February 22, 2012
Rifle Review: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2
By David E. Petzal
Because of a calamitous case of human error, I did not get to review the Weatherby Series 2 Vanguard when it came out last year. So, making up for lost time, I can say that I’ve shot one in .308 at some length, and can state without fear of contradiction that it’s one of the best hunting rifles around at any price.
The Series 2 barreled action is made in Japan by Howa, as it always has been, but the stock is now made in the United States, and the rifles are assembled here. There’s a blued and a stainless version; the MSRP for the former is $489, and for the latter $200 more.
There are two principle changes to the rifle. First is the stock. Weatherby has scrapped the old, clubby stock for a new one that follows the lines of the original Mark V stock very closely, including the wonderful, slim pistol grip. Second is the trigger, which is now a true two-stage mechanism that is virtually perfect. No creep, no drag, dead-clean release, 3 ½ pounds every time, and if you even think of messing with it you’re nuts.
Howa has always turned out beautifully finished guns, but the Series 2 rifles I’ve handled have gone a step beyond that. They are literally flawless. The fit and finish are perfect. It’s the kind of work you see in rifles that come from custom gun makers. For a $500 factory rifle to exhibit this kind of work is amazing. The only other rifle on the market I can think of that’s in this league is the Tikka T3.
Weatherby guarantees that all the Series 2 Vanguards will shoot sub-MOA with Weatherby ammo or with premium ammo. This does not mean that it will shoot tiny groups with anything you shove into it. My rifle did only fair with most factory ammo (It shot a minute of angle with Federal 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip loads.), but with handloads it was a new day.
With 165-grain Hornady WLR loads, the rifle averaged .995. With Sierra 150-grain Game King softpoints (these are hunting bullets, not match bullets) it averaged .580, with one spread going into .196, which nearly caused me to wet myself. Or maybe I did wet myself; I forget.
There are a number of rifles in this price range that shoot very well, but with the exception of the T-3 I can’t think of any that are as nicely made, or have a trigger that can match the one on the Series 2. If the shooting public catches on to how good a rifle this new Vanguard is, Series 2s will be as hard to find as service stations that sell gas for $1.50 a gallon.