Accurate, reliable and hard-wearing, this .308 Win from Bergara can take a bit of rough handling so it is perfect for stalkers, says Bruce Potts
Bergara, whose rifles are manufactured in Spain and distributed in the UK by RUAG Ammotec, has made fantastic inroads into the British shooting market.
Bergara’s barrels have long been revered for their accuracy and are often used for custom rifle builds. These precision-made barrels also feature on the manufacturer’s hunting rifles, making them ideal for accurate and cost-effective stalking, vermin control or target shooting. They are well-made rifles and this new Ridge model in .308 Win is perfect for stalking.
Bergara rifles always feel well made and balanced, and with a Geco scope and Hausken moderator fitted, you have a very capable hunting rifle.
The stock is what always catches the eye when looking at a rifle — or shotgun for that matter — and the Ridge is a typical Sporter-type profile with slender format. This provides a lightweight yet robust construction and good overall balance. As you would expect, it is a synthetic stock; wood is available, as are target and varmint models.
This stock is particularly nice because it has a dense yet light filled stock material, so the Ridge has solidity but without feeling heavy. This allows a good degree of rough handling and weather-proofing and, vitally, it means the rifle stays zeroed in changing climatic conditions.
Interestingly, there is no bedding material between action and stock, and the fore-end is honeycombed and reinforced for strength and rigidity. This means when a moderator and bipod are fitted the point of impact or zero does not shift.
Externally, you have a good soft-touch finish that aids in grip, even in the wet, and there is moulded-in chequering to both fore-end and pistol grip.
In terms of colour, I like the greenish-grey speckled appearance. The Sporter profile has no cheekpiece and straight comb with shallow rake and pistol grip and no palm swell. There is also a big, black 1″ recoil pad, which has an odd recessed profile but absorbs recoil well.
As I said earlier, Bergara has a reputation for quality barrels and this is borne out when you look at the finish of the rifling and muzzle crown — key areas to achieve good accuracy.
The Ridge has a 22in barrel length with a 1-in-11in rifling twist rate and 18mm-diameter muzzle with a 15/1mm thread for moderator attachment. It also has a recessed muzzle crown to protect the rifling and allow the bullet a perfect exit from the barrel to maximise accuracy.
I would describe it as a short-length varmint-profiled barrel that gives good accuracy and harmonics due to its shorter stout profile. It allows a good number of shots before it heats up. In fact, on test the moderator heated up quicker to produce a heat haze and not the barrel, which was still accurate after 22 repeated shots with no zero shift — impressive. Being free-floating certainly helps too. The finish is a tough matt/satin blued, which is ideal for a hunting rifle.
Any barrel is nothing without a good action attached, so the Ridge has an action of tubular high-tensile steel with a large ejection port for ease of cartridge manipulation. The recoil lug is large and sits, recessed, in the front of the action body and forms a good union between metalwork and stock.
The bolt is 6.75in long, with smooth-ground bolt body and twin blued locking lugs, and is easy to operate. There is a Sako-type extractor and plunger in head for ejection, a good combination that works and is reliable.
There is also a semi-coned bolt for smooth feeding, a large welded-on tactical-type bolt handle with teardrop and striated knob for grip. A metal-shrouded cocking piece with cocking indicator and 60° bolt lift completes a very well-made action.
The safety is simple, which I like. A small lever, it indicates “safe” when back and “fire” when forward — all you need. The trigger is sweet with a clean pull of 2.75lb.
The magazine on this model is an alloy magazine plate and synthetic magazine in a reliable single-stack configuration. The small release lever in front is a bit fiddly, though.
Finally, with regard to sights, you can fit a 6in one-piece universal Picatinny-type rail from Tier-One with 14 slots ,and scope mounts the same, so plenty of space for a scope or night-vison device when after foxes. These mounts and bases are made in England and are superb quality.
This Ridge rifle came with a Hausken sound moderator that, though quite large, was lightweight and quiet, especially considering the calibre used was .308 Win.
The scope fitted was a Geco 2.5-15x56mm, again a great addition to the Ridge. Made in Germany, it has good clear lenses with multi-coated optics for excellent clarity, colour rendition and, more importantly on a hunting rifle, low light capability and illuminated reticle.
On the bench
Set up at 100 yards off a bench rest, I tested the usual range of factory ammunition from 150-gr to 180-gr bullets. The Bergara’s barrel can stabilise up to 180-gr, thus making this rifle great for fox, deer or larger boar or African game.
Factory ammunition is getting increasingly consistent and accurate these days, not to mention expensive. But I am a diehard reloader and, with some tinkering, I was able to increase velocities safely and improve a tad on accuracy — but it was hard work.
The Hornady 150-gr SST loads are part of the company’s Superformance range and from that 22in barrel shot a 2,897fps velocity, which equates to 2,796ft/lb. At 100 yards, three shots grouped dead on at 0.95in, which is very good for factory ammunition. RUAG supplied some Geco 165-gr bullets, which gave 2,622fps and 2,519ft/lb energy and 1.15in groups.
Winchester’s heavier Ballistic Silver Tip 168-gr bullets achieved 2,603fps and 2,528ft/lb energy and just below the inch for three shots.
Reloads using the Hornady 165-gr Interbond bullets with a load of 46.5 grains of Reloder RL17 powder achieved 2,678fps for 2,628ft/lb energy and these shot 0.65in groups at 100 yards.
Lighter bullets with a load of 46.0 grains of RL15 and Nosler 150-gr Ballistic Tips achieved 2,707fps for 2,441ft/lb and impressive 0.75in groups.
The good old Sierra 180-gr GameKings achieved 2,611fps velocity for 2,726ft/lb energy and achieved sub-inch groups and some 0.85in. A load of 42.25 grains of Vit N150 worked well.
In the field
This is where it all comes together. I loaded up with the Geco 165-gr factory ammunition because I wanted to see how they performed on fallow. I had only shot red deer and roe with these rounds on previous test rifles. I zeroed an inch high at 100 yards just in case I needed a longer shot.
With the early mornings now at 6am instead of 3am, deer stalking is a little easier, but the fallow do not hang around on the fields or rides for long, so I still prefer to get into position early.
The woodland we were stalking had large fields with water courses crossing them and then open rolling landscapes, so the fallow were hugging the woodland edge and very wary with only a faint breeze in the air.
It was still quite dark but that big Geco scope with German optics easily allowed the reticle to be placed on several deer, but they did not stay still for a shot.
After a long crawl and stalk along a ridge, hugging a hump on the hillside, I could see four fallow, two young bucks, a doe and this year’s young. I got into position behind some stinging nettles, set up the tripod sticks and watched the deer until their slow approach 90° to the wind against the field edging allowed a safe shot.
The range was a little over 100 yards but the Ridge was so consistent and accurate in the range tests that a single neck shot dropped one of the fallow bucks where he stood. It was a while until the other three fallow realised what had happened and dispersed.
No surprises here. I have shot a few Bergaras and they are really good rifles for the money and give you everything you want in a hunting rifle: accuracy, consistency, reliability and, with this Ridge model, a hard-wearing design. Combined with the Geco scope and Hausken moderator, you have a complete package that can be used for stalking trips or daily as an estate rifle.
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