Review: Howa M1500 H-S Precision in 6.5 Creedmoor

The Howa M1500 H-S Precision comes from a family line that makes it an ideal candidate for predator and varmint hunters working long distance. Its performance is up to the task without breaking the bank.

Review: Howa M1500 H-S Precision in 6.5 Creedmoor

Rifles are unique, regardless of model or make. Cosmetically identical twins crafted the same day often display completely different demeanors — one a sub-minute-of-angle beast eagerly digesting any load it’s fed, and the unruly sibling that requires wind-free days, a pet load and 86.7 degrees Fahrenheit to shrink 100-yard groups into an inch. 

Good luck telling the difference when they’re hanging next to one another on a gun store shelf. Even with the tight tolerances held by today’s CNC machining, reliably adopting a genetically disciplined performer means investing in a much more expensive model or sticking with a company known for quality, not hype. 

Howa’s family of rifles fit squarely into the latter category. The Japanese company has been around for 100 years, building guns for nearly eight decades and waited until 1979 to introduce the Model 1500 to American sportsmen. It caught on fast with precision shooters and the company’s components or complete actions currently ride in products from some of the industry’s legendary makers.

Solid Genes

Today, Legacy Sports International — based in Reno, Nev. — offers Howa actions, components and builds complete rifles, including the M1500 H-S Precision using the same action that quickly gained fame among long-distance marksmen. The M1500 receiver and barrel have a 40-year track record of performance and maintained the kind of tight tolerances that minimize rogue siblings. With modern CNC manufacturing techniques things are even better.

It all starts with a solid foundation, though. For example, some — if not all — firearm instructors emphasize working a bolt hard, fast and with authority. “Run it like you stole it” is heard early and often. The handle on the Howa 1500 bolt is integral, minimizing the chances it’ll surrender to stress. Both it and the receiver are forged steel. Add the M16-style extractor and ejector and cycling is smooth and reliable, even in the worst conditions with a weight lifter behind the wheel.

A three-position safety allows the bolt to be locked, ensuring things don’t unexpectedly slide out of battery during transportation or when walking into the field. It also allows the gun to be put on safe when unloaded.

Several barrel versions and lengths are available, although the test gun arrived with the 22-inch option in #2 profile. Rifling was 1:8 inches. Regardless of your selection, all are made of hammer-forged steel and headspace is set to tight tolerance at the factory. 

Magazine capacity on the 6.5 Creedmoor version is four rounds. The bottom metal — actually metal, believe it or not—drops when the lever, forward on the trigger guard, is depressed. It’s somewhat stingy, alleviating concerns about inadvertent activation in the field. The manipulation comes easy with practice, though, and owners will be making fast reloads in short order.

Trigger Control

The Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger (HACT) was first introduced in 2011. Most agree the original version was good, but the latest iteration is even better. 

A Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge found the average let-off weight of the two-stage trigger on the sample gun — mean for 10 pulls — was 3.05 pounds. Standard deviation came in at the unpalpable figure of 1/4 pound. All readings were taken after a lengthy range session, prior to cleanup.

That kind of performance from a stock factory trigger enhances group consistency, if not shrinking them. The company modestly claims the new HACT on all its rifles “… allows for a lighter let-off of between 2.5 and 3.8 lbs, eliminating trigger jerk ...”

I’m a huge fan of two-stage triggers, especially for hunting. There was no creep, grind, grunge or gritty feel at all. It may not quite be up to its aftermarket competitors, but it comes close.

The trigger shoe is textured to ensure a solid purchase in inclement weather and the trigger guard is generous enough for gloved use. Both are key ingredients on a hunting rifle. 

Taking Stock

The H-S Precision stock complements the Howa 1500 foundation well. All the company’s products are designed and manufactured in the United States with function and accuracy in mind, matching the rifle’s mission in perfect fashion.  

It starts with an aluminum bedding block CNC-machined to mate precisely to the Howa 1500 barrel and action. A hand lamination of Kevlar, carbon fiber and fiberglass are then applied, followed by dense proprietary polyurethane foam and finishing. Combined it makes for the kind of durable and solid synthetic stock that minimizes weather’s impact on point of impact and provides years of good-looking service.

The color scheme on the sample rifle soaked up background colors like a sponge. That makes photography painstakingly slow, although it’s a virtue when hunting keen-eyed predators.

The black texturing—more like painted lines—on the green/brown is deceiving in more ways than one. First, they are slightly elevated to from the main stock’s profile, as if drizzled on at the factory. It’s not enough to be annoying, or even noticeable from a few feet away, but it provides added grip to the gun. A slightly more generous application at the wrist and grip area improve the effect in all the right areas.

Whatever’s in the secret concoction is rugged, too. I put the rifle in a vise for pictures — with no scarring — and couldn’t manage to scratch the lines off with my fingernail. I did, however, draw the line at using a knife.

The stock isn’t one of those polymer slick and oily feeling fixtures. It’s grippy, but just enough for comfort and confidence. It comes with a pair of sling swivel stud mounts and features an H-S Precision recoil pad. Length of pull is 13 1/4 inches. 

At the Range

There’s no other way of saying it other than this rifle is a downright pleasure to shoot. The bolt glides smoothly throughout its range — effortlessly and probably even better once broken in. 

After mounting a Leupold 8.5-24x50 mm Mk4, shooting was conducted using five, three-shot groups at 100 yards. Three different loads were run through the gun — Hornady 140-grain American Gunner BTHP, Remington 140-grain Core-Lokt and Hornady 129-grain InterBond. The latter produced the best results, averaging 0.91 inch. It also produced the best group at 0.75 inch. 

Heavier bullets expanded group results noticeably, although that could change as the barrel and action break in. Both 140-grain versions came in at an average of slightly more than an inch. 

There were no stoppages or failures to extract during my session. Recoil, as expected on a 6.5 Creedmoor, was minimal. Feeding was flawless from the magazine and the #2 contour barrel heated, although not appreciably. 

Sub-MOA Guarantee

Howa performance is well known and documented among marksmen. Unfortunately, we never really know whether we’re eyeing a reliable tack driver or a rogue step child on the shelf. Legacy Sports International removed the worry in 2017, when it announced a new Howa Lifetime Warranty and Sub-MOA Guarantee for all the Howa rifles it sells in the U.S. 

“We recognize that purchasing a rifle is a substantial investment for our customers,” Gene Lumsden, president and CEO of Legacy Sports International said during the announcement at SHOT Show. “We strive to deliver the best production, bolt-action rifles available, and our new policies reflect the confidence we have in Howa products along with our commitment of providing the best customer service in the shooting industry. For as long as you own your Howa rifle, you’re covered by our Howa Lifetime Warranty and Sub-MOA Guarantee.” 

The Lifetime Warranty allows for repair or replacement of any parts or part of a Howa rifle at no charge, when purchased in the United States, registered with Legacy Sports International and all other requirements of the warranty are met. In addition, those that were purchased on or after Jan. 1, 2017 and meet the requirements, are also guaranteed to deliver sub-MOA performance of one-inch or less.

No more worry. If you get an evil twin, now you can send it back for rehab.

Final Thoughts

I have only one extremely minor complaint about the rifle. The receiver is tapped for Remington 700-style bases, which are not exactly modern-day convenient. Considering the out-of-the-box accuracy, however, who cares? The odds are good once the right optic is mounted it’s going to stay there, anyway. 

The Howa M1500 H-S Precision comes from a family line that makes it an ideal candidate for predator and varmint hunters working long distance. Its performance is up to the task without breaking the bank. And if you’re worried about a recessive gene floating to the surface, it’s even guaranteed to live up to the Howa legend. 


Manufacturer: Legacy Sports International

Model: M1500 H-S Precision

Calibers: 6.5 Creedmoor (also available in .22-250 Rem., .223 Rem., .308 Win., .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6 mm Creedmoor and .300 Win. Mag.)

Action: Howa M1500

Magazine Capacity: 4+1 

Barrel: 22 inches, 1:8 rifling

Trigger: 3.05 pounds, two-stage

Sights: None, tapped for Rem. 700 scope mounts

Stock: Synthetic, H-S Precision

Overall Length: 41 1/2 inches 

Weight: 7.6 pounds

Other: Detachable 5- and 10-round magazine kits available

MSRP: $1,099

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