Howa 1500 Rifle Review
Stuart Morrison from East Sussex Deer Management Reviews the Howa 1500 Lightning.
Howa 1500 - A couple of years ago after some deliberation I decided to purchase a Howa 1500 Lightning in .243 win. This rifle was to be used for Fallow and Roe deer stalking in all weathers. I was very interested in this rifle but had slight reservations when I heard that they were produced in Japan. The Howa factory however, has a long history of firearms manufacture and is renowned for also making the Weatherby Vanguard action.
(Above: The Howa 1500 Lightning in .243 Calibre)
This rifle needed to be a robust and hardy firearm able to withstand the rigours of daily use. I considered the stainless steel version but in the end went for the standard blued action and barrel as I look after my rifles!
I chose the green over moulded Houge stock. This is a fibreglass stock which is covered in a green soft rubber (black is also available). The forend and palm grip have a moulded 'pebble' design which certainly gives excellent grip in wet weather. The forend itself is fairly large and flattish. Whilst there is good clearance from the free floating barrel, the fibreglass is somewhat flexible and could possibly touch the barrel in extreme circumstances. There is a large soft black rubber recoil pad fitted, this is nice but hardly necessary with the .243 Winchester but probably useful in larger calibres.
I can report first hand on the strength of this stock. After grassing a Fallow buck earlier this year I stupidly managed to reverse my Land Rover directly over the rifle! So much for looking after my rifles! It was unloaded of course, but I had leant it against the rear of the vehicle and then got distracted. Apart from some tyre marks on the stock which washed off, the rifle was unscathed. This is what I wanted, a no-nonsense tool that I don't have to worry too much about.
(Above/Left: The Howa 1500 has an excellent robust fibreglass stock)
The action is very solid with a nice smooth bolt operation. There is a three position safety on the right of the action that enables the bolt to be locked in the rearmost position.The rifle is 'safe' in the middle position which allows bolt operation, and is ready to fire in the front position. The bolt is removed from the action by depressing a small catch on the left hand side of the action.
There is an integral magazine holding four rounds of ammunition. This has a traditional hinged floorplate which is released via a small button integral to the trigger guard. Recently removable box magazines have since become available, in order to use these you need to remove the hinged floorplate and fit a new receiver for the box magazine. These are available in either five or ten shot capacity.
The action is drilled and tapped for weaver bases which are supplied with the rifle. To finish the set up I have fitted a Leupold 3-9 x 50 scope and a wildcat T8 moderator to the factory screw cut barrel.
So how does it perform? Well I'm a stalker. I'm not interested in shooting cloverleaf groups, I want to cull deer. That said, the rifle is easily capable of 1" groups at 100 yards and with a home load I have managed to achieve 1" at 200 yards. Maybe just a fluke but I was delighted!
There are many, many combinations of actions, barrels and stocks in the Howa range which are available here in the UK so everyone should be able to choose the rifle they want.
I have shot Roe, Fallow and Muntjac with my Howa and I've been very pleased with it. There is no doubt this is a budget rifle but it is by no means tacky. It is a value for money, strong, robust and accurate rifle capable of delivering the results required by any UK Deer Stalker.
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To contact Stuart Morrison or find out more about East Sussex Deer managment contact him at: www.eastsussexdeermanagement.org