I named this post the “Howa 1500 Review”, however, a better title would be “Howa 1500 Overview”. I’m writing this in cooperation with AccurateShooter.com. AccurateShooter.com’s editor, Paul, mentioned there’s been a lot of interest in Howa rifles and barreled actions imported by Legacy Sports International. In addition to being able to buy a complete rifle from a dealer, Brownells sells barreled actions in a wide variety of calibers and configurations. In this post we are going to take a look at the Howa 1500.
Tell me a little about the Howa 1500?
Howa is a Japanese heavy machinery company. One of its product lines are firearms, which, are imported into the United States of America by two different companies, Legacy Sports International and Weatherby. Legacy sells the 1500 under the manufacturers name while Weatherby re-brands the guns as the Weatherby Vanguard. In general, the finishes on the Weatherby rifles are more refined than the LSI imported 1500s.
How are the factory Howa rifles?
I’ve found them to be solid entry level rifles that are capable of sub MOA accuracy out of the box. I’ve actually purchased two of the test rifles I’ve used in posts because I like them so much. The gun above is a MINIACTION in 7.62×39 Russian and is one of my favorite factory guns to shoot. I’m running a TRACT OPTICS TORIC on it, these are solid little rifle scopes that offer great performance for the money.
Check out this 3 shot group I drilled at 100 yards with the rifle above and 125 gr Sierras. It took a lot of work and load development to get there, but when it did, it worked well.
Howa 1500s have two-stage triggers that are pretty decent. I’ve found them superior to a 700, which isn’t saying much, but it doesn’t need to be replaced.
How many action lengths does Howa offer?
Howa offers three action lengths, the long, short and MINIACTION. You can see the bolts for the three action lengths in the image above. The MINIACTION has similar external dimensions to the Remington Model Seven, however, the MINIACTION’s bolt does not travel as far to the rear. This is a mixed bag. The upside is you have a quicker action, the downside is you are limited to shorter rounds like 223 Remington, 7.62×39 Russian and 6.5 Grendel.
Is the Howa 1500 a Remington 700 clone? An improved Remington 700?
No, not really. While the top radius of the Howa does match the M700, and they can both use the same two piece bases, there area number of differences.
If you take a look at the Howa 1500 along side the Remington 700 you’ll note the 700 is a round action, while the Howa is a flat bottom action. In many ways the bottom half reminds me of a push feed Winchester. This means the chassis and stocks that support a Howa 1500 are not V-block based like you’ll find on a 700, instead they have a flat bottom.
The action screws on the Howa are metric and are in a different location from the 700. The Howa has an integral recoil lug that accepts the front action screw, this means you have more of the front action screw engaging the action. If you install it into a poorly fitted stock or action you may bind it.
While the bolt of the Howa is similar in external appearance to the M700, it does offer some improvements, notably an M16 style extractor and a firing pin assembly that can be easily removed without tools.
Can I build a custom rifle on a Howa action?
Absolutely. You can either buy a barreled action from Brownells and throw it in a chassis system/stock of your choice or you can use a stripped action to build a custom rifle. If you are in the chassis market, MDT offers a wide variety of chassis in different price ranges. All have worked well for me.
How hard is it to remove a barrel from a Howa 1500?
Not very. I’ve heard from some smiths that have worked on them (years ago) they are difficult to remove; of the half dozen or so barrels that I’ve pulled, they’ve been very easy. I use a Brownells action wrench with the top piece for a M700 and the flat bottom resting against the flat on the wrench.
Check out this video of the barrel removal to see how easy it is.
How hard is it to cut threads on a barrel for a Howa?
It’s easy. You just have to cut metric threads, most lathes out there can cut them. I cut the threads above on a manual lathe using change gears.
Have you built any custom rifles on Howa actions?
Yes, a few.
The group above was shot with a custom Howa 1500 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and shot at 100 yards with factory Sig Sauer 140 Sierra MatchKing ammunition. I’m happy with it!
This is one of my favorite, a 21″ 308 Winchester. It consists of a Howa 1500 action, Shilen Select Match Remington Varmint contour barrel in a Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) ESS chassis. Great rifle and it hammers!
To learn more about Howa rifles and actions, visit Legacy Sports International
To learn more about chassis systems for Howa rifles, check out MDT