Back in the 1940s, a young cartridge wildcatter named Roy Weatherby challenged the conventional wisdom of the day by bringing to market a line of super-fast cartridges shooting light-for-caliber bullets, believing that this, and not a heavier bullet traveling at moderate velocity, was the best way to achieve a clean, one-shot kill on deer and other big-game animals. At the same time, he was also rechambering and producing rifles that would accommodate his new line of Weatherby Magnum cartridges. At that time Roy used French Brevex Magnum Mauser and FNB Mauser actions, but soon opened the eyes of the firearms world with the introduction of his own proprietary action, known today as the Mark V, in 1957. Then, in 1970, Weatherby introduced its innovative Vanguard line of bolt-action rifles that featured just two locking lugs, as opposed to the nine found in the Mark V.
In the early days Weatherby was located in South Gate, California, a not-so-nice neighborhood near Los Angeles and a place I visited many times when I was working for a publishing company headquartered in West Hollywood. There I had the chance to speak with Roy and his team about rifles, cartridges, ballistics and shooting. It was quite an education for an up-and-coming hunting and shooting writer, to be sure! Roy’s son, Ed, took the reins of the company in 1983, and in 2005, following yet another round of civil unrest in Los Angeles and after 50 years in the same location, the company moved to Atascadero, on the central California coast. A few years later the company headquarters moved to nearby Paso Robles, and all rifle production — which for decades had been outsourced to factories in West Germany; Japan; Saco, Maine and then Brainerd, Minnesota — was moved to the Paso Robles facility in 2011.
The Vanguard rifle series has proven to be extremely successful for Weatherby, offering shooters and hunters a high-quality and extremely accurate rifle at moderate cost. When the Vanguard Series 2, which guaranteed sub-MOA accuracy, was introduced, sales grew even more. My own Series 2 rifle in .257 Weatherby Magnum, which consistently places three of my own handloads using either the 100-grain AccuBond or 115-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet well inside an inch at 100 yards, continues to be one of my favorite deer-hunting rifles.
So I was truly excited when Weatherby’s marketing director, Mike Schweibert, invited me to come back to central California in August to visit the factory and spend some time hunting California mule deer and wild hogs with him and marketing specialist Brad Dykhouse while taking one of Weatherby’s Mark V Accumark RC rifles for a test drive. It was like old home week for me, seeing as how I grew up hunting these elusive bucks on public land up and down the California coast.
Like the Vanguard Series 2, all Accumark RC (Range Certified) rifles are guaranteed to shoot a three-shot group of .99-inch or less at 100 yards when paired with specified Weatherby factory or premium ammunition. Each is tested at Weatherby’s modern indoor range. Range technicians mount premium optics, boresight and test fire each rifle to determine the most accurate load using the Oehler Research 83 Ballistic Imaging System. After testing, the rifle is cleaned and packed with the target signed by Ed Weatherby. Each rifle sports a special RC engraved floor plate as well as a hand-laminated, raised-comb Monte Carlo composite stock with matte gel coat finish and spider web accents.
There are several key features incorporated into these finely built rifles. For one, each has a factory-tuned, fully adjustable trigger that allows for precise adjustment of the sear engagement (factory set at .008 to .0140) and letoff weight (factory set at about 3 1/2 pounds). It’s a clean, crisp trigger conducive to consistent accuracy. Also featured is a Direct Striker Intervention Safety, which offers a direct, positive locking of the firing pin. This system locks the bolt in engaged position and disengages the sear to render the trigger inoperable. It operates easily with a light rolling action of the thumb, and is virtually silent with a controlled release.
An attractive fluted bolt body features three gas ports to allow high-pressure gasses to escape laterally in the event of an accidental case rupture. Longitudinal flutes reduce overall bolt weight and bearing surface area while minimizing binding for a smooth action. Positive cartridge extraction extracts the cartridge and ejects the fired case without the necessity of full bolt retraction.
A button-rifled #3 contour stainless steel fluted barrel is also featured. The barrel, which comes in 24-, 26- and 28-inch lengths depending on caliber, is free-floated and topped with a recessed target crown. Weatherby also incorporates what the company calls its “three rings of steel,” in which the cartridge casehead is surrounded by a recessed bolt face, barrel and forged and machined steel receiver (which features an integral recoil lug for superior strength and structural integrity). Together this creates an extra measure of strength and structural integrity. A CNC-machined 6061 T-6 aluminum bedding plate and Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad are also standard.
“Our Range Certified program now includes the Mark V Accumark, one of our most popular rifles among hunters and shooters,” Schweibert told me. “The Mark V Accumark RC is certainly one of the most accurate production rifles available today.” It’s available in 14 calibers: .240 Wby. Mag., .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06 Springfield, .257 Wby. Mag., .270 Wby. Mag., 7mm Rem. Mag., 7mm Wby. Mag., .300 Win. Mag., .300 Wby. Mag., .30-378 Wby. Mag., .338-378 Wby. Mag., .340 Wby. Mag. and .338 Lapua. Additional calibers and left-handed models are available through the Weatherby Custom Shop.
On this hunt we both used rifles chambered in .240 Wby. Mag., one of the most accurate and effective long-range deer-hunting rounds ever developed that is also easy on the shoulder. Since California requires the use of lead-free ammunition for all big-game hunting, we fed these rifles factory Weatherby ammunition featuring the 85-grain Barnes TSX bullet. My rifle was topped with a high-quality Leupold riflescope and produced amazing accuracy on the range. We were ready for anything.
The hunt itself was a real treat for me and a big departure from the public-land hunting I did so much of decades ago in this region, when just finding a legal buck during the course of many weekends was a feat to be proud of. Instead we were hunting on a local vineyard owned by the Steinbeck family, wonderful folks in their sixth generation on this land and the growers of grapes in high demand by many local well-known vintners as well as the makers of a small batch of their own fine red wines. Unlike many of the area’s landowners, who have enclosed their vineyards with game-proof fencing to keep the deer from pounding their crops, the Steinbecks have chosen to leave their land unfenced. “If we didn’t have the deer here it just wouldn’t be the same,” manager Ryan Newkirk told me and Mike as we glassed for deer. “I love to deer hunt, too, and cannot imagine never having deer to watch or to hunt.”
In this rolling terrain we spent mornings and evenings glassing for deer among the rows of grapes. Shots could have been beanfield-long or very close, depending on how things developed. For both Mike and me, the latter proved to be the case.
Mike was up first, and when we spotted an old, gnarly buck bedded between the rows right at first light, he and his cameraman (filming the hunt for a segment of Weatherby TV) were able to quickly sneak into position. Mike got settled on his shooting sticks, and a 100-yard neck shot sealed the deal.
It wasn’t until the next evening that my turn came. We spotted a dandy forked-horn buck (these deer often only have two points per side, some with and some without eyeguards, even when fully mature) feeding on grape leaves. We made a big loop, then started a stalk that led us to spotting the buck bedded down tight against a row of vines. I set up on the sticks at about 200 yards, but the rolling nature of the terrain didn’t allow me to clearly see the deer’s chest. So, after some debate, Ryan and I decided to attack. Using the vines for cover, we snuck to within 50 yards. With the camera rolling and deer facing me, I slowly rose into a semi-crouch. The buck started to stand, but by the time his knees had locked the diminutive TSX knocked him off his feet. It was spectacular.
This shot might not seem to be something that a .240 Weatherby fired from a rifle designed for ultra-accuracy at long range is designed to accomplish, but it told me two things. One, the Mark V Vanguard Accumark RC rifle is extremely well balanced and it comes to the shoulder smoothly and easily, and the trigger is clean and crisp enough to make a quick shot when necessary. The other is that the TSX bullet, leaving the muzzle at nearly 3,400 fps and striking a buck that field-dressed at 160 pounds that was facing me, did not explode on impact. Instead, it ran the length of the deer and imbedded itself in a rear quarter. Also surprisingly, very little meat was lost to bloodshoting. Performance of both rifle and bullet could not have been any better.
Admittedly, these rifles are not cheap. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $2,400 for all calibers except for the .30-378 Wby. Mag., .338-378 Wby. Mag and .338 Lapua, which are $2,700. And yet, for the discerning sportsman searching for a rifle that is built as well as or better than many custom guns and shoots lights out, it’s a product that offers great value. For more information, contact a local Weatherby dealer (you can find them at www.weatherby.com/wheretobuy), call the company at (805) 227-2600 or visit www.weatherby.com.The company also invites all hunters and shooters to visit and join its free online community at www.weatherbynation.com.