Light enough to carry for long distances yet accurate enough for long shots, this Sporter is the perfect rifle for the hill, says Bruce Potts
Bantam weight for the Barrett Fieldcraft
Barrett is well known for its behemoth 50-calibre sniper rifles, but now it has turned the other way and gone bantam weight. The Barrett Fieldcraft’s origins lay in the Ultra Light Arms rifles of Melvin Forbes fame. I have shot a few original Ultra Lights, and a friend owns a 6.5x55mm version he uses for tahr hunts in New Zealand.
- Visually, the Ultra Light and the Barrett look very similar.
- The Fieldcraft, with its overall length of 40.5in, 21in barrel and weight of 5lb without sights, is ideal as a compact yet fully functional stalking rifle.
- It has no open sights and is only drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
- It uses larger No.8-40 head screws to secure the scope bases, which on a light gun is essential to stop recoil shearing screws off.
- The front mount has three holes so you can position to suit any scope mounting length.
- Talley Manufacturing makes a specific set of mounts for this rifle and I had the low 1in aluminium type, which weigh next to nothing.
- It is what I term a “walking rifle” — light enough to carry for long distances yet accurate enough to take a long shot if necessary.
Every part of this gun has been clearly thought about to save weight but still perform like a custom rifle. This is obvious as soon as you pick it up. Sure, its feather weight is instantly appealing, but look closer and the bolt action, despite being a 6.5 Creedmoor size round, has the profile of one for a .223 cartridge. Everything is scaled down yet retains maximum strength due to the stainless steel used throughout.
- The action is only 5.5in long and 1.2in wide, with a generous ejection port and faceted sides for visual appeal.
- The bolt itself is a dream: 6in long but only 0.6in wide in the body, with seven shallow flutes that reduce weight while allowing less binding in operation — and they look good too.
- It is beautifully machined, featuring large twin locking lugs up front with a large Sako-type extractor above the right lug and a spring plunger ejector set into the bolt head.
- The bolt handle is straight with a slight swept-back gait and pinned to the bolt body with a blackened bolt shroud.
- The bolt knob is small but has ample grip and is hollowed to reduce weight.
- The bolt has a 60° bolt lift and boy, is it smooth. It feels like a bench-rest grade match rifle’s action. It is so smooth and free and then locks perfectly — the best bolt-action design I have tested for many years.
- The Fieldcraft has a super-lightweight barrel that tapers from 1in at the action to a scant 0.505in at the muzzle, a recessed crown to avoid damage to the rifling and ½in UNF thread for a sound moderator.
- The test rifle was chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor, which is popular at present mainly due to the superior ballistics but also the good factory ammunition available.
- The rifling is a 1-in-8in twist rate, so good for bullets up to 160-gr, and the six-groove rifling has a good clean cut and tool mark-free surface.
- It is button rifled and stress relieved twice for maximum accuracy.
The Barrett feeds off a blind magazine system. There is no visible floorplate so rounds are loaded through the action top — both simple and weight saving. It holds four rounds and I had no issues during the tests. The Timney trigger also performed superbly. It is a very good trigger, an adjustable single-stage unit that has a wide serrated trigger-blade and crisp, light trigger-pull of 2.25lb. There is a two-position side safety — forward is fire and back is safe.
The stock is sublime, made from hand-laid carbon fibre to combine strength with incredible lightness. It has a semi-raised comb and cheekpiece and a grey speckled finish. Perfect.
Bedding of the action and barrel are incredibly important for a rifle to shoot accurately and consistently, especially on a light-profiled barrel that acts like a buggy whip. Barrett sensibly has bedded the action via aluminium pillars and full-length bedded the barrel with synthetic bedding compound. This means the action and barrel are in unison and thus each shot is consistent; it also allows more accurate additional shots, despite heating up, which is often a problem on skinny barrels.
I had a couple of Hornady factory loads, though both were 129-gr. I decided to buy a set of Creedmoor dies so I could reload the empty cases and try a few more bullet styles and weights.
- The factory Hornady American Whitetail uses a 129-gr InterLock bullet listed at 2,820fps but from this 21in barrel achieved 2,722fps for 2,123ft/lb energy. Accuracy at 100 yards was 1.35in — this is an average of five three-shot groups and the important factor is how many shots before that group opens up. I had two tight shots and the third off each time.
- Next up were 129-gr SST bullets from Hornady’s Superformance range, which achieved an increased velocity of 2,781fps and 2,216ft/lb and 1in-1.25in groups.
It is vitally important with this type of lightweight rifle to allow the barrel to cool between tests, otherwise you will not get a true reflection of its accuracy.
This rifle is designed for precise, one-shot kills and Barrett has delivered as, straight from the gun case, the shot that counts was dead on target every time.
- The lighter 120-gr Nosler Ballistic Tips shot 2,832fps and 2,137ft/lb with 43.0 grains of Vit N150 powder, achieving 1in groups. Switching to Norma URP powder shrunk the group to 0.95in with the same powder weight.
- A duplicate reload for the 129-gr SST if you ran out would be 44 grains of RL17 powder for 2,850fps and 2,327ft/lb and 1in groupings.
- The 140-gr bullets were the heaviest I tested and the Sierra GameKing with a load of 45.0 grains of Swiss RS62 powder generated 2,760fps and 2,369ft/lb energy and 0.85in groups.
All you need from a true hunting rifle is one bullet on target every time and the means to get that rifle in position without strain. That is where a lightweight rifle wins hands down. Don’t think five-shot groups, think fieldcraft in both senses: stalking ability and Barrett’s new rifle. One problem is the price. I have spent a lot of time in the hills after game, lugging rifles and equipment, and every pound shed is appreciated, but at £2,800 it is a bit steep.
Accuracy: Good accuracy and first shot consistently on zero 17/20
Handling: You will appreciate the lightness 1920
Trigger: The Timney is a good trigger 18/20
Stock: Well designed, tough and ultra light 18/20
Value: If this was sub £2000 I would buy one 16/20
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Need to know
- Manufacturer Barrett
- Model Fieldcraft
- Type Bolt action
- Overall length 40.5in
- Barrel length 21in
- Calibre 6.5 Creedmoor
- Finish Stainless steel
- Weight 5lb
- Magazine Four-shot blind magazine
- Stock Ultra lightweight Sporter
- Trigger Timney, single-stage adjustable
- Safety Side lever
- Sights None, drilled and tapped for specific Talley mounts
- Price £2,800
- Importer Edgar Brothers, tel 01625 613177