Weatherby Vanguard Sporter .22-250 Rifle
By John Robbins
I've always admired the quality and artistic good looks of Weatherby Mark V rifles, but was never in a financial position where I could justify the expense. Several years ago when Weatherby expanded their line of walnut stock Vanguard rifles to include nearly every major caliber, I decided that I had to buy one. While the Vanguard isn't at quite the level of a Mark V, it is a very nice rifle. On nearly every count, it competes very successfully with all other rifles in the same price range, and some in higher price ranges.
Details of the Vanguard line in general are available in the other Vanguard articles located on this web site. (See the Rifle Information and Product Review pages. -Ed.) I will skip duplicating those here and address only the specifics of the Vanguard Sporter line. One item worth a reminder is that Weatherby guarantees all Vanguards to shoot 3-shot 1-1/2 inch groups from a cold barrel using premium factory ammunition.
Here are some basic specifications for the Vanguard Sporter .22-250 taken from the Weatherby web site (www.weatherby.com).
The first thing about the Vanguard Sporter that jumps out at you is the walnut stock. Very clean lines and excellent attention to detail. The fine checkering is deep and sharp. No worries about this rifle slipping in your hands. This particular rifle has a beautiful walnut grain, much better than a person would expect on a medium priced rifle.
There is a contrasting forend tip, but on this particular rifle there is so little contrast that you have to look closely to notice it. It certainly is not the rifle I would have picked off the shelf because I do like the look of a nice contrasting forend tip. However I special ordered and prepaid for the rifle, so there was no backing out. (Once I saw the enclosed target group, my misgivings about the forend tip were quickly forgotten. More on that later.)
The sling studs are firmly embedded in the stock, and Weatherby included a set of Mike's Quick-Detachable Super Swivels, which is a nice touch. Anything free these days is a welcome surprise.
The 24 inch barrel is nicely satin blued and of about average quality in appearance. Rubbing it down with oil helps bring out a deep blue finish. The barrel is free floated out to near the end of the stock.
The Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad is soft and fairly thick. Not really needed on a .22-250, but it would certainly be appreciated on a harder kicking gun. The fit of the pad to the stock is very good. Weatherby built a reputation paying attention to the details, and they carried that philosophy over to the Vanguard line.
I had the dealer mount a Sightron 6-24x42mm mildot scope using Leupold standard Remington Model 700 two-piece bases. This is a little more scope than really needed, but I wanted to experiment with a really high powered scope, and see how I liked a mildot scope. The 24X is a little much for shooting, but is very useful for checking bullet holes. I have not had much time to experiment with the mildot feature, so I have not yet formed an opinion. Either way, the cross hairs are very fine, which is really what I wanted. Medium height Leupold rings accommodated the 42mm objective, and with the sunshade in place, the gun makes quite a statement. It is a serious looking varmint gun.
Weatherby provides a three-shot target with every gun they sell. The target that came with this gun had all three shots touching, forming a nice tight pattern. The group size was less than 1/2 inch. I was sure that this rifle could shot better than I could.
For sighting in and testing loads, I use a Bench Master gun rest. The Bench Master performs the same function as a Caldwell Lead Sled, but isn't as heavy or bulky. I wouldn't suggest this rest if you plan to shoot a lot of hard kicking calibers due to the lighter weight and the lack of provision to weigh it down with bags of lead shot. It is a good choice for anything from a .30-06 on down, and I suppose you could drape shot bags over the supports if you wanted to absorb the recoil of a larger caliber. I tweaked my Benchmaster a little by replacing the mushy front pillow rest with a sand filled leather bag, which greatly improved the stability.
Needing to build a supply of .22-250 brass, I purchased one box of Remington CoreLokt 55 grain soft points, one box of Hornady Custom 55 grain V-Max and one box of Winchester 55 grain Ballistic Silvertips.
On the next calm day I headed out to a farm where we have a safe shooting range set up. The first shot from 25 yards was several inches high and several inches to the left. Attempting a technique I'd read about but never tried, I put the cross hairs back on the bulls eye, then adjusted windage and elevation so the cross hairs lined up on the bullet hole. This requires the gun to be held perfectly steady, and I had my doubts, even though I had a very steady rest. The next shot went right through the center of the bull's eye. I was impressed.
I moved my target out to 100 yards and within 5 shots had the rifle hitting one inch high directly above the bull's eye. I took a long break to let the barrel cool down and then tried to match my enclosed Weatherby target. Was I surprised and impressed with myself when I shot a near duplicate of the factory target. Perhaps the best thing was this group was shot with the Remington soft points, which was the least expensive of the three types of ammo. I've since fired groups with the other loads and the Vanguard's accuracy continues to impress me. Point of impact varies about one inch from load to load. None of my groups where I really have concentrated have exceeded the advertised 1-1/2 inch. I'm now a firm believer in Weatherby accuracy, and happy I didn't spend the extra money on one of the sub-MOA guns.
After the first few rounds of shooting, I concluded the trigger needed some work. It was a little too heavy, and had significant creep. It was almost as if it was a two-stage trigger. It had noticeable take up, got firm, and then broke at over 4 lbs. It was predictable, and each time felt the same. It ended up not having any impact on my groups, but I think it could impact shots in the field. Later I worked on the trigger with a buddy of mine who is an experienced gunsmith. We were able to lighten the trigger to the advertised 3-1/2 lbs., but we never could get the creep out of it. Every time he adjusted the sear to the point the creep went away, the safety would not engage. I'm not sure if this is characteristic of all Vanguards (It is if you don't leave sufficient sear engagement. -Ed.), but this one has an after-market trigger in its future.
About the only other negative I can talk about is the gun has an occasional feeding problem. The cartridges stack in the magazine in a staggered fashion, with one to the left and the next to the right. Occasionally when the cartridge on the right feeds, it will pop up and the bullet will not feed into the chamber. I'm not sure how to fix this yet, but I think I will be able to figure out a solution. It seems like an over enthusiastic magazine spring is what is causing the problem.
Overall I am very happy with this rifle. It is the Weatherby I've always wanted. It has a beautiful stock, excellent finish and amazing accuracy for an out of the box rifle. Anyone considering a rifle is this price range would be well advised to add the Vanguard to their short list of choices.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2007, 2012 by John Robbins. All rights reserved.