In 1959, Japanese manufacturer Howa Machinery imported its first bolt-action hunting rifle stateside in limited numbers. Few American firearm enthusiasts even noticed, although the reception was a lot warmer by 1967 when the company’s Golden Bear model debuted at a show in Chicago, Ill. Despite the fact only 3,000 were imported, it sent a clear message—the company’s products were high quality and performance driven.
That fact didn’t escape the notice of Roy Weatherby, who in 1970 engaged the firm’s services to produce famed Weatherby Mark V rifles. Production of that gun moved back to the U.S. in 1994, but Howa is still the OEM manufacturer of Weatherby Vanguard barreled actions.
Howa renewed stateside efforts under its own label in 1979, when Model 1500s arrived on our shores. The rifles were chambered for long-action cartridges at first and employed a two-stage trigger. The bolt cocked on opening, and it had a 90-degree throw, unlike the Weatherbys made in the same factory. The difference didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of reviewers.
In 2011, the company made things even better with the introduction of its two-stage, Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger. It was a huge improvement over the original, reducing creep and providing a lighter let-off weight. The firm introduced its Mini Action M1500 versions in 2015—12-percent shorter than standard-length short actions.
Legacy Sports International imports the rifles today, and there is no shortage of chamberings, stocks, barrel lengths and configurations from which to choose. Each come with a lifetime warranty and sub-m.o.a. guarantee.
Whether you’re looking for a .22-250 Rem., .223 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 PRC, .300 Win. Mag., .308 Win. or others, you can find it in a Howa Model 1500. Add the wide variety of stocks, some in camo with others tailored for precision pursuits, and the odds are good you’ll find something ideal for your favorite passion.
The company doesn’t have MSRPs listed on its website, but one big box store has long actions sitting a Hogue synthetic stock listed at $499.99. Those wearing carbon-fiber stocks ran roughly $1,300. The Howa M1500 HCR (Howa Chassis Rifle) featured by American Rifleman in 2017, will run you more, though. Its price back them was $1,725, including optic.
As for the performance and feel, B. Gil Horman explained it in his review of a Howa 1500 Mini Bolt chambered in 7.62x39 mm. "Working with this Howa 1500 Mini Bolt rifle was one of the more enjoyable out-of-the-box bolt action rifle experiences I've had,” he wrote. "The Mini Bolt’s short throw was smooth and intuitive. The 20" #6 barrel balanced nicely off the bench. The trigger was superb, recoil was moderate, and the accuracy was better than hoped for. Although I’ve not worked with a Howa before now, this modern hunting rifle felt like that trusty ol’ bolt gun that grandpa shot all his life and wouldn’t trade for love or money because it was an ideal fit for him."