Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic .30-06 Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
In 2009, Weatherby (www.weatherby.com) advertised their bottom of the line Vanguard Synthetic as the "Weatherby 399--not a caliber, a price," a clever way to emphasize that a genuine Weatherby rifle could be had at a very low price. We purchased our test rifle on sale at Bi-Mart in Eugene, Oregon for $349, which puts this Weatherby in competition with economy rifles such as the Mossberg 100 ATR, Remington Model 770, Savage Edge and Stevens Model 200. These are all basic, matte blued, bolt actions with black, injection molded, synthetic stocks. Black on black, they are just about the plainest hunting rifles you can buy. None carry a 2010 MSRP over $419 (the street price is generally less), a very low price for a push feed, cock on opening, dual front locking lug, high power hunting rifle.
Most economy rifles are fundamentally cheap designs. By which I refer to such basic construction features as barrels pinned (rather than threaded) into the receiver, receivers drilled from round bar stock with an oval slot for an ejection port, "washer" recoil lugs trapped between barrel and action, multi-piece assembled bolts, stamped sheet metal internal parts, non-adjustable triggers, sliding or clip-style bolt face extractors, blind magazines or cheaply made detachable box magazines, sheet metal or "molded into the plastic stock" trigger guards, low-grade (matte) metal finish and, of course, the cheapest possible plastic stocks with either a low-tech recoil pad or a plastic butt plate. None of these economy rifles has the "right stuff" to allow their owners to upgrade them or to serve as the basis for a custom-built rifle; they are one trick ponies and that trick is a low initial price. The low price is a ticket to nowhere.
The Vanguard Synthetic is different from its competition in that it is based on a high quality barreled action with a matte finish and a cheap stock. The Vanguard line began life many years ago as a Weatherby Deluxe style rifle chambered for standard, rather than Weatherby Magnum, cartridges. Polish and high luster blue the Synthetic's barreled action and drop it in a nice stock and, presto, a deluxe rifle is born, or reborn. The Vanguard action is becoming popular with custom rifle builders, and for good reason. Note the contrast to the rifles described in the paragraph above: replaceable barrel threaded solidly into receiver; flat bottom receiver with integral recoil lug machined from billet steel and generous, open top, loading/ejection port; one-piece bolt machined from billet steel; generous M-16 style claw extractor; fully adjustable trigger; one-piece aluminum alloy bottom metal with hinged magazine floorplate. The Vanguard Synthetic really has only a dull metal finish and a plastic, throwaway stock in common with other economy rifles and both are easily remedied. Granted, most of its competition carries a MSRP even lower than the Vanguard Synthetic's, but not that much lower.
A steel bolt sleeve fully encloses the rear of the Vanguard bolt and there are three gas escape ports drilled into the side of the bolt body in Weatherby fashion. These are intended to direct escaping gas away from the shooter's face in the event of a burst case. The safety is a positive, two-position switch at the right rear of the receiver. All Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic rifles come guaranteed to deliver 1.5" or smaller three-shot groups at 100 yards from a cold barrel with premium, factory loaded ammunition. It is the only economy rifle that comes with a written accuracy guarantee.
Unlike most of its competition, the Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic is available in a wide range of calibers. For 2010 these include .223 Remington, .22-250, .243 Winchester, .25-06, .257 Weatherby Magnum, ,270 Winchester, .270 WSM, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, .30-06, .300 WSM, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Weatherby Magnum and .338 Winchester Magnum. Our test rifle was purchased in .30-06, still the most capable all-around caliber on the planet. Following are the basic specifications for our Vanguard Synthetic test rifle.
We used Weaver two-piece scope bases and Weaver rings to mount a Weaver Classic V9, 3-9x40mm scope on our Vanguard. (See the Product Reviews page for a full review of the Weaver V9.) We feel that a scope of this size is all that is required for any .30-06 big game hunting rifle. It is able to take full advantage of the cartridge's maximum point blank range while offering a reasonable maximum field of view.
Every Vanguard we have ever used has been capable of meeting its accuracy guarantee with ammunition it preferred and our test Synthetic was no exception. In fact, it delivered 1.5 MOA or better accuracy at 100 yards with a variety of Federal, Winchester and Remington factory loads, both premium and standard. The best groups measured about an inch. Bullet weights included 150, 165 and 180 grains. Notable for an economy rifle was the recoil pad, apparently a copy of a Decelerator type pad that actually lessened the effect of recoil. Also noteworthy is the Vanguard's clean, light trigger that makes accurate shooting much easier.
The Vanguard Synthetic's plastic stock is well shaped with good lines and, like all Weatherby pattern stocks, handles recoil very well. The forward sloping Monte Carlo comb moves away from the shooters face under recoil, the tapered, angled forend allows a positive grip and the generous surface area of the butt pad spreads the kick over a larger area of shoulder. The Synthetic's detachable sling swivels studs are regulation steel studs, not just eyelets molded into the plastic stock.
The Weatherby's open top receiver makes loading a single cartridge directly into the chamber easy, an often ignored, but important, attribute at the range and, sometimes, in the field. It would also make clearing a jam much faster and easier, although we experienced no malfunctions of any kind with the Vanguard.
In conclusion, we can state that the Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic is a high-end rifle in a low-end stock at an economy price. It is the "wolf in sheep's clothing" among bolt action hunting rifles. As such, it is the most value at the lowest price available today.
Note: Complete reviews of the Weatherby Vanguard Deluxe, Vanguard Sporter, Vanguard Varmint Special, Vanguard SUB-MOA and several Weatherby Mark V rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
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