It’s worth noting that, since early 2016, all Howa rifles now come with what the company calls the Howa Actuated Trigger system (HACT). It’s an adjustable, two-stage design that arrives from the factory pre-set to a pull weight of about three pounds. It’s adjustable down to a pull weight of just over two pounds. This upgraded trigger, which can be fitted to older Howa 1500 rifles, is designed to eliminate creep and provide a lighter trigger pull. It did exactly that in testing. I found the trigger to have a very light initial take-up before meeting a solid stop and breaking cleanly.
The trigger on our review rifle broke consistently at a pull weight of 3 lbs. 1 oz., as measured on a Lyman trigger pull gauge. That’s slightly heavier than I would like, but I left the trigger at the factory setting to duplicate a buyer’s out-of-the box experience.
The trigger is mated to a three-position safety located on the right rear of the receiver just behind the bolt handle. It falls within easy reach of the thumb. In the rearmost position, the safety is engaged and the bolt handle is locked. In the middle position, the safety is engaged, but you can work the bolt to load or unload the rifle. The safety has to be pushed to the full-forward position to disengage and allow the rifle to fire. There’s enough tension on the safety that it’s unlikely to be accidentally knocked out of position, and it moves between stops with audible and tactile clicks.
I chose to test the Long Range Rifle with a Nightforce SHV 4-14×50 mm F1 scope with an illuminated MOAR (minute of angle) reticle. This ruggedly constructed scope is also a first focal plane model, with a zero-set elevation screw allowing return to zero at any time, making it ideal for long-distance shooting.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity in my short visit with this rifle to wring it out at long distance, but I was able to put five different factory loads to the test at 100 yards. The rifle did not disappoint, as four of the five tested loads shot best groups living up to Howa’s accuracy guarantee of one inch or less at 100 yards using premium factory ammunition. As might be expected, the rifle performed best with match ammo.
Top accuracy honors went to the Federal Premium 168-gr. Matchking load, which produced a best group of 0.39 inch and an average group size of 0.65 inch. Winchester’s 168-gr. Matchking load was a close second, and Hornady’s Precision Hunter 178-gr. ELD-X round was no slouch. The rifle did not much care for the single 150 gr. load tested, and average group size for that load would have been larger save for one tight group that brought the average down.
Velocities were quite close to factory advertised velocities, ranging from 80 f.p.s. slower for the Winchester 150-gr. Razor Boar load to 18 f.p.s. faster for the Hornady 168-gr. Full Boar load.
The rifle chambered rounds without hiccup and ejected brass smartly, but extraction was a little sticky with one of the tested loads. I had to wait a few seconds for the brass to cool and then extract the empty cases. Oddly, that only happened with one of the five loads, and I made a mental note to scrub the chamber thoroughly before using that load again. Otherwise, the bolt cycled smoothly, and the rifle fed without issue from the magazine.
The rifle comes with a lifetime warrantee for the original purchaser. Suggested retail for the rifle alone is $1,015, and the price for a scoped package is $1,299, which includes the scope, a 20 MOA 2-piece base and rings. For more information, contact Legacy Sports International, Dept. OT; Tel,: (800) 5-LEGACY; Web: www.legacyspsorts.com