Weatherby vanguard review

Weatherby vanguard review DEFAULT

Vanguard® Synthetic

I’d been wanting to buy a 30-06 hunting rifle for several years to provide a little more downrange energy on elk than my Howa Model 1500 in .270.

After looking at quiet a few rifles in 30-06, I finally stumbled across the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 and was pleasantly surprised at the feel and fit (for me) of this rifle. As the barrel and action are made by Howa (my .270 is a sub 3/4″ shooter), I believed that the shooting characteristics would be excellent…and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m not a believer in “barrel break-in” as I’ve never done it on any rifle I’ve ever owned and have had great accuracy from all of them. That said, I took three sets of ammunition and my new Vanguard to the range. The ammunition included Federal 150g Sierra Game King BTSP, Federal 180g Vital Shok Nosler Accubonds, and my hand loaded 165g Nosler Accubonds.

The Federal Sierra Game Kings produced a 5 shot group at 1.05″ with 3 rounds clover-leafed. The Federal Vital Shok had a 5 shot group at .905″. The handloaded 165g Nosler Accubonds (5 rounds) grouped at .82″ with a 3 shot cloverleaf. These were shot after an initial barrel cleaning, but with the gun being brand new and unfired to that point.

I couldn’t be happier with my purchase and the experience only re-enforced my belief in any barrel/action made by Howa. Buy this rifle. Fit, function and finish are great. You will not be disappointed.


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 supplier: Sportsman 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.

Weatherby Vanguard Sporter rifle: With its strong, reliable action and guaranteed accuracy, the Vanguard Sporter makes a great deer rifle…

Weatherby Vanguard .257 Magnum rifle

Weatherby Vanguard .257 Magnum rifle review: An all-American stalking rifle with no ideas above its station or price range, ST…


  • 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


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



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

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Rifle Review: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2

Because of a calamitous case of human error, I did not get to review the Weatherby Series 2 Vanguard when it came out last year. So, making up for lost time, I can say that I’ve shot one in .308 at some length, and can state without fear of contradiction that it’s one of the best hunting rifles around at any price.


The Series 2 barreled action is made in Japan by Howa, as it always has been, but the stock is now made in the United States, and the rifles are assembled here. There’s a blued and a stainless version; the MSRP for the former is $489, and for the latter $200 more.

There are two principle changes to the rifle. First is the stock. Weatherby has scrapped the old, clubby stock for a new one that follows the lines of the original Mark V stock very closely, including the wonderful, slim pistol grip. Second is the trigger, which is now a true two-stage mechanism that is virtually perfect. No creep, no drag, dead-clean release, 3 ½ pounds every time, and if you even think of messing with it you’re nuts.

Howa has always turned out beautifully finished guns, but the Series 2 rifles I’ve handled have gone a step beyond that. They are literally flawless. The fit and finish are perfect. It’s the kind of work you see in rifles that come from custom gun makers. For a $500 factory rifle to exhibit this kind of work is amazing. The only other rifle on the market I can think of that’s in this league is the Tikka T3.

Weatherby guarantees that all the Series 2 Vanguards will shoot sub-MOA with Weatherby ammo or with premium ammo. This does not mean that it will shoot tiny groups with anything you shove into it. My rifle did only fair with most factory ammo (It shot a minute of angle with Federal 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip loads.), but with handloads it was a new day.

With 165-grain Hornady WLR loads, the rifle averaged .995. With Sierra 150-grain Game King softpoints (these are hunting bullets, not match bullets) it averaged .580, with one spread going into .196, which nearly caused me to wet myself. Or maybe I did wet myself; I forget.

There are a number of rifles in this price range that shoot very well, but with the exception of the T-3 I can’t think of any that are as nicely made, or have a trigger that can match the one on the Series 2. If the shooting public catches on to how good a rifle this new Vanguard is, Series 2s will be as hard to find as service stations that sell gas for $1.50 a gallon.

Weatherby Vanguard rifle
NIOA iAiming banner 1200p

You know you’re onto a good thing when a rifle shoots repeated sub-MOA groups as soon as you start firing it. If all you’re looking for is an affordable, very accurate rifle, buy a Weatherby Vanguard.

That was easy, wasn’t it? Just not very detailed, so let’s get down to the brass tacks.

The Vanguard is Weatherby’s entry-level rifle, available these days (2021) on the high side of the $1000 mark in Australia. Weatherby touts itself as a quality manufacturer, and it’s fair to say that the Vanguard can argue it’s the quality choice among contemporary budget bolt-action rifles.

It is not the cheapest of the budget guns: none of its budget rivals have yet cracked the $1000 barrier. Yes, that’s a generalised statement, but think Ruger American, Remington 783 and Howa 1500 and you get the idea.

Weatherby Vanguard S2

Did someone say Howa? The Vanguard is made in Japan by Howa for Weatherby. It is an up-spec 1500, and that’s a good thing.

The Howa 1500 action traces its design to the famed Remington 700, and it’s exceptionally strong. Along with some detail changes to the rifle, Weatherby’s spec adds a longer barrel — up from 22 inches to 24 — along with a lightly fluted bolt body and a completely different stock. The bolt handle has grippy little serrations cut into it, too.

The fluting on the bolt body is not about weight reduction, but more like decoration. It may serve to aid lubrication by holding some oil but it also gathers dirt so should get attention when you clean the rifle.

The so-called Griptonite stock is tough, attractive and functional. Grippy outside and very stiff inside, it’s as practical as they come.

The Monte Carlo profile is comfortable and presses nicely against your cheek as you aim. There’s a swell under your right palm that creates a more comfortable grip, too.

But the stock does one thing that the purists swear is a sin: it presses against the barrel, with firm contact at the fore-end and lighter contact along the sides of the barrel. All I can say is that if it’s true about pressure on the barrel reducing accuracy, no one told the Vanguard.

We’ll come back to that point in a moment.

Weatherby Vanguard S2

The rifle’s action has an integral recoil lug underneath that slots into the stock to keep everything firmly planted. Two action screws hold it all together.

The rifle has a floorplate magazine holding five rounds. The release lever is inside the front of the trigger guard and easy to use, although a bit stiff when the rifle is new. Being built on a medium-length action, the magazine is artificially shortened by a small plate inserted into the magazine well to suit the little .223 cartridge. Feeding is flawless, but loading is a little fiddlier than with larger cartridges.

Because it’s a top-feed magazine, I’d have chosen individual bases instead of the rail on this rifle, but it wasn’t my choice. Individual bases would have left a bit more room for loading.

The two-stage trigger feels fine, with no creep once the pressure is taken up, and a sharp release. Out of the box, the weight was 1.55kg, and the single adjustment screw makes it easy to reduce this to a minimum of just over 1.13kg … in theory. I couldn’t get this one any less than 1.55kg, which was irritating, but it’s not a weight to whinge about too much.

Which brings us to the shooting part. The very light recoil, comfortable stock fit and crisp trigger made the Weatherby easy to shoot well off the bench. Within no time I had shot five sub-MOA three-shot groups using a range of ammunition, and not all of it premium, so there’s no doubt Weatherby’s guarantee of that kind of accuracy is not a gimmick.

Curious to know how the light barrel (it’s a #2 contour, so fairly thin) would cope with heat, especially as the barrel doesn’t free-float, I fired a 10-shot group to simulate having a bigger magazine (aftermarket conversions are available). All 10 shots hit within a 2MOA group, a very good result for a hunting rifle, in my book.

Weatherby Vanguard 223 targets

The barrel behaved beautifully during the entire test. A bore scope showed it was very well finished inside, and it was not only easy to keep clean, it did not collect and retain copper fouling. Whatever Weatherby and Howa are doing with these barrels, it’s good.

The Vanguard weighs 3.4kg bare, not the lightest gun around but it’s far from heavy. What you might call a pleasant weight for a hunting rifle. It’s not as if the .223 cartridge needs weight to tame its recoil, but a little bit of mass does help you hold steadier as you aim and reduces the effects of flinching.

The Weatherby is right at home around the paddocks and bush. From what I’ve seen of them, the bead-blasted finish on the action lasts very well, and the stock stands up to abuse. It’s a comfortable rifle to shoulder and shoot, and being able to top-feed directly into the magazine enables rapid topping up after you’ve taken a shot or two.

On the bench I would have liked the trigger to go a little lighter than it did, but in the field I didn’t notice.

Weatherby Vanguard hunting photo

The three-position safety catch blocks the trigger in its middle position but allows the bolt to be worked, and it locks everything in place when in its rearmost position.

There’s a lot to like about the Weatherby Vanguard. While it’s tempting to place it at the top of the charts as a budget rifle, as we did at the start of this review, it’s also legitimate to compare it with the entry-level Tikkas and Sauers of this world. It’s cheaper than those European rifles yet measures up exceptionally well.

Look at it whichever way you like, but in a Vanguard you’re getting an accurate rifle that looks good and delivers plenty of satisfaction. It’s based on super-solid American design, underlined by Japanese build quality, and set off by hints of both tradition and pragmatism from Weatherby. You can’t go wrong.


  • Calibre: .223 as tested (swags of others available)
  • Barrel: 61cm (24 inches), #2 sporter contour
  • Twist rate: 1:9 inches (no, not 1:12 any more)
  • Finish: Blued (stainless available)
  • Action: Bolt
  • Trigger: adjustable, 2-stage
  • Safety: 3 position
  • Magazine: 5 rounds, floor plate type
  • Stock: Synthetic (Griptonite)
  • Overall length: 1118cm (44 inches)
  • Length of pull: 34cm (13.5 inches)
  • Weight: 3.4kg (7.5lb)
  • Price: About $1100-$1150 (May 2021) but often less, and sometimes way cheaper in some of the slower-selling calibres
  • Importer: TSA Outdoors

Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited five national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.


Review weatherby vanguard

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Weatherby Vanguard \

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