By Bruce Potts
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Gun reviews: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Sub-MOA rifle: With accuracy guaranteed, Bruce Potts is impressed by the well-priced new Weatherby.
Weatherby Vanguard Series 2.
The Vanguard range has always presented good value and a guaranteed accuracy of 1.5in at 100 yards.
Now, however, Weatherby has decreased the price. At the same time, it has decreased the group size to smaller than 1in, offering the stalker a good value rifle.
Weatherby sources its actions and barrels for the Vanguard range from Howa, in Japan, but the company injects its own sense of US flair in the design of the rifle stock.
This is a premium-grade barrelled action mated to a solid synthetic stock, and Weatherby claims it will shoot three shots in less than 1in at 100 yards.
You can opt for the traditional walnut stock as an upgrade, but this Sub-MOA synthetic moulding is all about the “go anywhere, do anything” ethos and comes at a very reasonable price.
The Sub-MOA (which stands for Minute of Angle, i.e. 1in at 100 yards) was tested in .30-06 with a stainless steel barrelled action.
One of my favourite features is the sturdy and well-designed stock, which is great to handle and enhances this highly practical stalking rifle.
ACTION AND TRIGGER
The Vanguard’s Howa action is a conventional twin locking lug bolt with a 90-degree lift, which has been used by Smith and Wesson, Mossberg, Howa and Weatherby to furnish their rifles with a strong bolt action.
Similar to the Remington action’s “three rings of steel”, the action has a solid lock up and the head of the cartridge is enveloped in the recessed bolt face, barrel and then receiver ring.
The stainless finish is muted to avoid unwanted reflections and the receiver top is drilled and tapped for scope bases.
I fitted a set of Warne Weaver universal fittings.
The bolt is long, as is its travel, but the twin locking lugs slide effortlessly in their action raceways and, when locked, the bearing surface gives uniform pressure.
The large claw extractor positively ejects the fired case from the action and the bolt handle is well angled for comfortable use.
The new Series 2 Vanguard has an adjustable two-stage trigger within a one-piece aluminium housing.
As it was set at the factory, this .30-06 model had no creep to the first and pull pressures with the final release of the trigger sear dropping at 4.75lb on the Lyman digital scales.
The safety is a simple lever operated on the right side of the receiver body.
Move it forward and an “F” above the lever indicates the rifle is ready to fire; move it to the rear and the rifle is safe with an “S” on the shroud.
In the middle position the trigger is blocked, but you can still work the bolt.
A cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt shroud shows when the rifle is cocked.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
I selected a variety of ammunition for testing and the results were very encouraging.
The Lapua Mega 185-gr bullets grouped at 1.25in, but all the others either touched the 1in mark or shot below that.
The Norma 150-gr Ballistic Tips travelled at 2,908fps for 2,817ft/lb and three shots clustered into 0.75in at 100 yards.
Reloads also proved interesting.
I chose the 125-gr Ballistic Tip bullet from Nosler, which gave 3,280fps velocity with 55.5 grains of Reloder RL15 powder and grouped at just over the 1in mark.
The Sierra GameKings performed dependably with the 150-gr bullet with 60 grains of Reloder RL19 powder at 2,891fps and 0.95in groups.
Best were the Hornady Interbond loads, three shots grouped into 0.75in at 100 yards with a load of 50.5 grains of Vit N140 powder and Federal Match primer.
This would be my reload choice, though the Norma factory load shot as well, so for convenience I would probably use that.
STOCK AND STYLING
Weatherby has designed the Sub-MOA to look stylish, and there is a nice-looking Monte Carlo Griptonite stock and strongly profiled right-hand cheekpiece moulded into the stock.
It’s a synthetic moulding, finished in grey.
I prefer synthetic stocks over other rifles in this price range as they have a very solid construction.
This rifle may be a bit heavier-built, but it feels so much better than some of the rather hollow-feeling stocks you get these days, and it is still lighter than many wooden stocks.
Best of all are the grip areas: instead of the usual chequering, there are soft and tactile rubber inserts, which are a really nice feature that works well.
The barrel channel has two pressure humps above the sling-swivel stud to exert upward pressure on the barrel; the rest of its length is free-floated.
This is because Weatherby has found that a small amount of upward pressure when using a slim-profile barrel helps with the accuracy of the Sub- MOA rifle.
The action has a large recoil lug that fits into the mortise of the stock for secure contact and even bedding, again helping to maintain good accuracy.
The magazine is of a hinged floorplate design, constructed entirely in steel for longevity and there is also a detachable magazine option.
The barrel, 24in in length, has a slim Sporter profile made in the traditional cold hammer-forged construction from 400 series stainless steel, so it will withstand any weather and last well.
Weatherby guarantees that the Sub-MOA rifales can shoot a three-shot group of .99in or less at 100 yards, achieving even better results with premium ammunition or Weatherby factory ammunition.
The test rifle was chambered in the .30-06 cartridge and had a one-in-10 twist barrel, so bullets up to 220-gr should stabilise well.
The Vanguard’s muzzle comes threaded for a sound moderator in 0.5in UHF thread pitch.
The external finish is bead blasted i.e. a stainless steel finish that has had the shine removed for a more field-friendly surface.
Weatherby’s claims of accuracy were verified when I used the correct ammunition.
The stock has been redesigned and is typically Weatherby in styling, which I liked.
The colour is also good and the soft tactile grip areas are very useful.
The trigger is better in the Series 2 models with adjustability and no creep.
Best of all is the price at less than £600.
Why pay any more for a deer rifle?
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