We have reviewed other Weatherby tactical rifles in the past, specifically the original Weatherby Threat Response Rifle (TRR) and we were rightly impressed with that rifle, though it is no longer available in that specification. We have also looked at their lower end varmint rifle known as the Vanguard Varmint Special which is based off of the Howa 1500 action and barrel. That rifle has been upgraded with a better stock but otherwise is largely the same as when we reviewed it. This time around we had the opportunity to take a look at Weatherby’s higher end Varmint/Long Range rifle known as the Accumark which uses the same Mark V action as the TRR rifle. What is unique about the Accumark line of rifles is the large number of different cartridges this rifle is chambered for. Everything from the .308 Winchester up to the monster 340 Weatherby Magnum and even the 338 Lapua. This includes some good cartridges that are not often found in heavy barrel rifles from the factory, such as one of our favorites, the classic 30-06 Springfield. It also includes many of the Weatherby specific magnum cartridges such as the 257 or 7mm Weatherby Magnums. When the opportunity came up, we thought it might be a good time to take a look at these higher end Weatherby Accumark rifles and see if they might be suitable for sniper use.
What is extra unique about this review is that the rifle is not chambered in one of the popular sniping cartridges such as the 308, 300 Win Mag or even the 260, but instead, this rifle is chambered in 7mm-08 Remington. Currently the Accumark is not available in the 7mm-08 but for a while they offered it as a standard cartridge in the Accumark lineup. The 7mm-08 Remington is simply a 308 Winchester necked down to 7mm and was for a long time a wildcat cartridge with good popularity, so Remington simply commercialized it. It is still fairly popular as a light recoiling hunting cartridge for medium sized game, but there are those out there that advocate it as a good mid-range cartridge suitable for sniping, or similar activities, out to 1000 yards. The reasoning is that there are some excellent bullets with good ballistic coefficients available in the 7mm caliber. We thought it might be worth checking out the 7mm-08 and seeing if it could work as a sniping cartridge and we especially wanted to compare it to the .260 Remington, which is essentially the same concept as the 7mm-08, but instead of necking it down to 7mm, it is necked down to 6.5mm (.264 caliber).
Weatherby rifles are typically known for their beautiful wood stocked sporter rifles, but Weatherby also started making a move to synthetic stocks a while back as the feasibility and popularity of the durable synthetic stocks built up. They still make beautiful wood stocked rifles, which is a good thing as there is nothing like putting a warm wood stock to your cheek when hunting, but they have also modernized and moved forward with modern technology. Because Weatherby has never been nearly as large as Remington, Savage, and some of the other rifle builders out there, it allows them to be a bit more flexible when building their rifles, which is why a product such as the Accumark chambered in 7mm-08 shows up on the market. They charge more for their rifles and as such they do not need to build as many of any one model to justify putting it into production, and that typically ends up being a good thing for the niche market such as this.
The Accumark rifles have a monte-carlo style synthetic stock that is built for them by Bell & Carlson. It has a raised cheekcomb on the left hand side of the buttstock which is what makes the stock a ‘monte-carlo’ style. The cheekpiece is still smooth on the right hand side which allows left handed shooters to still be able to shoot a right handed rifle if needed, but it is not intended to be done. This particular Accumark rifle had a stock finished in tan with the black webbing accent. The Weatherby rifles also have the Bell & Carlson matte gel coat finish applied to the entire outside of the stock. There is also a Pachmayr decelerator recoil pad to help absorb some of the recoil from the rifle. The 7mm-08 is not a hard recoiling cartridge, but the recoil pad helps with some of the larger cartridges that this rifle is chambered in.
The pistol grip on the stock is more of a sporter style pistol grip that is more swept back than a traditional vertical style pistol grip that is found on most tactical rifles. Because it is swept back and not vertical, it does mean there is more of a stretch to reach the trigger and it makes it a bit more challenging to apply the proper straight back trigger squeeze. The pistol grip is fairly narrow as well without any palm swells which gives it a thin feeling when compared to the other tactical or target rifles. Through the action area of the stock it is a normal shape with enough material to properly support the action on all sides.
In front of the action the stock widens to accommodate the larger diameter heavy barrel as well as to provide a solid foundation for shooting the stock from a rest, such as a sandbag. While the forearm area does widen out, we would not consider it a full beavertail style forearm. The height of the forearm area is fairly short and there is only a single swivel stud instead of two. When looking at the overall shape and style of the stock it does make it evident that this is a sporter rifle design that can be used as a tactical rifle, and not a purpose built tactical rifle. The rifle can indeed fill the requirements of a tactical rifle, yet the sporter design makes it a bit more compact and light weight which can be an advantage.
The Bell and Carlson stock is one of their medalist stocks which has a full length aluminum bedding block which allows for a durable bedding surface that is nearly as good as glass bedding, but more durable as well. We have used a decent amount of these stocks on rifles and they tend to be good quality, though I do tend to give a quality edge to a HS precision stock which is similar in design, but the Bell and Carlson stocks are still a good solid offering and used on a good number of factory rifles.
The action of the Accumark is the standard Weatherby Mark V action which has been around for a while now. It is a push feed design like most of the modern bolt action rifles today. The rear tang on the action is shaped very similar to the Remington 700 and the two position safety is located on the right hand side of the tang bur it is actually a part of the bolt and not a part of the trigger mechanism like the Remington. The safety lever is fairly tall which makes it easy to manipulate with the thumb and there is a red dot on the side of the bolt shroud that is visible when the safety position is in the up, or fire, position. The red dot then is covered when the safety is pulled to the rear, indicating the safety has been engaged. When the safety is engaged, it locks the bolt preventing it from being cycled, this does mean it is not possible to cycle the bolt to unchamber a cartridge with the safety on.
The bolt shroud itself is fairly large but has a nice tapered shape to it. There is no separate bolt release lever but instead, to remove the bolt the operator only has to hold the trigger to the rear and then proceed to pull the bolt back and out of the action. To reinsert the bolt, the trigger again is held to the rear and then the bolt is inserted. The bolt handle on the Accumark has a traditional round ball shape knob on the end and the handle itself is thin in profile. It seems to be very well made and we did not receive any indication that the thin bolt handle would not hold up during prolonged field use. The bolt body does have eight shallow flutes around the body that are there to help keep the bolt cycling smoothly even if some grime finds its way into the action. The body of the bolt does not have any colored finish applied and is left in bare metal, whereas the bolt knob, bolt handle, rear shroud, and bolt lugs are all blued with a black finish.
On Mark V actions that are chambered for non-magnum cartridges, like the 7mm-08 here, the bolts have six small lugs up at the front, arranged in two rows of three lugs. The magnum chambered Mark V actions actually have 9 lugs arranged in three row of three. This arrangement does not have the big flat metal on metal surfaces as a more traditional two lug bolt design, like the Remington 700, and a case is made that this means the requirement of having the lugs lapped for perfect mating between bolt and action lugs is not necessary for improved accuracy. This may, or may not, be true, but one thing is for certain, it allows for a much shorter bolt thrown, or rotation, when cycling the action. The bolt twist is only 54 degrees vs. the traditional 90 degree bolt twist on most action designs. What this allows for is a faster chambering process with less movement of the hand, both are desirable features for a concealed sniper.
The extractor on the bolt is a similar design as to what is found on an AR-15 with a small claw latching onto the case rim. The design is without a doubt better than the C-Clip design of the Remington and is similar to what is also found on Howa 1500’s or some other designs out there.
The floorplate is a standard hinged floorplate design with a release lever inside the trigger guard. The trigger guard and floorplate are made of steel for durability and there is a nice gold “W” inlaid on the bottom of the trigger guard. The trigger has a slim trigger shoe on it and the shoe has some vertical ribs on it to help with correct trigger control. The trigger on this test rifle broke very clean at just over 2 pounds with no creep or over-travel. The trigger is a little light for a tactical rifle that is being used in the field, but it is a nice factory trigger. The internal magazine holds 5 rounds of 7mm-08 and proved to be functional throughout the tests.
The barrel is a stainless steel barrel that is 24″ long and is what Weatherby calls a #3 contour. This contour is their varmint or heavy barrel contour and is a straight taper contour that ends with a muzzle diameter of .705″. There are six large flutes along the length of the barrel that help reduce the weight of the rifle and increase surface area for cooling, but yet still retain rigidity. The crown of the barrel is an 11 degree recessed target crown that can often be found on target rifles. The barrel is left in the bare stainless steel with no color but the flutes are blackened with what appears to be standard bluing, as is the action. The appearance of the rifle with the black action, black flutes, black bolt handle combined with the stainless barrel and bolt body makes for a different look than what one would normally associate with a tactical rifle, but it still looks good and the tan colored stock helps the tactical appearance as well.
The overall impression of the rifle is one of a lightweight and compact design, with the rifle alone weighing only about eight pounds. While it shows its hunting rifle heritage, it is still enough of a tactical design that one has the impression that it will serve well in that capacity. The shiny parts can be easily fixed with a spray paint can if the sniper team so desired. It was up to the shooting tests to determine if the rifle was capable for the role we were testing it for.
For the shooting portions of the test a Vortex Razor HD 5-20x50mm scope was used, mounted to the rifle using Vortex Razor HD 34mm tactical rings. We knew the main problem going into this test was going to be the ammo. We have seen this rifle shoot sub .5 MOA with handloads, but for testing we do not use handloads as most agencies do not have the clearance to use hand loaded ammunition and we like to use factory ammo as our baseline for tests. But the only real match grade ammo available for the 7mm-08 is a 130gr load from HSM with a 130gr Sierra Match King bullet, and the HSM ammo always performs well, but during the period of our tests, ammo was in shortage and we were unable to get any of the HSM 7mm-08 match ammo. As such, we had to make do with the best premium ammo we could come up with that might fit the tactical mission.
The 7mm-08 was introduced to the market by Remington in 1980 and was essentially the wildcat 7mm/308 cartridge that had come on the scene around 1958. So the cartridge itself has been around for a while. The general idea of the cartridge design was to take the workhorse 308 Winchester and just neck it down to the more streamlined 7mm bullet allowing for better long range ballistics. The 7mm-08 has had its moments of popularity over the years and it still remains fairly popular to this day. Most of the available loads for the 7mm-08 tend to be around the 140gr weight with some slight variations and this is the bullet range we looked for. For our testing we came up with three loads that we thought would be suitable for tactical use in the law enforcement arena and these included the Federal Premium 140gr Nosler Ballistic Tip, The Remington Premier 140gr Accutip Boattail and the Hornady 139gr SST.
For our tests we made several trips to the range on different mornings to get an overall performance evaluation for the rifle and ammo combination. The weather was nice, about 60 degrees, sunny and calm winds on all the shooting days. Our standard short range tests were conducted at 100 yards using the three different loads and the results can be seen below:
|Federal Premium 140gr BTip||1.151″||.445″||1.10 MOA|
|Remington Premier 140gr AccuTip||1.398″||.973″||1.34 MOA|
|Hornady 139gr SST||1.456″||1.316″||1.39 MOA|
Knowing, and having seen, how this rifle can shoot with handloaded ammunition, it was a bit frustrating to see the performance degrade do to the factory loaded ammo that was used, but we had to remind ourselves that these factory loads were essentially hunting ammo, albeit, premium hunting ammo. But without a doubt the ammo is what was holding the rifle back. Of the three loads, the Hornady was actually the most consistent, while the federal showed signs of excellence with a sub .5″ group, but then it would fire a large group right behind the nice tight group.
The recoil of the 7mm-08 is slightly less than the 308 due to the lighter bullets being used, but slightly less recoil is not a good enough reason to choose a 7mm-08 over a 308 when comparing cartridges for tactical use, but rather, one would need to compare long range ballistics to determine if there is a distinct advantage. Of the three loadings we tested, the Federal Premium performed the best on average out of our test rifle, so we will look at it as a comparison. The 140gr Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet is being launched at 2800 fps and has a ballistic coefficient (BC) of .485 which puts it right between the BC value of .447 of the 308 168gr and the BC value of .496 for the 175gr, but the 7mm-08 140gr is launched about 200 fps faster. Since the 175gr is the standard for long range use with the 308 Winchester, we’ll compare it to that load. At 1000 yards in standard atmospheric conditions the 7mm-08 140gr will drop about 377 inches, compared to the 308 175gr which drops about 433 inches. The 7mm-08 has an advantage of about 5 MOA at 1000 yards. The other critical factor is the wind drift, and here it is about the same near 90 inches at 1000 yards in a 10 mph crosswind. So the 7mm-08 does do better in ultimate drop, but not about the ssame in the wind. We would like to try some of the HSM 130gr ammo at some point, but when you look at that bullet it has a much lower BC of .396 and it is launched at 2859 fps and at 1000 yards the ultimate drop is almost identical to the 308 but it falls short of the 308 significantly in wind. Doing a quick comparison to the .260 Remington, which is a natural competitor to the 7mm-08, using a simple 123gr Scenar load launched at 2800 fps gives a total drop of 361 inches and wind drift of 79 inches, easily beating both the 308 and the 7mm-08 with a fairly mild 260 load.
Through contact with various 7mm-08 handloaders out there, a real sweet spot for long range use of the 7mm-08 seems to be the excellent Hornady 162gr AMAX bullet with a sky high BC of .625. But the 7mm-08 will only push it up to about 2600 fps. This is a load we have wanted to develop with HSM at some point and if it does happen, it would probably be backed off to about 2550 fps. At those velocities the drop at 1000 yards would be about 401 inches which is not as good as the 260 or even 140gr 7mm-08 load, but is better than the 308 175gr, and the wind drift is only 71 inches at 1000 yards, a significant improvement over both the 260 and the 308 175gr. This could indeed be a very nice long range load and the Amax bullets tend to be very accurate.
In regards to this rifle when shooting, the stock was comfortable and the Pachmayr decelerator pad helped to absorb some of the recoil that was generated from the light rifle. The trigger finger stretch was more than we typically like, but was certainly manageable and the trigger itself was very nice. During the shooting evaluations we did experience twice where the brass was ejected, but did not clear the ejection port. Meaning it flipped out, but somehow managed to deflect back into the action area and had to be removed by hand. We would like to see a more positive ejection of the spent brass away from the rifle.
Overall this rifle is a nice package that is light weight and easy to handle with a fluted 24″ barrel. While it is a hunting rifle at heart, it has the capability to make a decent tactical rifle. With the rifle chambered in a suitable caliber with good match grade ammunition and some camouflage applied, it could do well. If a team is in search of a long range rifle from the factory that is not as expensive as a full custom rifle (2013 street prices are around $1800) and is chambered in a cartridge not normally chambered in a heavy barreled rifle, then the Weatherby Accumark might be a rifle worth looking at. We would love to get our hands on one of these chambered in 30-06 and then combine it with some HSM 190gr HPBT or 208gr AMAX ammo and go stretch it out to 1200+ yards. It would be an easy package to put together and should prove quiet capable at those ranges. As one might expect, the rifle is held back a bit by its hunting rifle nature, such as the non vertical pistol grip, single swivel stud up front, and shiny parts, but at the heart of it, it does have the makings for a good long range target rifle.
Sniper Central – 2013