Browning BAR Mark II Safari .338 Rifle with BOSS
By Chuck Hawks
The Browning BAR Mark II autoloading hunting rifle comes in three basic models: Safari, ShortTrac/LongTrac, and Lightweight Stalker. This review focuses on the top of the line Safari model.
All BAR Mark II rifles feature an advanced self cleaning gas operation, seven lug rotary bolt, dual action bars, removable trigger assembly, bolt lock release lever, ambidextrous crossbolt safety with an enlarged head, hinged floorplate with removable box magazine, gold plated trigger, and studs for detachable sling swivels. The magazine capacity is 4 for standard calibers, 3 for belted magnum calibers, and 2 for WSM calibers.
Stock dimensions for Safari models are: length of pull 13 3/4 inches, drop at comb 3/4 inch, drop at heel 1 1/8 inches. BOSS is an option available on the Safari model only.
The BOSS (Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System) is an accuracy enhancing and recoil reducing system that includes an adjustable muzzle brake/weight. (There is also an optional non-vented BOSS CR--for conventional recoil--muzzle weight). The ventilated Boss muzzle brake is said to reduce recoil by about 1/3, but like all muzzle brakes it increases muzzle blast.
The BAR Mk. II Safari features a genuine walnut stock and forearm with generous areas of diamond pattern cut checkering and a high gloss finish. The forged steel receiver is scroll engraved. All metal surfaces are highly polished and deep luster blued. Safari models comes with a 22 inch barrel in standard calibers, a 23 inch barrel in WSM calibers, and a 24 inch barrel in belted magnum calibers.
Standard calibers include the .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, .25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. Magnum calibers include the 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 WSM, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Winchester Magnum. Average weight for standard caliber Safari rifles is 7 pounds 6 ounces without sights and 7 pounds 9 ounces with iron sights. Safari magnum rifles weigh 8 pounds 6 ounces (8 pounds 4 ounces for WSM calibers). Overall length is 43 inches for standard calibers, 44 inches for WSM calibers, and 45 inches for belted magnum calibers.
Open sights are no longer supplied on Safari models, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The BOSS system is available for standard calibers .270 and .30-06 plus all magnum calibers. The 2007 MSRP for the base Safari model (standard calibers, no BOSS) was $934.
I equipped the test .338 Win. Mag. BAR Mk. II Safari grade rifle with a Simmons Whitetail Expedition 1.5-6x32mm variable power scope in a Leupold mount. This has proven to be a very functional scope for a rifle of this caliber. The multicoated optics incorporate an aspherical element to reduce aberrations and provide a clear, sharp image. The windage and elevation adjustments are reasonably accurate, and the fast European style focus is a real plus. Best of all, this scope has a good field of view at its lowest power (important for picking up a big animal at close range), and enough magnification to take full advantage of the .338's flat trajectory.
Another important consideration when selecting a scope for a rifle to be used for hunting dangerous game is to insure that the maximum power is not so great that it would be impossible to find a charging animal at close range in its tiny field of view if the scope were inadvertently left on its maximum power setting. Frankly, I prefer a top power no greater than 4x for this application, but in other respects the 1.5-6x Whitetail Expedition has worked out well. It is certainly safer than the 3-9x, or even higher power, variable scopes one often sees on powerful rifles.
The Browning BOSS system can be adjusted to optimize barrel vibration for enhanced accuracy with any bullet weight. The BAR's gas operation noticeably reduces the perceived recoil of the .338 Magnum cartridge, even without the ventilated BOSS muzzle brake.
This is one autoloader that literally shoots as well as a good bolt action. Five consecutive three shot groups fired at 100 meters (about 108 yards) from the bench for this article averaged 1.33 inches center to center. The largest was 1.87 inches and the smallest was .94 inch. This was with standard Remington 225 grain Core-Lokt factory loads, not reloads developed specifically for this rifle. Most of the error is probably mine, as I feel the rifle shoots about as accurately as I can hold. I find this astonishing for a medium bore magnum rifle.
Another BAR Mark II Safari rifle that I tested, also in .338 Winchester Magnum caliber, came with a Tasco 3-9x40mm variable power scope in Weaver mounts. This rifle did not have the BOSS system, but produced three shot clover leaf groups at 25 yards. At 100 meters, three shot groups averaged 2 inches with an assortment of factory loads. These included Winchester Super-X loads using the 200 grain Power Point bullet and Remington Express loads with 225 and 250 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullets.
The one group I shot a with handloads using the 200 grain Hornady Spire point bullet and individually weighed powder charges went into less than an inch. This is fine performance for any medium bore rifle fired from a bench rest over a sandbag with no other aids to accuracy. There were no malfunctions of any kind with either BAR Mk. II rifle.
Browning claims that (and I quote): "The exceptional accuracy of the BAR is due, in part, to the totally consistent lock-up strength of a seven-lug rotary bolt. In addition, dual action bars link rigidly with the inertia block so vibrations are reduced and accuracy is maximized."
The reliability of our BAR Mark II's, at least in the moderate temperatures we have in Western Oregon, has been 100%. Randy Wakeman took his Safari Grade BAR on a frigid hunt in Northern Canada with no reliability problems. You will find his review on the Product Review Page.
This rifle is definitely worth considering for hunting large and/or dangerous game. It offers 4 shots (3 in the magazine plus one in the chamber) faster than any other rifle that is suitable for such animals. The Safari's optional BOSS muzzle brake reduces muzzle jump and its gas operation reduces felt recoil, making it faster than other rifles to get back on target for repeat shots. Where the additional muzzle blast caused by a muzzle brake is undesirable, the solid BOSS CR attachment is available to replace the standard ventilated version.
To those who prefer a manually operated action for a dangerous game rifle, let me point out that in the heat of adrenaline-charged action it is very possible to short stroke any manual action (particularly a bolt), to inadvertently take the rifle from the shoulder to operate the action (thus fatally slowing the delivery of a follow-up shot), or to forget to cycle the action at all. All of these things are in the category of operator error, but they have happened many times, sometimes with disastrous consequences. The autoloading BAR eliminates the possibility of such operator error and might well save lives in the process.
Its principle drawbacks are its creepy trigger and its relatively heavy weight of 8 lbs. 6 oz. without a scope. Of course, the heavy weight, gas operation and BOSS combine to minimize recoil and make it very pleasant to shoot. Subjectively, I'd rather shoot the .338 Mag. BAR than a bolt action .308 carbine. It is one medium bore magnum that is actually fun to shoot. With its engraved receiver, checkered select walnut stock and forearm and Browning's usual impeccable bluing and finish, the BAR Mark II Safari is a handsome and deadly autoloading hunting rifle.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2002, 2009 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.