Howa’s M1500 H-S Precision SHB sporting rifle

Outdoor Sporting Agencies (OSA) continues to champion the Howa M1500 marque via its relationship with Legacy Sports International in the US. The popularity of the Japanese-made barrelled actions and their availability as ultralight, sporter and varmint models makes them an excellent platform for any hunting or shooting application. Match these to an appropriate stock and you’re good to go - anywhere!

While the availability of the Howa M1500 barrelled action is one of its greatest assets, the team at OSA do offer Howa M1500 rifles as a complete package with a stock specifically fitted. When it comes to stocks for the M1500 barrelled actions, the possibilities are endless - generally speaking better quality stocks do raise the overall price of the complete rifle.

The increasing popularity of long-range shooting has brought a series of rifles with a semi-heavy barrel (SHB) which sits between a sporter and varmint contour. The new Howa M1500 SHB is a #four contour, cold hammer forged barrel 26^ (660mm) in length mated to a chrome moly steel receiver. A serious long-range outfit required a premium stock and the H-S Precision riflestock was chosen.

Review rifle

Australian Shooter was approached by OSA to take a closer look at the Howa M1500 H-S Precision SHB and forwarded one in .308 Winchester. Supplied was a Sig Sauer Sierra3BDH 4.5-14x50 riflescope in steel Nikko Stirling rings. The finish on the barrel and receiver was a traditional matte blue which extended to the entire bolt assembly, alloy triggerguard and magazine floorplate. The rifle, in its bare form, weighs 3.67kg and measures 1150mm in length. It’s also offered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Winchester Magnum.

Receiver

This is the M1500 short-action length. It’s of a standard turn-bolt repeating design made from a single piece of steel with a cylindrical upper profile which terminates in a flat underside to facilitate the magazine box and stock bedding requirements.

The Howa M1500 receiver is one of the few that still encompasses an integral recoil lug machined into the same piece of metal as the receiver itself. The Howa recoil lug is simple, effective and strong and the ejection port is well designed to allow ultra-reliable extraction and ejection of cases.

A small gas vent is built into the left side of the receiver ring to direct hot gases away from the shooter’s face. The receiver top is of a slightly convex nature with four drilled and tapped holes, two fore and two aft of the ejection port. This pattern accepts any scope mounting bases designed around the Remington 700/Howa M1500 pattern. The receiver is secured to the stock via two hex screws, one attached directly into the body of the recoil lug, the other fastened into a shallow lug that makes up the rear tang of the receiver directly behind the trigger housing.

Barrel

This gives the rifle its purpose. It’s of a semi-heavy profile on a #four-contour and its extended length at 660mm is well suited to the ballistics of the .308 Winchester as well as the 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Winchester Magnum. The chrome-moly, cold-hammer forged barrel is of a one in 10^ rate of twist with the barrel profile starting from 29.8mm at the knox form and tapering to 16.4mm at the muzzle. The muzzle is also ½^x28 threaded to accept a muzzle brake and the barrel crown is finished with a recessed target profile, conducive to an accurate barrel. The barrel is matte blued to match the receiver and triggerguard/floorplate.

Trigger

Howa fits the new Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger (HACT) system to all its rifles. The trigger does have the usual take-up as per a two-stage unit but breaks cleanly and crisply. I assume the trigger pull weight could be adjusted lower if required but recommend tinkering with triggers be left to a professional.

Having said that, the trigger broke at around 1.4kg, perfect for testing as set. The safety system is an extension of the HACT with a three-position function. The rear-most setting blocks the trigger and locks the bolt handle down, the middle setting checks the trigger but permits the bolt to be cycled and the forward setting frees the trigger, allowing the rifle to fire.

Triggerguard and magazine assembly

The bottom metal, which encompasses the triggerguard and magazine well, is made from a single piece of aluminium as is the magazine floorplate which pivots from the front of the assembly. The magazine spring is steel with the follower made of plastic and the entire assembly, except for the spring and follower, is matte blue finished. The review rifle in .308 Winchester has a five-round magazine.

Bolt

This is a one-piece unit with dually-opposed twin locking lugs and is designed on a push-feed action. The spring-loaded plunger through the bolt-face and a claw-mounted extractor perform the task of case manipulation and the entire bolt is easy to strip and clean. The bolt handle is a tactical cone-shaped unit and lends itself to the long-range application intended of the rifle.

The bolt body, shroud and handle are matte blued similar to the rest of the barrelled action. The bolt lift is of a 90-degree configuration but the design of the tactical bolt handle and shank ensures that even with low mounted scopes, clearance is never a problem. To remove the bolt Howa incorporates a small bolt-release tab on the rear-lift of the action. By depressing the tab when the bolt is drawn back, the bolt is withdrawn.

Stock

H-S Precision of Rapid City, South Dakota is renowned for making some of the best riflestocks money can buy and the array is testament to their research, development and listening to what customers want.

The Pro-Series stock fitted to the Howa M1500 SHB is of a sporter profile with a classical American outline, straight comb with a rounded fore-end. These stocks start with a CNC-machined aluminium block, machined precisely to the dimensions of the Howa barrelled action. The aluminium bedding block is placed into a mould with both sides of the mould hand-laminated with Kevlar, fibreglass and carbon fibre. This material matrix gives the H-S Precision stocks their strength and durability. The mould is injected with a proprietary mixture of dense polyurethane foam which gives the stock its general shape and design characteristics. The stock is hand-finished to ensure a perfect fit, is of a sporter profile in the green/black finish (tan/black also available) and has a rubber recoil pad and blued QD-sling swivel studs as standard.

A neat feature of the Pro-Series stock is the incorporation of the ProCenter technology which allows the barrelled action to be precisely centred in the barrel channel using two small grub screws either side of the recoil lug. These screws can be accessed through the side of the stock and H-S Precision supply detailed instructions on how to adjust these screws when removing and reinstalling the riflestock. The Pro-Series stock mates perfectly with the Howa M1500 SHB barrelled action and lends itself brilliantly to the requirements of both rifle and user.

At the range

OSA supplied several popular hunting and target loads from Buffalo River and Hornady, which were supplemented with Federal Premium and Winchester alternatives. The rifle had a Sig Sauer BDX optic and, being brand new, warranted a thorough clean to remove any factory preservatives. Once the rifle was bore-sighted and adjusted to be ‘on paper’ at 100m the barrel was cleaned again (see Table 1 for results).

Table 1. Accuracy testing – Howa M1500 H-S Precision SHB .308 Winchester at 100m

Ammunition

Best group

(mm)

Worst group

(mm)

Average group

(mm) **

Buffalo River OSA Sierra 135gr HP

24

35

28

Hornady Superformance 150gr SST

23

33

27

Hornady Match 168gr ELD Match

29

40

35

Winchester Varmint Special 130gr Woodleigh Protected SP

30

45

38

Federal Premium Speer 130gr HP

28

43

35

** Average calculated from five three-shot groups at 100m

Accuracy testing gave satisfactory results considering it was a new rifle. Between changes in ammunition the barrel was cleaned and I had a handful of ammunition left from each test batch and shot metal plates at 300m with careful holdover, achieving hit after hit at the longer distance.

The rifle can be used as a hunting option if stalking on foot, especially if the terrain is not too physically taxing, but its forte is shooting from a stationary position, be it targets, varmints or game.

Overview

The H-S Precision Pro-Series riflestock is one of the best on the market and mating it with the semi-heavy barrel Howa M1500 platform makes for a serious mid- to long-range hunting/target rifle. The Howa M1500 H-S Precision SHB has a retail price of $1699 and is available through the OSA dealer network. Visit osaaustralia.com.au.

Specifications

Manufacturer: Howa Manufacturing, Japan

Model: M1500 H-S Precision SHB

Action: Bolt-action, push feed repeater, 90-degree bolt-lift, matte blue finish

Barrel: Chrome moly steel, semi-heavy #four contour, 660mm in length. Test rifle one in 10^ twist, ½^x28 threaded muzzle for accessories

Calibres: .308 Winchester (tested), 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 Winchester Magnum

Sight: Clean barrel, no sights. Receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounting

Trigger: Howa HACT two-stage adjustable

Magazine: Fixed with floorplate release. Capacity five rounds (.308 Winchester)

Stock: H-S Precision Pro-Series stock, composite construction with full-length aluminium bedding block, available in green/black or tan/black

Overall length: 1150mm

Weight: 3.67kg

Distributor: Outdoor Sporting Agencies

RRP: $1699

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