William W (Bill) Gabbard
I believe the year was 1978 when my little brother showed up at the farm for the opening day of deer season with the most beautiful rifle that I had ever seen. It was a brand-new Browning BAR in 243 Winchester sporting a fancy scope. My 30-30 with open sights looked archaic beside it. The BAR was so pretty that I had to have one. Years later, I managed to get a BAR in 270 Winchester. Like my brother’s rifle, it was a beautiful piece of work and much more accurate than my friend’s semi-autos from a competitor, but it was so pretty I never hunted with it. The Walnut stock and deep bluing looked so nice I just didn’t want to put that first scratch on it.
I just received a new BAR that might change all that. Browning sent me a BAR MK 3 in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country in 308 Winchester to review. While it is an absolutely a pleasure to look at, it has a finish that you shouldn’t be afraid to carry in the woods. The Break-Up Country finish will help the hunter blend in with their surroundings much better and there are no shiny parts to reflect light and alert the deer to your presence. The new MK 3 uses a short stroke gas piston design to operate the action. This system is designed to reduce excessive carbon build up as well as reduce felt recoil. The multi-lug bolt and hammer forged barrel combined are designed to obtain the best accuracy in their class. The BAR MK 3 weighs 7 pounds and 5 ounces - just over half a pound lighter than the previous version. That is not a terrible thing when carrying a rifle all day.
I mounted a new Leupold VX-3HD 3.5-10 x 50 CDS-ZL scope using Leupold’s QR 1 piece base and 1-inch rings. This was my first time using the quick release mounts and I was impressed with the ease of mounting and removing the scope. I must say that I put the BAR through a grueling test, but the VX-3 never showed any signs of shifting zero or performing any way other than what you would expect from Leupold.
While awaiting the arrival of the BAR I had time to assemble a wide selection of 308 Winchester ammunition to see how the MK 3 performed when put to the test. I ended up with ammo from Berger, Black Hills, Federal Premium, Hornady, and Remington. I had bullet weights of 150, 165, 168, 175, 178 as well as 185 grains, with a total of 14 different loads. It took several trips to the range to test all of these; oh well that is the price one must pay!
Day one at the range I zeroed in the scope and started the process of accuracy testing with the 150-gr ammo. Early in the process I found out that the BAR doesn’t like for its barrel to get dirty. By the time I had zeroed the rifle in and fired a few three shot groups, the groups had grown large enough that I thought something had come loose and I called it a day. Upon returning to my reloading room and checking the mounts I couldn’t find anything loose. I gave the barrel a good cleaning and discovered that the copper build up was quite extreme for the number of shots I had fired. I changed my procedure a little and would run a Bore Snake through the barrel after every couple three-shot groups. I limited my testing to 3 three-shot groups per trip. I would again give the barrel a thorough cleaning with Wipe-Out Bore Cleaner before returning to the range.
With the four samples of 150 gr ammo, every sample but one had at least one group under 1 inch. The old standby Remington Core-Lokt had the best group as well as the best overall average.
With three samples of 165 gr ammo, each of them had groups of less than 1 inch. Remington’s new Core-Lokt Tipped had the best group at 0.640 as well as the best average at 1.03.
The BAR MK 3’s 1 in 10 twist rate really seemed to like the heavier bullets. The three 168 gr loads I tried did quite well. Berger’s 168 gr Classic Hunter had four groups averaging 0.668 with a best group of 0.427. This was very consistent ammo! The Black Hills 168 gr Tipped Match King produced the tightest group of the test with an incredible 0.166. This is the best group that I have ever fired with a Semi-Auto using Factory loaded ammo!
The 175-178 gr loads followed the same trend. Black Hills Gold loaded with 175 gr Match King Bullets had a best of 0.473, and an average of 0.626. Hornady’s Precision Hunter produced an average of 0.813, and a best of 0.654. Let that sink in for a minute! That is unreal consistency for a hunting load! Not the first time we have seen that with the ELD-X bullets.
Federal Premium’s 185 gr load using Berger’s 185 gr Open Tip Match Bullet averaged 0.774-inch groups with a best of 0.549.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for the Browning BAR MK 3
1. Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy - the MK 3 is without a doubt the most accurate semi-auto that I have had the opportunity to work with. Three-shot groups of less that one-half inch are nothing to sneeze at but groups of less than a quarter inch are unreal.
2. Lighter weight than its predecessor.
3. Light recoil. The well-designed stock and the Inflex recoil pad make for a soft shooting rifle.
4. Reliable! From zeroing, fouling shots after each cleaning, group testing and a rapid-fire test, over the course of 4 trips to the range I put well over 200 rounds through this rifle. I did not have a single failure to load, fire or eject!
1. The BAR MK 3 is expensive with an MSRP of $1599.99, but my dad always said, “You get what you pay for.”
2. You must keep the barrel clean! Copper build-up seemed to occur quickly.
You must be kidding! No such thing as ugly when you are talking about a Browning BAR in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country!