The 7mm/08 is one of the wiser caliber choices a hunter can make when seeking a mild-kicking rifle for game in the deer and antelope class. Combining this caliber with a budget-priced rifle that has a reputation for good accuracy, as does the Japanese-made Howa, is wiser still. If the name Howa is new to you, it’s the action used in Weatherby’s Vanguard line (which, incidentally, won the Great Buy Award in our 2004 Gun Test).
The Howa we tested is the new ultralight with a slim 20-inch barrel and a stock that, curiously, is wood painted black to look like a synthetic. (One wonders who makes such decisions.)
Though the mechanical functioning of our test sample Howa was first-rate, its initial accuracy performance was quite dismal. This was surprising, given the good accuracy of the Howas we’ve tested previously and the well-known accuracy of the 7mm/08. Therein lies a cautionary tale about testing firearms, so let’s go back to the beginning.
A STAR IS BORN
As its name implies, the 7mm/08 is simply the .308 Winchester case necked down to 7mm. The caliber was “legitimized” by Remington back in 1980 at the urging of Remington employee Wayne Leek. Leek, recognized the benefits of lighter, faster, milder-kicking rifles for long-range target shooting games such as silhouette.
Great target cartridges usually make great hunting cartridges as well, so Remington’s introduction of the 7mm/08 included hunting rifles and ammo. Unfortunately, some of the early 7mm/08 production ammunition turned out to be embarrassingly inaccurate. The situation was quickly corrected, but not before word leaked out about the problem.
This brings us up to date and explains why questions were raised about the 2 1/2-inch (and larger) groups we were getting with the Howa rifle and Remington factory loads using the newly introduced 140-grain Accubond bullets. Thus, before reporting the poor accuracy of the Howa, we considered it not only fair but indeed necessary to determine the base accuracy of the ammo used. This was done with an ultra-accurate “slave” rifle used at Briarbank Ballistic Lab for testing ammunition and reloading components. With our “reference” test load, this rifle routinely groups five shots in a half-inch at 100 yards. But with the same loads used in the Howa, groups were more than an inch larger, clearly indicating an ammo problem. So, reversing the process, we fired our reference load (40-grain IMR 4064, 150-grain Sierra, 150-grain Match King, OAL 2.757 in.) in the Howa. Groups immediately shrank to the 1 1/2-inch level, which yielded a clearer picture of the Howa’s accuracy potential.
The lesson here, once again, is that accuracy judgments should never be based on results of a single brand, bullet weight or even production lot of ammo. That is why, whenever possible, accuracy evaluations done by the OUTDOOR LIFE staff always include a variety of ammo. Testing the Howa this way proved that the rifle could deliver quite good accuracy for a slender-barreled lightweight and a good dollar value.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
|BY THE NUMBERS | |—| | Manufacturer: | Howa | | Model: | M-1500 | | Type: | Bolt-action rifle | | Caliber: | 7mm/08 | | Magazine Capacity: | 5+1 | | Weight: | 6 lb. 6 oz. | | Finish: | Blue | | Stock: | Painted wood | | Barrel Length: | 20 in. | | Rate of Twist: | 1 in 9 1/2 in. | | Overall Length: | 40 in. | | Length of Pull: | 13 1/2 in. | | Drop at Heel: | 1 1/8 in. | | Drop at Comb: | 7/8 in. | | Trigger Pull: | 4 lb. 7 oz. | | Bore finish grading (out of 5): | 3 | | Suggested Retail: | $545 | HOW IT SHOT
Test Rifle: Howa M-1500 Average Group Size: 1.5 inches* Ammo Used: Reference handload
*Average of 5 five-shot groups