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Weatherby Vanguard High Country: the ideal workhorse estate rifle

Accurate, affordable and deceptively lightweight when used in the field, this could be the ideal workhorse estate rifle, reckons Bruce Potts

Weatherby Vanguard High Country

Overall Rating: 86%

Manufacturer: Weatherby

Price as reviewed: £1,199

Weatherby Vanguard High Country

The ideal estate rifle?

The ideal workhorse estate rifle

The Vanguard range from Weatherby rifles was born from the need to produce an affordable version of Roy Weatherby’s Mark V actioned magnum rifle. Howa from Japan was assigned to manufacture the new Vanguard action, and it continues to be an utterly reliable and accurate estate rifle in its own right today.

Often seen as a poor man’s Weatherby, it is actually no such thing. This Vanguard action adorns a whole range of rifles in the Weatherby range and they all come with a sub-MOA — less than 1in at 100 yards — accuracy guarantee. (Take a look at our list of the best binoculars for hunting.)

Weatherby rifle

The black Monte Carlo stock is accented with tan and green

This new High Country incarnation is clearly American with its classic Monte Carlo stock design of new polymer construction to cope with any weather. It carries a slimline, fluted barrel profile, so has been designed as a rifle ready for hard use and long treks in the ‘High Country’. This is coupled with a new 6.5PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) from Hornady, designed for flat shooting long-range shots.

trigger set and magazine

A good trigger set and polymer magazine thats easy to load

So what relevance for the British shooter, then? The price point of £1,199 offers good value for money considering Weatherby/Howa’s proven track record of durability and accuracy. It handles nicely and with the ultra-durable flat Dark Earth Cerakote finish on the metalwork and synthetic stock it’s certainly a working rifle. A reliable estate rifle, perhaps?

Finally, the combination of the 6.5mm bullet with the short magnum cartridge case is equally as useful in Britain for shots on the hill in windy conditions and for making some of the heavier lead-free bullets expand reliably on British deer species.

Hornady bullets

The new 6.5PRC cartridge offers interesting ballistics for longer range shots or heavier bullets.

Need to know

  • Manufacturer Weatherby
  • Model Vanguard High Country
  • Type Bolt action
  • Overall length 44½in
  • Barrel length 24in, ½ inch UNEF muzzle thread
  • Length of pull 13¾in
  • Weight 7.15lb
  • Finish Cerakote to all metalwork. (Read what is Cerakote?)
  • Calibre 6.5PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge)
  • Stock Sporter synthetic
  • Magazine 3-shot detachable
  • Scope mounts None, drilled and tapped for mounts (Talley used on test)
  • Trigger Two stage, adjustable
  • Price SRP is £1,199
  • Importer Raytrade Ltd, 01635 253344
recessed bolt head

It has a recessed bolt head and M16 type extractor

In depth

That stock instantly sets the visual appeal and handling characteristics. It feels extremely natural with the 7.15lb weight evenly distributed, even when fitted with a scope and moderator, as the pivot point is right on the front of the magazine. The stock design is classic Weatherby Monte Carlo, with a hard polymer cheekpiece adding to the longevity and in-field durability while remaining rigid and lightweight, both ideal hunting rifle traits.

The right-side palm swell and textured forearm add grip but the deep bordering groove to these panels does bite your hand under recoil. I like the soft rubber recoil pad to help with magnum recoil and the black background with tan and green accents to the stock is effective as overall camouflage, too. Interestingly, the stock is not cut to fully float the barrel and has a pressure point at the tip — common to this range of rifles — and keeps a constant pressure point for accuracy.

Cerakote finish

I love the Cerakote finish to all the metal work, highly practical and durable on any hunting rifle, period. Good colour too.

The hammer-forged barrel is slim, number 2 profile (0.600in at the muzzle), hence the High Country designation for long treks without fatigue. It is a sensible 24in, needed for the new 6.5PRC cartridge velocities, and has a 1-in-8in rifling twist rate to handle all bullet weights and guaranteed sub-MOA accuracy from a cold barrel. I like the six-fluted barrel design to further reduce weight and allow cooling. Best of all is the flat Dark Earth Cerakote finish that surrounds the action, offering an ultra-tough barrier to water and dirt, with good scratch-resistant properties, too.

The Vanguard one-piece forged and machined action offers an integral recoil lug for strength and uniform bedding. The machined bolt body has a recessed bolt face fully encapsulating the cartridge for additional safety. The bolt has two opposed locking lugs and a large M16-style extractor that never fails. Weatherby has even thought about fluting the bolt for a smoother operation due to less bearing surface.

Quickly detachable, the three-shot polymer magazine in 6.5PRC cartridge has a small but effective release catch set into the stock at the front. I also like the trigger and safety system, with a three-way safety catch with the middle position allowing a safe position but bolt operation to clear the chamber. The trigger is adjustable but set at the factory; this two-stage unit broke cleanly at a sensibly safe 3.75lb.

Field test

With the GPO Evolve scope and sound moderator fitted, the High Country still handled and balanced well and when slung on the shoulder was hardly noticeable. The 6.5PRC ballistics are for a 143-gr bullet at 2,960fps and 2,782ft/lb and can be seen as a magnum version of the 6.5 Creedmoor round, offering 200fps and 250fps more velocity.

Factory 6.5PRC ammo is hard to come by but I had some Hornady 143-gr Hunter ELD-X and Hornady 147-gr Match, which shot 2,835fps/2,553ft/lb and 2,696fps/2,372ft/lb respectively and all groups offering round the MOA mark. I found it a tad low on velocity so I bought some reload dies and started to pep up the loads a little. Best were the 100-gr Fox lead-free with 60 grains of Norma 204 powder for 3,336fps/2,471ft/lb and inch groups, while 120-gr GMX lead-free bullets shot 0.95in at 100 yards with a load of 56.0 grains of N555 powder for 3,101fps/2,563ft/lb. And 143-gr ELD-Xs shot sub-MOA with a load of 55 grains of Ramshot Hunter for 2,929fps/2,724ft/lb.

We had some Chinese water deer to sort over Christmas during the rut so zeroed 1in high at 100 yards. We knew this Weatherby would be a capable flat shooter on the long Buckinghamshire fields.

Sure enough, an absolute cracking buck emerged chasing a doe across the cereal field at 225 yards. No problem. My son, Jake, braced on his knees to keep above the vegetation height and dropped the medal buck in his tracks; first blood to the High Country and new 6.5PRC round.

Chinese water deer shot

This fine Chinese water deer buck was dropped at 250 yards and Bruces son Jake was highly impressed with the Weatherby rifle


I was impressed both with the accuracy and handling of the High Country, especially in the field where muddy conditions and cold weather did not hamper its progress. I also liked the new 6.5PRC cartridge, which could offer some interesting possibilities for tough stags at longer range with suitable lead-free 6.5mm bullets.

  • Accuracy: Consistent accuracy was achieved from both factory and reloads 18/20
  • Handling The High Country was deceptively light and well balanced 17/20
  • Trigger: A decent, two- stage adjustable trigger unit with predictable let off  17/20
  • Stock: Synthetic and so weatherproof but quite rough grip in some areas 17/20
  • Value: A value-for-money estate rifle, perhaps, especially in the new 6.5PRC


An excellent working rifle that proved itself to be a capable flat shooter on long fields