Howa to me a few years ago could have been associated with the start of a sentence a person with a speech impediment was trying to finish like how are you today? It certainly would not have been linked with the likes of Sako, Remington, Mannlicher etc. of the firearms world.
More recently though I have found- that with me the name does at last conjure up images of rifles but that is all, nothing specific…..I have heard of the Axiom but heard is all. So with the arrival of the new Howa Ranchland 1500 it was time I did more research Much to my surprise I discovered Howa have a long history of quality firearm manufacturing dating back to 1907. They have the distinction of having made barrels and actions for several well known names in the industry including Weatherby and Smith and Wesson. Their product has influenced the vanguard and 1500 series respectively. Howa actions are used too on custom varmint rigs providing great accuracy. Some further internet research uncovered this …..”.In 1907 Toyodaâ€™s Loom works ltd., was created they manufactured and sold textile sewing looms. As the company grew, they started manufacturing spinning machinery. In 1916 Toyodaâ€™s Loom Works officially commenced the manufacturing of the spinning machinery followed by the manufacturing of cast steel in 1935. In 1941 Toyodaâ€™s Loom Works merged with Showa Heavy Industries Ltd., a manufacturer of machine tools. The company became Howa Heavy Industries, Ltd., a manufacturer of machine tools. The company became Howa Heavy Industries Ltd. Four years later the name was changed to what is still known as Howa Machinery Ltd. “…………
Over the years Howa Machinery began manufacturing air chucks, pneumatic equipment, floor scrubbers, aluminium sound-proof windows, rod less cylinders, and vertical double-sided exposure systems for printed circuit boards. In 2000, Howa acquired the ISO 9001 certification in the machine tool accessories and firearms divisions.
First thoughts were busy taking in the dimensions and looks of the firearm. These few seconds were important to me as I was tasked with taking it for a hunt and doing some sort of evaluation on it. There is nothing worse in this world than to be saddled with a firearm for a period of time that is unwieldy and looks ugly. Luckily for me my first impressions were that the overall look was pleasing on the eye. If you like coordination in your colours then this package will not let you down from the green Hogue stock to the anodized matching green scope in fact you better be careful where you put this baby down or you will lose it!. The package deal comprises of Howa barrelled action, Hogue stock and Nikko Sterling Night eater 3-10 x 42 scope with LRX reticule. Retail price $1149.00 or thereabouts.
So What have we got here? Well to my mind with its short 20” barrel I feel that this set up fits the bill as a true hunting rifle, and combined with this particular scope I feel it would lend itself ideally as a medium range alpine rig. It’s use on Chamois, Tahr and deer would be well suited especially in the 7mmo8,.243 or .308 cals. Other calibres available are .223 and .204. This particular rifle is in .308 cal. I hear also that they make a varmint version in .223 and .308.
Bringing the rifle up to the shoulder was effortless and it was both well balanced and pointed naturally. The L.O.P. was a little excessive for me at 13 ¾” being a good ½” too long. The stock is a Hogue composite which is a fibreglass reinforced skeleton with rubber overlay. The rubber has a very secure and warm feel to it, also when knocked it does not leave that hollow sound associated with synthetic stocks which is a sure game spooker in certain circumstances . The cobble finish on the fore end and pistol grip in place of the usual checkering on most rifles is also a nice touch and provides a firm and non slip hold. The overall stock finish will not harden with age and is impervious to gun cleaning solvents and oils. The stock has wide fore-end and as such makes a sound platform whilst sighting in or shooting off a pack. It is further furnished with sling swivels and soft recoil pad. It is aluminium pillar bedded to the action.
The action is blued, flat bottomed with integral recoil lug and drilled and tapped for scope mounts. There is a three position safety catch to the right of the bolt which is easy to find and ridged for a non slip feel. When the safety is pulled all the way to the rear it locks the bolt and trigger. In the neutral position it locks the trigger only and when pushed forward the rifle is ready to fire.
On the opposite side of the bolt is the bolt release. When depressed the bolt slips out of the action. The bolt has three holes on the right hand side but when the bolt is locked ready to fire they appear directly below and these are a safety feature. In case of a catastrophic build up of pressure in the chamber, the gasses are vent through those holes and out of the bottom of the magazine well instead of back in the users face.
The bolt utilises two locking lugs and features a large face which uses an m16 style extractor. It has the ability to be used in the half open bolt mode which is how most of us hunt here in NZ. In fact the action reminds me very much of my two Sako models the Vixen and Forester.
The magazine holds five rounds and is of a drop floor plate design. The release button is to be found in front of the trigger guard. The trigger is fully adjustable and needs to be as out of the box it is both too heavy and unfortunately has more than enough creep to keep Boris Karloff happy.
The 20” blued hammer forged free floated barrel has a very slim profile #1 contour. The upside being there is a ton of room in the barrel channel and no chance of the stock coming into contact with it. The downside to that is a tendency to heat quickly. The barrel twist is 1:12
The Nikko Sterling scope is around 14 ins in length and when mounted on a compact rifle like this looks a little top heavy it also weighs in at a hefty 17ozs which helps push the rifle scope mounts combination to 8.74lbs which is at the upper end of the weight scale for a true mountain rifle in my opinion. However the integral sunshade on the scope is very practical. The reticule is duplex and of the ballistic type which has a number of horizontal lines representing different point blank range options. I found the horizontal lines to be pretty fine and maybe hard to distinguish in low light against a dark background.
Before starting the range session I took the rifle apart and adjusted the heavy trigger by means of the two adjusting screws located in the trigger group. I managed to take a lb or so off the weight and eliminate most of the creep. The day I picked was absolutely perfect no wind and plenty of light.
Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried I was unable to obtain a satisfactory group, eventually packing up and returning to the house. I went over all screws with an allen key and found the two screws on the front rings right hand side were somewhat slack and one of the screws holding the mounts to the bases needed tightening . I checked the guard screws and they were firm.
Next day was overcast and with a slight NW breeze. Instead of the 10x setting I used the day before I now dropped down to 7x and the best group was 1.5” for three shots. I had now used up all of the rounds supplied, so decided to reload some of the Winchester cases with a few Sierra 150 grn., Matchking bullets I have lying around to try and improve the performance
Firstly I ran the cases over my concentricity gauge and found them All well within acceptable tolerances for accurate ammo., that also told me there was nothing wrong with the chamber in the rifle. In fact I noticed with the factory ammunition that the bolt had some resistance in closing. Usually with factory rifles the bolt almost falls closed by itself! So the tolerances were good.
I then ran a batch of ten rounds with 44.5 of 2206H powder and the bullet seated 2.278” to the bullet ogive, which was as long as I could go and still seat the rounds in the magazine. Results on a near perfect day which was overcast with little or no wind were much improved. The first group measured 0.969. I then adjusted the scope to print 3ins., high at 100yds and the second group went 0.985.
Proof that with a little experimenting the rifle does shoot. I am positive that further experimentation would yield even better results.
The Howa Ranchland 1500 package like all packages is built to a price. There seems to be a conflict of design however going on in this particular combination in my opinion .
We have a slim tube but have a large scope. On the one hand saving weight and on the other adding with gay abandon.
There are minor issues such as trigger pull and L.O.P but these are minor and can be solved.
I personally would mount something like a Leupold Vari 1 or 11in a 2-7 x 33 scope on this rifle to ensure its continued accuracy and dependability, it would free up my mind about the nagging doubts I have with the durability and performance of the Nikko Sterling Nighteater scope. It wouldn’t harm the looks either.
When all said and done the Ranchland combo does handle well and if it fits the budget and spins your wheels the freezer should never be empty.