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.30 hunting rifles review

Official review in Australian Shooter July 2000

The firearms under review were hunting style rifles, chambered in .30 calibre and fitted with appropriate scopes. All are new to the Australian market.

A wide range of factory loaded rounds (including match grade) were used to evaluate each rifles’ performance. The rifles were shot benchrest style to determine their accuracy potential and were then shot offhand to simulate field conditions.
Scores, out of a possible 20, were given to each rifle, but again, it is important that the written review is examined to determine how the experts arrived at that number. It is also important to read the concluding remarks, as certain aspects of the test need to be considered.

The range
SSAA Monarto State Range, South Australia

Equipment used
All rifles were shot over benchrest stands and rear bags. A Simmons Model 1481B 15-Piece Boresighter kit was used to pre-sight the rifles. The following spotting scopes were used to determine shot placement:
• Simmons 25x50
• ProHunter Model 77206
• Kowa TS-511 20x60
• Nikon XL 16-47x50

Ammunition used
• PMC 150g PSP and 180gn PSP .308
• Remington 150gn PSP and 180gn PSP .308
• Winchester 150gn and 180gn Power Point .308
• PMC 150gn PSP .30-06
• Winchester 150gn Power Point .30-06
• Winchester Supreme 180gn Silvertip Boattail .30-06
• Winchester 165gn Fail Safe .30-06
• Remington 150gn and 180gn PSP .30-06
Match ammunition used included Winchester Supreme 168gn HPBT .308 and Remington Match 168gn HPBT .308.

Scoring procedure
Rifles were scored on a number of areas. The experts looked for accuracy, ease of use, recoil absorption, trigger crispness and general ‘feel’ of the firearm. Benchresting consisted of two groups of five shots with each type of ammunition shot by each of the reviewers. Offhand consisted of ten shots with each rifle using the hunting ammunition that demonstrated the best accuracy. All testing was conducted on the 100-yard range. Rifles were allowed to cool as much as possible between groups and were cleaned after every two groups.

H-S Precision Pro-Series 2000 Varmint Take-Down
H-S Precision Pro-Series 2000 Varmint Take-Down
Supplied by: Lightforce
Calibre: .308
Weight: 8.5lbs (bare)
Magazine Capacity: Five
Stock: H-S Synthetic
Scope (as tested): Nightforce 2.5-10x50
Score: 18 Highest-scoring rifle
The H-S Precision Pro-Series 2000 VTD is an expensive rifle, but it lives up to its asking price. It should be noted that it is available with interchangeable barrels and features a unique take-down system that allows it to be taken apart and put back together in seconds. It has very precise machine work and it held point of aim well. One reviewer commented that it has a crisp trigger - not too light and not too heavy and has excellent balance. The VTD shot the match grade ammo very well, including one group of less than half an inch. Most of the hunting ammo shot better than 1.5 inches. All reviewers felt that performance was in line with price. The Nightforce scope provided excellent vision at all power ratings.

Weatherby Mark V Ultra Light Weight Stainless
Weatherby Mark V Ultra Light Weight Stainless
Supplied by: Nioa Trading
Calibre: .308
Weight: 5.75lbs (without scope)
Magazine Capacity: Five
Stock: Polymer
Scope (as tested): Leupold 2.5-8 Vari-X III
Score: 17.5
Interestingly enough, the reviewers were not initially impressed with this rifle’s ability to shoot over the sandbags. There appeared to be too much flex in the fore-end; however, this is not what the rifle was made for. In the offhand position this rifle was clearly the lightest and fastest of the lot with its 60° cocking action and excellent stock shape. The barrel is very thin and heats up rapidly - ten shots bringing it up to finger-burning temperature. One reviewer really liked the short bolt throw but felt the rifle was too light for his liking.
Due to its feather-like weight, all reviewers commented on the amount of recoil, especially with the heavier bullets. That aside, the Weatherby would be a terrific, carry-over-the-shoulder hunting rifle.

Remington Model ADL Synthetic Blue
Remington Model ADL Synthetic Blue
Supplied by: Raytrade
Calibre: .308
Weight: 7.50lbs (bare)
Magazine Capacity: Four
Stock: Synthetic
Scope (as tested): Simmons Whitetail Classic 2-10x40 WA
Score: 17
One reviewer thought that this was the most comfortable of the .308s to shoot. Another commented on the finish of the rifle and the clarity of the Simmons scope - a good value at $275. This rifle shot well with most of the hunting ammo and very well with the match grade ammo. A firm grip was definitely needed when shooting this one, as ‘free recoil’ would be a hazardous pursuit. The trigger was a touch heavy for some but this could be adjusted by a competent person. The Remington was well priced and put together.

Howa Model 1500 Lightning Stainless
Howa Model 1500 Lightning Stainless
Supplied by: Highland Sports
Calibre: .308
Weight: 5lbs (bare)
Magazine Capacity: Four
Stock: Polymer
Scope (as tested): Nikko Stirling Diamond 4.5-14x50
Score: 17 Best Value
The Howa was a surprise package. All reviewers liked it and eventually voted it as the best all-around value for money. The stainless barrel, which was easy to clean, impressed the reviewers. Stainless steel barrels are rust resistant and require less work during the cleaning process.
The trigger had some initial ‘creep’ but this disappeared after numerous firings. Like the Remington, the Howa rifle performed well with most of the hunting ammo and very well with the match grade. Recoil was a factor but it shot best when a firm grip was taken.

Steyr Mannlicher SBS Pro Hunter Blue
Steyr Mannlicher SBS Pro Hunter Blue
Calibre: .30-06
Weight: 7.5lbs
Magazine Capacity: Four
Stock: Synthetic (with butt spacers)
Scope (as tested): Swarovski 6 x 42 Habich Nova A
Score: 15.5
This is indeed a well-made and very stylish rifle, with many interesting features but a few things put the reviewers off. Firstly, there was a lot of flex in the fore-end, making it difficult to shoot accurately from sandbags. Secondly, the bolt system, which incorporates a ‘safe bolt arrangement’, took a lot of getting used to. The bolt handle was in the European style and not as ‘hand friendly’ as others and the .30-06 chambering took its toll on reviewers as the day went on. Offhand, the rifle was more comfortable to shoot but recoil was still a factor and in a bigger calibre would not be pleasant.

Final comments
All of the rifles tested would do their intended jobs quite well. On completion of the review, the experts found that each rifle shot better with the lighter bullets. In a few of the rifles, the 180-grain bullets did not perform all that well but would still deliver ‘minute of deer’ when called upon.
It must be said that testing brand-new rifles can sometimes fail to produce the best results but the reviewers ran these rifles in and performed the necessary cleaning procedures.
As mentioned in the various comment sections, recoil is quite a factor when bench testing lightweight rifles and all reviewers were a little shellshocked by the end of the day. Purchasers of calibres larger than .308 would do well to keep this in mind.
Scope choice on a light rifle is important and anything other than a well-made scope would soon be shaken to pieces.