Weatherby Vanguard SUB-MOA Stainless Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
When the Weatherby Vanguard rifle was introduced in 1970 it marked an important step for the Weatherby Company, the return to a Mauser pattern two-lug action less expensive to produce than the famous Mark V action. The Mark V had replaced the FN and Brevex Mauser actions used as the basis for all Weatherby rifles before 1957. For many years after 1970, Weatherby Magnum caliber rifles were built on Mark V actions and standard caliber rifles were built on Vanguard actions.
The Vanguard action may be less expensive to produce than the Mark V, but it is still a deluxe action. It incorporates a one-piece forged and machined, flat bottomed receiver with integral recoil lug and a one-piece machined steel bolt. The cartridge head is contained within Weatherby's famous three rings of steel. The bolt body is fluted, there are three gas escape ports in the side of the bolt and a streamlined bolt sleeve shrouds the rear of the bolt to prevent the escape of gas from a ruptured case into the shooter's face. There is a flush mounted claw extractor at the front of the bolt and a plunger ejector in the recessed bolt face. At the rear of the bolt is a Mark V type cocking indicator. The magazine floorplate is hinged and the release is in the front of the trigger guard.
Between 2003 and 2006 the Vanguard line was dramatically expanded. It now includes Weatherby Magnum as well as standard calibers and it has become Weatherby's dominant line of rifles.
For 2005, Weatherby introduced select Vanguard rifles as SUB-MOA. All Vanguard rifles are test fired to insure that they will pass Weatherby's 1.5" three shot group at 100 yards guarantee. Many will shoot considerably better groups and someone at Weatherby realized that it would require only a little extra effort to select some of the best of these as the basis for a premium model.
Vanguard SUB-MOA rifles wear Fiberguard composite stocks, similar to those used for the Mark V Fibermark model, rather than the injection molded synthetic stocks of regular Vanguard Synthetic and Vanguard Stainless models. The Fiberguard is a stiffer, fiberglass composite stock with a matte gel coat finish and spider web accents. It is of traditional Weatherby Monte-Carlo style into which the action is dual pillar bedded.
Vanguard SUB-MOA big game rifles are available with a matte black metal finish and a tan stock with black spiderwebbing, or a matte stainless metal finish and black stock with grey spiderwebbing. Our test rifle was the latter version. Here are some basic specifications:
Weatherby Vanguard SUB-MOA rifles come with the most stringent accuracy guarantee in the industry. They must shoot 3-shot, 100 yard groups of .99" or less with Weatherby or other premium grade ammunition before they are shipped. Unlike a famous Scandinavian brand rifle that is guaranteed to shoot 1" groups at 100 yards, but often fails to live up to its accuracy guarantee in practice, every Vanguard SUB-MOA rifle meets or exceeds its accuracy guarantee and a fired test target is packaged with every rifle to prove it.
When we removed the well-packaged Vanguard SUB-MOA rifle from its shipping container and inner cardboard box we found a finely finished stainless steel barreled action meticulously mated to a comfortable composite stock. It is hard to call any rifle with a synthetic stock handsome, but the SUB-MOA Stainless is aesthetically a cut above ordinary synthetic rifles. From the crown of its smooth stainless steel barrel to its deluxe Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad, this is a very nicely turned-out rifle.
The matte gel coat finish and spiderwebbing provide a secure gripping surface superior to that of the usual plastic stock. There is no molded-in checkering and none is required. Detachable sling swivel bases are provided and the sling swivels themselves are included.
The stock positions the shooter's eye properly for using a telescopic sight and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. No iron sights are provided. The Vanguard accepts the same scope bases as Remington Model 700 rifles, so mounts are very easy to find. We fitted the test rifle with a one-piece Leupold base and Leupold rings.
We had not previously reviewed one of the new Simmons Master Class scopes, so we called Simmons and requested an appropriate scope for the Weatherby. What we received was a 3.5-10x44mm Pro Hunter, the best Simmons model available at the time of our request. This is actually one step below the top of the line Master Class Aetecs, which were out of stock at the time of our request.
We were told that the main difference between the two lines was the omission of the aespheric lens element featured in the Aetec models. Otherwise, the Master Class Pro Hunter is supposed to be similar to the Master Class Aetec in features and construction.
Apparently it is, at least functionally. The Pro Hunter is built on a one-piece tube, its adjustments work well and the view of the target is crisp and clear, with good contrast. The optics are fully multi-coated. Edge sharpness is satisfactory, but not the equal of the Simmons scopes with aespheric lens elements that we have reviewed in the past. Otherwise, there isn't much difference in use.
The Pro Hunter looks good, with a matte black finish and a ruby red trim ring around the adjustment knobs. On the Weatherby Vanguard SUB-MOA it complements the business like appearance of the rifle and it worked fine throughout our review.
We did our shooting at the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility provides covered shooting positions with target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards, along with solid bench rests from which to shoot. The weather was sunny with temperatures in the 65-70 degree range and variable winds of 10-15 mph on all three range days that we spent with the Vanguard SUB-MOA rifle.
We shot for record at 100 yards, after firing one shot at 25 yards to confirm that our scope was adequately bore sighted to at least hit the paper at 100 yards. It was. The shooting was done by Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Bob Fleck and Jack Seeling, with the aid of a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with 50 pounds of lead shot.
Cor-Bon, Federal Fusion, and Winchester generously provided ammunition for this review. The loads used were: Cor-Bon DPX Hunter (130 grain Barnes TSX bullet, MV 3100 fps), Federal Fusion (150 grain Fusion bullet, MV 3050 fps), Winchester Super-X with Power Point bullets (130 grain, MV 3060 fps; 150 grain, MV 2850 fps) and Winchester Supreme (140 grain AccuBond CT Bullet, MV 2950 fps). The SUB-MOA rifle lived up to its name, shooting groups measuring less than 1" center to center with all of these loads.
We fired 3-shot groups at Hoppe's "Crosshair" sighting targets, letting the barrel cool between 3-shot groups. Here are the results:
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS TESTED = 1.01"
The .270 Winchester cartridge has always had a good reputation for accuracy, but this is really extraordinary performance from a big game hunting rifle. We can't remember testing a big game rifle that grouped so consistently with so many different brands and bullet weights. In addition, the point of impact was similar for all loads.
Guns and Shooting Online technical consultant Jack Seeling purchased the test rifle for his personal use after the work on this review was complete. (Had he not, either Bob or Chuck would have.) When Jack zeroed the SUB-MOA to hit 2.5" high at 100 yards with the Federal Fusion 150 grain bullet, he discovered that the Winchester Super-X 150 grain bullet had exactly the same point of impact. This ability to shoot different loads to the same point of impact is very rare among big game hunting rifles, although more common with the .270 Winchester than most cartridges.
The Weatherby Company has prospered over the last 60 years because they have done many things right and refused to compromise on quality. The Vanguard SUB-MOA rifle is the latest evidence that Weatherby really does produce, as they advertise, "American's Finest Rifles."
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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