Review: Barrett Fieldcraft

Known primarily for long-range precision rifles used by military and law enforcement, Barrett is making a commitment to hunters with a lightweight bolt-action.
Review: Barrett Fieldcraft

While the name Barrett might be familiar to shooters for its long-range precision rifles used by various military and law enforcement agencies around the world, it’s not so familiar a name to hunters if for no other reason than Barrett has never had a traditional hunting rifle. Now it does. The Barrett Fieldcraft combines traditional bolt-action styling with modern materials and manufacturing to create one of the lightest hunting rifles in the market, and it does so without compromising strength or accuracy. It’s built for the hunter who hunts dawn to dusk and covers a lot of ground between; the hunter who appreciates and can take advantage of an ultra-light, precise rifle.

Where many manufacturers take a legacy action and start drilling and whittling away to reduce weight, Barrett created a new, more petite action instead, and made it only as big as it had to be. Weighing between 4¾ and 6 pounds depending on chambering and whether it’s a short or long action, “the weight is the most shocking [thing] to people first picking up the rifle,” says Barrett president, Chris Barrett, of the Fieldcraft rifle.

That action has several little design nuances Barrett insisted on based on his experience as a hunter. “We worked very hard to produce an action with a smooth bolt throw,” says Barrett as he explains how absolute minimal clearance between the bolt and the receiver can cause a gun to bind. “What you cannot see with a casual glance is some of the geometry that we put into the diameters of the bolt itself.”

The bolt is attached using a rugged T-slot and pin. The two-position safety does not lock the bolt closed.

That geometry is something of a “dual tolerance” bolt/action interface creating minimal clearance for precise axial alignment only when the bolt is locked into battery. “When you unlock the bolt and move it a fraction of an inch rearward,” says Barrett, “the clearance between the bolt and receiver increases.” That extra clearance combined with the bolt body’s spiral flutes gives debris a place to go so the bolt doesn’t seize, plus the bolt has an anti-bind keyway in the right lug so it doesn’t bind when you work it quickly.

If you examine the outside diameter of the bolt, you'll see a small contact ring just behind the locking lugs. As you close the bolt, that ring transitions things to tight tolerances. “The idea is tight when locked up, loose while moving,” says Barrett. “That is how you make a hunting rifle action that is reliable in all field conditions and environments. We have to run every one of our military rifle designs through these types of environmental tests. Our philosophy is that a hunting rifle should perform the same.”

Another nuance is the design of the polymer follower in the four-round internal box magazine. There, Barrett insisted on a “hump” on the right side because as you drop the first cartridge into the loading port, it is much easier to let it fall to the far side for thumbing into the magazine rather than pulling it back toward the right with your fingers to click in the round.

Barrels are scaled to their respective chamberings with not an inch more length or a fraction more diameter than needed to achieve top performance and Barrett’s sub-MOA guarantee, and further lightening the load is a stock hand crafted from carbon fiber that’s known for its incredible strength-to-weight ratio. It’s a proprietary Barrett design that is textured for a sure grip using a proprietary finish and, in contrast to conventional wisdom, the barrel is not free-floated.

There have been some experiments done on barrels using oscilloscopes that indicate full-length bedding — particularly on lightweight rifles — dampens harmonic vibrations and increases accuracy, so each Fieldcraft is aluminum pillar and full-length bedded from the bolt shroud all the way to the forend tip. And while some manufacturers use a “slave” action when doing the bedding, Barrett individually hand beds each one. “We machine engrave the last three digits of each serial number into the bottom of the receiver,” says Barrett. “This leaves a witness mark in the bedding material in each stock. There is no chance your rifle was bedded to a slave action or the stock swapped from another barreled action.

“[The barrels are stress relieved] before drilling and rifling and then again after button rifling,” explains Barrett of the Fieldcraft barrels. They are chambered, contoured and given a 45-degree crown on the same machines that make precision barrels for Barrett’s MRAD, Model 98B and M107 rifles. “The first [relief is] to relieve all stress from the blank and promote the drilling of a very straight hole, then after rifling to relieve stress generated by the rifling process when metal is displaced by the button to produce grooves,” he adds.

Barrett Fieldcraft

A plunger ejector and hook-type extractor add to functional reliability.

About the only “chopping” you can see for the sake of weight is that the bolt knob is hollow. “[T]he best thing about the bolt handle is the way it is attached to the bolt body,” says Barrett of the precision T-groove and pin arrangement. “The boss [for the T-groove] at the rear of the bolt body is machined integral to the bolt itself. That boss is the functional surface for the primary extraction that interacts with the angle cut at the rear of the receiver. On many rifles, this impacting surface is part of the bolt handle that is soldered on. The arrangement we came up with is much stronger and more precise.”

To see how well the Fieldcraft could shoot, I topped one chambered in .308 Win. with a Leica Magnus 1.5-10x42mm scope. A rifle this petite can be easily overwhelmed by an overly large optic, yet its light weight practically screams hunting in mountains where shots can be long and a powerful scope necessary. Even though the Leica has a 30mm tube, its overall size and magnification range made it a good match with the Fieldcraft.

Scope mounting was easy thanks to the way the Talley rings sold through Barrett are designed with integral bases and by the five mounting holes on the Fieldcraft that provide more fore and aft scope placement flexibility. Attachment is with stout #8-40 screws so you can be sure that even under jarring recoil they are less likely to break or work loose than the more delicate #6 screws used by many manufacturers.

Initially, I had some difficulty getting the sub-MOA accuracy Barrett guarantees. With Federal Fusion 150-grain soft point loads I managed a few three-shot, 100 yard groups just over 1 MOA. Hornady Superformance 165-grain SST was only a little more accurate. In the FAQ section of the Fieldcraft website, Barrett notes under “accuracy” that they “concentrate on using HEAVY boattail hunting bullets for each given caliber.” I did not have any .308 Win. hunting loads heavier than the 165-grainers, but I did have some Nexus 175-grain hollowpoint boattail match, which produced groups as tight as 0.88 inch from the Fieldcraft.

At 2.2 pounds pull and breaking like a shard of glass, the trigger pull was excellent. Barrett uses a single-stage Timney unit on the Fieldcraft that is user adjustable if necessary, but you do need to remove the barreled action from the stock to make adjustments.

Barrett tells me that a lot of customers ask about the recoil on such a light rifle. In the .308 chambering, I didn’t find it bad at all. The stock is straight so it doesn’t come back at any jaw-jacking angle and the thick rubber buttpad is almost luxurious in its pliability. For recoil-sensitive shooters, short-action variants of the Fieldcraft are available with 5/8-24 muzzle threads to accept a suppressor.

Over time, Barrett envisions the Fieldcraft as being a hunter’s go-to rifle because it’s so simple, light, accurate and reliable. “Fieldcrafts are built to the same standards as our rifles that are used by militaries around the world,” says Barrett. Those standards are tough, and don’t come cheaply, but for the hunter who wants a nimble, light and rugged rifle, the Fieldcraft checks all of those boxes and more.

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Spec Sheet

Manufacturer: Barrett Firearms

Model: Fieldcraft

Calibers: .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .25-’06 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5x55 Swede, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .30-’06 Sprg.

Action: 416 stainless steel bolt-action

Magazine capacity: 4+1

Barrel: 416 stainless steel 18 to 24 inches depending on chambering

Trigger: Adjustable Timney

Sights: None. Drilled and tapped for scope bases

Stock: Hand-laid carbon-fiber

Overall length: Up to 44.3 inches depending on chambering

Weight: 4¾ to 6 pounds depending on chambering

MSRP: $1,799

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