The worldwide success of the Howa M1500 centrefire rifle platform can be squarely attributed to the Fuller Global consortium and its distribution through agencies such as Legacy Sports in the US and Highland Outdoors in the UK. In Australia, Outdoor Sporting Agencies (OSA) has represented the Howa brand for years and continues to provide our shooting sportsmen and women with everything they need in quality centrefire barrelled actions and countless rifle stock options.
Now Fuller Global and Howa in Japan have released a brand-new addition to their stable in the Model 1100 Rimfire. It was only a matter of time before they’d take the success of the M1500 Centrefire and design a rimfire rifle and from the first look at the M1100 – available in .22LR, .22WMR and .17HMR – it seems destined to be a success.
When OSA presented Australian Shooter with the chance to run the rule over the M1100 it was eagerly received, a review rifle supplied in .22LR with black polymer stock along with a Nikko Stirling Panamax optic and one-piece scope rings/bases. An OD green polymer stock is also available but the only metal finish currently offered is satin blue (in the US the rifle also comes with a wood stock option and that could be available here in the future).
Receiving the rifle with its compact barrel and tactical/varmint profiled stock, it’s clear this is fashioned for certain sectors of the market – it would make an ideal PRS training rifle and double as a small game rifle and plinking option. The rifle is supplied with two polymer 10-shot magazines and sports a 460mm (18”) #4 contour barrel with threaded and capped muzzle for accessory attachment. It measures 940mm and weighs 2.55kg bare.
The rifle has a receiver milled from circular steel bar-stock with a rounded upper profile and generous ejection port tailored not only for the .22LR cartridge but also the longer WMR and HMR rimfires. What’s immediately evident is the lack of any milled dovetails in the receiver, Howa deciding to stick with the circular profile of the bar-stock and drill and tap the receiver for scope accoutrement mounting. The review rifle was supplied with neat one-piece rings/bases which screwed directly into the receiver top, though two-piece Weaver-style bases or a Picatinny rail would be other options for scope mounting.
The left side of the receiver has ‘Howa M1100 Made in Japan’ inscribed into its surface as well as ‘Imported by Legacy Sports Revo NV’ – the US distributor of Howa rifles. Bolt removal is done by pressing a small tab on the rear left of the receiver flank, the receiver itself quite plain but for rimfire calibres perfectly functional without being over-engineered.
The barrel on the M1100 is of chrome-moly construction and attached to the receiver via the pinning method, a common way of joining rimfire barrels to actions. The #4 contour gives the barrel extra rigidity and looks the part with the gun’s tactical/varmint styling. Internally the .22LR bore has a one-in-16 rate of twist, standard for.22 rimfire calibres.
Towards the front end of the barrel, the muzzle has been threaded for use with accessories (where permitted) and is supplied with a cap to protect the threaded segment. The crown is of a recessed target profile which is conducive to accuracy and appreciated on a rimfire rifle as such. The barrelled action is finished in semi-gloss blue and I gather a stainless steel version could be in the pipeline, though the blued variety still looks the part.
This is characterised by an oversized tactical bolt handle. The body is made of several pieces with a polished steel front section which houses the twin claw extractors and travels on the internal raceways inside the receiver, which additionally eject the rimfire cartridge when the bolt is pulled rearwards.
The middle section of the bolt and handle shank are semi-gloss blued and a polymer bolt shroud covers the rear section of the bolt mechanism. Operating the bolt on a brand new rifle in this instance didn’t give the silky-smooth travel which was touted but with use I’d expect the bolt to become quite slick. For a rimfire cartridge and the short bolt travel encountered, this isn’t problematic at all.
Trigger and safety
The trigger unit on the M1100 is perfectly functional with a large degree of uptake in the trigger before it breaks crisply. Measuring the trigger pull with my Wheeler gauge it clicked in at around 1.3kg which for a hunting rifle would be perfectly fine as-is but for shooting in an accuracy or training setting, tuning the trigger to a release of around 1kg would be beneficial. I’m told after-market triggers will be available for the M1100 in due course.
The safety mechanism is a two-position affair with a lever just behind the bolt handle notch. The lever is easy to move between the ‘SAFE’ and ‘FIRE’ positions and while on ‘SAFE’ allows the bolt to be cycled but blocks the sear on the trigger mechanism. The trigger blade is made of aluminium and has a nice curved profile with longitudinal ribbing along its length.
Two polymer magazines are supplied with the rifle and have 10-shot capacity, are easy to load in a single-stack manner and feed faultlessly through the rifle. They’re simple to insert into the magazine well and clip into place, while removing the magazine is as straightforward as pressing the small spring-loaded lever.
The review rifle sported a synthetic polymer stock which is available in black (as supplied) or OD Green. The stock immediately appeals with its tactical/varmint-style ergonomics, its pronounced grip angle and rear bag-rest hook in the base of the buttstock. Handling the rifle with this stock option fitted did take some getting used to but shooting off the bench with a rear bag and front rest it worked well. As a hunting stock, shooting freehand was not a problem and the lightness of the stock contributed to a rifle well suited to hunting small game and plinking in the field.
The barrelled action is bedded directly on to the polymer surface of the stock and the barrel free-floated for its entire length. This method of bedding is fine for a rimfire platform and gives acceptable accuracy, while a decent recoil pad is supplied as are QD sling swivel studs on the toe of the stock and underside of the fore-end (two M-LOK slots are also built into the fore-end tip underside which make it handy for additional attachments).
There are other after-market stock options available for the Howa M1100, with Southern Cross Small Arms making an excellent chassis stock for the model (this will be the subject of a separate review in a future edition of Australian Shooter). A wood stock is available in the US (Legacy Sports) and this option could be offered locally in the future for owners who prefer a more classical profile.
At the range
The Howa M1100 in .22LR was supplied with a Nikko Stirling Panamax optic with one-piece rings/bases which attached directly to the top of the receiver. Several brands of .22LR ammunition were earmarked for accuracy testing, including standard and high velocity options from Winchester and Browning. Five 5-shot groups were fired through the rifle at 50m with the barrel cleaned between changes in ammunition brand. Table 1 outlines results of the accuracy testing.
Table 1: Howa M1100 .22LR – Accuracy testing at 50m
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group (mm)*|
|Winchester 555 36-grain Hollow-Point (1280fps)||28||45||35|
|Browning BPR 40-grain Round-Nose (1255fps)||20||33||26|
|Winchester Winner Standard Velocity 40-grain lead bullet||19||37||25|
|Winchester Subsonic 40-grain Hollow-Point||15||27||22|
|Winchester Power-Point 40-grain Hollow-Point (1280fps)||12||26||18|
|Winchester Power-Point 42 MAX 42-grain Hollow-Point (1320fps)||13||20||16|
* Average calculated from five 5-shot groups at 50m from a benchrest
Even though testing didn’t include any high-end match grade ammo, the resulting group averages were pleasing for both standard, subsonic and high-velocity ammunition. The rifle did particularly well with both brands of the Winchester Power-Point and if this were my rifle I’d lean towards the 42 MAX load as it did shoot very well at 50m and would make an excellent small game load out to 75m or so. All loads tested would easily anchor a rabbit, hare or feral cat at that distance and could be shot with confidence.
The Howa M1100 is destined to become a popular rimfire. It’s well suited to small-game hunting as well as use as a training rifle and lends itself to customisation with after-market stocks and accessories being increasingly available for this model. The M1100 in .22LR, .22WMR and .17HMR retails for $690 and is available through all OSA dealers Australia-wide. If the success of the Howa M1500 is anything to go by, the M1100 rimfire looks certain to be a strong seller.
Model: Howa M1100
Manufacturer: Howa, Japan
Action: Push-feed bolt-action, steel receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounting, semi-gloss blue finish, oversize tactical bolt knob fitted
Barrel: 460mm (18”) chrome-moly steel, pinned to receiver, muzzle threaded for accessories
Calibres: .22LR and .22WMR (1:16 rate of twist), .17HMR (1:9 rate of twist)
Magazine: Two supplied of polymer construction, 10-shot capacity
Safety: Two-position lever safety
Trigger: Two-stage adjustable, set at 1.3kg from factory
Stock: Synthetic polymer, tactical profile in black or OD Green, recoil pad and QD sling swivel studs fitted
Distributor: Outdoor Sporting Agencies