Howa KRG rifle a well-priced option, claims Daniel O’Dea
To achieve consistent accuracy in a rifle, correct and stable mating of a barrelled action to the stock is crucial. If bedding surfaces aren’t completely inert (can’t be affected by temperature, humidity or other influences) your point of impact can potentially shift between shots. In bygone days when rifles traditionally had wooden stocks with actions bolted directly on to timber this could be quite apparent as such wood can swell or warp with humidity. Likewise, often from the factory the barrel would also press hard against the stock within the barrel channel and as the barrel heated up the tension and harmonics could change. If you wanted your rifle to shoot well you’d generally send it to a gunsmith to have it bedded and floated.
As rifle stocks developed, more inert materials were sought for construction and we ended up with stocks made from fibreglass, laminates and other modern polymers and in unison with this came improved methods of bolting actions into stocks such as pillar bedding. One of the more recent developments has been where the barrelled action bolts into a completely inert alloy chassis and once torqued provides arguably a solution all but impervious to change.
But there can be downsides such as weight and despite most designs being skeletonised, complete alloy options for the most part are heavier than their modern contemporaries. Then come styling and ergonomics, both completely objective of course, though some simply prefer the look and feel of a more traditional design. Thankfully you can now enjoy the best of both worlds with options such as the Howa KRG rifle which comes standard with a KRG Bravo stock being a fine example.
US-based company Kinetic Research Group (KRG) was formed more than a decade ago by a group of then active-duty special forces soldiers who, as both professional and sporting shooters, were looking to develop improved equipment. They built a successful business with several small arms designs but are known for their tactical-cum-competition bolt-action rifle stocks and accessories. These stocks appear polymer but still contain a chassis in the form of a solid alloy backbone running from the tang through to the fore-end to which the barrelled action mounts, providing a precision machined bedding surface where it counts most. The rest of the stock is made of lightweight polymer.
Under review the Howa KRG rifle in appearance carries stock lines somewhat reminiscent of the popular A5-type stock design but packed with modular features. Starting from the front everything effectively bolts to the alloy backbone, so although polymer the fore-end for instance has no flex and remains completely rigid. The tip of the fore-end has a recess from which the chassis is visible and machined to accept an optional spigot mount for fitment of a bipod or other accessories forward of the tip. To the sides are M-Lok slots (two per side) for additional accessory or rails fitment options and the fore-end underside comes with a standard sling swivel stud to accept a Harris-type bipod or sling. Another five M-Lok slots and additional hole spacings provide even more options for fitment of barrier stops.
The fore-end is flat and broad to sit well on a bag or rest from the tip to just before the magazine well and from here it steps down about 15mm (this step can be used as a barrier stop in its own right). The top edge of the fore-end also has provision via 10 M4 bolt holes to mount a night vision rail/cap directly to the chassis.
The system is designed to work with AICS pattern magazines and I believe this includes the polymer Magpul (7.62/.308 parent case) PMAGs. I was running a 10-round Accurate-Mag which performed flawlessly in the rifle. A steel magazine release lever sits forward of the triggerguard and is fitted with a polymer wing (or ears) to provide ambidextrous release with just the tip of your trigger finger. The magazine well is generously bevelled for changes so ergonomically with these features combined it’s easy to drop the mag and replace it without coming off the gun which is beneficial in timed competitions.
The near-vertical pistol grip on the stock has plenty of palmswell and fills the hand nicely, its deep contour providing for the adaptation of various grip styles. The grip includes a hollow base accessible via a catch and removable base-plate on the bottom and there’s also an Allen screw for more permanent retention. Bottom of the buttstock is flat but includes a cover plate which, when removed, provides conversion to a butt hook-type stock with optional replacement cover plate to that style. Between the end of the cover plate and start of the recoil pad you’ll find hole spacing providing ease of fitment of a bag rider, short rail or monopod.
The adjustable cheekpiece has a knob to the right for height adjustment while length of pull can be altered via the addition of up to three supplied polymer spacers along with a series of corresponding bolts of appropriate length, the spacers measuring ⅜” or just under 10mm each while a soft rubber kick-pad completes the package as standard. Howa KRG’s stock also offers Tool-Less adjustable height and length of pull butt-pad assemblies if you wish to upgrade. Finally, just to the rear of the cheekpiece is a slot for fitment of a quick detectable sling cup, one of which also comes provided as standard with the stock.
The Howa KRG stock’s precision machined inletting includes a radius bedding system for consistent contact between action and chassis, starting with the rifle broken down as a stock and barrelled action it was a simple operation to assemble and once correctly torqued down with the two provided action screws you’re basically ready to go. In this case the Howa barrelled action was already scoped and sighted with a Zeiss 5-30×50 V6 so I had only minor adjustments to make.
Once on the range it was quickly evident the Howa KRG rifle with its Bravo stock was well up to the task in the accuracy department. Sub-MOA five-round groups were the norm with three-shot groups often printing much tighter, half-minute groups readily achievable when I played my part. I didn’t do any serious load development with the Howa KRG, relying mainly on reloads using mixed once-fired brass combined with ADI AR2209 and either 140gr or 147gr Hornady ELD projectiles. This along with American Gunner 6.5 Creedmoor factory ammo always proves a great performer.
Behind the rifle I found the stock comfortable to use as the design sits well both on a benchrest or bag and as usual I ran it in my Caldwell Lead Sled for accuracy work before fitting a Harris bipod to shoot prone off the mat. I really like the grip, always having preferred a generous palmswell and also found the low contour of the vertical pistol grip combined with a high thumb hold just behind the tang enables you to leverage off the thumb if required, to crack the bolt open in initial extraction in order to work the bolt quickly.
The adjustable cheekpiece has a recess on the forward edge which appears to be there for bolt clearance. Perhaps it’s different with other action variants fitted to KRG stocks, but with the Howa 1500 the bolt shroud doesn’t come back that far during cycling and the recess isn’t deep enough to achieve bolt removal for cleaning. To do that you need to pop the cheekpiece off by releasing the adjustment knob/clamp and lifting it away. It has no memory for height setting but the easy fix is to pop a couple of simple rubber O-rings on the cheekpiece studs which, after being slid down to the preferred position, can be removed and returned to the same height without issue.
In summary I found the Howa KRG rifle with its Bravo Chassis (stock) a solid, well-featured, well-priced, modular platform which represents a practical and accurate rifle. Priced competitively at time of writing it features a stock with all key requirements for some competition rifle disciplines along with the modularity to build it into perhaps the stock you might wish for but may not currently have the budget for. Paired as it is with the Howa 1500 action you end up with a competitive rifle at a modest price. The Howa KRG Rifle is distributed in Australia by Outdoor Sporting Agencies and visit the KRG website more information.