplate clicks into place with a very crisp snap. The only real squawk: the serial number on the action. Bergara seems to have found someone with a punch and a hammer to enter the necessary data.
Customize This * * * * *
By using the Remington 700 as a dimensional counterpart, Bergara made it easy to swap things like rings/bases and stocks (though why would you?). But it doesn’t need much beyond a bipod (if you’re inclined) and a sling. Both of those can be handled by the onboard swivels. I would have preferred a threaded barrel, but that’s just me.
Accuracy * * * *
Minute and a quarter five shot groups with factory ammo left me a little lukewarm, but I reconcile the fact that this is a sporter barreled rifle that’s got a high level of fit and finish. That’s still minute of deer well out past the range where most people should be shooting. With a bit of hand loading I was able to get groups down to the 3/4 MOA neighborhood with fairly regular consistency, so the potential is definitely there.
Overall * * * *
The B-14 is a superb example of a “hand me down grade” hunting rifle, something that seems to be getting harder to find. If you’re in the market for a Ruger Hawkeye Standard, Winchester Model 70 Sporter, or Remington Model 700 CDL, take the opportunity to check out the little B-14. Bonus points if you’re looking for one in 6.5 Creedmoor as none of those companies are offering their walnut stocked rifles with that chambering. When I want to put on a Filson jacket, and take to the woods for a good spot n’ stalk hunt, this is the perfect rifle to accompany me.