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October 31st, 2021

Sunday Gunday: Howa Rifles — Factory Rigs and Custom Builds

Howa 1500 rifle KRG Bravo Bill Rifleshooter.com
At top is a Howa 1500 in KUIU Vias Camo stock. Lower image is a Howa 1500 with KRG Bravo chassis.

If you are looking to acquire a reliable, accurate rifle for a late fall hunt, Howa can be a good choice. Howas feature smooth-running actions with fine two-stage HACT triggers. A Howa barreled action can also be a good basis for a DIY project. But some folks have heard that it may be difficult to find stocks, or to fit an after-market barrel. That’s not true. There are many stock options available, and in this article, Bill of RifleShooter.com shows that it is easy to remove the factory-installed barrel with the right tools. We think a Howa makes a fine basis for a varmint rig or field rifle. Or you can build a tactical rifle as Bill did. You can start with the factory barrel and when you want/need more accuracy, then have a gunsmith install a custom barrel from Krieger Barrels, Lilja Barrels or other quality brand.

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com
Howa mini action carbon stalker hunting rifle
The Carbon Stalker is an excellent ultralight factory option, weighing just 4.6 lbs. with Mini Action (before optics). All Howa Carbon Fiber Stalker rifles come with a Sub-MOA Guarantee and Lifetime Warranty.

What You Need to Know About Howa 1500-series Rifles

Tech Feature by Bill, editor of RifleShooter.com
Consider this article the “Howa 1500 Overview”. There has been a lot of interest in Howa rifles and barreled actions imported by Legacy Sports International. In addition to being able to buy a complete rifle from a dealer, Brownells sells barreled actions in a wide variety of calibers and configurations. In this post we are going to take a look at the Howa 1500 series.

Howa Rifles — General Background
Howa is a Japanese heavy machinery company. One of its product lines are firearms, which, are imported into the United States of America by two different companies, Legacy Sports International and Weatherby. Legacy sells the 1500 under the manufacturers name while Weatherby re-brands the guns as the Weatherby Vanguard. In general, the finishes on the Weatherby rifles are more refined than the LSI-imported 1500s.

General Evaluation of Howa 1500 Rifles
I’ve found Howa 1500s to be solid, entry-level rifles that are capable of sub-MOA accuracy out of the box. I’ve actually purchased two Howa rifles I’ve tested because I like them so much. The gun below, a Howa Mini-Action in 7.62×39 Russian, is one of my favorite factory guns to shoot.

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

Check out this three-shot group I drilled at 100 yards with the rifle above and 125-grain Sierras. It took a lot of work and load development to get there, but when it did, it worked well.

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

Howa 1600 HACT Two-Stage TriggerHowa 1500 HACT 2-Stage Trigger
Howa 1500s feature the very nice Howa HACT trigger. This is an adjustable, two-stage trigger, set for about 3 pounds (combined stages). Crisp and repeatable, this is an excellent trigger for a factory gun. There is no annoying Glock-style safety lever in the middle of the trigger blade. The 2-stage design and pull weight range works well for a hunting rifle or a rig for PRS competition. Rifleshooter.com says the Howa trigger is “one of the best factory triggers, along with Tikka. I’ve found the Howa trigger superior to a Remington 700 — the Howas doesn’t need to be replaced.”

Writing for the Western Outdoor News, WONews.com, Steve Comus has field-tested the HACT Trigger. Steve writes: “I always liked two-stage triggers, because of the way I could take-up the slack and then actually know when the rifle was going to go off. The take-up on the [HACT] trigger was fast and easy. The crisp, positive release when pressure was put on during the second stage [reminded me] of some of the target rifles I shot through the years.”

Howa Actions — Three Options
Howa offers three action lengths: Mini, Short, and Long. You can see the bolts for the three action lengths in the image below. The Mini-Action has similar external dimensions to the Remington Model Seven, however, the Mini-Action’s bolt does not travel as far to the rear. This is a mixed bag. The upside is you have a quicker action (shorter bolt throw). The downside is you are limited to shorter rounds such as the .223 Remington, 7.62×39mm Russian, and 6.5 Grendel. But if you need a bigger cartridge, just choose the standard or long action Howa variant.

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

Howa 1500 vs. Remington 700 — Important Differences
Is the Howa 1500 a Remington 700 clone, or some kind of improved Remington 700? No, not really. While the top radius of the Howa 1500 does match the Model 700, and they can both use the same two-piece scope bases, there are a number of differences.

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

If you look at the Howa 1500 alongside the Remington 700 you’ll note the M700 is a round action, while the Howa is a flat-bottom action. In many ways the Howa’s bottom half reminds me of a push-feed Winchester. This means the chassis and stocks that support a Howa 1500 are not V-block based like you’ll find on a 700, instead they have a flat bottom. While the bolt of the Howa is similar in external appearance to the Model 700, it does offer some improvements, notably an M16-style extractor and a firing pin assembly that can be easily removed without tools.

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

Howa 1500 action screws are metric and are in a different location from the 700. The Howa 1500 has an integral recoil lug that accepts the front action screw, this means you have more of the front action screw engaging the action. WARNING: If you install it into a poorly-fitted stock or action you may bind it.

Can a Howa Action Be Used for a Custom Rifle Project?
Absolutely! You can either buy a barreled action from Brownells and throw it in a chassis system/stock of your choice or you can use a stripped action to build a custom rifle. If you are in the chassis market, MDT offers a wide variety of chassis in different price ranges. All have worked well for me.

How to Remove Howa Factory Barrel from Action
You may have heard internet grumblings about removing Howa barrels. Some keyboard commandos say they are extremely difficult to remove without a relief cut. Well Bill at Rifleshooter.com demonstrates that Howa barrels can be removed without trouble, provided you have the right tools. Watch this video:

Watch Howa Barrel Removal Video — Quick and Easy (Click Speaker Icon for Audio)

Q: Is it difficult to remove a barrel from a Howa 1500?
A: Not very. I’ve heard from some smiths that worked on Howas (years ago) that the factory barrels are difficult to remove. However of the half dozen or so Howa barrels that I’ve pulled, they’ve been very easy. I use a Brownells action wrench with the top piece for a Rem Model 700 and the flat bottom resting against the flat on the wrench.

Howa Actions Require Metric Barrel Threads
It’s easy to thread a barrel for a Howa Action. You just have to cut metric threads — most lathes out there can cut them. I cut the threads below on a manual lathe using change gears. [Editor: John Whidden cuts metric tenon threads with a CNC lathe. “It’s easy,” John tells us, “No issue whatsoever.”]

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

Using Howa Actions for Custom Rifles
I have built a few customs with Howa actions. Below is one of my favorite, a .308 Winchester. It consists of a Howa 1500 action, Shilen Select Match Rem Varmint contour barrel, and Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) ESS chassis. Great rifle and it hammers!

Howa 1500 rifle Bill Rifleshooter.com

To learn more about Howa rifles, visit Legacy Sports International. To buy a Howa barreled action, visit Brownells.com. To learn more about modular chassis systems for Howa rifles, visit MDTTAC.com.

Permalink - Videos, Gunsmithing, Hunting/Varminting, News 2 Comments »
October 23rd, 2017

Howa HCR Rifle Named NRA Gun of the Week

Howa 1500 HCR Luth stock modular

We like Howa 1500-series rifles. The major attractions are the smooth-running action (feels almost like a custom), a very good two-stage trigger (way better than most domestic factory triggers), pretty decent barrels, and excellent fit and finish. Howa also offers a “mini” action that’s nearly an inch shorter than a conventional short action. The only negative is that the Howa actions have metric barrel threads. That complicates the re-barreling task for some gunsmiths who don’t have the right equipment. All-in-all the Howa 1500 series is still a fine value, offering excellent “bang for the buck”. If we were choosing a new varmint or hunting rifle, the Howa would be one of our first choices.

Given our positive outlook towards Howa rifles, we were pleased to see that American Rifleman just named the Howa 1500 HCR rifle (with scope package) as the NRA Gun of the Week. Check it out:

Designed for PRS “factory class” competition and tactical applications, the Howa HCR offers the smooth-running 1500 action with HACT 2-Stage trigger in a fully-adjustable aluminum chassis. The Howa’s MSRP is $1299.00, with “street price” around $990.00 in black or $1180 with Camo finish so the HCR is directly competitive with the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR). Available chamberings are: .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester.

Howa 1500 HCR Luth stock modular

Mounted on an AR-style buffer tube system, the Howa HCR utilizes the fully adjustable LUTH-AR MBA-3 stock. Length of Pull is adjustable from 12.5″ to 16.75″. Comb height is also adjustable to fine tune for scope height-over-bore. Weight with a 24″ barrel is 10.2 pounds (before optics), so this Howa HCR is lighter than many similar rifles on the market.

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Tactical No Comments »
September 28th, 2017

PT&G — Howa 1500 Barreled Actions with Trigger, $250.00

Howa 1500 Barreled Action HACT Trigger discount sale

GREAT DEAL — Complete Howa Barreled Actions (With Trigger) for $250.00
Howa makes excellent, smooth-running actions, and the Howa HACT 2-stage trigger is WAY better than most domestic factory triggers. Right now you can save big bucks on Howa 1500 barreled actions, complete with HACT trigger and trigger-guard. Pacific Tool & Gauge (PT&G) sourced a truckload of Howa barreled actions, which are now on sale. Available at $250.00 are: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem, .22-250. All these chamberings are offered with either light- or heavy-barrel contours. There is no extra charge for factory camo finishes.

Guys, this is an incredible deal — you can get a complete high-quality barreled action for less than the cost of a custom barrel. If you’re looking to put together a varmint rifle project this is a great option — just add the stock and scope of your choice.

Howa 1500 Barreled Action HACT Trigger discount sale

These barreled actions would be great for custom hunting/varmint rifle projects — many have factory camo finishes. Howa barrels typically deliver easy sub-MOA accuracy (and often much better). NOTE: Some of these barreled actions may carry Weatherby or Nosler markings, but they were all made at the Howa factory in Japan.

Howa 1500 Barreled Actions Have Excellent 2-Stage Hact Triggers

Howa HCR Chassis Rifle PRS Tactical Aluminum stock HACT TriggerPT&G’s Howa 1500 barreled actions feature the very nice Howa HACT trigger. This is an adjustable, two-stage trigger, set for about 3 pounds (combined stages). Crisp and repeatable, this is an excellent trigger for a factory gun. In our opinion, the HACT trigger is clearly superior to the trigger on the Ruger RPR, as well as the Savage AccuTrigger. And there is no annoying Glock-style safety lever in the middle of the trigger blade. The 2-stage design and pull weight range works well for a hunting rifle or a rig for PRS competition.

Writing for the Western Outdoor News, WONews.com, Steve Comus has field-tested the new HACT Trigger. Steve writes: “I always liked two-stage triggers, because of the way I could take-up the slack and then actually know when the rifle was going to go off. The take-up on the [HACT] trigger was fast and easy. The crisp, positive release when pressure was put on during the second stage [reminded me] of some of the target rifles I shot through the years.”

Permalink Gunsmithing, Hot Deals, Hunting/Varminting 4 Comments »
May 7th, 2017

Howa Barreled Actions in 6.5 Creedmoor (and More) at Brownells

Howa Brownells barreled action PRS tactical HACT 2-stage trigger

Planning a new tactical or hunting rifle project? You may want to consider a Howa barreled action for your new rig. Brownells has a large supply of these well-made Howas in a variety of chamberings, including the popular 6.5 Creedmoor. You can just bolt this barreled action into the chassis system of your choice. These barreled actions start at $359.99 complete with two-stage trigger and magazine. The 6.5 Creedmoor barrelled action with 24″ Heavy Barrel is $449.99 blued, $479.99 blued/threaded, or $546.00 Cerakote Gray. Many other chamberings are carried by Brownells, including: .204 Ruger, .222 Rem, .223 Rem, 22-250, 6.5 Grendel (Mini), 7.62×39 (Mini), .243 Win, 7mm-08, .308 Win, .270 Win, .30-06, 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag, .338 Win Mag and more.

Watch Unboxing of Howa Barreled Action in Video:

Howa Brownells barreled action PRS tactical HACT 2-stage triggerBolt-In to Chassis Systems
Howa barreled actions are ready to drop into stocks or chassis systems for quick, DIY bolt-action rifle builds. These barreled actions are available in a wide selection of calibers, barrel lengths and profiles in both blued finish and grey Cerakote. Some have threaded muzzles for easy attachment of suppressors or other muzzle devices. Actions have factory-installed two-stage HACT Trigger, and internal 5-round box magazines. Detachable-mag bottom metals and extra magazines are also available. Actions are ready to accept scope bases and rails. Brownells currently has more than 75 versions of Howa barreled actions.

HACT 2-Stage Trigger
One of the best features of the Howa barreled actions is the HACT 2-Stage trigger, which is way better than most factory triggers. Set at around 3 pounds, the HACT can be adjusted to about half that pull weight. This is a very nice trigger system, and we like the 2-Stage pull for field applications. Writing for the Western Outdoor News, WONews.com, Steve Comus field-tested the HACT Trigger: “The take-up on the [HACT] trigger was fast and easy. The crisp, positive release when pressure was put on during the second stage [reminded me] of some of the target rifles I shot through the years.”

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tactical 4 Comments »