Howa’s Carbon Elevate gave Con Kapralos a lift
Howa Manufacturing of Japan together with Fuller Global, owners of Legacy Sports in the US and Outdoor Sporting Agencies (OSA) in Australia, have taken the Howa M1500 platform to new levels. The M1500 barrelled action in ultralight, sporter, semi-heavy and varmint guises is as good as it gets in a superbly engineered and designed rifle platform made in a multitude of calibres.
The use of carbon-fibre technology in the design and manufacture of rifle stocks has been a game changer with the Howa M1500 barrelled actions paired up with excellent carbon-fibre offerings from Stocky’s Stocks in the US. The Howa Carbon Stalker (reviewed in March) was the first rifle series released which mated the mini-action and sporter barrelled actions with a carbon-fibre stock weighing 600-700 grams. The resultant rifles are a revelation with their handling transformed and as great as Carbon Stalker rifles are, Howa and Fuller Global didn’t rest on their laurels. They were already using a carbon-wrapped barrel, giving a rifle with a varmint (number 7) profile the weight of a standard sporter barrel.
The Howa Carbon Elevate is the result. The mini-action and M1500 receiver with carbon-wrapped barrel delivers the best of both worlds as a sporter and varmint rolled into one, cradled in another Stocky’s carbon-fibre stock with a weight well under the 3kg mark, these new offerings set to take on their European competitors in the hotly-contested $1800-$2200 price bracket.
At a glance
Australian Shooter received the rifle in two parts, the M1500 action with number 7 profile carbon-wrapped barrel in .308 Winchester in one carton and Stocky’s carbon-fibre stock in another, OSA also supplying a Zeiss V4 3-12×56 optic with Nikko Stirling Zero-Lok scope-mounting hardware. Range testing was with a selection of factory hunting loads as well as two favourite handloads using monolithic projectiles. The rifle has an overall length of 1115mm, weighs 2.86kg bare and with the Zeiss V4 optic tipped the scales at 3.7kg.
The Howa M1500 action has stood the test of time and continues to be made as it was when released in 1979. The receiver is milled from a single piece of cylindrical bar-stock and maintains this profile except for the top of the rear receiver ring and underside of the frame where it beds on to the stock and a flat surface is warranted. Top of the receiver is drilled and tapped to accept Remington 700-style scope-mounting hardware, a pleasing attribute as it makes mounting easy with a plethora of bases and rings out there.
The ejection/loading port has the user in mind, enabling rounds to be thumbed into the internal box magazine with ejection of cases through the port. The front receiver ring has one gas port on the left, which helps direct hot gases away from the shooter. The left of the receiver body has the model engraved into its surface as well as the Legacy Sports name, a small tab-button on the rear left flank serves as the bolt release while the right flank of the receiver has the serial number on the front ring.
The stock is anchored to the receiver using two hex-head bolts, one just rear of the trigger group and another which anchors into the front recoil lug and is an integral part of the receiver. While many modern rifles have much simpler recoil lugs, the Howa M1500 with its version milled as part of the receiver is as solid as you’ll find and lends itself perfectly to further glass bedding if required. The receiver is finished in matte black.
The barrel is one of the Carbon Elevate’s major attributes with its stainless-steel construction being of a number 7 profile and 610mm (24”) long, akin to a traditional varmint profile. This involves a cold hammer forging process with the muzzle and chamber ends retaining two stainless steel collars. The collar which makes up the knox-form is 52mm long by 30mm wide and at the terminal end, the steel collar is 18mm long by 20mm wide and has a threaded portion for use with muzzle accessories. A knurled thread cap comes as standard.
The main shank of the barrel is wrapped in carbon-fibre primarily to reduce weight but also aids rigidity and heat dissipation. The carbon wrap ends up being flush with the two steel collars and gives the look and stability of a traditional varmint-style barrel but at a sporter weight. Calibres available are 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester in Short Action and 6.5 PRC and .300 Winchester Magnum in Long Action, the review rifle being .308 Winchester with a one-in-10” rate of twist.
This is made from a single piece of steel inclusive of the bolt head, body and handle. It’s a push-feed design with dual-opposed locking lugs with the standard 90-degree lift and case extraction, ejection by the ever-reliable M16-style ejector and extractor. The bolt face is square to the chamber for optimal accuracy and reliability, while the body has several pressure vent holes along its underside to channel ignition gases. The entire bolt, including the rear shroud, is finished in matte black with the exception of the rear-facing cocking indicator which is polished steel.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The safety system is an integral part of the trigger unit and is of a linear three-position arrangement with the selector lever tucked behind the bolt handle notch. Moving the safety lever rearmost the firing pin is blocked and bolt handle locked down, sliding it to the middle the firing pin is still blocked but the bolt may be cycled, while fully forward the rifle can be fired. The trigger is Howa’s patented H.A.C.T. (Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger) system designed to eliminate trigger creep and lighten the pull, the two-stage trigger set to roughly 1.3kg from the factory and adjustable.
The magazine is the standard pressed steel internal box with alloy floorplate and polymer follower with steel spring. It holds five .308 Winchester rounds staggered and, with the follower, presents loaded rounds to the push feed bolt without obstruction. Loading the magazine through the ejection port is simplicity itself and to unload just press the floorplate release lever on the forward portion of the triggerguard. For users who prefer a detachable box magazine set-up, there are some available through OSA.
The carbon-fibre stock weighs 647 grams and is of an American profile with pleasing lines and no unsightly cheekpieces or raised combs, the barrel channel quite wide to accommodate the carbon-wrapped barrel. Bedding is by the patented AccuBlock lug bed which mates superbly with the integral recoil lug on the front underside of the receiver which allows the barrel to free-float.
An excellent LimbSaver recoil pad is supplied and QD sling swivel studs are standard. The exterior has the carbon-weave pattern visible but is overlaid with white ‘spider-webbing’ which provides an additional level of grip as no chequering or grip panels are worked into the stock.
At the range
Testing consisted of bore-sighting the rifle at 25m before moving the target frames out to 100m. Factory loads from Hornady, Sellier & Bellot, Federal and two premium handloads with monolithic projectiles would give a good indication of the rifle’s accuracy potential. The bore, as always, was thoroughly cleaned before testing.
Howa M1500 Carbon Elevate in .308 Winchester: Accuracy testing at 100m
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group (mm)*|
|Federal Power-Shok 150gr SP||18||29||24|
|Hornady InterLock 150gr SP||20||39||27|
|Sellier & Bellot 150gr SPCE||19||36||25|
|Handload – Tigershark 140gr HT||10||19||14|
|Handload – Tigershark 150gr HT||13||24||17|
* Average calculated from five 3-shot groups at 100m from a benchrest
The review rifle shot superbly and during years of reviewing firearms, the Howa M1500 has never disappointed in the accuracy stakes. This is a hunting rifle and I wouldn’t expect benchrest accuracy, yet they always seem to perform admirably, in this instance average groups with factory ammunition hovering around the Minute-of-Angle mark (28mm at 100m) with some tight groups in the mix. Accuracy really shone through with the handloads using .30-calibre Tigershark monolithic projectiles which are potent on medium to large game species such as deer and feral pigs.
The Howa M1500 has been a success story for OSA in Australia and continues to be a strong seller and the availability of carbon-fibre stocks to suit the barrelled actions will only strengthen Howa’s presence. The Carbon Elevate in selected short and long action calibres makes for a superb lightweight hunting or long-range outfit with Howa’s M1500 precision and reliability inherently built in. RRP is around the $1850 mark but it pays to shop around. More at www.osaaustralia.com.au
Manufacturer: Howa Manufacturing, Japan
Model: M1500 Carbon Elevate
Action: Push-feed bolt-action, twin locking lug
Barrel: Number 7 profile, carbon-wrapped 610mm (24”) stainless steel, cold-hammer forged
Sights: None fitted, clean barrel. Receiver drilled/tapped with Remington 700-pattern scope-mounting bases
Trigger: Howa H.A.C.T. unit, two-stage adjustable, set at 1.3kg from factory
Magazine: Internal steel box with aluminium floorplate, capacity dependent on calibre (review rifle in .308 Win, five rounds)
Stock: Carbon-fibre with AccuBlock bedding system, LimbSaver recoil pad
Weight: 2.86kg (bare)
Calibres: Short Action 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win (tested); Long Action 6.5 PRC, .300 WM
RRP: About $1850 but shop around
Distributor: Outdoor Sporting Agencies