Each year Safari Club International chooses only one rifle to be named the Gun of the Year. SCI’s Gun of the Year is offered only through SCI Chapter Fundraising events. With more than 160 SCI Chapters worldwide, SCI Chapters have helped support wildlife conservation and the fight to preserve our hunting freedoms.
Safari Club International is proud to announce that the 2019 SCI Gun of the Year is the Barrett Fieldcraft. This rifle has been exclusively customized for SCI with a unique black stock, black Cerakoted barrel and SCI Laser markings. Only 50 rifles were produced and are marked with limited edition numbers 1 through 50. The 2019 SCI Gun of the Year is only available through SCI Chapter fundraising events.
Anyone who’s a serious gun enthusiast is probably familiar with the Barrett name and that company’s formidable .50 BMG sniper rifles that are used not only by our armed forces, but by dozens of State Department-approved countries around the world. Ronnie Barrett’s rifles are also used by civilian shooters, as his guns are quite popular among the 1000-yard-and-farther crowd.
But Ronnie Barrett is also a hunter, as are most of his many employees, so he thought it high time they begin producing their own hunting rifle. To do so they chose to emulate the most successful bolt-action sporting rifle in history, the Remington 700. The Fieldcraft, as it’s being called, is not an exact copy of the Remington action mind you, but all its basic design features are present in this gun except for the extractor.
The example we requested for review was the short action version chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor; it’s one of five short-action calibers being offered initially, the others being .22-250, .243, 7mm-08 and .308 Win. Their standard-length action is offered in .25-06, 6.5×55, .270 Win. and .30-’06. I had handled the gun at the SHOT Show, but when I pulled the Creed from the box I had forgotten just how light the gun really is. With a set of Talley integral-base 30mm alloy rings already installed, the gun weighs just 5 pounds. How do you get a rifle that light? Well, somehow the action, barrel and stock all have to contribute, and in this case, all those components do.
The stainless steel barrel, for example, is like a soda straw — 21” long and measures a mere 0.55” at the muzzle. The stock is of hand laid carbon fiber making it extremely light yet very strong and rigid. Adding to that rigidity is the fact that the Barrett design team decided to go with a blind magazine, which kinda’ flies in the face of the current trend toward detachable boxes. You have no idea how much more rigid a stock is having that thin web of material joining the equally thin sidewalls at either side of the magazine mortise. There is a convenience issue with a blind box when it comes to unloading, but that’s a compromise I would gladly make. With a blind box, you have an independent trigger guard bow, and in this case, it’s either a Remington OEM unit or an exact copy.
Another departure from the norm is that this barrel is fully glass bedded the entire length of the fore-end, which puts this rifle in the semi-production category because it’s a procedure that must be done individually by hand. Most rifles today, whether stocked in wood or synthetic, have fully floated barrels; it greatly simplifies production, but where very slender barrels like the Fieldcraft’s are concerned, is not the best bedding setup for consistent zero and small groups.
Where this rifle really differs from the Remington 700 is in several seemingly minor yet important details, not the least of which is its size. A Remington receiver measures 1.365”, and the bolt .710”, while the Fieldcraft’s is 1.225” and .590”, respectively. With such a slender bolt, the annular rim surrounding the recessed bolt face would be paper thin were this action to handle the larger rim diameters of the belted H&H and Jeffery-based magnums, which measure .532” and .535”, respectively.
Though smaller and lighter than the Remington action, which has a 2-3/4” magazine, the Barrett people wisely lengthened the box to 3 inches, a fact handloaders will greatly appreciate because it allows all but the heaviest bullets to be seated out to where they infringe less on usable powder space. Other excellent decisions were going to the larger 8-40 tapped holes for base screws instead of the smaller 6-48 industry standard, and choosing to go with a Timney trigger, which I suspect is the stock Timney replacement for the Model 700 without the linkage plate that slides along the left side of the trigger housing to activate the bolt release. Instead, this action uses a simple, direct-actuated blade-type bolt stop/release, just like that found on the Winchester Model 70. You simply push down on an upward extension that juts up through a slot directly behind the left wall of the receiver bridge.
The bolt glide on the test gun was exceptionally smooth, thanks to the spiral fluting on the bolt body; the fact that the magazine follower doesn’t intrude into the bolt raceway, and very tight machining tolerances. So smooth in fact that tilting the muzzle just 15 degrees had the unlocked bolt slide open! For testing, we mounted one of Bushnell’s excellent LRTS tactical scopes, the 4.5-18×44 with a G3 mil-based reticle.
Prior to the Fieldcraft I’ve tested some eight or nine 6.5 Creedmoor rifles and every one of them proved to be amazingly accurate. Ditto for the Fieldcraft, but kudos also to Hornady whose Creed ammo is equally amazing. Of the three loads I had on hand, the largest 3-shot group fired was with the 143 gr. ELD-X load and it measured 1.05”! With the 140 gr. ELD Match load the largest group measured 0.80”, and the smallest 0.60”! Such consistency with factory ammo is quite rare.
The Barrett Fieldcraft rifle carries an MSRP of $1799.