Rifle Review: Howa HCR

Whilst at the SHOT Show, I didn’t get a chance to write up the Howa HCR Chassis Rifle despite the … Continued

Whilst at the SHOT Show, I didn’t get a chance to write up the Howa HCR Chassis Rifle despite the fact that I did get to shoot one at Range Day. Before I can write, I’m compelled to pick up brochures at the booths so that my facts are indeed facts, and I couldn’t find Howa in the massive and godless SHOT Directory. Probably it was listed under Legacy Sports International, which is the importer of Howa and half a dozen other brands and is a name as famous as Trump, so I should have known. As it was, I chanced upon the booth when my time at the show was nearly done.

Two things you should know about Howa. The correct—i.e. Japanese—pronunciation is hoe-a, not how-a. Second, Howa rifles have been imported since the mid-1960s, and when they first arrived they caused people to wet themselves because no one dreamed you could make a rifle that nice for the price they were asking. Weatherby has its Vanguard line made by Howa, and you will look a long, long time before you see a defect on a Vanguard.

The HCR is Howa’s hybrid rifle—a chassis-stocked gun that you can use for hunting, or target shooting, or tactical shooting if you carry a badge or have an extremely good lawyer. It’s based on the Howa bolt action, and reflects the increasingly sophisticated thinking of the engineers who design hybrids. They resisted the urge to clap on a lot of metal everywhere they could. Aside from the obligatory mass of machinery on the buttstock, the HCR is a rather streamlined gun. It will accept AR components, so you can hang whatever you want on it, but the rifle looks clean and uncluttered as is, and I’d leave it that way.

It’s available in .223, .243 (Why?), 6.5 Creedmoor, or .308. You can get it with a 20- or 24-inch barrel, and there’s an optional 26-inch barrel available in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308. This is for target shooters only. The standard taper appears to be No. 5, and the optional heavy barrel may be as heavy as No. 7. The rifle is available in the ever-tasteful black or Multicam, comes with a 10-round magazine (5-round optional), and can be ordered with a rail-style 20 MoA base.

What leaped out at me during the shooting phase was what Howa calls the H.A.C.T. trigger, which stands for Howa Activated Controlled Trigger, whatever that means. It’s a double-stage mechanism, and is simply terrific. An absolutely dead-clean release at, I guess, 3 pounds, and no overtravel.

After firing my first round, I turned to the Howa guy and asked who on earth made the trigger, expecting to hear “Geissele” or something like that.

“We did,” he said.

Howa has a sub-MoA guarantee on the HCR and I think they’re hedging their bets. I’d be astonished if you couldn’t print ½ MoA with these rifles, or a lot less than that. The price, depending on options, is in the $1,200-$1,300 range. No matter how you pronounce it, this is some gun. www.legacysports.com