When riflemen or hunters hear the name Weatherby, high-end rifles with high-end price tags often come to mind. The reality is that for more than 40 years Weatherby has offered a value-priced rifle called the Vanguard. Vanguard rifles remained virtually unchanged until 2011, at which point the Series 2, with many updated features, was introduced. Among Weatherby’s new for 2013 Vanguard introductions was the Girls Hunt 2 (GH2) model, which is found exclusively in the new Weatherby-X line. The Vanguard GH2, specifically, is styled and sized for female shooters, though it will likely appeal most to those in the younger demographic.
The Vanguard Series 2’s action, which is built for Weatherby by Howa, serves as the heart of the Weatherby-X GH2 rifles. The push-feed action is essentially a copy of the old and excellent Sako L61R action. It’s a tubular action that has been drilled and tapped for scope bases and has a recoil lug machined into the front of the receiver. The bolt has dual-opposed locking lugs and a plunger ejector. Extraction is via an Sako-style extractor. The Vanguard GH2 models come with a hinged floor plate.
Many custom builders turn up their nose at Vanguard actions due to their Japanese origin, others recognize the features and build fine rifles on the action anyway. From a practical standpoint, the only reason they are avoided is due to the metric threads used for barrel attachment. It requires additional equipment and there is a learning curve associated when working with metric threads. If there’s any doubt as to the serviceability and practicality of the Vanguard action, consider that the custom rifles from Nosler are almost an exact copy of the Vanguard.
Weatherby’s GH2 version of the Vanguard is purpose-built for small-stature shooters, specifically women. To build a rifle to this criterion, Weatherby chose to utilize a slim-contour barrel and to chamber the rifles only in short-action cartridges sized similar to the .308 Win. case, as well as .223 Rem.
The stock is injection-molded with the traditional Weatherby high comb and cheekpiece on the left side. An identically stocked youth model is available with a black stock but the GH2 series rifle stock is black with pink webbing. Both are dimensionally identical, but the more colorful Weatherby-X series focuses on female tastes and comes with a price tag of $150 more. Another feature was added to the GH2 and that’s the synthetic stock with an adjustable length of pull, which comes set at 12½ inches. But here’s the special part; each GH2 rifle is shipped with a spacer that perfectly matches the shape and finish of the stock. By removing the buttpad and inserting the spacer the length of pull can be increased to 1313⁄16 inches. This means the rifle should fit ladies who are short or tall and, if they are young, it can grow with them.
Proof of concept was established when a woman no taller than five foot, four inches when wearing heels shouldered the rifle-without the stock spacer-and proclaimed, “This fits.” Range work from the bench and from various unsupported positions further verified the design theory. Proper eye relief and trigger reach was always maintained. The lady shot well and that can be attributed to the excellent shooter interface-fit, sights and trigger-offered by the rifle.
The short length of pull is an obvious interface mandate when trying to match a rifle to a shooter who is small. But there’s more to it. The high comb on the stock allows for proper head positioning behind the sights. That is especially critical with women, who tend to have longer necks. With the scope mounted 1.5 inches above the centerline of the bore, proper eye positioning and a comfortable cheek weld were maintained from the bench and field positions.
Another important consideration in the shooter interface equation is trigger pull. Vanguard Series 2 rifles have a two-stage trigger that exhibits about an 1/8 inch of take-up. After take-up, only 2 pounds, 12 ounces of force is required to release the sear. And, after sear release there’s only about 1/16 inch of over-travel. It is a good trigger and allowed the petite lady to shoot the rifle very well.
Weatherby guarantees its Vanguard GH2 rifles will place three shots into a 1-inch group at 100 yards when quality loads are used. For testing, a Nightforce NSX 2.5-10X 32 mm Compact was installed and, while firing the mandated five-shot groups, the first three shots of each group also were evaluated. With the exception of six of the 15 groups fired, all met the three-shot, 1-inch standard.
The Barnes 80-grain load and the rifle were not the best combination. None of the first three shots fired with this load clustered inside an inch. This should not be considered a failure; all rifles are a bit picky when it comes to ammunition. And, at any rate, any production rifle averaging 1.5 inches for 15 groups fired with ammunition picked at random, shoots very well.
The Weatherby-X Vanguard GH2 rifle deserves serious consideration if you’re looking for a rifle for a young lady or even an adult woman. It is likely to fit and appeal to their modern, feminine lifestyle as well. And, like any male shooter, a female is likely to perform better and enjoy the experience more if her rifle fits her properly.