For stalkers looking for a light slimline workhorse, the Bergara Highlander could be just the thing — it impresses Bruce Potts
Our verdict on the Bergara Premier Highlander .308 Win rifle
Until relatively recently, Bergara was primarily a barrel-maker and was a byword for precision. But several years ago it ventured into rifle making. As you might expect, due to the company’s heritage, customers have come to associate the rifles with excellent accuracy.
This Premier range Bergara Premier Highlander .308 Win rifle retails for £2,000, which is significantly more than Bergara’s celebrated B14 rifle, starting at £650, but the Highlander is in an entirely different league. The Premier boasts Bergara’s superior stainless-steel barrel, which is made in Spain and shipped to its plant in the US for fitment. The original Bergara action was a clone of the Remington Model 700 and they still share a similar design, meaning the Bergara can be fitted with any aftermarket stocks, triggers or scope mounts you can use with Remington.
There is a non-rotating gas shield to stop primer gases reaching your face in case of a bullet rupture. It also has a coned bolt face, as on many custom rifles, for precise bolt-locking into the action for strength and safety.
Add to this all the metal surfaces receiving the hard-wearing and non-reflective Cerakote finish and you have a rifle ready for hard use. Triggers are from TriggerTech, and all Premier rifles are hand-assembled to produce a guaranteed group of 1in at 100 yards. In short, we are talking about a rifle that handles, shoots and has the features of a pure custom rifle but at a fraction of the normal cost.
The Highlander, as its name suggests, is built for rugged field use and has a classic Sporter profile, with the best barrel, action and synthetic stock design to ensure accuracy in all weather conditions — and at 7.3lb it won’t make your arms ache.
The barrel is premium-grade stainless steel and Cerakote sniper grey, which is the perfect colour for field use — subdued and hard-wearing.
The Bergara barrels are exquisite due to quality control, which disregards anything with more than 0.004in deviation in terms of straightness. The barrels are honed and polished to remove any tool marks, ensuring a mirror-like bore. The button rifling is then made with a carbide button that achieves less than 0.0002in variation. The .308 Win is a sensible 20in barrel length — 26in on magnum calibre — and is threaded for a sound moderator.
The Premier actions are stainless steel, utilising a twin locking bolt system, and the separate bolt head gives almost 100% contact with the action’s abutments, meaning it is safe and contributes to accuracy.
The cone-shaped head allows smooth feeding — seen on custom rifles though seldom factory ones — a sliding plate extractor makes it easy to remove a stuck case and the spring-loaded ejector is forceful.
This bolt is one-piece stainless steel and fluted along its body, with a threaded-in bolt handle for integrity and a 90-degree opening angle, but does not impede on a low-mounted scope.
There is a visual cocking indicator on the bolt shroud and, overall, incredibly smooth and positive feeding and extraction.
The trigger is sublime as it is the TriggerTech frictionless system, fully adjustable with no creep, positive weight and no over-travel. The safety is traditionally a two-position system that allows the rifle to be unloaded with the safety on.
The stock is very nice too, a Grayboe fibreglass synthetic Sporter profile that is lightweight yet strong, with no hollow feel. It also feels rigid, allowing a free-floating barrel and has an extremely stable action in any climatic change.
I like the slimline design of the Bergara Premier Highlander .308 Win and the stippled finish in place of chequering, overall dark grey with khaki dispersion, and the black spiderweb finish is very practical.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Bergara
- Model Premier Highlander
- Type Bolt action
- Overall length 38.5in
- Barrel length 20in
- Length of pull 13.75in
- Weight 7.3lb
- Finish Sniper grey Cerakote
- Calibre .308 Win, 1 in 10in twist, threaded 5/8 x 24 pitch
- Stock Grayboe fibreglass
- Magazine Hinged floorplate, four rounds (five magnum)
- Sights None, drilled and tapped for scope bases, 8-40 screws
- Trigger TriggerTech
- Price £2,000
- Importer RUAG, tel 01579 362319
Luckily, I had tested the Highlander with factory rounds and reloads prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, and the approaching roe season in Scotland. I had to settle for a bench test, which is a little ironic given the rifle’s name.
The 1-in-10in rifling twist rate will handle all the common .30 calibre bullet weights and the 20in barrel length balances the Highlander perfectly. I fitted a new Hawke Endurance Frontier 30SF scope, 2.5-15x50mm, which had great optics at a fair price.
The Highlander proved to be a highly accurate rifle to shoot, with factory loads achieving 2,717fps and 2,459ft/lb for the Remington 150-gr Corelokt; the heavier Geco 165-gr bullets gave 2,594fps and 2,466ft/lb energy and three shots all less than an inch at 100 yards.
Best factory went to the Hornady SST 150-gr loads — with a grouping of 0.5in and 2,881fps and 2,765ft/lb.
Trying to better that accuracy would be a challenge, so I started with some 150-gr to mimic the Hornady load of my own recipe of 49.5 grains of Hodgdon CFE 223 powder with the 150-gr SST bullet for 2,827fps and 2,662ft/lb. The Nosler 125-gr Ballistic Tips with a load of 42.5 grains of Alliant RL 10X powder — a bit faster for the shorter barrel — gave 2,960fps and 2,431ft/lb and succeeded in a very tight grouping.
The Grayboe synthetic stock is both lightweight and feels solid, so you can crawl and bump it about without fear of damage or lost zero. The Cerakote finish in sniper grey is probably the best ‘real world’ hunting finish on a rifle that I have tested, with a superb stainless-steel barrel beneath.
I simply can’t wait to test it against some roe very soon.
- Accuracy 20/20
- Handling 19/20
- Trigger 19/20
- Stock 18/20
- Value 19/20
- Total 95/100