• Manufacturer: Howa
  • Model: 1500
  • Caliber: .223 Rem (5.56 NATO)
    .308 Win (7.62 NATO)
  • Barrel: Hammer Forged Heavy Contour, Stainless or Blue, recessed crown
  • Barrel Length: 24" (610mm)
  • Twist: RH 1:12" (.308 Win and .223 Rem)
  • Magazine: 5 round internal box magazine, hinged floorplate
  • Trigger: Howa, Adjustable
  • Stock: Boyd's Laminated Wood (black or natural)
  • Weight: 9.9 lbs (4.5 kg) empty with no optics
  • Overall Length: 44.5" (1156mm)

Believe it or not, Howa has been building quality barrels and actions for a long time. Howa is based in Japan and generally has always built barreled actions for other companies (S&W & Weatherby to name a few). The barreled actions are high quality, and have a very good reputation. Legacy Sports International decided to import the barreled actions into the USA, and even decided to take it one step further, and started mating barreled actions to very nice Boyd’s stocks. They have several different versions, but what we are interested in most are the varmint rifles, which can easily double as a tactical rifle. This review would have never happened if it were not for Matt Koenigsberg from Kings Mountain Feel free to contact him if you have purchasing questions about these rifles. Matt contacted me and was very willing and eager to have me evaluate one of these rifles. He was confident enough to send me out a new in the box rifle, never been fired, no tune ups, nothing. A fresh factory rifle, and he was confident it would shoot down around .5 MOA. Did it? Read on to find out.

The most suitable rifle for tactical work would be the Supreme Varminter with a “pepper” laminate stock (black laminate) with matte black finish. This is a similar combo as the Ruger tactical rifles, and is attractive, as seen below. These rifles are also available with stainless metal finish and with a nutmeg colored stock.


The stock is right handed, period. There is no shooting this rifle left handed. The stock has a serious monte carlo cheek piece and a right hand only palm swell, which is very comfortable. These stocks are manufactured by Boyd’s, who is little known to the public, but is probably one of the largest stock makers in the USA. They make very very high quality stocks. We all know the effects weather has on wood stocks, but laminate is a huge improvement over solid wood, but still has a little bit of flex in really damp conditions. A synthetic stock would certainly be preferred for tactical use, but, I feel laminate stocks (including rugers tactical rifles) are acceptable and up to the task. The stock on this Howa had heat venting slots on the forend, which probably is not necessary for tactical use, and shows its varminting background. Over all, the stock is very comfortable, but a complaint I do have, is that the finish is a smooth satin, which becomes slick with skin oil, face paint, and grime (common in the field) and I had difficulty keeping my cheek weld on occasion (face wanted to slide down the stock). I suppose some 90 grit sand paper would solve that problem. (I had to return the rifle, so I figured I shouldn’t do it on this one….)


The barrel is fairly heavy (.825″ at the muzzle) and 24″ long (my preferred length for .308 rifles). The barrel also was tapped mid way up the barrel for long tube scopes (unertl target scopes, etc) and something you don’t see on many rifles. Don’t know how much they’ll be used, but nice none the less. The barrel has a 1:12″ twist for both the .223 and the .308. I would like to see 1:10″ for .308 and 1:9″ for .223. There doesn’t seem to be any plans to change this though. The muzzle has a nice recessed crown, seen below:


The rifle weighs in just below 10lbs (9.9) and has a good heft, about on par with most tactical rifles. It balances well on sand bags and other rests, and offers a solid platform to shoot with. The rifle also absorbs recoil well and is comfortable to shoot. (I tested the .308 version).


The trigger came from the factory at about 4 lbs and with just a tiny bit of creep. Overall, for a factory trigger, it was excellent!! Its also adjustable, but I did not mess with it at all (for liability reasons when resold). The trigger itself is wide and has ridges, much like Remington triggers, and really was very nice considering the price of the rifle and how its mass produced. The hinged floor plate worked well and all the fit and finish was excellent for this category of rifle.

Well, so now you have all the boring details, what about the good stuff? Will this rifle shoot? I headed out to my local favorite shooting spot with some Federal 168gr Match ammo to conduct my accuracy test. I zeroed the rifle and in the process threw out a group of 3 just for zero purposes, and not even trying hard, and yielded a 1.1″ group. Oh boy, if this was any indication, this thing was really going to shoot well, that group was so sloppy, it doesn’t even count! So, I settled in and fired off my first “Real” group of the day which produced a nicely separated .88″ group. Keep in mind, this rifle had NEVER been fired, was fresh off the assembly line, and I was not properly breaking in the barrel. I was starting to settle down and the next group gave me .68″ (pictured below). As you would expect, things got better as the day went on. The best group of the day is pictured below and measures only .27″.

howa-group1 howa-group2

Is this a .25 MOA rifle? No, not really. That group was lucky, but still shows some great capability. I would say these rifles are around .6 MOA. For the day, my average group size was just a tad over that. But still, for a $650 rifle, this is pretty darn impressive!! If this rifle is a true representative of a production line rifle, there is a lot to get excited about. If they were to drop the action into an HS Precision stock, put a 1:10″ barrel on it, they would have a guaranteed hit if they can keep quality high.

If the budget for the department is limited, and the weather conditions don’t get too extreme for the laminated stock, this rifle would be worth evaluating for your department.



Keith Gallagher

Nice concise review. Perhaps as a comparison to the reviewers comments you could have posted exactly which stock/scope combination is used in service by the Japanese National
Police SAT marksmen on their Howa Varmint rifles.

Derek Harding

I purchased a HOWA 1500 with laminated stock in October 2014 . After firing about 25-30 shots the two fixing bolts on the stock came loose. After tightening them this happened a couple of times more at about 30 shots. I returned the rifle to the importer who claimed there was nothing wrong. However, after firing about another 73 shots the bolts came loose again. I purchased a second 1500 with laminated stock in May 2015 to enable me to continue shooting whilst the problem with my first gun was being resolved, because I heard that HOWA have a good reputation. After 18 shots the bolts on this rifle also came loose. I had a full refund from the retailer. Please be aware that there might be a manufacturing/quality problem with this model with laminated stock. It does not appear to happen with the Hogue stock.

Mark 308

i live in Brisbane Australia and have known of the excellent quality of Howa rifles since purchasing a sporter in 22250 20 years ago . It was a sub Moa performer with factory loads and they have just got better over the years . a heavy Barrell 308 or 6.5 Creedmore even in a Budget Hogue stock will shoot 5 shots into .75 with monotonous regularity. A friend has the new 6.5 in a Boyd stock with a Leupold VX3 4.5 to 14 . It is consistently .5 with the 120 A Max

Kenneth Miller

Does this rifle, the Howa Supreme come in a 6.5×55 swede? I would hope so.


I recently purchased a Cerakoted #6contour(Bull) barreled action in 6.5 Creedmore and am in the process of glass bedding in it into a Boyd thumb hole stock.

Carlos Duran

Check manufacturer website heavy barrel actions can be had in .243 and,300 win mag thinking about building one myself with the arch angel stock.

douglas lavenburg

I recently received a Howa .243 heavy barrel varminter and would like information on trigger adjustment. Additionally, I do not see anywhere in the package literature what the barrel twist is.

Mel Ewing

The rate of twist on the .243 is 1:10″. To adjust the trigger you have to pull the barreled action out of the stock and then adjust the set screws on the front of the trigger mechanism

Johan van der Merwe

Any chance of Howa introducing a .260 Rem in the Thumbhole Bull barrel Varminter? I think this will be a very popular choice.


I would say its a “maybe”, but don’t hold your breath. The 260 is popular with us LR shooters, but its still a small percentage. But we’ve seen Howa do some other cool stuff, so maybe.

Peter Skarlis

I have bought and used many Howa 1500 rifles over the years and used them professionally as a professional kangaroo harvester I have had .223 , 243, 308 and 338 win mag. These rifles are not only the best value for money but they are faultless in every way.I recommend them to anyone one .I usually wear out about 2 or 3 rifles each year. I would not buy anything else.

Lynn Atkinson

Howa 308 cal 20 heavy barrel. I broke the barrel in and have shot 80 rounds though it. I been shooting 168 BTHP match. My problem is zeroed at 100 yds when you go 200 yds I getting 5 to 6 inch drop. I was told to go to 155 Gr bullet that 168 gr was not stabilizing before it left the barrel. I justed started reloading and have 168 gr Nosler BTHP loaded with different powers and charges to see if I can solve the problem. I have some 155gr BTHP nosler coming. any ideals?


Well, not to be confrontational, but you were fed some bad info. The drop you are seeing is exactly where it should be. Those 168’s are fully stabilized out of that barrel and with the Howa’s 1:10″ twist barrel it is actually faster than needed for 168’s. The drop you are seeing is completely normal and you’ll just need to dial in some up elevation to compensate. Nothing to worry about.


I bought a Howa 308, 22 inch barrel, black in 2005. I changed the stock to Boyds laminate and changed the trigger to Timney. This is the best value for money rifle on the market. Best 3 shot grouping at 200m is 12.4mm with standard PMP 180 grain ammo(2560 ft/s). I tried 150 grain pmp ammo,but couldn’t get better than 85mm @ 100m. But with 180’s this rifle is deadly! I have successfully hunted many animals with this rifle with a Kudu at 293m being the longest shot on game taken. My 3rd rifle will also be a Howa.


I dropped a heavy Fluted barrelled Howa action .243 into a GRS laminate stock….a match made in heaven ! The stock cost more than the Metal and all up is fairly heavy and not for the faint hearted to be carrying around the field all day but ..Bloody hell..i just cant seem to miss with this thing. I mostly just use the Federal Factory ammo with the 75 gn speer projectiles with the lge cavity hollow point. The scope is a Nightforce SHV 5-20 x 56 , also what i consider one of the best allround and most reliable scopes on the market in the price bracket…Howa makes outstanding hardware for the money !


Back when this review was done (decade ago), that was the official name and there were only a couple of models. This model does no longer exist so we are/were unable to go back an get the model number.


I bought a barreled action made by Howa for Webley & Scott. Bluing was as nice as any $2200 Weatherby I’ve ever seen. It had a 22″ sporter weight barrel, and the HACT 2-stage trigger broke a smidge under 3 lbs. It shot .563″ on the first range test using 120 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips. I changes powders and it did exactly the same. Using 160 grain Accubonds, I got .750″. That’s as far as I got before somebody talked me out of it. I had dropped it in a Boyd’s Timber laminate stock. Rifle weighed 7.4 pounds without a scope.

I have now just purchased one of these “Special Varmint” models in .308 brown laminate. It is a new in the box rifle, so it must have been ledt over in the shop’s inventory for some time. I do things a little differently. I have Lapua Palma brass (small primer pocket/flash hole). I have both CCI 450 primers and Federal 205 Gold Match. I like to use 125 – 168 grain bullets in .308 for deer, so thw 1:12 is perfect. I’m building a Savage custom with Shilen 1:10 Select Match with 26″ Savage Magnum contour in stainless for long range, so this can be a desicated moderate range deer gun. As such, I will likely find a 2.5-10×50 scope. I am also building a Remington custom on this same type stock, but from Stockey’s with a full length, SOLID aluminum bedding block. It will be a long action in 6.5×284 Norma with 1:8 26″ Wilson match stainless barrel. Same vents, same shape, same palm swell, and same cheek piece. It is “brandy” laminate. Barrel contour is LV, finishing out about .785″.

Back to the upcoming 308: CFE 223 and 2000MR are my 2 favorite powders for the 308 with lighter bullets. LeverEvolution, Big Game, Norma 203B and Vihta N540, or Reloader 16 will also be EXCELLENT choices!

Hristo Apostolovski

I own a Weatherby in cal 308 which is a Howa in disguise . I am really impressed about the rifle and quality .
I had one big problem in the beginning
The Warne scope bases that I mounted
Were totally wrong then I bought second Warne scopebase and the same thing again . Beware of that . I bought a expensive picannityrail and it works like it should . I fire Hornady FMJ at the range and I can say 0.5 at 100meter is normal . Like the stock and the trigger
Have a Leupold 3-9 × 40 TMR sight on it and work much better then I thought.

Fabrizio Levo

Hey, my friends, I have one of those, model 1500 Samurai.. amazing results, despite the poor Barska scope and the stock trigger brought down to 750 grams pull-weight. I bought a few years ago for an incredible price-to-quality 620€ (I guess it was much cheaper in the US). All in all, I am looking forward to buy the next one in 6,5 Swedish, hoping to get it in that caliber… keep up & shoot, boyz !!


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