Weatherby Vanguard Varmint Special
Weatherby factory photo
||.223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .308 Win
||Medium contour (weatherby #3, .740" at muzzle)
||RH 1:12" (.223 & 308) RH 1:14" (.22-250)
||8.25 lbs (3.75 kg) no scope & empty
||Internal 5 round magazine with hinged floorplate
||Weathery, fully adjustable
||Injection-molded monte carlo style synthetic stock
The Weatherby Vanguard Varmint Special kind of popped up out of no where,
I had no advance knowledge that this rifle was coming out. One day I was
looking through a dealer catalog and there it was. The rifle itself didn't
really strike me as anything really special, but the price did. The retail
price of these rifles should be just a little over $500, not bad at all for
a synthetic stocked heavy barrel rifle. So, having not even
seen one in person, I went ahead and ordered up a .308 version for
Sniper Central evaluation. We have previously had very good experience with
the Weatherby TRR and were hoping to have the same
with this lower end rifle.
One interesting thing of note is that the rifle we ordered and received from
our distributor had the black stock with red spider webbing, but this color
combo does not appear in the Weatherby online catalog. Red is an interesting
color on a rifle, but it is not too bad, though I may suggest getting the
tan with black if you truly plan to use the rifle for tactical use.
For those of you that do not know this, the barreled actions that come on the
Weatherby Vanguard series of rifles are produced by Howa over in Japan.
Howa makes some pretty good rifles (see review here)
for a very reasonable price. The barrels on these rifles are shorter and
different contour than Howa's own line of varmint rifles, and it is bedded in
a stock not offered with any Howa.
All Weatherby rifles are guaranteed to shoot sub 1.5" groups at 100 yards and
they ship with a test target. The group on the test target that accompanied
this rifle measured .79" (wow, pretty good) that was fired with Weatherby 150gr soft point factory
ammo. We expected to do a bit better than this with match ammo, even though
we did not have a machine rest to lock it into. But before we get to the
performance, let us talk a little about the rifle itself.
These are a traditional bolt action rifle and there are no real earth shattering
new developments on these actions. They are smooth, strong enough and work.
The bolts have some small flutes on them to help with preventing grit and grime
problems and there are also three gas ports in case of a catastrophic failure.
The bolt handle itself is a decent enough shape and easy to handle in most
conditions. The trigger is fully adjustable, but they say the sear engagement
must be set by a Weatherby service facility. The trigger came from the factory
breaking at about 4.5 pounds and with a little bit of take up, not bad for
a factory setting, and we left it the way it was for this evaluation. The trigger
is a thinner profile and has non slip ribs. The hinged
floorplate is nothing fancy and gets the job done.
The stock is a synthetic stock and has a nice Monte Carlo cheek piece to get your
eye in line with the scope fairly easily. It has a nice spider webbed non
slip finish with a fairly angled pistol grip. I prefer my grips to be more
vertical on my tactical rifles, but you get used to it, and it is very similar
to hunting rifles. The forend of the stock is thin, with a flat bottom. It is
only about 1.25" wide (I forgot to measure it) and I would much prefer a wider
beavertail style forend. But, the flat surface does offer a nice mounting point
for a harris bi-pod, which we used on this rifle during some of the shoots.
The barrel is not free floated, and I wonder if there is a little more
accuracy potential there if one were to free float the barrel.
We used some Weaver steel two piece bases, the same model that fits Remington
700 rifles, and then some Leupold rings to mount the Bushnell Elite
3200 tactical 10x scope. With everything mounted
and bore sighted, we headed off to the range (several times actually). We used Black Hills 175gr,
Federal 168gr, and ABT 175gr match ammo. The rifle functioned with no problems furing all our
shooting sessions and
was generally pleasant to shoot. The lighter weight and shorter barrel lead
to more muzzle flip and recoil than most tactical rifles but was still better
than a hunting rifle in the same caliber. We did not run it through the dirt
and gravel, but the finish has held up well and in the end, the rifle has
been completely functional and capable. The average group size for all the
different match loadings has been around that .8" range that the factory test
target produced. The ABT has been around 1.0" and the federal and black hills
a bit less, around that .7". We did get one nice group with federal GMM that measured .415" and
is featured in the photos on this page.
Overall, this rifle is a very solid rifle for the price. The price is as low,
and perhaps lower, than the Savage 10FP LE rifles, though the accuracy is not
quite as good, the stock is better, and I like the traditional adjustable trigger
better than the accu-trigger found on the Savage rifles. The Savage Rifles have
heavier barrels and more options,
but this Weatherby is a solid offering. This rifle would make a decent and
affordable patrol trunk rifle, providing decent accuracy and added high power