If you are currently looking for a bolt action rifle, be it for big game hunting or long-distance shooting, you have no shortage of options.
At the higher end, you have world-renowned rifles such as the Remington Model 700, Ruger Model 77, and Winchester Model 70. On the more budget-ended side of the spectrum, you have choices such as the Tikka T3 and Mossberg Patriot and the Ruger American and Savage Axis.
However, we’ll review the Howa 1500 and tell you why you should consider it.
There’s one rifle that isn’t so commonly cited with the above options, even though it’s very high quality and has never had any real issues with quality control (unlike bigger companies such as Remington).
So let’s dive in and learn about this bolt-action beauty.
Basically, Howa is an industrial company based out of Japan. They manufacture industrial machining tools, construction vehicles, and yes, firearms. They’ve been in business for over a century, and the company as a whole has developed a well-deserved reputation. Still, again, when it comes to firearms they don’t have nearly the recognition that they deserve.
When it comes to weaponry in particular, Howa has done a lot. They built numerous Arisaka rifles for the Japanese military in the Second World War, and the Howa-made Arisakas are widely considered to be among the most prized Japanese World War II rifles that collectors can get.
Additionally, Howa also built flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and automatic rifles.
And then there’s this little fact: you know the Weatherby Vanguard rifle? It’s basically Weatherby’s budget rifle, costing a lot less than their more expensive options.
Well, the Weatherby Vanguard is actually not built by Weatherby. Instead, it’s built by Howa. And furthermore, the Weatherby Vanguard is essentially a Howa 1500 rifle, only with a different stock.
Another famous company that (previously) contracted Howa to build rifles for them is Sako. The L61 and L579 rifles from Sako are actually built at the Howa factory, only with Sako’s name and logo stamped on them.
So if there’s anything that you take away from this, it’s that Howa can build practically anything that can be built, and they are among the most underrated manufacturers when it comes to rifles.
Now that we’ve learned a little about Howa and what they can build, let’s talk about the 1500 rifle in greater detail.
The Howa 1500 is not a single rifle but rather a series of rifles. Just as there are many variations of the Remington 700 or Ruger 77, there are numerous variations of the Howa 1500 as well.
For example, you can buy the Howa 1500 in just about any major rifle caliber that you can think of. It’s also available in a variety of different stocks, finishes, and barreled actions.
But there are certain characteristics that all Howa 1500 rifles, regardless of variation, share in common. For example, all Howa 1500 rifles feature a three position safety, similar to the Winchester Model 70. This safety system essentially works as follows:
The Position 2 safety setting in particular is helpful, because it enables you to work the bolt and unload or load the rifle, but without having to risk the trigger going off.
Furthermore, there is a very noticeable and definite click each time you push the safety forward or back, so you receive audible confirmation that it is properly engaged.
Howa 1500 rifles are available in both blued and stainless steel finishes.
Out of these, the stainless steel is far more durable and corrosion resistant, and therefore a better choice for hunting or duty use, but it’s also going to be more expensive.
Another characteristic that all Howa rifles have is a very well made and durable stock, with the polymer stock variation by far being the most popular. However, it should be noted that most stocks on modern Howa rifles are not actually made by Howa, but are rather built by third party suppliers such as Hogue and then shipped to the Howa factory for fitting.
The barrel of the Howa 1500 rifle is also worth considerable attention. Each Howa 1500 barrel is built using the button rifling manufacturing process. This stands in contrast to the cold hammer forged barrels from higher-endrifles such as Sako, but it helps to keep the overall cost of producing the rifle down, which lowers the cost of the MSRP as well.
One aspect of the Howa 1500 that is in need of improvement, however, is the trigger. No, it’s not a bad rifle trigger by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as the smooth and light, crisp trigger of a Winchester 70 or Sako rifle.
Fortunately, this is also something that can be easily upgraded. There are an abundance of aftermarket triggers for the Howa 1500 that are vastly superior, and will make it comparable to the best rifle triggers on the market.
Last but not least, the receiver of the Howa 1500 rifle is also very durable and strong, being based off of the same receiver that is used on the Sako rifle. The reason for the durability is because of a strong integral recoil lug, with a machined, drilled, and tapped top. The bolt itself has twin locking lugs with a recessed face. Not only is this also durable, but it’s also very smooth.
At this point, we’ve covered who Howa is as a company and the features of the 1500 rifle.
But all of this naturally begs a very good question: why would you go with a Howa 1500 over a more well-known rifle such as the Winchester Model 70 or Remington Model 700?
Well, there are technically many reasons why.
The first and biggest reason is this: price. Howa 1500 rifles are meant to be affordable for the everyday person. These days, Sako rifles can cost well over a thousand dollars, with Winchester 70 and Ruger 77 and Remington 700 rifles not being far behind.
In contrast to this, the Howa 1500 is routinely available in the $600 to $900 range, and sometimes in a combination with a scope and/or bipod already installed on the rifle for you. For example, the Howa 1500 Scout Rifle sometimes ships with a scope over the receiver and then a bipod attached to the front of the stock, right under the barrel, and all for the price of around $650, which represents an incredible value.
Yes, there are other budget rifles on the market as well. The Tikka T3 is very comparable in terms of price to the Howa 1500, while the Ruger American and Mossberg Patriot can actually be bought for around one to two hundred dollars less (although they are also not as nice rifles).
But one distinct advantage that the Howa 1500 has is quality control. Many other companies have had issues with quality control. Remington rifles have developed a reputation for being more spotty in terms of quality in recent years, for example, and even Winchester was having issues before.
But Howa has always had a consistent reputation for quality. Even if their triggers are not as smooth as a Sako or finish not as glossy as a Winchester, the company has constantly held themselves to a high level of quality.
Another reason to buy Howa, as we have already discussed previously, is that they actually make or have made rifles for other companies, such as the Weatherby Vanguard and Sako. Compare a Weatherby Vanguard and Howa 1500 side by side, and you will see that they are virtually identical except for the stock.
In summary, the Howa 1500 rifle truly represents an incredible value when it comes to a long range and/or hunting rifle. As a mid-range rifle that’s far more affordable in contrast to higher priced options, the Howa 1500 is well-built, durable, and accurate.
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15 thoughts on “The Most Underrated Rifle Produced: Howa 1500 Review”
I am so impressed I own 5 of them . Half inch Mia every one . With hAnd loads
Best I have done so far with my .223 24″ varmint is 0.115″ for a 3 round group with handloads (benchmark 2 powder and 50gr Zmax projectiles). Laminate thumbhole stock.
Still using the stock trigger which can certainly be improved.
So when it was time to get a .308, that’s what I got too.
The newer .223’s have 1:9 or 1:8 twist, mine is the old 1:12 so it probably won’t run the fancy new 77gr plus ELD pills. But it will shoot 62 gr. I’ll test out some proper target pills out one day soon.
Howa uses cold hammer forged barrels.
Just got mine and was shocked at how good the trigger is. But to be fair, most of my stuff is C&R so I may not be the best judge of triggers. Good article and yes, it influenced my decision to by one.
I have both Tikka and Howa rifles, the US brands mentioned certainly aren’t of the same great quality out in the real world that is. Out of the box they shoot really well along with zero QA problems. My scopes cost more than the rifles BTW
do howa actions have a mauser action??
No, they’re a push feed similar to a Remington action.
Thinking of getting the .243 , but is the thumbhole or standard stock better. I prefer the wood stock though. Thank you, Leon
I have a Howa Hogue 270..Have had this rifle for over 10years and will always hang onto it.
It shoots sub moa groups consistently and action is super smooth.Trigger pull is exellent and plate magazine top feed in my view is far better than detachable mag.Really good under rated rifle that is streets ahead of some more expensive brands..
I have the Hogue in 223 Rem. This rifle shoots lights out and I drill dimes at 100 all day long. My trigger is right at 4 pounds and breaks nicely. Currently I’m shooting 36 grain Barnes Varment Grenades woth 28.4 grains of Xterminator and Rem. 7 1/2 BR primers seated at 2.284 at 3,911 fps
For the more technically minded shooters and gunsmiths, the Howa 1500, with some expert gunsmithing, and headspace fitting of barrels, can be rather easily made into a multi-caliber take-down rifle. I have a customized Vanguard that has switchable .243 and .308 barrels that can be changed out without removing the scope. I will soon add a 6.5 creedmoor barrel to this set.
Barrels are super quality. Action and hardware is strong and reliable and machined very true. So are barrels. Good accuracy always.
Only critical point about the Howa 1500 is that the action screws must be torqued precisely according to inch lbs specs. Too tight or too loose will harm accuracy. If your 1500 looses accuracy, simply readjust the two action screws precisely to toque specs, and accuracy will return.
I purchases a HOWA 1500 Short action last year. I admit I probably paid too much ($800 including the Nikko 4 X 16 Targetmaster Scope) as a combined package. It was also dipped in camouflage coverage which made the scope settings very difficult to read. This is the short list of my complaints.
I followed the Howa recommendations on “Breaking In” the barrel. It was a hammer forged 1-8 and the .223 ammunition (55 Grain) was a bit spread out in the first 20 rounds. But it did let me get the scope centered on the target at 100 Yds. I added a Gamma VG6 Muzzle break after the first 25 rounds to make sure my POI didn’t shift. The recoil was substantially reduced. (I figured about 80% in felt recoil)
I admit I had to purchase a Beartooth Products cheek pad to allow me to comfortably have my eyes centered in the 44 MM scope. The stock stock just didn’t fit my face.
After following the Break In instructions I settled down with some Black Hills 77 grain .223 factory loads. I expected some improvement.
The first round was 1 inch low on the target. I adjusted and the second round was in the center of the 1 inch target dot. (I verified this with the spotter scope, but the 16 power Nikko did a clear job of showing me the target.)
Round 3 was invisible. The Target was Slightly deformed in the center. Round 4 was the same. Round 5 also was the same. Only the hole had grown to about the size of a 30 caliber round.
Rounds 6 through 10 were the same. Even with fairly rapid fire (Less then 30 seconds between shots) there was nothing but a mild deformation of the target hole in the center.
This is the most interesting (and Boring) rifle I have ever owned. Out of the box 1/3 MOA accuracy with good ammunition. It clearly shoots better then I can. Even against match rifles costing $1500 and more. (With out scopes)
I bought my 1500 .223 stainless over 25 years ago. It has impressed me from day one. I’ve shot 1000’s of rounds out of it, many groundhogs are no longer able to attest to its accuracy! LOL! 55gr. seems to shoot the best from my experience.
I just bought one of the 1500s in 300 Win Mag after reading all the facts and info on this rifle my son and I are going on an Elk hunt I’m confident it will do the job JAR HD
I have owned 6 Howa 1500: .223, .243, 6.5×55, 7mm08 and .308. All were good shooters, except 6.5×55 (apparently now improved). The .223 was awkward to feed quickly. The .243, 7mm08 and 308 were excellent. All were sub MOA with factory ammo, the best was ,243 3-shot group I get consistently is 0.5` at 100yd from a simple rest, with 100gr Winchester PowerPoint. The rifle in original configuration, no fancy stocks or triggers as these are bush/farm working rifles for use in New Zealand. I use either Redfield revolution or Bushnell trophy scopes, again nothing fancy. Now that I need a 500yd rifle I’m getting a .270 Howa.