Weatherby Vanguard Sporter rifle review.
The Vanguard?s action is made in Japan by the Howa rifle company, which also produces rifles in its own name and some for Browning.
The Vanguard is an entry-level rifle to the Weatherby dynasty, where the Mark V rifle is still king and a much sought-after firearm.
However, it is not cheap and cheerful, as it offers good value and guaranteed accuracy of 1.5in at 100 yards, so makes a practical sporting rifle.
The stock is typical of Weatherby, with its flare for attractive and ergonomic design, and the range of cartridges runs from .223 Remington to .338 Winchester magnum.
The Vanguard utilises a Howa clone action, which is good and has some nice features.
There is a conventional twin locking lug bolt with a 90° lift, which is practical, if a little old-fashioned.
It?s deceptively strong and there is the addition of three venting holes on the bolt body to take hot gases away from the shooter?s face if they should encounter a pierced primer.
The large claw extractor ensures a positive and energetic extraction of the fired case.
The twin locking lugs are suitably large and opposing in position, giving a good structural integrity to the unit. The so-called ?three rings of steel? encase the cartridge case head to maximise safety.
This means that the cartridge case head is surrounded by the recessed bolt face, then the barrel and, finally, the receiver ring.
There is no doubt that this is a strong, reliable design. The action also comes drilled and tapped to accept a variety of scope bases and mounts.
TRIGGER AND SAFETY
The Vanguard has a fully adjustable trigger that comes in a one-piece aluminium housing preset at the factory.
The test rifle still had a certain amount of creep and the pull was at least 4lb in weight.
With a bit of adjustment, this can easily be made to suit your requirements.
A safety lever is located on the right side of the receiver body. In the forward position, a red letter F above the lever indicates that the rifle is ready to fire.
Moving the safety to the rear puts the rifle on safe, with a corresponding letter S on the shroud.
This locks the trigger sear and the action, i.e. the bolt is locked down.
A protrusion acting as a cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt shroud shows that the rifle is cocked when it is viewed from behind.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
The factory loads from Winchester, RWS and Federal shot below the 1.5in guarantee, with the RWS Cone Point bullets at 2,907fps grouping around 1in.
Top velocity from the factory ammunition went to the Federals at 2,968fps, with the heavier Winchester bullets travelling at 2,822fps.
The Hornady SST bullets and a reload of 44 grains of RL19 powder under a 95-grain bullet sped along at 2,951fps and gave .95in groups at 100 yards.
The Nosler Partitions were less accurate, with 1.25in groups, but yielded 3,177fps with a load of 44 grains of IMR 4831 powder.
I tested another Nosler bullet, a lightweight 55-grain Ballistic Tip with a speed of 3,863fps, which is good for lamping foxes where range estimation is difficult.
STOCK AND MAGAZINE
The Vanguard sports a stylish walnut stock with good colour and some figuring, but is finished in a thick matt lacquer. An oiled finish would be much nicer, but the lacquer is weather resistant.
There is cut chequering to both the fore-end and the pistol grip, with a set of quickly detachable sling-swivel studs fitted as standard.
The stock has a high Monte Carlo comb and right-hand cheekpiece, finished off with a solid, black rubber recoil pad, with a length of pull of 13.75in.
The pistol grip has a long rake to accommodate even the largest of hands.
There is no palm swell, but the fore-end is finished off with a rosewood tip.
The barrel channel has two pressure humps above the sling-swivel stud to exert upward pressure on the barrel. For the rest of the barrel?s length, it is free-floated.
The action, too, has a recoil lug fitted into a mirror image mortise and there are also a couple of screws set at right angles to the magazine well and sealed in epoxy.
This reduces the chances of cracking in this area, which is weak in any stock.
The magazine has a hinged floorplate design of steel construction.
Some manufacturers use aluminium, which wears quickly, so steel is a nice change.
The hinged section, however, is a combination of steel and lightweight alloy.
There is also a detachable magazine option, which could be handy if you prefer this type of design.
The barrel is a typical sporter profile of 24in and is made in the traditional cold hammer forged construction.
It is guaranteed to shoot a 1.5in group at 100 yards, or better from a three-shot group with premium ammunition.
This is a feather in the cap for Weatherby, as not many manufacturers can offer that.
The test rifle was chambered in the .243 Winchester cartridge and had a 1-in-10 twist barrel, so bullets up to 100 grains should stabilise well.
The Vanguard has a .622in diameter muzzle, which is threaded for a sound moderator.
The external finish is a low-lustre blue that is smart and practical, as it prevents glare that could startle a deer
The Weatherby Vanguard is a good solid rifle with no frills that shows that a cheaper rifle will bring home the venison.
The Howa action is proven for strength and reliability, and Weatherby has added the extra edge with a revamped stock.
This design is nice looking, but the hard, slippery matt lacquer is less to my liking.
There is a carbine version available for those who want a shorter rifle.
Accuracy is still good and guaranteed by Weatherby, so, for the money, you have a rifle that shoots accurately enough for any deer in Britain.
Weatherby Vanguard Sporter rifle