The Legend of Bergara Rifle Barrels
Our rifle barrels begin their journey in Basque Region of northern Spain, which is known for its fine stainless steel drawn from the extensive iron resources in the surrounding hills. In fact, the region once produced the world-renowned Spanish swords. And when the industrial revolution of the 19th century arrived, the tradition of steel making became an economic asset to the Spanish government.
Olarra Steel Manufacturing Facility, the foremost producer of long product stainless steel in Europe and the provider of the steel we use for our barrels, uses a very precise method, utilizing leading edge technology and the people who know how to operate it. The process they use is only performed at two other factories in Europe.
To make the stainless steel billets that eventually become Bergara rifle barrels, Olarra uses what’s called a horizontal continuous casting process. The bars are then hot rolled and resized as they move down the conveyor. They start out as two red-hot squares of 9.2 yards long and weigh more than two tons each. Down the line they go as each bar is heated and stretched by tighter and tighter rolls. As it reaches the cooling conveyor, the bar is now longer and thinner. What started as a 5 ¾-inch square and more than 9 yards long is now has a diameter of just 2 ½ inches and a length of nearly 66 yards.
Next the bars are “peeled.” This reduces their diameter even further to just under one inch around. A straightening machine makes minor corrections and then they are bundled to be delivered to the customer.
Enter Bergara. Also located in the Basque Region of Spain. (Cool fact: Bergara Barrels is named after the city in which it operates; the same place where Spanish chemist Fausto de Elhuyar and his brother Juan Jose discovered tungsten.) In their early days, the company wasn’t quite sure how to make the best centerfire barrel, so they found Ed Shilen of Shilen Barrels, an American and one of the only people in the world who truly knew the art and science behind making an accurate rifle barrel. Bergara reached out, made an offer and Shileen agreed to teach them his process, which goes like this:
Obviously, each barrel begins as a straight bar of cylindrical steel, which is inspected before drilling and must meet a deviation of less than .004 inch (most manufacturers never even evaluate this aspect of a barrel and consequently hinder the its accuracy potential). Once it’s straightened, the steel bar goes to a four-spindle machine where a specialized bit drills a precise hole (to the correct diameter) through the entire length of the bar. Then, Bergara uses three separate honing spindles that utilize diamond-bit tips that polish the interior surface of the barrel to create a mirror-like finish.
Step four is the button rifling process. This means a carbide rifling button is drawn through the barrel to produce the rifling grooves (the diameter deviation of which is less than .0002 of an inch) at the appropriate twist rate for each caliber. Finally, the barrel goes through a high-temperature stress-relieving process to realign the steel molecules, thus ensuring the barrel is stress free after going through the button rifling process.
It’s rare for a rifle manufacturer to make production rifles that are guaranteed sub 1.0 MoA at 100 yards. And that’s with factory ammunition. It’s also rare that the factory workers are part owners in the company. Every Bergara barrel rifle maker owns stock, so they have a personal motivation to produce the highest quality barrels.
It’s a long journey for Bergara rifle barrels, from the mining of various elements that create stainless steel to the exacting process that never falls short of superior accuracy. That’s why we’ve decided to create our own line of hunting and tactical rifles, using the same knowledge and expertise Bergara Barrels has been carrying out for years.