Weatherby Vanguard Deluxe Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
The Weatherby Vanguard bolt action rifle was introduced in the late 1960's as a Weatherby rifle for non-Weatherby calibers. The Vanguard was available for such standard calibers as the .243 Winchester, .25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. Magnum calibers included the .264 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum, and .300 Winchester Magnum. The .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .270 Weatherby Magnum, 7mm-08 Remington, .300 Weatherby Magnum, and .338 Winchester Magnum calibers were added in various later Vanguard models, while the .264 Winchester Magnum was dropped.
Vanguard rifles were an integral part of the Weatherby line from their introduction until 1993, when all but one Vanguard model was discontinued. The last of the Vanguard models, the Alaskan, was introduced in 1993 and dropped from the Weatherby line the next year, 1994, closing that Vanguard chapter in Weatherby's history.
Well, sort of, because the Vanguard lived on. Even though it was not mentioned in the Weatherby catalog or on the Weatherby Web Site, new Weatherby Vanguards remained available nationwide across the USA. This miracle is the result of a deal struck between Weatherby and mega-retailer Wal-Mart. The Vanguard remained in production and, betweem 1995 and 2003, was available only through the gun departments of Wal-Mart stores.
The Vanguards offered through Wal-Mart were basically Weatherguard models with an injection molded synthetic stock and a choice of blue or stainless steel barreled actions in most of the old Vanguard calibers. There was also a Deluxe model with a checkered walnut stock and contrasting forearm tip in .300 Weatherby Magnum caliber only.
The stock design of the Wal-Mart era Vanguard Deluxe was typical Weatherby, but lacked some of the refinements of the Mark V or the previous Vanguard VGX Deluxe. The rosewood grip cap with inlaid maplewood diamond, the maplewood line spacers, and the French skip-line checkering, as well as the polished, high luster blue metal finish, all fell by the wayside. That rifle was essentially what is now called the Vanguard Sporter.
In 2003 Weatherby reintroduced the Vanguard as a regular catalog item. Vanguard Stainless and Vanguard Synthetic models were again available from all Weatherby distributors and dealers. These are identical except for the composition and finish of the barreled action. The Synthetic comes with a matte black carbon steel barreled action, and the Stainless comes with a matte silver stainless steel barreled action.
For those who prefer walnut stocks on their hunting rifles, Weatherby introduced the Vanguard Sporter in 2004 (pretty much the same rifle as the Wal-Mart era Deluxe, but in more calibers), and in 2005 a Sporter with a stainless steel barreled action. Close, but still not a true Deluxe.
The original Weatherby Vanguard and the subsequent VGD and VGX Deluxe models looked basically identical to contemporary Mark V Deluxe rifles, and sported a very similar checkered claro walnut stock, right down to the forearm tips, grip caps, line spacers, and recoil pads. The stock finish was high gloss and the metal finish was the renowned Weatherby high luster blue.
In 2006 Weatherby re-introduced the Vanguard Deluxe. Once again the top of the line Vanguard looks virtually identical to the 2006 Mark V Deluxe. Calibers for 2006 are .257 Weatherby Magnum, .270 Winchester, .30-06, and .300 Weatherby Magnum.
Features of the 2006 Vanguard Deluxe include a Weatherby Mark V style checkered claro walnut stock with a rosewood forend tip and grip cap set off by maple line spacers. The wood finish is a glossy urethane. The pistol grip cap bears the traditional Weatherby diamond inlay. The action is polished and the metal work is high gloss blued.
All Vanguards are based on an action using a one-piece forged and machined, flat bottomed receiver and a machined steel bolt with dual opposed locking lugs. This modified Mauser action is built by Howa in Tokyo, Japan to Weatherby specifications. Incidentally, until 1995 (when production was switched to the U.S.) Mark V actions were also made in Japan, but by Miroku in the city of Kochi.
The Howa bolt action is a good one, and the version used for the Vanguard incorporates many of the features of the Mark V. The cartridge head is contained within Weatherby's famous three rings of steel. The one-piece 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, just as with the Mark V. Also similar to the Mark V is the flush mounted claw extractor at the front of the bolt and the plunger ejector in the recessed bolt face.
The two position Vanguard safety locks the bolt closed in the "safe" position, just like a Mark V safety, but it is not as quiet in operation and is shaped differently--more like the safety on a Remington 700. There is also a Mark V type cocking indicator for added safety. The magazine floorplate is hinged, and the release is in the front of the trigger guard, again like the Mark V.
Of course, there are some differences. Most obvious is that locking is achieved by means of two large lugs at the front of the bolt, as with any typical Mauser pattern action, and the bolt lift is 90 degrees, not 54 degrees like the Mark V. The trigger guard/floorplate assembly is made of aluminum, not steel. There is a bolt release button at the left rear of the receiver. The barrel is cold hammer forged rather than button rifled. The trigger is not externally adjustable, but the two adjustment screws (secured by small lock nuts) on the front and rear of the trigger assembly can be accessed by removing the stock. The trigger pull weight is user adjustable.
The adjustment screw on the front of the trigger assembly is for weight of pull, but its minimum setting is about 3.5 pounds, and on my rifle it was already at the minimum setting. Loosen the lock nut and back out the adjustment screw to decrease the pull weight; turn it in to increase the trigger pull weight. Don't forget to tighten the lock nut when you are finished.
WEATHERBY CAUTIONS THAT SEAR ENGAGEMENT SHOULD BE ADJUSTED ONLY BY A WEATHERBY SERVICE CENTER. The adjustment screw on the rear of the trigger assembly adjusts sear engagement. Back off the lock nut and turn the adjustment screw in to decrease the sear engagement. If you turn the screw too far in the safety won't work and you create an unsafe condition. See, you should have left the rear screw alone.
The question always arises: since it is not based on the Mark V action, is the Vanguard a true Weatherby? And the answer is unequivocally "yes." Weatherby put their name and reputation on the line with the Vanguard, and if they say it is a Weatherby rifle, then I will take their word for it. After all, the original Weatherby rifles, from the late 1940's until the introduction of the Mark V in 1957, were all built on Mauser pattern actions, mostly imported from Belgium. And until production was moved to the US in 1995, all Weatherby rifles were made overseas--mostly in Japan.
Once considered a poor stepchild, the Vanguard has become the heart and the future of the Weatherby line. Weatherby will always manufacture Mark V rifles, but it is the Vanguard upon which the Company's future depends.
I acquired my Weatherby Vanguard Deluxe in 2002. It is a previously owned VGX Deluxe model that was won as a prize from Ducks Unlimited. The lucky winner is reputed to have never taken it into the field, and after a few years had passed sold it to a local gun shop, where I discovered it. It came to me in its original box. The caliber is 7mm Remington Magnum.
Because this is the Vanguard Deluxe to which I have unlimited access, it is the rifle used for the shooting part of this review. The VGX Deluxe was the top of the line Vanguard from 1989 to 1993. This is essentially the same model that was re-introduced in 2006 with only minor changes in the stock dimensions. In fact, the 2006 Deluxe models once again carry a "VGX" product code prefix. (VGX257WR40, for instance, is the product code for the 2006 Deluxe rifle in .257 Wby. Mag.)
The 2006 deluxe comes with a 24 inch #2 contour barrel rifled with a 1-10 twist in all calibers, and is 44 1/2 inches in overall length. The stock's length of pull is 13 1/2 inches, drop at comb is 5/8 inch, drop at Monte Carlo is 3/8 inch, and drop at heel is 1 1/8 inches. The catalog weight is approximately 7 3/4 pounds. The cartridge capacity is 5+1 in standard calibers and 3+1 in magnum calibers. The 2006 manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) is $865.
I purchased a new Weaver V-9 (3-9x38mm) variable power scope to complement my Vanguard Deluxe rifle. The latest incarnation of this classic Weaver model, which has been around for years and has a solid reputation, features fully multi-coated optics, a one piece tube, 3.5 inches of eye relief, and 1/4 MOA click adjustments for windage and elevation. My rifle came with Weaver bases already installed, so I purchased Millet rings to match.
The 3-9 power scope and the 7mm Magnum cartridge nicely complement each other. The magnification and field of view at 3x is adequate for most hunting conditions, and there is more than adequate magnification in reserve for any possible long range big game hunting application or for use at the range.
There is little that needs to be said here about the 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge. It is the most popular magnum cartridge on earth, and the only magnum that made the short list of all-around cartridges. My personal opinion is that 150-160 grain spitzer bullets represent the best balance of flat trajectory and killing power for general purpose hunting with practically any 7mm Magnum caliber rifle. For more information about the 7mm Rem. Mag. please see my article "Long Range Power: The 7mm Remington Magnum."
The accuracy standard for the Vanguard is the same as for the Mark V. Weatherby rifles, regardless of model, must shoot a 1.5" 3-shot group at 100 yards from a cold barrel when used with Weatherby or premium factory loaded ammunition. Current Vanguard rifles come with a factory-shot target to verify this. Weatherby very seldom has to make good on that guarantee, as most samples will shoot groups smaller than 1.5 inches right out of the box. My Vanguard Deluxe rifle has indeed met Weatherby's standards.
At the 100 meter range the Federal Classic factory load with the 175 grain Hi-Shok bullet has averaged three shot groups of 1 5/16 inches. The Winchester Super-X factory load with the 150 grain Power Point bullet has done about equally well, putting five consecutive three shot groups into an average 1 3/8 inches. (Incidentally, neither of these loads qualifies as "premium" ammunition.)
This rifle apparently does not favor the 160 grain Nosler Partition bullet. Three shot groups with the Federal Premium factory load using that bullet shot into 2 3/4 inches at 100 meters. Unfortunately, this is typical of my experience with the Nosler Partition bullet. It is a great game killing bullet, but seldom as accurate as bullets of simpler design, at least in my rifles.
My general purpose 7mm Magnum handload uses a 154 grain Hornady Interlock Spire Point bullet on top of enough IMR 4831 powder to give a MV of approximately 3000 fps. This load has not been specifically tuned for the Vanguard rifle, but it delivers groups averaging 1.25" at 100 meters, with an occasional ego satisfying 1" group. I consider this to be excellent real world accuracy for a powerful big game hunting rifle.
A Weatherby Vanguard rifle weighing 9 pounds complete with scope and mount shooting a 7mm Rem. Mag. load with a 154 grain bullet at a MV of 3000 fps socks the shooter's shoulder with about 21.4 ft. lbs. of free recoil energy. The recoil velocity is about 12.4 fps. This is certainly more comfortable to shoot than the same load in a lighter rifle, and the Weatherby Monte Carlo stock does a nice job of moderating the subjective perception of recoil. The people at Weatherby have been perfecting the magnum rifle for a great many years, and they know what they are about.
In summation, the Weatherby Vanguard Deluxe is an extremely attractive, high quality, reliable hunting rifle with many good features. To quote the 2006 Edition of the Weatherby Catalog, "the Vanguard Deluxe offers outstanding performance in a remarkably affordable package." I can certainly agree with that!
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2002, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.