Bruce Potts tries a Vanguard Series 2 Range Certified rifle based on the Japanese Howa action, which has stood the test of time

Product Overview

Overall rating:

88%

Weatherby Vanguard Range Certified . 243

Product:

Weatherby Vanguard Range Certified . 243

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,021.00
TAGS:

The Vanguard series of rifles from Weatherby offers shooters the chance of owning the Weatherby name in a good-quality but less expensive rifle. The Vanguard is basically a Howa barrelled-action rifle from Japan that has been rebadged. There is nothing wrong with this, as I remember having the same Howa action in an old Smith & Wesson 
1500 rifle at least 40 years ago.

Weatherby Vanguard Range Certified .243

The Bell and Carlson stock is as visually pleasing as it is practical

Time-proven design with modern upgrades

What you have is a well-made, 
time-proven design with modern upgrades such as a match-grade trigger, high-grade synthetic stock and tough exterior finish. The Vanguard is available in a Sporter-type trim for stalking rather than sitting and is offered in an array of cartridges from varmint to deer calibres.

Need to know

Manufacturer: Weatherby (made in Japan)

Type: Bolt action

Model: Vanguard Range Certified

Stock: Bell and Carlson synthetic, green/black spider web

Barrel: 24in, threaded ½in UNF

Weight: 7.65lb

Overall length: 43.75in

Sights: N/A, drilled and tapped for scope mount

Trigger: Two-stage adjustable for weight

Safety: Three-position lever

Calibre: .243

UK supplierSportsman Gun Centre, tel 01392 354854

New Range Certified model Vanguard

This Vanguard Series 2 rifle is the new Range Certified model that comes with a certificate proving the rifle’s accuracy downrange. At just over £1,000 it is becoming more expensive due to the poor exchange rate, but as a Weatherby rifle it offers good value for money and all the Vanguards I have used shoot well.

What I love about Japanese rifles 
is that there are no surprises — you 
get well-engineered, high-grade metals and good-fitting components. This all adds up to a well-constructed and reliable rifle that will take the strain of real-world stalking duties.

However, that does not mean 
the rifle has to be ugly, and the Vanguard is not. In fact, it is a very streamlined rifle of lighter profiled Sporter pedigree for walking and stalking. It has that reassuring heft from all-metal parts and a premium-grade synthetic stock.

Stock

  • The stock is an upgrade from the norm and better than most, as it is sourced from Bell and Carlson — a long-standing, premium manufacturer in the US for synthetic stocks.
  • This stock is visually very good as it has that Weatherby-type flair with a high comb cheekpiece and long slender fore-end.
  • The cheekpiece is well defined 
and quite high for correct eye relief and alignment to the scope, and 
with no cast the stock can be used 
left-handed quite easily.
  • There is 
no chequering, but you do not need 
it as the surface of the stock is of 
a crinkled texture that has a matt-painted finish with a dark-green background and a black spiderweb accent. It is one of my favourite finishes and looks superb.
  • The whole stock is made from layered Kevlar that is super-strong and light. You therefore have a strong non-flexible stock that adds little 
to the overall weight of the rifle.
  • To further enhance the stock there are aluminium bedding pillars to the stock screws to stop compression 
of the stock.
  • There is also some bedding compound that engages 
the integral bedding lug on the underside of the action to ensure a union of stock and action. This ensures a stock fit that will not shift 
in adverse weather conditions.
Weatherby Vanguard Range Certified .243

Very smooth bolt action and good trigger are hallmarks of the Weatherby Vanguard range

Barrel and action

  • The overall finish to the barrel and action is uniform, with a satin blued steel that looks good and does a fine job of subduing the otherwise shiny metal parts.
  • The barrel is 24in and 
has a slender profile equating to 
a Number 2 profile with a muzzle diameter of 0.625in and swamped taper from the receiver ring.
  • The muzzle is threaded for a ½in UNF thread for moderator attachment 
and interestingly the barrel is not 
fully free-floated from the stock, having a distinct pressure point 
at the tip of the fore-end.
  • In .243 Winchester chambering you have a 1-in-10in rifling twist rate and six grooves, so it is good for bullets up to 100-gr and it is cold-hammer forged for longevity.

The barrel is only as good as the action it is attached to. The Vanguard uses a fairly standard action format of 90° bolt-lift and twin-locking-lug arrangement. The action is engineered from a single piece 
of billet steel with tubular form, and the action top is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. I used a one-piece 6in Weaver-type rail, so it is good for both a scope or night-vision device.

The bolt has a fluted profile to reduce binding in operation because it reduces friction, and the bolt head is similar to a Remington action’s “three rings of steel”. This ensures the action has a solid lock-up and the head of the cartridge is enveloped in the recessed bolt face, barrel then receiver ring. 
To ensure a positive extraction there is a recessed M16-type long-length claw with a sprung plunger-type ejector. On a push-round bolt-action system, this extractor grips the rim
of the case well for reliable cycling.

Trigger and safety

I like a single-stage trigger, but this two-stage Vanguard model is user-friendly and adjustable. You have 
a clean first take-up and then a crisp second-stage release at 3.25lb. There is a standard lever-type safety, but with three positions: fire; safety 
on but bolt operates in the mid position; and fully rearward for 
safety on and locking the bolt.

Weatherby Vanguard Range Certified .243

Accuracy was amazing from teh Hornady 75-gr-SST, wtih groups of 0.35in at 100 yards

To the bench

Accuracy with this rifle is pretty much guaranteed, as you get a Range Certificate proving the Vanguard’s capabilities — hence the name. Less than 1in groups at 100 yards are guaranteed for a three-shot group with premium ammunition. I fitted 
an older Swarovski target scope that 
I use for long-range hooded crows and a super-quiet MAE Scout moderator.

  • I used three typical .243 factory loads that span the bullet weights likely to be shot in the Weatherby.
  • The Geco 105-gr bullet is a quality round and makes the Weatherby 
deer-legal in Scotland for large-species deer.
  • I had a velocity of 2,958fps for 2,041ft/lb energy, 
with groups of three shots averaging 0.5in, which was a good start.
  • Lighter bullets in the mid-weight range were the Hornady 75-gr SST and Winchester 80-gr SP that shot 3,355fps for 1,875ft/lb and 3,299fps for 1,934ft/lb respectively.
  • Accuracy was amazing from the Hornady with groups of 0.35in.
  • Similarly, the Winchester 
shot consistent 0.75in groups.
  • With this factory ammunition shooting superb groups, it would 
be hard to improve with reloads but I did have success. A lighter-weight Nosler Ballistic Tip 55-gr bullet for 
fox or vermin duties shot a velocity 
of 3,786fps and 1,751ft/lb energy 
with 1in groups, with a load of 
47.5 grains of RL17 powder.
  • In addition, the 100-gr Sierra GameKing with a load of 43.5 grains of H4350 powder shot well at 0.75in at 100 yards, with a velocity of 2,881fps and 1,844ft/lb energy.
  • An 80-gr Hornady Soft Point with 48.5 grains of RL19 powder achieved 3,321fps for 1,960ft/lb energy and 0.65in groups.
Weatherby Vanguard Range Certified .243

Very smooth bolt action and good trigger are hallmarks of the Weatherby Vanguard range

In the field

With the Vanguard shooting so well with the Hornady 75-gr SST loads, 
I reluctantly had to admit defeat with my reloads. I had been on a Chinese water deer stalk that yielded three bucks, so does were now on the cull list. I fitted a sling and even with the MAE moderator and scope, the Weatherby handled well. You could shoot off a bipod, freehand or using sticks.

After a few blank fields and endless viewing of hedgerows, 
a small Chinese water deer doe 
came slowly through one of the many “deer tunnels” in the hedge. She stopped 250 yards away and though the Vanguard would be capable of the shot I wanted to close the difference and make sure I had rising ground behind her.

I dropped to my knees, crawled and closed the gap to 150 yards. Now the wind was turning in the Chinese water deer’s favour. 
I quickly found a convenient 
fence to rest the TDS reticle on 
the doe’s heart/lung area. I took 
up the first pressure on the trigger and when her head went down to feed the second pressure sent the 75-gr SST bullet to its mark.

Chinese water deer doe humanely despatched

The Hornady 75-gr SST factory loads humanely despatched this Chinese water deer doe

Conclusion

This Weatherby Vanguard 
shoots well and makes for a rifle 
to use confidently in the field.

The Vanguard in any guise is always a nice rifle to shoot as it holds no surprises and its long pedigree has further enhanced its performance, especially with this Range Certified model. The groups with factory ammunition were amazing and I would not need to reload for this gun. The rifle is very solidly built but possesses the elegance and balance that is missing on many a new rifle these days.

Accuracy: Does exactly what it says on the tin, sub-1in at 100 yards for three shots with premium ammunition. 18/20

Handling: Good handling and weight distribution, even with a scope and moderator fitted. 17/20

Trigger: Nice two-stage trigger with adjustable capability. 17/20

Stock: Very well made and designed for all weathers. 18/20

Value: Good value still, despite the price creeping up. 18/20

Score: 88/100

 

Verdict

A well-made, 
time-proven design with modern upgrades