*The Weatherby Vanguard Bolt Action Rifle*
O.K.- so for once I end up a little ahead at the end of the year and decide I MUST have a quality bolt action .30-06 with an at least decent 3-9x40mm scope....within reason I can afford any of the big three: Remington, Winchester, Savage...no- too easy!! My eyes beheld another unknown rifle...fluted bolt, synthetic stock....hhmmmm- big fat sear, decent trigger, what?? Weatherby??? at wally world??? for $388!!! what gives here??? AAAAhhhhhh SSSooooo!!! made in Japan....well it still feels better than the other 3 and has a 24" barrel (which is only 2" short of the heavy varmint barrel on the Remington I DID want (well that one was NOT in the running this time)
OK well here it is...wally world has a distributor they buy their firearms from and that guy has an exclusive deal with Weatherby to distribute (through wally world only) the since discontinued "Vanguard" line of Weatherby rifles!!! They are actually made by Howa in Japan to Weatherby's specs and quality control standards. (still with me??) So it's NOT a real Weatherby??? well....hang in there: as it turns out, Howa has quite a good reputation of their own for producing quality rifles (among other things) and the Vanguard (and almost identical in every way Howa 1500) used to also be packaged and sold as a Smith & Wesson rifle as well as the Mossberg 1500!!! As a matter of fact, before Weatherby switched to a U.S. company in Maine (due to many reasons that had nothing to do with the rifles) ALL Weatherby Mark 5 rifles were manufactured by them (the corporate headquarters is in California...NO rifles have ever been made there (which is fine with me -as I don't really think "California" when I think of fine rifles...(or any other gun for that matter).
So is the Vanguard a real Weatherby??? YES... as much as any rifle is a "Weatherby"!!! These rifles are guaranteed to shoot 1 ½" @ 100 yards just like the rest of their line and while NOWHERE near the level of refinement of a $1500 model...they are none the less quite good all around game getters!!! They can be had in .270,7mmRem Mag,.30-06, and 300 weatherby magnum. I would say they are in about the same class as Savage but with a little more style and a slicker feeling action.
OK??? OK... Just tell us about the rifle:
24" barrel,Butler Creek synthetic stock, adjustable trigger (down to about 4lbs....and they don't void the warranty like another company I could mention) 4+1 capacity, drilled and tapped for Remington 700 bases (very cool), fluted bolt like the rest of the Weatherby line-including the three gas ports in the side to vent gas should a primer or case blow up on you in the chamber (the face saver feature-as I've dubbed it), there is a two position safety (on/off) which locks the bolt and blocks the trigger...should you be of the mind that unloading with a safety on is a must have- it would be a simple matter to modify the safety to only block the trigger. (personally I don't use a safety very often as I only chamber when I'm ready to fire).
So lets get to
the nitty gritty:
HOW did it shoot out of the box??? Well I picked up a 3-9x40mm Tasco World Class scope and some Leupold rings and bases (for a total of about $110) and some various factory amo in various weights to find it's preference. The factory target supplied with my new toy was shot with 180gr. softpoint and ran just over an inch sideways on the target a few inches right of center. At the end of my first 100 round session I had the rifle roughly sighted in at 100 yards and the best target was about 1 ½" five shot group with the best three measuring at just over ½"!!!
I also found a TON of copper fouling at the end of the day and gave it a real good cleaning...after that I got a .30 cal. mop and worked some Remington bore cleaner through VERY carefuly and then sprayed out the barrel with brake cleaner and repeated several times. Followed by yet another total but VERY careful cleaning. The Remington bore cleaner (and there are other various products like JB paste) contains a light abraisive which helps clean out fouling and in my case-I had to plug the barrel and fill it up with hoppes#9 overnight to get all the fouling out. Opinions on how often to clean a new rifle are a subject unto themselves so let me just say at the range I use a pull through cleaner with breakfree, after I spray out the heavy crud with some break cleaner, followed by some Rem-oil which drips for a while before the few drops of breakfree are applied to the leading edge of my pull through bore-snake and then that (the bore-snake) is wiped down through a towel several times and pulled through once more in it's more or less dry state to move around and remove any excess oil in the barrel- then I wipe down the bolt and surfaces of the action as the barrel cools a bit and a paper towel or pipe cleaner cleans up the bolt face a little. This is repeated about every 20 rounds with the exception of the last 30 or forty rounds of the first few 100 round sessions at the range...I don't have any real reason for this -I just feel like it's been pampered all day and has to be broken in some time!!!
The same intense cleaning and bore mopping is followed by yet another 2-100 round sessions at the range at which time I noticed that while most of my work has been done with 180 gr. soft point this rifle is #1) really closing in on group size and consistency and #2) LOVES the Remington 165gr. softpoint ammo!!! I've had 0 feed or extraction problems as of some 400+ rounds and that makes me rather happy as well. My $388 Weatherby with a $70 scope on $40 of bases and rings is now shooting groups you could cover with a quarter @ 100yrds!!! -off of the top of my hard shell rifle case or back pack!! The occasional flyer is well within the 1 ½" spec.(unless I REALLY goof up one the trigger or my breathing ect. ect. (I know before I look when it's a bungled shot).
I think at this point -it's going to remain as is for a while and eventually get a good gunsmith to address the trigger for me ...there is a little creep and it could be lighter and smoother but it's very usable out of the box (this may vary a little or so other's have claimed...this of course is a somewhat subjective issue) I was able to roll it down to just over 4 pounds as opposed to the 3 ½ mentioned in the owners manual...this is about average in this day of lawsuits.
This is not quite a world class rig and I'm sure the groups may well open up a bit as I approach the 500-1000 round mark but it IS very consistent at this point and for just over $500- it is as fine a hunting rig and precission rifle as a less than wealthy man is likely to need. Overall, I would not say it's THE rifle or rig to have- but for the money I've spent on it I will certainly have many a productive day in the deerwoods or at the rifle range with my new toy!!
Nobody can really get upset about a rifle that shoots under 1 ½ " @100 yards and costs under $400!!! I'm sure this will rub a few Remington 700 guys the wrong way but I'd be happy to go to the range with them and let them see for themselves...at the very least it is and has the potential to stay more accurate than it's owner can shoot it and I'm no Elmer Fudd myself...(I'm no Carlos Hathcock either but I'd like to think I fall somewhere favorably in between...ha ha ha) So in closing I'd say the Vanguard is at least worth calling a REAL Weatherby by my standards and theirs.
I'm not saying a Remington 700 isn't a more sensible platform for a precission rifle...I'm just saying if you don't fall in love with the Remington at hand you do have another interesting option to consider (especially if you dream of owning a $1500 rifle in .300 Weatherby Mag!!-now maybe you can also afford a few boxes of ammo!!. Like everything else in life the performance will vary from shooter to shooter and you should always find the most comfortable rifle for YOU...who knows- the fact that this stock fits me better than the other choices could well be half the reason I'm getting great results...I just spent eighty rounds with it last weekend and was consistently placing two shots within less than an inch of each other and cutting up 2x4"s at the 100 yard mark...for the money it's a heck of a good deal...You can also buy the similar Howa Lightening 1500 in more choices incuding short action chamberings...they have a 24" heavy barrel .308 varmint model that I recently found a stainless laminated stocked model with a Harris bypod at a local show for well under $600!!! It has a recessed target crowned muzzel and is mighty sweet for the $$$ I hope some of this droning on the subject helps someone out there...remember the most important thing you can do to improve your long range accuracy is just that "work on YOUR" shooting skills as much as you can...a good rifle is only part of the equation...the hands it's in are what decide it's ultimate level of performance.... This rig has already helped me improve enough to justify what I've spent on it...I could have had a Remington ADL or Savage for the same or a little less than the money I invested in this rifle....am I happy...you betcha!!! Considering a Weatherby Accumark as my next rifle...that says a lot because I don't spend my money without much consideration....later guys -OUT
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