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Barrett Fieldcraft Lightweight .308 Win.

By Nik Maxwell

Most shooters familiar with the name Barrett will immediately think of their original .50 calibre long range sniper rifle, the M82A1.

 

Long story short, the M82 is a rifle synonymous with military applications and heralded with an outstanding legacy of service in the US army.

 

So, with that in mind, how did Barrett come to produce a line of hunting rifles? We’ll get into that straight away, but I’ll tell you what, I’m glad they did, because this Fieldcraft rifle is one sweet little rig.

 

“The Barrett Fieldcraft Lightweight is a standard short action hunting ‘bolty’ repeater designed for the weight conscious big game hunter. At just 5.2lbs bare, it could be considered in the ultra lightweight category.”

 

Some of you may remember the Forbes rifles. These were American made hunting rifles that focused on being extremely lightweight, just over the 5lb mark. We have had a couple of Forbes articles feature in the magazine (back in the day!). Both covered the Forbes model 20B (a .308 in issue #144 Sept/Oct 2014, and a .243 in #153, Mar/April 2016).

 

The Barrett Fieldcraft Lightweight is based upon the original Forbes 20B design.

 

The early builds were well received but due to various circumstances, Melvin Forbes left the company and the brand later closed shop. Incidentally, Melvin went onto create Ultra Light Arms (ULA) and subsequently New Ultra Light Arms (NULA). There is more to this story of course, Google is your friend.

 

The Barrett connection? As I understand, they purchased the rifle blueprints from Forbes and based on the Forbes 20B began to manufacture their own model. Step in the Fieldcraft.

 

OVERVIEW

The Barrett Fieldcraft Lightweight is a standard short action hunting ‘bolty’ repeater designed for the weight conscious big game hunter. At just 5.2lbs bare, it could be considered in the ultra lightweight category.

 

Apart from the weight, or lack thereof, what immediately stood out to me was the size of the bolt. It is small, reassembling something that you might see on a .222 or .233 Remington chambered rifle. In fact, it is lighter than the bolt on my Sako A1 Hunter .222 Rem. The Sako bolt weighing in at 223gms, the Fieldcraft at 193g, for a .308 Win.

 

The bolt weight and dimensions are very similar to that of the author's Sako A1 Hunter chambered in .222 Rem. (See text).

 

The receiver and barrel are constructed from 416 stainless steel. The quality of the machining is excellent, right down to the logo and, calibre and twist rate marking. On that note, the twist rate is 1-10 which is fairly standard for the .308 Win.

 

Mounting a scope was achieved via a set of Talley mounts and on my review rifle I was fortunate to have a Vortex Razor HD LH 2-10x40 scope fitted. This is a quality scope with very clear glass. The reticle is a single post type named the G4 (German Number 4) BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator).

 

The barrel is factory threaded for either a muzzle brake or suppressor and the threaded section is the same diameter as the barrel tip. Machining it in this manner means that barrel retains its integrity right through to the muzzle.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Remington style safety allows the rifle to be unloaded while the safety is engaged; the fully adjustable Timney trigger; muzzle showing the brake or suppressor threading; a large recoil lug keeps everything in place.

 

The design does mean that there is a protruding lip around the front section of the thread. Possibly a bit unsightly, but this is function over form.

 

What’s interesting about these Fieldcraft rifles is that the receiver, bolt and barrel are all scaled to the calibre. Barret claim this technique works to maintain strength while keeping the weight down.

 

Cradling all this metal is a very slick hand-laid carbon fibre stock. It feels great in the hand and has a solid feel to it. Its textured sandstone appearance provides a decent amount of grip and is aesthetically pleasing.

 

The stock is work of art. Note the full action and barrel bedding.

 

The barrel is not free floated which I just thought was weird! Instead, the action and barrel are fully bedded. After a little online research, I learnt that full barrel bedding helps support thinner styled barrels.

 

With a relatively thin barrel profile I was wary how it would shoot once some heat got into the metal. I’ve always been of the opinion that the barrel needs a little space to move.

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However, this is where a carbon fibre stock comes into play. It doesn’t move and accuracy on the day was more than acceptable for general hunting purposes. The Fieldcraft Lightweight wasn’t made to shoot groups, it’s purely a hunting rifle. It should only ever need that first cold barrel shot to be on target.

 

The trigger mechanism is the well-known Timney Trigger. It is super crisp and lets off at a respectable 3lbs. It is fully adjustable.

 

Loading rounds is effortless and the rifle features a blind magazine which further helps to reduce weight. Live rounds can be safely cycled through the rifle with the safety on.

 

ON THE RANGE

Eager to get shooting, I looked to see what .308 ammo I had on hand which happened to be a single box of Norma 180gr Vulkan factory ammunition. Very good ammo but that 180 grain pill through a short barrel 5.5lb rifle had me thinking, this might be quite ‘lively’…!

 

The Norma 180gr Vulkan ammunition shot well through the Fieldcraft.

 

I set up a target at 25m and got the rifle on paper then, straight out to 100m. About that recoil. It was actually fairly tame which I put down to a fairly wide buttstock and that big ol’ fat rubber buttpad!

 

To cut a long story short, the first shots through the rifle were really promising with a tidy 1” group achieved with minimal effort.

 

MOA grouping at 100m = more than adequate hunting accuracy.

 

Rattling off another half a dozen shots resulted in two more groups measuring just on an inch. With that I was ready to get out for a hunt. I had a trip planned into a sweet spot up in the Kaimais at the end of November. Best to save some of those Norma rounds for that.

 

NOTE: I’ll often whip up some hand loads to see if I can improve on a rifles accuracy however this last month has just been so busy with the development of the new site. The gun was shooting fine as it was and it’s almost a given that some load dev will see an improvement in accuracy.

 

ON THE HILL

The Kaimai Ranges. A lifelong love/hate relationship with an area I have hunted since before I was a teenager. It had been quite some time since my last trip up there, a year and a half in fact! Hold on, what the hell have I been doing all this time!

 

The realisation that it had been so long since my last hunt had me super eager to get up to a spot that has done me pretty well over recent years. It takes around 4hrs of bush stalking to reach my campsite but once there it is just minutes to the main hunting grounds.

 

The original plan was for Scotty and I to head up on the Saturday for an overnighter. Typically, though, that plan fell through for both of us, Scotty unexpectedly had to head to Reporoa to work and me, well we went and bought two kittens for the kids!

 

Sunday would have to be the day and so at 10.30am I packed up my gear and headed to the road end. The weather forecast was patchy but if I could just get a small window either that evening or the following morning, I was confident of at least seeing something.

 

Short and light. An ideal rig for the dense bush often encountered in the Kaimai Ranges.

 

Man, it was good to be back in the Kaimais, a lot of memories for me in this place. Roughly two thirds the way up is a spot where you can look out and up into the valley. From this position its out with the binos to glass a few small slips.

 

It was actually quite sunny for the first 15 minutes, then it went dark really quick and moments later it was bucketing down, come on!

 

“You literally couldn’t get a much better scenario than that. A day or so of crappy weather followed up by a warm and sunny evening.”

 

Oh well, nothing else to do but carry on and hope like hell it cleared for the evening glassing session. It rained heavily for the next hour and then just as I neared my campsite, the rain stopped, the cloud began to clear and out came the sun! You bloody beauty!

 

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You literally couldn’t get a much better scenario than that. A day or so of crappy weather followed up by a warm and sunny evening.

 

I quickly set up the tent and then moved slowly out to my vantage point. It was warming up nicely and I was expecting a deer to move out from the cover of the bush and onto the slips at any moment.

 

However, it didn’t happen like that. What did happen was that I spotted a large red hind bedded down in the scrub right next to the bush. She looked to have been sitting there the whole time, even as I had made my way along the open spur in pretty much full view of her.

 

A mature red hind enjoying the afternoon sun and warmth.

 

The hind was mature and off limits at this time of year. What I was after was a young one, a yearling. I was happy to film and photograph her for a while, good just to be in the presence of deer.

 

Where there is one there’s usually another and, on this occasion, another and another until I had 4 deer now in my view. No mucking around. I settled on one of the yearlings, lined up the Fieldcraft over my pack and let rip with the Norma 180gr Vulkan ammo.

 

The deer was quartering slightly, and the projectile struck the animal just behind the left shoulder passing right through and out the front right. The deer dropped instantly and succumbed moments later. Mint, more veni for the freezer.

 

One of the other yearlings, which had no clue as to what just transpired, lingered around for a short while before sauntering off into the bush.

 

The Kaimais delivering the goods - Nik with a yearling spiker.

 


I headed straight over and immediately got to work on butchering the deer. I took the hind quarters, back steaks and eye fillets, the front shoulders were a write-off.

 

With the meat cooling, I reflected on the events leading up. Patchy weather, followed by a downpour, and then sun and warmth leading into the evening. A more perfect scenario you couldn’t get.

 

It was just on dark by the time I had made my way back to tent. I rang Amanda and the kids to tell them news and then settled into for a bit of Netflix!

 

That next morning, I was up early and gone. I opted on looping it around the North-South Track for a change of scenery. It was a mint day and I took my time heading out, reaching the car right on 1pm.

 

What a great trip. It had all just fallen into place and I was stoked to have blooded the Fieldcraft on its maiden hunt.

 

CONCLUSION 

The Barrett Fieldcraft Lightweight is a hunter’s rifle. It is slick and as far as rifles go, seemingly weightless. Tucked into the scabbard of my pack during my hunting trip, it was barely noticeable, like carrying around a rimfire.

 

It has a precision rifle presence and the attention to detail on even the smallest components clearly suggests that this isn’t some massed produced rifle. It is a rifle for, I guess, the more discerning firearms owner.

 

It is no closet queen though. It deserves to be out on the hill getting ‘thrashed’. That is what I would do with it. Use it everywhere and for everything.

 

The Fieldcraft Lightweight is worth checking out. Head over to GUNSNZ for further details and pricing.

 

Nik

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