Hardy Hybrid Rifle
- By Chris Parkin
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 01/11/2022
The Hardy is a take-down rifle with carbon fibre stock and carbon fibre wrapped barrel made by ‘Kilwell Fibrelab’. I knew I had an adventure ahead of me as carbon fibre barrels don’t always impress me, yet I wanted to really test this one for its repeatability before and after removal from the action as well as the inherent thermal stability in use.
This barrel shows a capped thread for a brake (included) or moderator and the muzzle is neatly crowned with a 11º taper. Spanner flats and a locking nut ensure brake timing to your preference, and it won’t come loose accidentally affecting zero.
The barrel has a 1:8” twist rate, a parallel profile and a 24.4mm diameter right up to the reinforce, where the steel core re-appears from the carbon outer sleeve. This design adds stiffness with a lower weight penalty compared to an all-steel construction. You can see the bolt lug abutments within the barrel when looking into the chamber, which dictates the action is a supporting structure, rather than pressure bearing.
A detailed instruction book is supplied that describes how to lock the barrel in place using the supplied torque wrench on the three pinch bolts located on the right side of the action. These are accessible through the stock, where aluminium collars protect the holes. The torque wrench is easy to grip and clicks when the prescribed values are reached, making the whole process less than a minute from start to finish. You can now freely cycle the bolt, which demonstrates an action with snug tolerances. The steel receiver incorporates a Picatinny rail for secure scope mounting.
Cycling the bolt’s 73mm teardrop handle demonstrates smooth transit and a 106mm stroke. It’s unusual in the fact that rather than a short primary extraction ‘ramp’ in the last few degrees of bolt lift, this bolt bears against a gradual ramp spanning the entire 90º bolt lift. This draws the swollen brass from the chamber walls more gradually and feels less jerky in operation.
This combines with more complex engineering detail and the lugs themselves are quite interesting. The fact the push-feed, spiral fluted bolt shows 5-lugs split 3/2 at its head is unusual, and although these still provide a 90º bolt opening, they do offer more bearing surface to lock into the barrel. They are also offset, and it’s at this point you realise that the lugs, like the abutments, are machined as a helical ‘screw thread’, rather than directly opposing each other like a regular turn bolt, regardless of lug quantity. After a screw thread is machined, the flats are machined across them, effectively turning that thread into the 5-lug bolt that cams open and closed as it turns. This squeezes the cartridge into battery, locking the action tighter than a simple parallel lug unit with critically improved headspace control. There’s a left-side extractor claw on the bolt face with a corresponding plunger ejector opposite the action’s ejection port.
The Hardy is available in .223 up to .338 Lapua. This short action variant allows the bolt head to be swapped over with the supplied tool to the appropriate cartridge head size. This one is for .243, .308 or Creedmoor etc.
Cartridges feed from an AICS compatible, 5-round, steel, staggered column magazine. It clicks securely into the aluminium bottom metal and there is an ambidextrous release latch to the front of the spacious trigger guard. The Trigger Tech unit is adjustable from 1 to 3.5 lbs and shows a curved blade with vertical serrations. A Cerakote-type finish in matte black matches the barrel and all other metallic components. Trigger Tech’s incorporated safety catch emerges from the right side of the action tang (forward for FIRE and rear for SAFE).
The bolt removal catch is on the left of the rear action bridge and it’s well worth commenting that when you fire the rifle, empty or loaded, the bolt handle does not ‘bounce’ at all. This is a sign of tightly controlled action tolerances ‘screwed’shut by the helical lug arrangement.
The forend is stiff and gradually tapers from 43 to 49mm at the chamber. Its broad channel allows the barrel to fully free float by around 4mm in all conditions. A 52mm Picatinny rail is securely anchored to the underside for a bipod.
The stocks show lighter grey patterning to break up the shape, yet the tactile overlapping weave of the carbon fibre is still perceptible below the finished colour. Everything is finished matte for minimal reflectivity.
The torque wrench also fits the twin action screws spanning the magazine well. These anchor the action in position within its machined aluminium bedding block.
Once disassembled, the barrel clamp is visible and it’s easy to understand the simplicity, yet perfect functionality of the system. The recoil lug directs firing forces into the bedding block and when tested, there’s no inherent action stress which would affect accuracy.
An ambidextrous palm swell is present on the pistol grip, which is almost vertical, offering about a 90mm reach to the trigger blade. The length of pull is 14” to the closed cell foam recoil pad, which is medium/firm with twin fastening screws allowing spacers if desired. There are quick-release sling anchor points underneath the butt and the forend, just behind the Picatinny rail. The high comb allows a secure head position that’s aligned directly behind the scope.
Light composites can often sound hollow, but the Hardy is quiet when handled normally or during firing, with no annoying vibration transfer into your skull.
The rifle shot with smooth control from the bench. The trigger was crisp and feed, function and ejection were all without fault. Bolt operation requires slightly more care and attention than a mainstream factory rifle, purely because the feel and timing are ever so slightly different thanks to the camming mechanism when opening and closing.
I used a moderator for noise reduction but did try the brake. It was effective for recoil control, yet hard to gauge on a .243 which generates very little anyway. Barrel heat was my main focus during the range time, and I also wanted to test the barrel change capability in terms of speed and return to zero.
In a single take on camera, I shot a 3-round group, stood up, then removed and replaced the barrel and fired two more shots. All at 100m. Shot No.4 was perhaps 1.5cm out from average zero, but No.5 returned to the group. Given the practicalities of breaking up any continuous group shooting process, I was more than impressed with this functionality from the Hardy.
However, I was most impressed with the inherent thermal stability of the Hardy Carbon fibre barrel while shooting in warm conditions. Carbon fibre wrapped around steel will inherently create different thermal expansion tendencies and thermally insulate the steel from the external cooling air. I have used lesser carbon barrels in cold weather that wouldn’t hold three rounds together after a cold bore shot, yet at 25-30°C, the Hardy proved reliable and confidence-inspiring. Regardless of the return to zero test, the gun was happily capable of 9 to 10 rounds without bothersome zero shift, a factor about which I’m very critical.
Hardy themselves state that an all-steel barrel option is better for long shot strings, and I applaud their honesty about the physical limitations of a material concept, yet they also impress me when they do choose carbon fibre for its benefits of improved stiffness without excessive mass added.
The gun is clearly MOA capable and frankly, I would never really choose a .243 to showcase ultimate precision, as it’s a very sporting-oriented cartridge in factory specification, yet I like the fact Hardy has chosen a 1:8” twist for greater future versatility with bullet choice.
The supplied carry case and tools (particularly the mechanical torque wrench) are of a high standard and inherently simple to use.
If you want to go multi-calibre, you will need to consider action length as a priority. The integral Picatinny rail is a fantastic benefit for multi-scope/night vision use.
Don’t forget, a takedown rifle can be a more compact, easily transported unit with greater discretion that doesn’t have to be all guns for all occasions in all calibres. It’s an expensive gun, but beautifully made and lives up to its marketing claims. I particularly like the precision rifle stock ergonomics without the usual weight penalty.