Weatherby Vanguard .308 Varmint Special

By J.D. Sliger

Weatherby Vanguard SUB-MOA Stainless
Vanguard Varmint Special. Illustration courtesy of Weatherby, Inc.

I wrote an article last year about Tikka rifles and the problem I had with their plastic parts and general cheaper production methods. Since then, and after reading many articles on Guns and Shooting Online, I decided to purchase the new Weatherby .308 Varmint Special. Money also played a part and this is an awesome rifle for the money.

I am an averaged sized guy and a relatively new to hunting. I do not want a rifle that has a lot of recoil and, because I have not shot a lot of rifles, I wanted to start with a rifle that is appropriate for all game but one that will not induce a flinch. I want to focus on bullet placement without worrying about how the gun will affect me when I pull the trigger. The .308 seemed to fit the bill. Here are some basic specifications for the Vanguard Varmint Special taken from the Weatherby web site (

  • Product code - VBR308NR20
  • Caliber - .308 Win. (also .204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .22-250)
  • Capacity - 5 + 1
  • Barrel - 22" long, #3 contour (.740 muzzle diameter)
  • Rifling - 1:12" right hand twist
  • Weight - 8-1/4 lbs.
  • Overall length - 41-1/2"
  • Length of pull - 13-5/8"
  • Drop at comb - 3/4"
  • Drop at heel - 1-1/8"
  • 2007 MSRP - $605

This Vanguard model features an attractive tan, injection-molded Monte Carlo synthetic stock with distinctive pebble grain finish and black spiderwebbing with molded-in checkering. The barreled action is bead blasted to a matte finish and the barrel features a recessed target crown.

The Vanguard action is made with a one-piece, forged and machined, flat bottomed receiver with an integral recoil lug for the utmost in strength. The bolt has a one-piece forged, fluted body with three gas escape ports. The trigger can be user adjusted for let-off weight and sear engagement within factory pre-set minimums. (Weatherby's lawyers advise, naturally, that only a qualified gunsmith should set sear engagement.)

Like all Weatherby Vanguard rifles, the Varmint Special is supplied with a factory fired target showing a 3-shot group shot at 100 yards. It is guaranteed to shoot at least 1-1/2" groups from a cold barrel with premium factory loaded ammunition.

Some may think that a varmint rifle will be a little heavy for in the field on big game animals, particularly when a lot of walking is done. And I agree with this on most varmint rifles, but not this one. The Weatherby Varmint Special weighs only 8.25 lbs. and is significantly lighter than some other varmint rifles that weigh between 9 and 10 pounds.

This rifle also has a 22" barrel (very appropriate for a .308), which makes it very well balanced and not front heavy at all compared to some longer varmint rifles. The heavier barrel is not as heavy as some varmint barrels, and this also makes it lighter. The first time I held it I thought that it was the best balanced gun that I have ever held. I also wanted a gun that I could easily take standing shots with some level of accuracy and the slightly increased weight will significantly contribute to this.

I am not sure why so many manufacturers make their rifles so light. From all that I have read, the only advantage to making a gun light is for ease of carrying in the field, which I suppose should not be easily dismissed. In my opinion, however, there are far more advantages to having a slightly heavier rifle, such as reduced recoil and stability when taking shots from the standing position.

After all, I can easily gain 2 pounds from eating a good meal, yet some people make a big deal about a 1.75 pound increase in gun weight. Some rifles weigh a meager 6.5 pounds and I have fired enough rifles to know that there is a huge difference in how a rifle that weighs 6.5 lbs. and a rifle that weighs 8.25 lbs. affects a shooter. I can handle the little extra weight in the field and perhaps will not gorge myself on the day of the hunt in order that I can take advantage of all the benefits that carrying an 8 lb. gun will offer.

If you have a chance to try a Weatherby Varmint Special I am sure you will agree with most of what I have said. It is a new model from Weatherby and, in my opinion, makes an excellent all around hunting rifle. Yes, it is a little heavier, but not that much more than appropriately weighted hunting rifles and you will get a heavier barrel to boot. Check this rifle out if you have a chance. Hunt well!

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Copyright 2007, 2016 by J.D. Sliger. All rights reserved.