Through Sniper’s Hide, I get to shoot a lot of rifles. Most of the time they are quite costly, and the readers recognize this quickly. One of my goals in reviewing precision rifles that cost less than $2000 is, seeing if they match their marketing. Enter the Howa HCR based on the Howa 1500 barreled action.
Howa HCR is their Chassis Rifle. The Howa 1500 barreled action is dropped into an Accurate Mag Aluminum Chassis system. The Howa HCR includes a Sub MOA guarantee and lifetime warranty. Plus you get the rifle Cerakoted here in the USA through Legacy Sports. The model reviewed included a Multicam paint job and coyote/tan paint job. Cosmetically the rifle looks excellent; it stands out from the competition thanks to the eye-catching paintwork. The question then becomes, “How does she shoot?”
The Howa 1500 barreled action has its roots in Japan. Legacy Sports brings them over and does the Cerakote work in-house. The same company that makes the Barreled Action also produces the Weatherby Vanguard. Poll any Howa 1500 owner, and you find a satisfied customer, as the Howa 1500 has a loyal following.
Our Review Process
One of the ways Sniper’s Hide differs from other reviews is the amount of time we spend shooting these rifles. I don’t get the rifle on Wednesday, hit the range on Saturday and Sunday and write my reviews come Monday Morning. It’s not uncommon for me to shoot 1000 rounds before concluding my opinion. I don’t want to get bit, nor do I want to waste my reader’s money. It has to work all the way through the testing, and not just on the first weekend.
I started off using this rifle to test the Sightmark Pinnacle 5-30x Scope. That review is posted and can be read here: Sightmark Pinnacle Review
During the Pinnacle review, we are continually gathering data. In a lot of ways, I am shooting the rifle as any original owner would. I have to zero and dope the Howa to distance, and the results matter. From here I can begin to form my opinion.
Sub MOA Accuracy
There is a sub moa guarantee with the Howa 1500. I am not going to sugar coat it; accuracy guarantees are tricky and can bite a company. Not all shooters are created equal and open the door for complaints. Rather than just stick with factory Prime Ammo, I also tested the rifle with Desert Tech 6.5CM and Hornady 140 ELD Match ammo. Good 6.5 Creedmoor ammo is easy to get. The Howa 1500 has to perform with factory ammo and not hand loads.
Testing all 3, the Desert Tech 140gr Ammo was the best of the bunch. However, the other two were also sub moa meeting the requirement of the guarantee. Your shooting ability will matter, but each 5 round group, exceeded 1 MOA in accuracy by a considerable margin. Points on the board for Legacy Sports.
Out to Distance
We doped the rifle to 1425 yards. In our video, we shot the rifle for a record at 1250 yards and 800 yards. I felt this gives you a good idea of how the Howa will carry this accuracy downrange. Once again the rifle impressed.
Using 11.5 Mils to reach 1250 yards, we quickly placed a five shot group on our IPSC target. At 800 yards the rifle was effortless to shoot.
You can get the Howa HCR is the following calibers:
The barrel lengths vary from 20″ to 24″ with a 26″ threaded option available for the 308 and 6.5CM variants. Howa uses a Hammer forged barrel type and accuracy lives up to the claims.
One area I think the guys at Howa need to look at are the twist rates. The 6.5 Creedmoor we shot is a 1-8 twist. This twist rate works great for the 6.5. The 308 is a 1-10, another excellent choice. However, the 243 and 223 are twisted a bit slow. The 223 a 1-9, the 243 a 1-10. What made the Ruger Precision Rifle so popular right out of the gate was the twist rates. They paid attention to what the Long Range Shooters were using, and for a 243 I would consider something like a 1-7.7 or 1-7.5. The 223 variant is a 1-9, that too needs to be set up for heavier bullets.
The Trigger is an excellent two stage trigger. I found it very comfortable to shoot. A two-stage trigger allows the shooter to marry their finger to the trigger without fear of it going off. For fast moving competitions, a newer shooter is not always best served with a super light single stage trigger. Yes I know guys love them, here my bias spills out as I am a Two-Stage Trigger Fan.
Chassis & Stock
As noted above, the Chassis is from Accurate Mag. Accurate Mag also supplies the 10 Round AICS Mag. We used both Accurate Mags and Magpul AICS mags, and they worked equally well. No drama there, you can save a few dollars by using a Magpul Magazine vs. the more expensive steel options.
My only complaints come from the stock. I wish the Accurate Mag chassis had a longer handguard to place the bipod out closer to the end of the barrel. Not that big of a deal, as it keeps the weight down, but options would be excellent.
My other area of dislike was the Luth-AR stock. It’s not awful by any means; it was just not for me. I felt I could feel it through my cheek and it was not as stable as it could be. The Howa HCR uses AR furniture for the buttstock and pistol grip. So you can change them out. The Luth-AR is highly adjustable, allowing the end user to move it as needed. It’s a starting point, but down the road, I would probably change it out. Maybe a more robust PRS stock from Magpul would feel better for me. This is just my notes on the subject and not a statement of fact. A lot of people like the Luth AR stock. Any of these options did not impact my results.
Entry Level Price Tag
The rifle performs, that is very clear from my time with it. With a lifetime guarantee and sub moa accuracy, the only part left is the cost. Coming in under $1000, it’s easy to see why the Howa 1500 is so popular with their owners. You can easily walk into a production class event and not go over budget. So there are no excuses why you cannot get out and shoot a precision rifle competition anywhere in the country.
Options will change the cost slightly, but you are still within the ballpark of the other rifles out there in this class.
I always get asked to compare this rifle or this scope to others.Something I am not a fan of doing. I just lay out the pro and cons as I see it and let you make that decision. Every day people ask me what my favorite color is, hoping I can pick it for them too. I hate this; it’s your choice, not mine. I am merely laying out the options for you; the decision is ultimately yours.
Not everyone likes the hype around some of the other brands. So if I said you should buy an RPR, ten guys are chiming in on the Tikka. When I say I like the Tikka, ten other guys are crying Savage, from there it just snowballs.
Weigh the options, look at availability, after which you can finalize your budget and decide which rifle is best for you. The success I had with the Howa HCR makes it every bit a contender for your consideration.
The Howa 1500 in the Accurate Mag chassis is an excellent rifle. You can be up and be gunning in no time, and I believe it to be more accurate than your average new shooter, even some of the more experienced ones too.
Features from Howa
Available in .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Win
Accepts AR-style furniture for customization
20” and 24” barrels, standard & heavy barrel options
26” available in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 only
6061-T6 aluminum chassis made by Accurate-Mag w/ free-float M-LOK forend
LUTH-AR MBA-3 buttstock mounted on a 6-position buffer tube
Adjustable length-of-pull & comb
10-round, AI-style, Accurate-Mag detachable, Teflon-coated, all-steel magazine
Available in threaded barrel options
Nikko Stirling® Diamond Long Range 4-16×50 scope (option)
EGW 20-MOA, one-piece base & rings