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Howa 1500

The world of centre fire rifles is changing and one of the new wave is Howa; join Pete Moore as he looks at their 1500 stainless synthetic

You may recall a few months ago Don Brunt gave us a quick tour of the Howa 1500 series of rifles and I have to say that price-wise alone the guns looked like a good bet. However, I was keen to go ‘hands on’ to see how this Japanese-made rifle compares to the market leaders. A phone call to the importers Highland Outdoors got me a stainless 270 Winchester in a Hogue, rubber over-moulded stock to play with. This came as part of their package deal that included a Nikko Stirling (NS) scope, rings, bases and a UK Custom Shop Predator 8 moderator. Naturally enough the guns come threaded and proofed 1/2x20” UNF courtesy of UK Custom Shop.

Don gave us some history on Howa in his article, suffice to say they have been making rifles for a long time and their real claim to fame until offering their own brand was to make Vanguard and Mark X rifles for Wheatherby. So in terms of pedigree we are not dealing with an unknown quantity…

Howa have kept it simple and familiar with a top-loading action and hinged floor plate for an en-bloc unload. To my eyes the build is Remington 700/Winchester 70 with a big twin lug bolt that shows a fully supported head and plunger-type ejector like the Model 700. As is the sliding safety, though it offers three positions – FIRE, SAFE (with bolt operation) and SAFE (bolt locked). Bolt head, handle and release catch are very Model 70.

The action shows a large/integral recoil lug and the bottom iron is held to the receiver by two mounting screws. The trigger is grooved and of medium width, the pull is a workable 5-6 lbs with virtually no creep. I would prefer it lighter and inspection of the Model 700-like mechanism shows two adjusters that can doubtless offer that. The finish is a pleasing satin stainless and the sporter-weight barrel measures 22 ¼” from the threaded muzzle to gas escape port.

Black rubber

Howa offer a number of stock and finish options, but this stainless 1500 was dropped into a Hogue, rubber, over-moulded unit. This is the basic version that offers a fibre glass inner chassis with aluminium pillars with the rubber moulded directly on to it. It’s a good design but the forend proved to be very flexible as under pressure it can bear on the barrel and cause changes in point of impact. So if you use a bipod, keep this in mind when you have to shoot without it, as the barrel is not properly floated in the channel.

The butt shows a straight comb and thick, rubber recoil pad, while length of pull is 14”. The pistol grip is hand filling as is the forend and both show cobblestone, chequering panels to improve grip. QD sling studs are fitted as standard. Generally this is a nice unit, though the caveat of the bipod and the flexible nature of the forend must be considered. Saying that, Hogue also offer a similar design but with a full length, 7075 aluminium bedding block, that tends to make things more rigid…

There’s your problem…

For glass I fitted a Kahles CL 4-12x52 L multizerO in 1” Warne rings, the NS rings are similar being vertically split. Bases again are NS and consist of two 1” dovetails with recoil slots. Ammunition went to 130-grain SP from Prvi Partizan (PPU) of Serbia courtesy of importers Henry Krank & Co Ltd. To negate the forend/bipod conflict, shooting was done off a range bag.

My first impression was of a stiff bolt, as it was hard to put it into the action and close it. This eased up after some dry cycling and firing about 20 live rounds and never occurred again… Clipping rounds into the magazine was easy but on going to chamber the first one the bolt would not move it. Initial inspection appeared to show the feed ramp had not been fully cut, so the nose of the bullet was banging into the face of the magazine box. The test continued with every cartridge having to be single loaded, which was a pain.

However, when I took the gun apart to check out the recoil lug arrangement I discovered the problem, as the mag box had been put in upside down by someone. This meant the cut-out at the front of the box that allows the cartridge to be fed was not there, reversing this component cured the problem. This also might have accounted for the initial stiffness of the bolt movement, as the receiver might have been stressed and caused the binding. Though not good, these things can and do happen on mass produced items and thankfully in this case; were easily sorted…

Sharp shooter

With the PPU the Howa was shooting very well indeed and easily putting up 1” groups at 100 yards, which was confidence boosting. However, there’s no question that 270 Winchester is maybe a bit much for your average deer hunter, as it’s a big and hefty calibre. Fitting the Predator 8 calmed things down; though there’s no doubt in my mind 270 is a noisy cartridge!

With the mag box problem solved, feed and function were 100%. Out of interest I chronoed the ammo and the PPU was producing an average of 2848 fps/2340 ft/lbs. The extreme spread of the shot strings worked out at 25 fps, which was not bad either.

Calibre aside the 1500 worked and shot well for a standard factory rifle. Post firing check out showed that the hefty recoil of the 270 Winchester had loosened off the mounting and action screws a little. Normally I do not use any form of thread locking compound on these areas, but feel if you are going to go for this and similar calibres, it might be a good idea.

Slight and easily solved hiccups aside I thought the Howa 1500 was generally a good and competent rifle, though I would have liked the choice of the better version of the Hogue stock with the full length aluminium block. If that is not available then I would sooner go for the cheapest stock, as it would be likely that I would put something better on it. The option of the package deal (moddy/optics etc) is also attractive as it means a one stop shop to fit your gun out how you want it and this includes proofing in the price.

Howa certainly seems to have addressed a definite niche in the UK market for a solid hunting rifle at sensible money and is a brand well worth taking a closer look at. From what I can make out sales to the trade are very good, so you should be able to see examples at your local gun shop.

We say:

Well worth a look
Well priced
Cost effective package deal

Technical Specifications
Name Howa 1500
Calibre 270 Winchester (on test)
Capacity 4 +1
Barrel 22 ¼” (threaded ½ x 20” UNF)
Finish stainless steel
Stock Hogue, rubber over-moulded
Prices Rifle alone £509
Gold Crown Scope, Bases and Rings + £35
Nighteater 3-10x42 Upgrade with Bases and Rings + £70
Diamond 3-9x42 Upgrade with Bases and Rings + £115
Screw Cutting and Moderator + £250

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

Gun Mart Shooters Forum - Get Involved in the Discussion!
User Comments
  • I've had my Howa for 2 years now. Slightly different spec to above. It's still as accurate as the day I bought it and isn't showing any signs of excessive wear. They are superb rifles, and priced so cheap for how they perform. Don't hesitate to buy one if you are thinking of it. I'm ex Infantry and have worked in the US as a Firearms Instructor and would glady buy another.

    Comment by: Pete Williams     Posted on: 15 Apr 2009 at 03:29 PM

  • Can't disagree with that comment. You might want to take a look at their Varmint Supreme, which is a doozy - laminate, T/H stock, heavy barrel, threaded (1/2x20 UNF) and capable of holding 1/2" with ease in the 223 Rem version I tested and all at under £700. I don't know how Howa can do it so cheap, or how the more expensive brands can compete.

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 17 Apr 2009 at 10:18 AM

  • Sir, I have two Howa 1500 with serial # 13xxxx and 16xxxx. an you tell me if they are toutched by a RECALL from Howa. I have a little dout about it, so may be you can help.
    Thank

    Comment by: Judess Bouchard     Posted on: 07 Sep 2009 at 07:43 AM

  • The only people who can tell you that would be the Howa importers in your country

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 07 Sep 2009 at 10:21 AM

  • Nice article. Have been thinking about a .308 Howa. Nice to see you folks across the pond like them too!

    I can get a Class II permit for a sound suppressor in TX, but it costs me
    $200 a year. LOL

    Happy Holidays!

    Comment by: DOUGLAS WALKER     Posted on: 15 Dec 2009 at 07:44 AM

  • Have a Howa .308 heavy barrel stainless steel use it for long range target shooting and have shot deer out to 650 yards, It's fantastic am looking to change my .243 for a Howa .243

    Comment by: paul molan     Posted on: 27 Feb 2010 at 01:28 PM

  • i am trading up and was looking at this rifle in .243 any advice/problems with it and which would be your recommendation custom/thumbhole, blued or stainless. any thoughts much appreciated

    Comment by: shaun alexander     Posted on: 24 Jun 2010 at 02:07 PM

  • Indeed a good rifle and not just because it's well priced either, as it's well built and has a lot of potential. Stock choice; I'd go for the laminate thumbhole, maybe a tad heavier, but good and solid and if you want you could get it synthetic bedded and even free-float the barrel too. I prefer blued, but SS as the name suggests should offer a more trouble-free life.

    Cheers
    PM

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 24 Jun 2010 at 02:48 PM

  • I came across my Howa 1500 Sport Model 308 in a trade with some cash. It was "BRAND NEW" a co worker wanted a old Varminter AR 15 I had. I wanted a dear rifle. Lets just say I came out to the good. I broke the barrel in properly.(20 factory loads cleaning bore every round for 10 shots. last ten cleaned every two rounds.) Then I started shooting my loads. The best loads were {165gr Nosler green tipped bullet, OAL 2.775, 41 gr of IMR 4895, Remington brass, Br 2 large rifle primers, Dillion factory crimp die}. The three shot group at the100 yard mark was a 1/2 inch clover. The scope I put on it is a 3200 Bushnel Tactical. Mine is in the Houge stock. The trigger is slightly heavier then I like, but was the clean breaking suprise type. I feel if it ain't broke don't fix it. This rifle shoots has well has a Remington BDL VLS I built with a hi dollar stock and a Night force scope. I looked thru some forums. The reveiws were mixed. One guy said if you loaded your own 165 gr bullet it was a tack driver. Let's just the guy was telling the truth. I have been loading my own bullets for many years. So that was not a problem. I have never seen a weapon out of the box that shoots like this one.

    Comment by: weld387     Posted on: 18 Jul 2010 at 07:03 AM

  • Hi fella's i wonder if you could steer me towards a site which would tell me what barrel twist i have in my rifles.i have a howa 1500 308,howa 1500 223,i go to the howa site but it's just the same thing all the time .cheers MICK

    Comment by: mick     Posted on: 30 Jan 2011 at 07:48 AM

  • Hi Mick

    Can't answer that one, but there's an easy way to do it yourself:

    Put a patch on your cleaning rod (as to calibre) and locate it in the start of the rifling

    Mark a line on the rod adjacent to the rear of the receiver

    Then mark a horizontal line at least 15" back from that so you can check rotation

    Push the rod in and when the horizontal line has rotated 360 degrees stop and mark the rod where it enters the receiver

    Take the rod out and measure between the two lines and you will have the rate of twist in inches

    Given calibres I would say that you should expect the following

    243, 308 and 30-06 1-10 to 1-12

    223 1-12

    22-250 1-12 or 1-14

    Cheers
    PM

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 31 Jan 2011 at 12:51 PM

  • I've owned 2 Howas now, still have one and regret selling the other. Both rifles are extremely accurate and have produced quite a few .3" groups @ 100m and even .5" groups @ 200m. If you are after a reliable well made no fuss rifle that does a fantastic job and a very reasonable price get a Howa you won't regret it at all.

    There are a lot of aftermarket parts being made for them these days.

    Mine is a HB with a Boyds Thumbhole stock and is absolutely beautiful to use, my next purchase when it happens will be another Howa without a doubt.

    Comment by: scott     Posted on: 22 Oct 2011 at 07:29 AM

  • That's some good shooting, I assume your gun is a varminter? Price and quality-wise the 1500 is a hard act to follow. I am at the moment testing a fluted 270 Win version with their ambi/thumbhole stock and also the TH Axiom too.
    PM

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 22 Oct 2011 at 08:23 AM

  • Yes Peter it is the Varminter version - cal is 22.250 my mate has the some thing but with a Wild Dog stock, his is a 204cal and he has had some very impressive 3 shot groups as small as .189" with factory ammo @ 100m, he is yet to handload for it.

    Very very good rifles for the money, certainly won't be changing brands any time soon.

    Comment by: scott     Posted on: 22 Oct 2011 at 09:36 AM

  • Hello i baught a howa.. i found it very good for shooting fox's and stuff like that but i wanted to shoot bigger things.. im using a 55g bullet im wondering is their bigger bullets available that the gun will be able for and where could i get them if they are ? thanks

    Comment by: steven     Posted on: 22 Nov 2011 at 05:28 PM

  • Yes Steven there should be heavier projectiles you can shoot, just depends on what cal you have and whether you will get good accuracy out of it or not (some rifles like a certain weight projectile and thats that sort of thing) you should be able to use the 55gn with good results by doing head shots. I guess it just depends on what you are shooting? Or better still buy a bigger cal would probably be the best way to get around it.

    Again it just depends on what you are hunting really.

    Comment by: scott     Posted on: 22 Nov 2011 at 10:14 PM

  • does anyone know if howa still makes the stock with a recoil spring in the stock. For less recoil.

    Comment by: Jerry     Posted on: 26 Dec 2011 at 09:58 PM

  • hello can any one advise me on the best factory loads to use in my howa 1500 308 cal as i seem to be having problems grouping

    Comment by: lincoln ashton     Posted on: 14 Jan 2012 at 07:40 PM

  • Hello Lincoln - the best thing to do is try a few different types of factory ammo in a few different projectile weights and see if anything stands out.

    Also make sure you use a front and rear bag that way you will get the best out of your outfit. Most of the Howa's I shot and seen in action shoot under 1" @ 100 with factory ammo. Best accuracy is usually obtained with handloads (most rifles are the same in that regard) the 150gn weight seems to shoot well in 308's so start there first.

    And I guess just work on your breathing and trigger control techniques as well.

    Also depending on what stock you have (the hogue ones can flex up front and cause issues with accuracy) maybe look at putting it in a better stock, Mine sits in a Boyds Thumbhole and is brillant.

    Comment by: scott     Posted on: 15 Jan 2012 at 06:42 AM

  • You can't say fairer than that...
    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 16 Jan 2012 at 05:30 PM

  • Hi Peter - They are a great rifle. Here in Australia they are highly regarded for their Accuracy, Reliability and their overall build quality for the $$$ you can't go wrong, the actions are way better than the present day Remington Actions coming out.

    Most here change the Hogue Stocks as they tend to cause issues with accuracy. The Boyds Thumbhole Stocks are very popular here as they are cheap to buy and do a great job, we also have Wild Dog Stocks which provide great results but are more expensive being a carbon composite stock (Made in Australia). With some bedding ie pillars or Glass Bedding the Howas are right up there accuracy wise with some of the top end rifles and cost a about 1/4 the price.

    I also like the fact you can adjust the trigger for weight of pull and creep. I/ve had mine adjusted down to around 8oz (very very light - safety still works) great for target work, but too light for hunting so I adjust it back up for that.

    Best group to date is a .2" (my wife shot that one) it was only a 4 shot group (she pulled the last one) because we were bagging her as we though she was missing the target but no they were all in the same very small hole!

    The varmint barreled models can be a bit heavy for walking around all day but are brillant for what they are intended for (snipping over warrens etc and it is also fantastic as a spotlighting rig - which is what I use mine mainly for). The sporting barreled version is perfect as a walk around model so choose that if you intend to do a lot of walking. I was out the other night with a friend and out of 20-30 shots I missed one and that was my fault.

    For those who are thinking of buying a Howa I can happily recommend the Howa Brand - with some tinkering (ie change the stock, adjust the trigger and bed the action if needed) you will be very surprised just how well they do shoot and if you are into reloading you will get the absolute max in the way of accuracy out of your Howa.

    Comment by: scott     Posted on: 16 Jan 2012 at 09:50 PM

  • I have an Howa 1500 in 308 and it is great to shoot. No mods to it but it is accurate enough to get deer and I'm guessing at least 1 inch group ( haven't owned it for more than 3 years) buy one if you are looking at one.

    Comment by: Kurt George     Posted on: 03 Feb 2012 at 02:32 AM

  • Looking at getting a Howa/Hogue in .308 and fitting a suppressor- no worries here in New Zealand. Have been loading for my BAR.308 with 150gn projectiles and W748 powder.

    Does anyone shoot 165gn? what powder and OAL work well in the Howa 1500?
    Any chrony results?

    Comment by: Craig     Posted on: 11 Mar 2012 at 10:13 AM

  • About 4yrs ago I bought a howa 1500 stainless in 270 win for feral goat eradication programs in South Australia.I chose it because of its simple time proven design and the calibre for its versitility. I have it fitted with a 4-9 x 50 Burris scope and a bipod. In the field it has proved to be very reliable and accurate. Its only let down has been its weight when carting it over longer walks and its lack of magazine capacity.It's frustrating when you put a lot of time into a stalk only to miss objectives when having to reload. I get 5 rounds in the mag and one up the snout. Also the factory rounds I am using dont tend to expand with hits under 100 meters.That wouldn't be a problem if you're a reloader... It would be great if a modified floor plate and detachable 10 round mags were made available for the long action in this classic rifle as I have let pass a lot of ferals that are still out there chewing up our beautiful countryside.

    Comment by: nicole walkem     Posted on: 11 Aug 2012 at 02:20 AM

  • Purchased my Howa rifle brand new back in 1992. At that time the Australian importers had them stamped as CMC Mountaineer. Mine is .223 calibre, standard weight barrel with a wood stock. Have fired several thousand rounds through the barrel now, mainly fox and rabbit shooting. All factory ammo, as I was in the fortunate position of being supplied ammo by the persons who I destroyed vermin for. Rifle is still going strong. The trigger on the early models had limited adjustment, unlike the present series trigger units which have a far better range of adjustment. The checquering on the stock is very well cut, but coarse compared to some of the later wood stock models. Still, I wouldn't part with it -will be going to my son. If the barrel gets too worn, I will probably order in a replacement Howa barrel but in stainless - two- tone metalwork would probably look quite sexy.

    They are a strong, accurate and reliable rifle and excellent value for the money.

    Comment by: Mark Sita     Posted on: 31 Oct 2012 at 02:18 PM

  • I bought my Howa .308 around this time a year ago. Mainly used for deer hunting, didnt get much use last year, no time to sight in before the season ended. BUT, this past summer gave me plenty of time. So far, this rifle is beyond what i expected. Going from a remington 270 to this was AWESOME! Nice rifle, shoots great. Right out of the box, i was able to get a 3" group of 5 before even adjusting the height or l/r.

    Comment by: Lee from Bama     Posted on: 22 Jan 2013 at 03:24 AM

  • I bought a heavy barrel Howa 22-250 last winter as a platform to build a custom varminter and I absolutely love it! I have older Rem 700's, a few Savages and even a Sako and I would put this gun up against any of them. I mounted the action on a Boyd's thumb through that I had pillar bedded, I strapped on a Harris bi-pod and a Nikkon Monarch FR 6-24x50 with Leupould steel rings, jeweled the bolt and installed an oversized bolt handle and ditched the floorplate for a 10rd detachable magazine. I also adjusted the stock trigger down to 1.5 lbs and it breaks like glass. It turned out beautiful, The only problem that I had with the build was that I was out of elevation on the scope when I zeroed. I ordered a 20 MOA rail for it and that took care of the problem.

    After break in I was able to get 5 shot groups of .5" at 100 with factory 55gr ammo. After playing with hand loads to find out what it likes to eat I was able to get that down to 5 shot groups of .35" and can bang a 12" gong at 500 yds all day long. This gun is just a lot of fun to shoot!

    I would seriously recommend a Howa to anybody. I can guarantee that this will not be my last one! Fact is, a couple of my friends have bought howa actions to build on after seeing mine and they are bigger range buffs than me. The only down side to a Howa that I know of is that if you have to rebarrel you will have to have a stick turned for it as there aren't a lot of off the shelf replacements... at least not yet. Also, the threads are metric and a lot of smiths aren't set up for cutting metric threads.

    Comment by: Joe from Kansas     Posted on: 23 Feb 2013 at 06:32 PM

  • No arguments from me! Howa 1500 is a great gun from the box and with a bit of tweaking and TLC can be turned into something special.
    PM

    Comment by: PC moore     Posted on: 25 Feb 2013 at 10:20 AM

  • Thanks for the coments on the Howa. But I know bought a Browning 30-06. So thanks so much. Love my gun...... Vicki

    Comment by: Vicki     Posted on: 25 Feb 2013 at 04:48 PM

  • I own one of these in the blued synthetic and I absolutely love it. The scope provided was questionable, but the gun itself is very accurate. Constant 1/4" groups at 100 yards. I found that the 140 grain Federal Vital Shocks work the best in mine. I have taken deer over 200 yards in the neck and a coyote at over 300 yards on the run. Again, all I had done is upgraded the scope and maybe had the trigger lightened a bit.

    Comment by: Curtis     Posted on: 06 Apr 2013 at 05:29 AM

  • I have just bought a howa 1500- 223 cal it is fitted with a burris laser scope and is very accurate and reliable I shoot a lot of long range targets and vermin with it. The rifle shoots well with 55 gr factory ammo and is a pleasure to shoot

    Comment by: gary wilson     Posted on: 04 Jan 2014 at 07:54 AM

  • I have owned a Howa Model 1500 in .270 CAL with a monte carlo style synthetic stock and stainless steel since I was 14. This gun has killed Whitetail Deer and Mule Deer, I shoot out to 400 yds with a 150gr projectile at these animals and usually there is little or no tracking. I love this gun. I am getting into elk hunting now and I feel that my .270 isn't the right caliber. So I am buying a Howa Model 1500 in .300 win mag in a walnut monte carlo style stock and blued barrel. These guns produced by Howa are absolutely the best for the money. The issues that have been talked about on here I think are few and far between and you will find them on any rifle. If you haven't looked at these you should take a look , with all the different styles and upgrades you will be able to find something.

    Comment by: Derek     Posted on: 09 Feb 2014 at 03:44 AM

  • hi guys i have 3 howas, a 25 year old CMC wood stock in 25/06 ,simply a nail driver,a new 308 with the standed houge pillar stock,first 5 shot group out of it after running her in .75 inch with 180gr bt game kings,,and the 3rd ones a 338 win mag ,about 10 years old,plastic fantastic stock with out the alloy pillars, accuracy was so poor with the thing , 6 inch groups at 100mts,untill i changed the stock on it ,now 3 shot 1.5 inch groups are about the average,and boy it smacks sambar ,the old stock was so poor when u shot off the bi pod the stock would bend up and touch the barrel, some one at howa/houge needs there back sides kicked for releasing stocks like this to the public in the first place,and of cause its no longer a cheap rifle when u have to buy a new stock for it,,would i buy another howa,,u bet , a sweet little .223 to replace a worn out ruger.cheers

    Comment by: garry     Posted on: 23 May 2014 at 01:18 PM

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