Review: Howa Long Range Rifle with GRS Berserk 6.5 Creedmoor
I’ve tested a couple of different Howa 1500 bolt action rifles and was excited to get my hands on the new Howa GRS. The Howa GRS uses a Howa 1500 barreled action imported from Japan by Legacy Sports International that is the same barreled action found on Weatherby’s Vanguard rifles.
The Howa 1500 shares some features with the Remington 700; the front and rear hole spacing for scope mounts are the same (however the distance between the front and rear mount are different preventing the use of a one piece 700 base), lower rear bridge, front action diameter of 1.350″(at least the top part) and two lug bolt. The Howa diverges from the Remington 700 by possessing an integral recoil lug, flat bottomed action, different primary extraction cam surfaces, and an M16 type extractor.
My experience with Howa rifles has been positive. The Howa Chassis Rifle (HCR) and MINIACTION I’ve tested both provided a shooters solid entry level offerings capable of sub-MOA performance at competitive price points. Howa’s appeal is further enhanced by Legacy Sports International responsiveness to the demands of the shooting market, bringing new and different products to market on a timely basis. In the case of this review, mating a #6 barreled action to the GRS Berserk stock for the new Howa GRS rifle.
The Howa GRS is available in .204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Win with 20 and 24″ #6 barrels (depending on caliber). The test gun shown has a 1:8″ twist 24″ barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor with a muzzle threaded 5/8″-24.
Howa rifles comes equipped with HACT two stage triggers. On this rifle, average first stage pull was 1 pound 4 ounces with a second stage of 2 pounds 7.8 ounce for a total average pull weight of 3 pounds 11.8 ounces.
GRS Riflestocks is a Norwegian company that is a relative new comer to the synthetic stock market with the Berserk. Beginning in 2012, GRS produced laminate stocks that have developed a strong following in Europe. The Berserk is molded from 15% fiberglass reinforced Durathane.
The Berserk looks different than the majority of stocks on the US market. Most noticeably, the pistol grip is cut heavily into the stock, placing the shooters wrist directly behind the action. This is a different position than most fiberglass stocks, which require a fiberglass shell to prevent breaking at this point, and chassis systems which often have a pistol grip located below the stock or hinge mechanism. Of the existing stocks and chassis on the US market, I would say the hand position is most similar to the KRG Whiskey-3, however, there are subtle differences.
The Berserk has an adjustable GRS Speedlock length of pull and cheek piece. These are push button adjustments that utilize stainless steel hardware. Simply push the bottom, move the cheek piece or recoil pad to the new position and release. No need to lock anything down and the system holds surprisingly tight.
The pillar surfaces inside the stock are reinforced with 65% fiberglass contact surfaces. These act as pillars to prevent the stock from compressing during installation of the barreled action.
The GRS Berserk comes with two QD flush cups on the left side of the action. It is also equipped with a QD stud to mount a bipod.
For testing and evaluation purposes I equipped the rifle with a one piece base, Nightforce rings, a Nightforce SHV F1 4-14×50 scope and Harris bipod. I like the SHV F1. I think it offers a lot of scope for the money and it is my go to test scope for rifles like the Howa GRS.
WARNING: The loads shown are for informational purposes only. They are only safe in the rifle shown and may not be safe in yours. Consult appropriate load manuals prior to developing your own handloads. Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.
I conducted accuracy testing with factory and hand loaded ammunition. All testing was conducted at 100 yards. Shots were fired prone, from a bipod with rear bag. Velocity information was collected with MagnetoSpeed V3 barrel mounted ballistic chronograph.
There are some great 6.5 bullets on the market. Two of my favorites are the 123 gr and 142 gr Sierra Matchkings (SMK). Both offer a great balance of accuracy, tune ability and solid ballistic coefficients. I loaded the SMKs over Hornady brass, and CCI 200 primers seated with a CPS priming system.
I did fire one group with factory Hornady 120 gr. A-Max ammunition. It is shown at the top left of the target above and is not listed in the table. The 120 A-Max has a muzzle velocity of 2,902 feet/second with a standard deviation of 24.0. Group size measured 1.472″ (1.406 MOA).
For the 142 gr. SMK muzzle velocity ranged from 2,519 to 2,585 feet/second. Group sizes ranged from .934″ (.892 MOA) to 1.470″ (1.404 MOA).
For the 123 gr. SMK muzzle velocity ranged from 2,941 to 2,998 feet second. Five round group sizes ranged from .715″ (.683 MOA) to 1.281″(1.223 MOA). I fired one three round group over 41.3 gr. of Varget that measured .609″ (.582 MOA).
Average group size for all hand loads was 1.072″ (1.024 MOA), just a hair over 1 MOA.
Shooting the HOWA GRS was a little different than a conventionally stocked rifle. The firing hand’s position is unique and I found it required the gun to be slightly higher on the bipod than a traditional stock (but was still very comfortable). Southpaws be warned, this is strictly a right handed rifle and I don’t think it is possible to shoot this gun as a lefty.
The length-of-pull and cheek-piece adjustments on the GRS were fantastic. It was possible to adjust the stock without taking the firing hand off of the pistol grip by simply sliding my support hand around the stock and depressing the adjustment buttons.
My thoughts on the Howa GRS
- Precise. The Howa GRS was capable of sub MOA five shot accuracy out of the box.
- Berserk for the Berserk. The GRS Berserk is a unique offering. Savage is actually marketing a Model 10 equipped with one as well. I’m not quite sure where it fits on the stock/chassis continuum- sharing features with traditional fiberglass glass, injection modeled stocks and some chassis systems. It did provide a solid base for the test rifle and was extremely comfortable in alternate positions. The push button adjustments are outstanding and I like the rubber grip panels. To learn more about the Berserk, click here.
- Howa 1500 barreled actions are nice. I’m a fan of the 1500 action. It gives you a lot of gun for the money.
- Value. The street price on these guns is pretty much mid ranged, well below the cost of a custom rifle. This would be a great entry level gun.
- AICS Magazine? This gun came equipped with an hinged floor plate. Upgrading this to accept an AICS style magazine would be a winner.
I’ll be posting a stand alone review of the GRS stock shortly.
To learn more about Legacy Sports International, click here.