Howa 1500 barreled action review

The Howa 1500 is a push feed, center fire rifle action built in Japan.  The 1500 is available as a complete rifle or just a barreled action.  The 1500 is becoming more frequently encountered on the US market (some shooters may know it as the Weatherby Vanguard, which is the Howa 1500 with a nicer finish).  In this post let’s take a look at a Howa 1500 barreled action, its features and how it compares to the iconic Remington M700.

Prior to writing this post, I have gotten quite a bit of trigger time behind some different  Howa rifles that were imported by Legacy Sports International.  This includes the Howa Chassis Rifle (HCR) in 308 Winchester, Howa GRS in 6.5 Creedmoor, and Howa MINIACTION in 7.62x39mm Russian.  All of the rifles functioned well and were able to achieve sub-MOA accuracy for fairly competitive prices.

Our sample barreled action came from Brownells and is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.  This 1500 is a short-action, however Howa also makes a long-action for magnum calibers as well as a MINIACTION for short cartridges such as the 223 Remington, 6,5 Grendel and 7.62x39mm Russian.

The barreled action ships complete with bottom metal (not shown) in a styrofoam box.

Why buy a barreled action?  Well, this is everything you need to “build” a rifle except a stock and optic.  You aren’t buying a complete entry level gun just to throw some of its parts away.  Think of it as the AR-15/M16 M4, 10/22 or Glock 17 of the bolt action rifle world.

The barreled action shown in this post has a heavy hammer forged #6 contour, but different action sizes, cartridges and barrel lengths are available to meet nearly any application.  In addition to the wide array of barrel contours and lengths, they are also available with and without threads and with a Cerakote or blue finish! (click here to check out the options)

The top of the Howa 1500’s steel barreled action is rounded, with a lower rear bridge.  The bottom has an integral tapered recoil lug and flat bottom.  Years ago Howa started producing bolt action rifles that were a close copy of an older SAKO design (link), that influence is absent in the 1500.  I found the lower half somewhat reminiscent of a push feed Winchester M70 while the top reminds me of a Remington 700.

The 1500 has a two-stage trigger known as the HACT.  On the guns I’ve tested, the first stage has always been just over a pound, with the second stage just over 2 pounds yielding a total pull in the 3-4 pound range.  It is a nicer trigger than an OEM Remington, but not quite Tikka T3 level.  On the right side of the tang there is a stamped steel lever for the 3-position safety.  On the left there is another lever for the bolt release lever.

The Howa bolt uses two lugs, a machined handle and an M16 type extractor.

The bolt contains a series of vent holes to facilitate gas escape in the event of a pierced primer.

Howa 1500 versus Remington 700

I’ve found the Howa 1500 similar to the Remington M700 in some aspects.  Let’s look at them side by side.

The Howa 1500 (top) has a similar profile along the top of the action as the Remington 700 (bottom).  The M700 is a round action that requires a separate recoil lug and the Howa has a flat bottom and a integral lug.  The barrel threads on a Howa are metric, sources I’ve found indicate a M26x1.5.  According to one of the gunsmiths I’ve spoken with, factory barrels are difficult to remove (tight) for rebarreling work.

Camming surfaces for primary extractor are at different points on the rear of the action.  The M700 (top) is located to the top of the receiver, while the Howa 1500 (bottom) has it located on the side of the receiver.  Note the differences in tang profiles between the two different actions as well.

A comparison of the Howa 1500’s (top) flat bottom next to the Remington 700 (bottom).  Note the action screw spacing on the Howa is further apart than the 700.  This should be a positive attribute when it comes to bedding in a stock.  A disadvantage of actions with the rear screw forward of the trigger mechanism (think Savage 10), is the bedding areas start to intrude on the magazine well area.

Howa uses torx head M6x1 action screws, whereas the M700 uses 1/4″x28 action screws.

The biggest different between the bolts of a Howa 1500 (right) and M700 (left) is the use of a M16 type extractor on the Howa.  M16-type extractors offer enhanced reliability to the spring extractor of a M700, the downside is they are an additional part that can create fragmentation if you are unlucky enough to blow up a gun.

You’ll note the hole spacing and contour of the M700 (bottom) and 1500 (top) are very similar.  The spacing between each set of holes is the same, however, they are located at different points on the action.  This means you can use 2-piece bases interchangeably, but one-piece bases are platform specific.

I’ve found the Howa 1500 barreled actions to be a great option for the shooter looking to “build” a custom rifle without the use of a machine shop.  Pick any cartridge, barrel contour and finish you want, buy the chassis or stock you want and BOOM!  You have custom rifle!

I’ll be using this barreled action in a couple different configurations to give you an idea of what some of the possibilities are.  The images above are a sneak peak at the action in a Modular Driven Technologies ESS chassis… more to come!

To learn more about Howa barreled actions, click here.