Hardy Hybrid switch-barrel

Two for the price of one!

Nick Rositano applauds the latest Hardy Hybrid switch-barrel

The offer to review was too good to refuse and, on confirmation, I couldn’t wait to lay my hands on the latest Hardy Hybrid rifle. After researching the company I was keen to put this one to the test, as they’re one of only a handful of manufacturers who offer a switch-barrel firearm. The rifle is made in New Zealand at Hardy’s Manawatu facility, the firm having been founded in early 2006 by Dan Hardy during his time in the NZ Army as an armourer and weapons engineer.

Hardy left the military in 2007 to focus on advancing the gun and since then the company has established itself as one of the high-end brands for developing world class rifles, suppressors, match-grade barrels and muzzle brakes. The Hardy Hybrid in the spotlight here is chambered in 300 PRC and 6.5 Creedmoor, both excellent long-range hunting and target shooting calibres.

On unboxing the rifle in its sturdy carry case you can immediately see no expense has been spared. The barrel compartment conveniently holds two barrels and is separated by a foam wedge for secure transit. The Hardy Hybrid comes standard with its own carbon tripod, made by the company itself and featuring a Picatinny mount to handle heavier recoil, a large ball joint locking mechanism for stability and triangular feet for extra steadiness in longer shots.

Also in the carry case you’ll find a directional muzzle brake made from 400-grade stainless steel, itself a world leader in recoil reduction especially in larger calibres which often make even some of the most experienced hunters flinch. Having the option to tune in the muzzle brake to best suit your load gives you the ability to refine it and make every shot count. There’s also a bolt-head change tool, magazine and spare bolt-head for the calibre of your choice. The Hardy Hybrid under review was fitted with a Zeiss LRP S5 5-25×56 riflescope from a manufacturer at the forefront of European optics.

The rifle features a stock made from moulded carbon fibre which gives it strength and integrity and what immediately appealed to me was just how light the setup is even with the scope fitted. The bare rifle weighs a mere 6.7lbs which makes it perfect to sling over your shoulder in the field, especially in some of our more harsh and unforgiving terrain.

What’s unique to Hardy rifles is their advanced primary extraction, achieved through the entire 90 degrees of bolt lift, compared to most rifles on the market where only the last five degrees of lift triggers the extraction. And being one of the few manufactures on the market to offer a switch-barrel rifle, their claim that each barrel will return to zero is impressive to say the least.

The barrel swap-over is straightforward and can be done in less than two minutes. On the right-hand side of the carbon fibre stock near the forearm are three Allen key head bolts which torque the barrel into the action. Hardy supply a torque wrench with an Allen key head which can’t be adjusted, something I’m happy with as there’ll be no room for human error of over or under-torquing the bolts.

With the bolts loosened it’s a simple case of pulling the barrel out, remembering that when changing barrels always ensure you locate the pin in its correct spot in the receiver. With the three bolts torqued up on the other barrel you’re good to go, the next step being to change the bolt face to suit the different calibre. I was swapping from 6.5 Creedmoor to 300 PRC and Hardy supply a bolt-head change tool which I also found easy and straightforward to use. Instructions in the manual are supplied so if ever in doubt be sure to read them. The magazine that’s included will suit all Hardy cartridges no matter what calibre.

Producing such a lightweight rifle means some of the key components being used include 4140 alloy steel, H13 die metal, chrome silicon, 7075 aluminium and carbon fibre composites. Hardy’s barrels are all CNC gun-drilled for exact precision, spill bore reamed for extreme consistency and lead-lapped finished so you really can make the most important shots count.

The Hybrid is available in several calibres from .223 Rem all the way up to .338 Lapua and having familiarised myself with the rifle, it was time to visit my local range to see how it performs. The one I was reviewing has a 24” carbon barrel and in the Hybrid you can also have a 24” stainless steel option, though the weight of the rifle jumps substantially to more than 9lbs.

Hardy guarantee the Hybrid to return to zero within 1 MOA at 100 metres after a barrel has been removed or installed in the action. Setting up at the range I went through the same process I do when sighting-in any new rifle. After landing a three-shot group under 1 MOA with the 300 PRC, I thought I’d push the boundaries and set up some steel gongs at 600m (the limit at my range). Using the Hornady app with Precision 212-grain Hornady ELDX projectiles, I was able to dial In the Zeiss LRP scope and smack the six-inch gong.

After placing a three-shot group on the gong at 600m I was excited by just how good the rifle was shooting. It was time to change barrels to 6.5 Creedmoor and test if what Hardy guarantees is true, so within a couple of minutes the Hybrid was swapped from 300 PRC to 6.5 Creedmoor. I decided to shoot the latter on paper at 100m and was stunned to discover that after only three shots, I’d measured the group to be .78 MOA under what Hardy guarantees.

I didn’t know what to expect recoil-wise from the 300 PRC, especially with the Hybrid being so light, yet the directional muzzle break and recoil pad combined to make recoil feel like I was shooting a .243 Winchester. I found myself not flinching as I would shooting other big magnum calibres without a brake, so this rifle will suit not just hunters demanding a lightweight long-range set-up but target shooters too.

Although I didn’t have the chance to take the Hardy Hybrid out hunting, this is the sort of rifle I want to be backpacking in the field, as having the flexibility to switch to a different calibre in minutes whether targeting deer in the morning and foxes at night, knowing the rifle will return to 1 MOA is undeniably impressive.

The Hardy Hybrid retails for around $7500-$8000 depending on which calibres you choose, so effectively you’re buying two quality firearms for what you’d pay for one custom rifle to be built nowadays. The team at Hardy have not only put together a beautiful looking rifle but one which is exceptionally accurate and top of my wish-list for sure.

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