The receiver ring has a 0.090" gas vent hole on the left side, and incorporates an integral recoil lug that is drilled and tapped for the forward action screw. Four holes drilled and tapped in the top of the receiver allow scope base mounting.
Cartridges are fed from an internal four-round steel box magazine. A lever at the front of the trigger guard is pressed rearward to release the hinged floorplate and empty the magazine.
The bolt, also a one-piece forging, has two large lugs, with a slot in the right lug for an anti-bind rib in the receiver. Threaded into the Varminter’s receiver is a heavy-profile hammer-forged barrel. Both 20" and 24" lengths can be had, chambered in a variety of calibers from .204 Ruger to .308 Win. Our test .308 Win. gun had a 24" tube rifled in a four-groove, 1:12" right-hand twist, with a recessed crown.
The Howa two-lever override trigger is set to 5 lbs. pull weight at the factory, but it is gunsmith-adjustable down to about 2 lbs. A three-position safety lever at the right rear of the receiver blocks the trigger and bolt when moved all the way to the rear. The middle position allows the bolt to be worked, but still blocks the trigger. Pushing all the way forward disengages the safety.
The Axiom stock offers two recoil-reducing mechanisms. The primary one is contained in the pistol-grip area of the buttstock. Upon firing, the upper component of the pistol grip, which attaches to the forward stock section by means of a large screw, slides in relation to the rest of the buttstock against the resistance of a spring-powered cam mechanism in the grip. Additional recoil reduction is provided by a telescoping, spring-loaded section of the buttstock.
The forward section of the Axiom stock precisely fits the bottom of the Howa action, so no bedding is required. Knoxx makes two versions of the Axiom, with both machined aluminum and polymer forward stock sections; the Howa/Axiom, however, is currently available only with the polymer version. In addition to its recoil-taming capacity, the stock also offers a two-position removable cheekpiece, front and rear Uncle Mike’s-type sling swivel studs, and additional sling attachment points. Howa/Axiom rifles are made in black or camouflage. Camouflage models for 2007 could be had in a Montana Camo Prairie Ghost pattern; for 2008, only a Mossy Oak Brush camo finish is available. The rifle we received for testing had the Prairie Ghost camo finish.
Our test gun also came with the Nikko-Stirling 4-16X 44 mm Nighteater scope that is part of the Howa/Axiom Varminter Rifle Package. Given the Howa/Axiom’s heavy barrel, we wanted to test our sample gun with three .308 Win. loads having excellent accuracy potential: a Black Hills load with a 180-gr. Nosler AccuBond bullet; a Federal match load with Sierra’s 168-gr. MatchKing bullet; and a Hornady load with a 150-gr. SST bullet....