Bergara's Sidekick: The Beginning of a Custom Future

Bergara’s Small Batch, launched with the Sidekick handgun, as well as the success of other manufacturers’ custom shops, might mark the wave of the future.

Bergara's Sidekick: The Beginning of a Custom Future

No two customers are alike, and the diversity of tastes, preferences and needs of those walking through the doors has widened dramatically. That bumper crop of first-time gun owners — looking for budget-friendly, yet functional gear for their home- and self-defense needs — are quickly becoming regulars. They’re now part of a complicated mix with your most loyal patrons, those enthusiasts who demand top-end performance in all their gear and base purchase decisions on a combination of real-world experience and lengthy study.

Maintaining an inventory that appeals across that great divide is impossible. There’s not enough floor or warehouse space, and even attempting to do so will strain cash flow. Stock needs to turn over, not languish for months. 

Odds are good you’ve already adjusted to the new demographic by monitoring inventory and sales patterns, but a fast-growing industry trend could prove to be an interesting ally. Factory-direct customization or limited-edition runs are becoming more and more popular with manufacturers. The overwhelming success of Bergara’s Small Batch launch speaks volumes about the enthusiasm for such efforts, particularly among knowledgeable gun owners who understand some of the best deals available today aren’t necessarily hanging on store shelves.


Small Batch

Bergara has a sterling reputation for producing accurate and reliable rifles and barrels that perform well above their price point. On April 29, 2021, however, the company dove headlong into uncharted water. That’s the day it rolled out a new series called the Small Batch, finely crafted firearms with top-flight components crafted in partnerships with some of the industry’s foremost. Only 200 will be produced of each model in what will be recurring runs.

As if that wasn’t enough of a risk, the first model the company introduced was a handgun — all new ground for the firm. It wisely built the Sidekick, as it was named, on the same Bergara Premier Action that serves as the foundation of many of its finest rifles. The bolt-action with folding pistol brace and threaded barrel was made available in .223 Wylde, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. MSRP came in at $2,899.

The gamble paid off. “It was quickly sold out, as we produced a small batch of 200 units including all calibers,” explained Bergara Brand Manager Dakota Russell in an e-mail to Tactical Retailer. A look at the specs explains the success. Its 10.5-inch, stainless steel Bergara barrel was finished in Cerakote Graphite Black and it shipped with a thread protector. Fluting on both it and the bolt gave it a look befitting any limited-run gun.

The SB Tactical Folding pistol brace it wore provided compact storage for long treks afoot, in a vehicle or whenever gun safe space was at a premium. It anchors on a vertical rail on back of the receiver, folds flush on the left side of the handgun and locks firmly in place there and whenever extended. Collapsed trimmed roughly 9 inches from the firearm’s extended length of 28.5 inches. The attached nylon strap was adjustable to customize fit.

Bergara worked with Black Collar Arms to develop the Sidekick’s chassis. It was constructed from lightweight aluminum, featured an integral Arca Swiss rail, had an ambidextrous magazine release, and was hard coat anodized in Multicam Black Cerakote. The weight of the Sidekick, regardless of chambering, came in at 5.8 pounds.

The time required to design and refine the chassis speaks volumes about the attention to detail, particularly in last year’s challenging business environment. “Developing this pistol chassis along with Black Collar Arms took us just over a year with all of the complications of supply chain issues that our industry saw in 2020 and 2021,” Russell said.

Bergara didn’t cut corners on the trigger, either. The Sidekick used a TriggerTech model that features that company’s patented Frictionless Release Technology to eliminate creep, increase performance and maximize accuracy downrange. Let-off weight is adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds.

As for why the company choose a handgun, Russell explained, “It would have been too easy for us to release something in a traditional rifle configuration, so we wanted to totally catch the market by surprise and offer something as far from a traditional Bergara rifle as we could. What better way to do that then with a pistol? This is such a unique pistol as well and one that can be used for virtually any shooting application.”


Why Limited, Now?

Bergara worked through the Sidekick project during the record-breaking firearm sales of 2020 and early 2021. We couldn’t help but ask why the company continued with the limited-run project while other manufacturers shifted to higher-volume production. 

“We felt called to create the Small Batch series as it brings us back to our roots of custom gun building, but in a totally unique and creative way,” Russell said. “Assembling an incredible team of retired Marines and Navy SEALs with decades of experience, we are now able to allow the team to display their craft in a way that you don’t often find in a standard catalog item. This series is truly going to allow us to offer items that traditionally wouldn’t be found in our lineup.”

As an added bonus, every one of the Sidekicks came with a commemorative challenge coin, all neatly stowable in the included Eberlestock S27 Little Trick EDC pack. 


Retail Connection

The company hasn’t left its retailers out of the equation, either. “In all honesty, we offered it to our top accounts and distributors,” he explained. “Our direct dealers and distributors are the ones that have taken us to the place that we are today, and we want to always do everything that we can to show them how much we appreciate their support.”

There’s also the fact that the pistols have an addicting performance, the kind of asset that keeps customers coming back for fresh ammo and associated gear. At one of last summer’s press events, members of the media were ringing steel out at 250 yards from a tripod-mounted Sidekick in 6.5 Creedmoor. It was no anomaly.

“One of the most surprising things about the Sidekick pistol is how accurate it truly is,” Russell said. “It comes with a premium Bergara barrel that our customers have grown to love and trust. With the length of the barrel being 10.5 inches, you will have reduced harmonics in the barrel, which results in a straighter barrel at the shot. You do lose a small amount of muzzle velocity when comparing to a traditional-length rifle barrel, but you lose nothing in the accuracy department.”

He was understandably tight-lipped about the next Small Batch, but said they have several in the works for 2022. “They will always be sold in limited quantities and will never closely resemble their predecessors,” he told us. “They will, however, always be unique and have more refined looks and features than any of our catalogued items.”


The Competition

Other companies offer custom firearms throughout the year, although limited editions are almost exclusively anniversary- or commemorative-event related. Bergara’s recurring Small Batch runs of 200 firearms are unusual in that fact.

Ruger, for example, recognized there was a sizeable market for factory-installed improvements and opened its custom shop in 2018. Today it offers a Precision rifle in 6mm Creedmoor, a number of 10/22s, competition revolvers and 1911s. They’re worth mentioning — along with the fact you can order — to any customer considering a bare-bones version of the same firearm or looking to upgrade. Knowledgeable enthusiasts know the reliable reputation and performance and often willing to place an order through your store.

The situation’s similar when it comes to Smith & Wesson Performance Center, which needs no introduction. It has a widely acknowledged history of producing fine firearms, with all the right refinements by experienced craftsman.

Late last year, Sig Sauer launched an unusual approach through advanced digital technology that allows customization of its P320 pistol platform — all the way to individualized laser engraving. It’s entirely website-based. “The Sig Custom Works Concierge Service is a truly unique experience,” said Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of commercial sales at Sig Sauer. “It gives you the freedom to design and build a custom P320 from wherever you are, have it factory-built, and then shipped direct to your dealer. You design it, we build it — it’s that easy. The process begins with the revolutionary P320 FCU [fire control unit] and from there, utilizing the revolutionary P320 studio, the possibilities are endless, as you easily mix and match components and parts until you discover the P320 that’s perfect for you, and throughout the process you receive personalized one-on-one, direct service from the Sig Custom Works concierges to guarantee a true custom experience.” Add engraving and it’s the ultimate answer for any of your customers looking for a special birthday, commemorative or anniversary gift.



“People always want to have the latest and greatest, and if you can get it in a limited-run firearm, I don’t think it can get any cooler than that,” Russell said, summarizing what is the growing sentiment for the entire industry. Customers may not be physically identical, but each would love to own a limited-edition or custom firearm or something with all the upgrades. More and more of the industry is acknowledging that fact by offering products to serve that vertical niche — a portion of the market destined to grow as new gun owners gain experience and follow their passion.


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