October 03, 2018
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Howa combines their excellent action with one of the best stocks in the business to create an accurate, dependable hunting rifle for 2018.
Long before the current budget bolt-action rifle craze, Howa produced superb, affordable hunting and target rifles. At the heart of these guns is Howa’s 1500 action, which utilizes a push-feed design with dual locking lugs that is similar in concept to Remington’s Model 700. Additionally, Howa’s 1500 rifles come with a three-position safety and the company’s HACT (Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger System) trigger. The action is so well-respected that many custom rifle makers use it as the base for their rifles.
Howa rifles are currently being imported by Legacy Sports International in Reno, Nevada, and this year the company unveiled their new Howa HS Precision rifle. This rifle combines a Howa barreled action with a hand-laminated HS Precision stock. A piece of aluminum is CNC machined to create a bedding block that perfectly mates with the Howa 1500 action.
The bedding block is then placed in a mold and hand-laminated with carbon fiber, fiberglass and Kevlar before being injected with polyurethane foam. A channel in the stock allows the barrel to float freely for maximum accuracy, and each rifle comes with an internal box magazine with a hinged floorplate.
The Howa HS Precision rifle utilizes an internal box magazine with a hinged floorplate. The floorplate release is on the front of the triggerguard.
Hunters can opt for either the sporter version of the rifle with a 22- or 24-inch (depending on caliber) No. 2 contour barrel or a semi-heavy barrel version with a 26-inch No. 4 contour threaded barrel. Caliber options range from .223 Rem. to .300 Win. Mag.
The rifle that I tested was the sporter version with a gray laminate stock chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle carries an MSRP of $1,099, and while that may not qualify as a budget rifle by modern standards, there are a number of features that set this rifle apart from its cheaper competitors. The most obvious of these upgrades is the stock, but the fit and finish and construction of the Howa rifle are excellent. Howa also promises sub-MOA accuracy with all of their rifles.
As it turns out, the Howa performs like an expensive rifle as well.
To test the company’s accuracy claims I mounted a Leupold VX-2 scope and selected three of my favorite hunting loads: Browning’s new 120-grain BXS, Hornady’s Precision Hunter with 143-grain ELD-X bullets, and Winchester’s Expedition Big Game Long Range ammo with 142-grain AccuBond bullets. The Howa produced groups under an inch with all three loads, which is outstanding for a factory rifle firing factory ammunition, and the smallest group measured just over six-tenths of an inch.
The HACT two-stage trigger certainly helps generate such impressive accuracy numbers. While some shooters have erroneously criticized the Howa trigger’s “creep,” what you’re actually feeling is takeup. The trigger break is clean and crisp. I grew up with, and appreciate, the security of a three-position safety. There were no issues with feeding, extraction or ejection.
In fact, I’d say that Howa’s new bolt gun is one of the best new hunting rifles of the year.
HOWA HS PRECISION RIFLE
- Action: Bolt, centerfire
- Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Capacity: 4+1 rds.
- Barrel Length: 22 in.
- Overall Length: 41.5 in.
- Weight: 7 lbs., 9 oz.
- Finish: Matte black
- Trigger: 3.6 lbs.
- MSRP: $1,099
- Manufacturer: Howa
- Website: Legacysports.com