We just un-boxed a Bergara B-14 Ridge Rifle. For my friend, Tim, it’s his personal weapon of choice in a 7mm Remington magnum. At first sight out of the box, the rifle felt clean and hard. The stock was well-matted to the action and had a fully floated barrel. The first impression is that this rifle gives the appearance of a much more valuable rifle than the price tag cost on it — a little over $700.
To be ready for the field, we started off by adding an Area 419 Self-Timing Muzzle Brake, just to take some of the recoil out of it, and put a bipod and a sling on it. We topped it with a Leupold VX-6 4-24 power with a varmint reticle. So a lot of guys will give me crap for over-scoping guns. But my rule of thumb is that you need to spend twice as much on the scope as you will the gun.
Scopes you keep forever, guns you can get rid of. It’s kind of like a reel on a fly rod. The rods break, but you can keep your reel forever. So, one huge point of advice that I can give anyone is to buy the best optics you can afford. You’re going to shoot better with good optics than you are with a good rifle, to an extent.
Anyhow, back to the rifle. Bergaras are great out of the box with factory ammo, but we decided to get the rifle even more dialed. We started with a couple of different powder and bullet options. With Tim being a California resident, we had to shoot an all-metal or copper alloy bullet, so no lead. So we ended up with Hornady GMX and the TTSX Barnes in 150 grain. And the Hornady were 139. So, the two powders that we started off with were Reloader 22 from Alliant and then IMR 7828 SCC.
After we put the glass, bipod, sling, and muzzle brake on the rifle, we took a box of 150 grain Nosler AccuBond factory ammo and went ahead and put all 20 of them through it to break in the rifle. Before we took the rifle over to the range, we did thoroughly clean it with a brush. We got all the residues from the machine and the barrel and everything out of there and got it nice and sparkly clean for the break-in period.
With the factory ammo, we were able to get one group under an inch in a three-shot group with the factory ammo without doing anything. Then we got the rifle zeroed. We put some some rounds down range, and the more it shot the tighter it got — just in the first 20 rounds — which is pretty typical of a rifle breaking in. What you don’t want to see is it not get better. It should get better. In my opinion, it takes between 100 and 200 rounds down the barrel to actually get that barrel to get into its own and become accurate.
Moving onto the ladder test. Basically what we’re looking for is finding the node of the barrel. When a bullet goes down a barrel it whips. It creates a wave. There’s a high node and a low node. The other thing we’re looking for is consistent velocities and that’ll become evident in the elevation of bullet drop. If you have different powder charges that have similar velocities, you’re going to have similar elevation in the impact at 430 yards.
430 yards was the range that we have. That’s the farthest we can go at the gun range to do a ladder test with. The first one we did was IMR 7828 SCC powder. We started at 62 grains and went all the way up to 66.3, which was a little over maximum. We got pretty good results with this. We were under three inches with several strings. We found two nodes in the middle — one low, one high. One of them was at about 64.6, 64.8 — right in there. The other one was at 62.3, 62.6 down on the low end.
I didn’t see anything that really stuck out as something that grabbed me with that powder and bullet combination. Again, we shot the Barnes 150 TTSX. We ended up shooting the Hornadys as well, and they seem to be a lot more finicky just in some of the test rounds we loaded. We ended up scrapping the Hornady and went just with the Barnes and the 150. Tim’s going to be using this for elk, and I thought a 139 was just going to be a little too light coming out of that 7mm. We ended up just kind of committing to the Barnes 150 TTSX.
Moving on to reload our Reloader 22 powder. We started that at 63 grains of powder. Max is 65.7 according to the Barnes website. We brought it all the way up to 67.9 which is quite a bit over max. I have several buddies that shoot this bullet out of their seven mags and all of them were over 66 grains, which is above max to begin with. I wanted to run it out until I started seeing any pressure signs.
We did run it all the way to 67.9 and did not see any pressure signs at all. And even at 67.9, the case was still not full. There was still room for the powder in there, and it was not a compress load. Starting out, running the ladder test on this load we found two very, very good nodes. One of them was between 63 and 63.6. All of those bullets had less than a half inch of variance, and then our next node was between 65.3 and 66.1. There was four charges in between those two that all were within a half inch as well, so that was really good to see. Once we saw that, we knew that we had something to work with. Back to the drawing board, we started with a .050 off the lands which was what Barnes recommended for distance off the lands for seating depth on the bullet. After we got our two nodes, we loaded up different charges within those nodes and different distances off the lands.
I went up 10/1000 of an inch up and down from .050. We did .030, .040, .050 all the way up to .080 with different charges in between those. Once we started doing that, we realized that .60 was probably one of the better accuracy groupings. If you took the same powder charge, I did 63.3 and I loaded up all the different distances off the lands and then I did 65.6 and did all the different distances off the lands.
With those two charges, both of them showed the tightest groups being in that .060 to .070 range. Again, we were actually under an inch on those groups as well. In fact, several of them were right about a half inch group. They were all touching all three holes, and two are in the same hole, one was barely off center. Again, this rifle is coming into half-MOA accuracy with very little done as far as load development workup yet. It got me really excited. It was easy to build a load for.
We ended up ending on some powder charges. Once we found the distance off the lands that it liked, I then started playing within the node window that we had with the powder charges. It seemed that the hotter it was, the more it liked it. 66.1 is where we ended up with our final powder charge. The groups from 65.3 all the way up got tighter as we went to 61. By the time we went to 66.3 then our group started falling apart again, so we kind of found the sweet spot. 66 grains, 66.1 grains as we loaded 22 powder and we ended up being .065 off the lands. This was our distance off the lands that we ended on for our overall length.
So after getting our load development done with the Barnes Bullet 66.1 grains of Reloader 22 powder, .065 off the lands, we went ahead and loaded several three string shots and five string shots, and went back to the range just to make sure that we had consistency and repeatable accuracy.
Of all the groups we shot after that, not one of them was over one inch, most of which were between probably .4 and .7 of an inch, if you measure center hole to center hole or outside and deduct the bullet diameter. So we were well under an inch accuracy with not very much work in load work up. And that’s basically just one bullet and one powder that we committed to, because we knew we were going to have to shoot that copper alloy bullet.
Moving on, we decided to take it out and stretch its legs out at my range out on the farm. We have three gongs set up with one at over 1,200 yards. We started with our close gong at 539 yards, and I put the bullet information and my velocity into my applied ballistics kestrel, just to see how close we were with what the reloading data was going to tell us we were going to get with velocity. And we figured it was about 3,100 feet per second, and when we trued the kestrel to the drop that the bullet actually had, we were probably actually about 3,150 to 3,160, which for a 150 grain bullet is moving pretty quick out of a 7 mag.
So we were able to hit a 4×6-inch gong consistently at 539 yards. So then we moved it out to 884 yards, which is one of the further gongs down the hill. We weren’t able to hit it as consistently with that distance, but we were able to hit it several times in a matter of five or six shots. I think we hit it three times out of six shots, which for a 4×6-inch target at 884 yards is pretty good. It’s a little tiny target, and we’re looking at something that’s probably about a half MOA gun. That said for a $700 rifle, with a couple hundred dollars in modifications, including just a muzzle brake and a bipod, it’s was amazing to see that kind of accuracy. And the fact that we still only have probably 150 rounds through the rifle, it’s probably going to get more accurate with the more that we shoot it.
The B-14 Ridge Rifle from Bergara is an outstanding rifle. We were impressed with this rifle in every regard — from the components and feel out of the box to the accuracy on the range. To learn more about the Bergara B-14 Ridge Rifle, please click here.
— Rick Matney
Wild Game Chef