Barrett’s 98B LW blends the best of tactical and hunting guns to create a conventional hunting rifle with radically unconventional looks. Though it appears more mechanical than organic, the 98B LW is at its core a basic bolt-action rifle fed from a detachable box magazine, but that’s about where the similarity ends. For example, normally on bolt-actions, a forend is part of the stock, but on the 98B LW, it’s part of the receiver, and while a trigger normally hangs from the receiver, on the 98B LW, it’s in the stock.
“We hunt here at Barrett,” says company president, Chris Barrett. “We all do and you hate to love hunting so much and build the world’s finest rifles all week only to pick up something else on the weekend to go hunting,” he explains regarding the inspiration behind the 98B LW.
While Barrett has reconfigured many of the company’s tactical rifles for his personal purposes, this is the company’s first commercial rifle purpose-built for hunting. It’s available in chamberings ranging from .260 Remington to .338 Lapua Magnum and is for the hunter who demands a long range precision rifle that you can easily carry in the field and that performs when you get to where you need to shoot it.
That kind of ruggedness comes from Barrett’s many years supplying militaries all around the world with a tactical version of the 98B. “Why that’s important to me is that it means it is actually field proven,” explains Barrett, “so this rifle is demanded to work in very extreme conditions and it’s proven itself in several different places in the world.”
One of the more intriguing design features of the 98B LW that contributes to that ruggedness is a polymer bolt guide that also acts as a passive dust cover to keep everything from fine dust to debris from getting in the action and mucking up the works. “One of the most deceiving things is the talc-like dust that you get in high deserts,” explains Barrett. As any SCI Member who has hunted in places like the Kalahari or American Southwest can attest, fine dust just coats everything and can cause problems in rifles that have very tight tolerances.
The bolt never extends outside of the 98B LW where it can be exposed. Instead, it glides absolutely effortlessly in the polymer guide through its entire travel to the rear and then back home again where nine impressive lugs lock into an extension at the rear of the barrel. Upon closing the bolt, the polymer guide automatically cams over and conceals the bolt body from the elements.
Though not necessarily a “ruggedness” feature, the 98B LW offers quick access to its component parts for easy cleaning and maintenance in the field. Simply pressing a recessed button behind the pistol grip breaks the gun open like a shotgun so you can remove the bolt for cleaning. With the bolt removed, the safety is rotated halfway between “safe” and “fire” and pushed out with finger pressure, freeing the adjustable trigger assembly to come out as a single unit.
“A lot of people aren’t used to that kind of feature on a traditional hunting rifle,” says Barrett. “That ability to service the rifle with no tools...is a great thing about this rifle. Just the ease of maintenance and serviceability in the field especially speaks to SCI members. Can you imagine getting to another continent somewhere and having an issue with a gun that can only be fixed in a jeweler’s shop with specialized tools?”
That Barrett calls this gun “lightweight” is relative. At between 9 1/4 and 13 1/2 pounds depending on chambering and configuration, the 98B LW is certainly no Winchester Model 94. That said, the Winchester 94 is no long-range rifle and comparable chassis rifles routinely tip the scales at more than 12 pounds. “People ask about the weight because it looks imposing…” admits Barrett, “but then when they pick the rifle up, they see that it’s deceivingly light and slim and easy to carry.”
SCI recently received a Barrett 98B LW chambered in .300 Win. Mag. to review that we topped with a Swarovski X5i 3.5-18x50mm scope. The integral eight-inch Picatinny scope rail has a 20 MOA taper for those who anticipate really long shots. We fired the 98B LW for accuracy at 100 yards using Black Hills Gold 165-grain Hornady GMX ammunition and a proven handload using Sierra’s 175-grain MatchKing and between two experienced shooters and both loads, consistently shot groups just at 1 MOA. Groups were consistently round, which suggests there’s more accuracy potential there for a hunter who puts more time into load selection or development.
Feeding from the 10-round detachable magazine was flawless; likewise when single loading. Extraction and ejection robust and consistent and all controls operated smartly with no slop. The three-pound trigger pull is snappy with no take-up, creep or overtravel.
Handling characteristics were met with mixed results. Even with the adjustable cheekpiece, one tall lanky shooter simply did not find the 98B LW comfortable to shoot and ended up with a mild “scope-eye.” A shorter, heavier shooter, however, found the 98B LW perfectly comfortable. Recoil is straight back with little to no muzzle rise and, while it wasn’t punishing (scope-eye excepted), the muzzle is threaded to take a brake or suppressor for those who want to throttle the 98B LW’s kick even more.
Offhand, this is a surprisingly nimble rifle. The 24-inch barrel makes the gun a tad muzzle heavy, but it’s just enough to increase steadiness without being off-balance. “I’ve carried one of these a lot out in the field,” says Barrett. “I’ve carried it up to some pretty high peaks in Idaho. I never felt like it slowed me down.”
With a suggested retail price starting at $4,113, “these rifles are not for everybody,” Barrett says with modesty. But as he pointed out, getting top performance whether it’s guns or cars or bicycles costs money. “[G]etting 90 percent of the performance of top performing competitors I don’t want to say is easy, but it’s kind of understood…” he says. “[G]etting out that last 10 percent of the performance, it costs a lot. It’s the work that goes into these guns. It’s the testing we’ve put into them with our military customers. It costs a lot to meet some of the requirements we’ve had to meet.”
Barrett’s 98B LW is very svelte and slender compared to many long-range precision rifles that are modeled off of traditional benchrest rifles. When you pick this rifle up and feel the small diameter of the forearm and where you carry the rifle, it’s very surprising that a gun that’s this precise and this reliable can be this easy to handle and maneuver.--Scott Mayer
- Manufacturer: Barrett
- Model: 98B LW
- Calibers: .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag. (tested), .338 Lapua Mag.
- Capacity: 10 +1
- Barrel: 18, 22 or 24 inches
- Trigger: Single stage adjustable, 3 pounds pull
- Sights: None. Equipped with 20 MOA Picatinny rail
- Stock: Mil-Spec Type 2, Class 3 hardcoat anodized aluminum; black, tungsten grey, multi-role brown, burnt bronze, OD green, or flat dark earth (tested) Cerakote finished
- OverallLength: 43 3/4 to 49 3/4 inches depending on barrel length
- Weight: 9 1/4 to 13 1/2 pounds depending on chambering and configuration
- MSRP: From $4,113