Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight .308 Win Review

I carried the Mark V through thick brush in the Sonoran Desert for nearly a year's worth of excursions. It collected a few dings and scratches along the way.

I carried the Mark V through thick brush in the Sonoran Desert for nearly a year's worth of excursions. It collected a few dings and scratches along the way.

I am somewhat fanatical about keeping the weight of the items I carry over long distances as low as is practical. I’ve learned over the years that I can hike farther, faster, and be more well rested when I reach my destination if I don’t carry too much stuff. This lesson was learned the hard way during my time in the military, although a lot of the time I didn’t have a choice. Very little thought is given by those in control of such things to understanding how the individual components of a serviceman’s fighting load need to work in harmony or enable him to accomplish his mission without destroying his body in the process.

As a civilian, I have nearly complete freedom to choose which items I use and carry. This is both good and bad – yes, I have the freedom to make the right decisions, but I also have the freedom to make the wrong ones. If I carry too much stuff, I might not make it where I need to go, or I might not be able to hit my target when I get there. If I don’t carry enough stuff or I bring an inadequate item simply because it was light, I probably won’t be able to do what I need to do either.

It’s finding that balance that’s important – just enough to get the job done and not be completely miserable along the way. Enter the subject of this review, the Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight chambered in .308 Winchester.

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Despite the flat black finish and the tan with black web composite stock, this is not a “tactical” rifle – it is intended to be a lightweight hunting rifle.

Weatherby provided me with this rifle nearly a year ago. I was hoping to use it during last year’s Sniper Adventure Challenge, but it arrived just a little too late; I held on to it longer than I intended to because I had hoped to use it in the same competition this year. As it turned out, I brought a lightweight AR-15 to the competition this year; nevertheless, I have spent a significant amount of time shooting and carrying this rifle, and feel qualified to discuss its performance in depth.

Weatherby Rifles

For those who may not be familiar with Weatherby, here’s a short primer. In the 1940s, Roy Weatherby was experimenting with ways to make more powerful – that is, faster – rifle ammunition. He developed a series of cartridges bearing his name which essentially represented the highest level of performance for a given caliber at the time, and many of his cartridges are still considered to be the fastest or most powerful in their class. Initially he used other rifle actions to test and build his creations, but in 1957 he designed a new rifle action, intending it to be incredibly strong and able to resist damage in the event of an ammunition failure. He called this new action the Mark V, as it was the fifth iteration of his design.

Anything named "Mark V" is cool. Especially the boat.

Anything named “Mark V” is cool. Especially the boat.

I have had previous experiences with Weatherby rifles: one of the first centerfire rifles I ever fired was a Mark V in .460 Weatherby. I fired it four times, and each time, it set off multiple car alarms in the shooting range parking lot. In addition, I own a Weatherby Vanguard, their entry-level rifle. It might be the most accurate off-the-shelf bolt action rifle I have ever owned.

Mark V Ultra Lightweight Details

This rifle appears to have been built with serious weight reduction as the primary consideration, which is why I requested it from Weatherby. Without a scope or rings, it weighed 5lbs 13 ounces on my scale. The button rifled barrel tapers down to under .550″ at the muzzle, and it’s also fluted! There are six longitudinal flutes running from approximately two inches forward of the throat to two inches short of the muzzle. Keep in mind that this is a .308, so per inch of barrel, it’s lighter than a lightweight AR-15 barrel in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO.

Your little finger is most likely wider than the barrel of this Weatherby.

Your little finger is most likely wider than the barrel of this Weatherby.

However, the Weatherby’s barrel is 24″ long, which I find somewhat puzzling. While a lot of people love to debate the proper barrel length for a .308, I think 24″ is just too long. I’ve seen semi-auto 16″ 308s make regular and repeatable hits on E type silhouettes at 800 yards. Even if Weatherby wanted to play it a little safe, they could have easily chopped the barrel down to 18″ or 20″ and not lost a ton of velocity. That would have made this rifle a lot more maneuverable in the brush, and saved even more weight. Obviously that wouldn’t have been as much of an option for a cartridge such as .300 Weatherby Magnum, but to me, a 24″ .308 barrel is past the point of diminishing returns – especially when weight reduction is a primary consideration.

The action itself is a slightly simpler version of the original Mark V, for Weatherby found no reason to have nine locking lugs on non-magnum caliber bolts. This one features six locking lugs, which is still…well, it’s still a lot of locking lugs. Most modern bolt action rifles have two or three locking lugs, albeit larger ones than those found on the Weatherby. As a result, the Mark V action feels a bit different than other bolt action rifles.

Six locking lugs, three vent holes, "three rings of steel." If it wasn't done in triplicate, Roy Weatherby wasn't interested.

Six locking lugs, three vent holes, “three rings of steel.” If it wasn’t done in triplicate, Roy Weatherby wasn’t interested.

It’s a push feed, cock-on-open design, which is fairly standard, but when the striker is cocked, the bolt wants to come to the rear before it’s fully unlocked unless you keep some forward pressure on the bolt handle as you rotate it. If you simply pull the handle upwards, the bolt will pop back a fraction of an inch at approximately 80% of the fully unlocked position, requiring that you add a little more pressure to rotate it to the full unlocked position. After you’ve fired a round (or allowed the striker to go forward via dry fire), you won’t feel that notch, but you will notice that it requires significant effort to unlock the bolt. In comparison to the Weatherby Vanguard, Tikka T3, Remington 700, and Steyr Safebolt I had on hand for friends to try, the unanimous opinion was that the Mark V required the most effort to unlock after firing.

One advantage of having more than two locking lugs, though, is a shorter bolt throw angle. The Mark V has a short bolt throw of only 54 degrees, which is far less than the 90 degree throw of a Remington 700. In addition to simply being shorter and theoretically faster, a shorter bolt throw means less interference with large scopes mounted low to the action. If you’re deciding on an action, one consideration is whether putting more effort into a shorter distance is worthwhile. For any sort of hunting situation involving dangerous game, I would much rather have a shorter bolt throw. For lots of shooting in the prone during a long range match, I would rather be lazy and not have to hold on to the rifle with my non-firing hand while unlocking the bolt.

With a Vortex Viper HS 2.5-10x44 in Talley rings, the Mark V Ultralight felt like an awesome short to mid range hunting rifle.

With a Vortex Viper HS 2.5-10×44 in Talley rings, the Mark V Ultralight felt like an awesome short to mid range hunting rifle.

The Weatherby features a two position safety on the right side of the bolt sleeve, just forward of the cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt. Forward is on safe, which also locks the bolt in place. There are three vent holes along the side of the bolt to relieve pressure in the event that things get a little too hot, and of course the “three rings of steel” which encircle the case head – the recessed bolt face, the barrel, and the receiver. It is said that the Mark V action will withstand up to 200,000 CUP, a claim which I would not like to test while holding the rifle. However, having read many reports of the destructive testing of rifles and having conducted a few of my own, I am quite impressed with the results of Mark V pressure testing.

The safety and cocking indicator seemed well-designed to me.

The safety and cocking indicator seemed well-designed to me.

The trigger was slightly heavier than my other bolt action rifle triggers. Weatherby says that the trigger is 3.5lbs and advises that it should not be adjusted by anyone short of a qualified gunsmith. I felt the tiniest bit of creep just before the trigger broke, but it did not seem to be significant enough to affect my shooting in that I had to pay very close attention to even feel that it was evident. That said, I inspected a few Mark Vs in various stores, and all of them seemed to have “better” triggers than this example.

Performance of the Mark V Ultra Lightweight

I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the performance of this Mark V. I don’t know why I expected it to be an absolute tackdriver – perhaps because my other Weatherby is – but it proved to be somewhat less than that. I did expect it to be moderately unpleasant to shoot, which it was.

With Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammunition at 600 yards, I was unable to match the performance of my other .308 rifles over the course of a 40 shot prone match.

The Mark V Ultra Lightweight is not a match rifle – nor was it intended to be.

With Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammunition at 600 yards, I was unable to match the performance of my other .308 rifles over the course of a 40 shot prone match. After approximately ten to fifteen shots, I noticed a point of impact change of two to three feet at 600 yards. Closer in, I was unable to fire a ten shot group of less than 2 inches at 100 yards with any type of match ammunition. Weatherby representatives told me that the barrel was not free floated because this improved accuracy with such a light barrel; I would question how much worse it could be.

Then again, it wasn’t built as a match rifle. It was intended to be a lightweight hunting rifle that could put a single bullet through the vital zone of an animal at a reasonable hunting distance. Given a 2″ 10 shot group and an 8″ vital zone, plus a margin of safety for human error, I’d say that 300 yards is about as far as I would be comfortable taking a shot against a game animal with the Mark V Ultra Lightweight. This brings me back to the barrel length – I don’t need the minor velocity bump provided by a 24″ .308 barrel to hit something at 300 yards.

If a 16" gas operated .308 can hold 1 MOA to at least 800 yards, why does a bolt action need a 24" barrel to hold 2 MOA at 400?

If a 16″ gas operated .308 can hold 1 MOA to at least 800 yards, why does a bolt action need a 24″ barrel to hold 2 MOA at 400?

So with the rifle delivering acceptable accuracy for hunting purposes, if not the match accuracy I would hope for from a rifle with a $2100 MSRP, what other performance metrics are there to discuss?

The first thing that comes to mind is reliability. I did not technically encounter any malfunctions, but I did have a few problems. I believe that there was a single cause – some sort of chamber dimension being ever-so-slightly on the smaller side. I had one popped primer with factory (S&B) ammunition, and extremely difficult extraction with several brands of match and hunting ammunition. This difficulty would have prevented a rapid followup shot, as it took five to ten seconds to pull the rifle out of my shoulder, tuck the stock under my arm, and rip upwards on the bolt handle in order to unlock the bolt and pull it to the rear before repeating those steps in reverse order.

This problem seemed to be slightly alleviated by a very thorough cleaning, but it was noticeable even when the rifle was brand new and clean as well as when it had been fired hundreds of times and then cleaned.

With Federal Gold Match or PNW Arms Match (pictured) ammunition, I did not have extraction problems.

With Federal Gold Match or PNW Arms Match (pictured) ammunition, I did not have extraction problems.

However, with Federal Gold Medal or PNW Arms Match ammunition, I did not have to put nearly as much effort behind unlocking the bolt. This problem might be a result of tolerance stacking on both sides: ammunition and rifle. I’m not quite sure and I haven’t done a chamber cast to find out. While the problems did stop me from carrying the rifle in a few situations, I felt confident in carrying the rifle in the field whenever I had FGMM.

Final Thoughts

This Mark V did not quite live up to my expectations, which I found a little disappointing. It appeared on initial inspection to be very well made, to include an essentially perfect finish, very positive engagement of all controls, even and consistent fitment/assembly of components to one another, and nothing loose or out of place. Weatherby included nice touches such as an engraved W on the bottom of the trigger guard, bottom metal and a trigger guard that was actually metal, and so on. There appeared to be none of the cost-saving features used on lower-priced rifles.

If I hadn’t encountered the extraction problems, I’d be willing to overlook the accuracy issues and give the rifle a solid thumbs up. If I hadn’t encountered the extraction problems and the rifle had a shorter barrel, I would probably be yelling at Weatherby to take my money and not ask me what happened to their T&E rifle. If I hadn’t encountered the extraction problems and the rifle had a shorter barrel which was also thicker and free floated (and therefore hopefully more accurate), AND it took AI detachable magazines, I might not ever buy another .308 bolt action.

As it is, though, I can only see the potential of what this Mark V could have been. It looked and felt like a $2000 rifle, it just didn’t shoot like one.

Related

Andrew Tuohy

Andrew Tuohy was a Navy Corpsman with the 5th Marine Regiment. He makes a living by producing written and visual content within the firearm industry, and he also teaches carbine courses. He prefers elegant weapons for a more civilized age, and regularly posts at Vuurwapen Blog.


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  • Joe Schmoe

    From what I remember from my sniper course in the military, the reason the M-24 .308 is 24 inches is because it is the optimal length for the round. The powder is fully used up at around the ~20-21 inch mark, but there is still enough gas pressure that the round continues to accelerate effectively for another ~3-4 inches, anything further and the bullet will start dragging. Hence, the 24 inch barrel. Sure you can cut it shorter, but it’s far from optimal.

    There was also something about barrel harmonics if I remember for the 24 inches.

    • Andrew Tuohy

      Depending on the barrel and chamber, there may be a 20-100fps bump from ~18-20″ to 24″ from what I have seen in the past. If I am going for an ultralight hunting rifle, I would rather have an extra 4-6″ of maneuverability than an extra 20-100fps. If I was building a bench rifle then yes, I would want a 24″ barrel.

    • Carlos

      Using up all the powder also makes for less muzzle flash, good for a sniper, but antelope don’t shoot back.

  • Julio

    Thanks for the review. I would, however question the relevance of evaluating accuracy on a rifle like this with a 10-shot group, unless the barrel was allowed to cool after every couple of rounds and the group accumulated over time -this is not indicated, Personally, on a rifle that is, as you say, designed as a hunting rifle and not as a “tactical” rifle, I’d be more concerned about the repeatability of a cold-bore shot than accuracy in repetitive fire. however. After all, when hunting, do you plan on missing a lot, or on getting it right first time? Nevertheless, if accuracy is actually mediocre from a cold barrel, I’d absolutely agree that the barrel length is increasingly unnecessary as groups open up.

    • Andrew Tuohy

      Good observation, I should have specified (might make an edit). I tried both a series of cold bore shots (10 minute cooldown between shots) and more traditional 1 shot per 30-40 second intervals, with a variety of ammunition; I had friends shoot the rifle, I tried different optics – it just did not want to shoot small groups.

      • Samuel Suggs

        “This lesson was learned the hard way during my time in the military” yeah I dont think the decision to carry a M249 SAW para helped you their Andrew :)

      • Julio

        Thanks for your clarification. It sounds as though your testing was even more scrupulous than my suggested regime! In view of this I can fully understand your dissatisfaction with the rifle’s accuracy and puzzlement over the length of its barrel. Hopefully, Weatherby will take note.

        By the way: great photos!

    • Z-man

      yep

  • Thomas Gomez

    Awesome article!

    • Andrew Tuohy

      Thanks!

  • CrankyFool

    Well … anyone who accuses you of shilling products in guise of product reviews should be eating their words right around now.

    • Samuel Suggs

      they will never go away dood the conspiracy will live on untill this website dies

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      I would think so—

  • Samuel Suggs

    I got a distinctive spend your money elsewhere vibe. Just me? its not like this is the only option. I suggest you spend your money here http://www.remington.com/en/products/firearms/centerfire/model-700/model-700-target-tactical.aspx yes the barrels to long i know http://www.sniperforums.com/forum/rifles/27101-model-700a-tactical-target-rifle-triangular-barrel-updat.html here’s a review sorry to irritate you with infernal tactical rifleing Andrew

  • allannon

    Regarding the 24″ barrel, remember that it’s far easier to have a barrel shortened than extended. ;)

    Given that 24″ is approximately the optimum for .308, it’s a reasonable BBL for the gun; people that want a shorter barrel on a $2k rifle will probably be willing to pay to have it shortened and crowned.

    • RoCr

      The fluted barrel may make that a bit more difficult for that rifle. Shortening it too much will mean that the flutes will terminate right at the end of the barrel, which would be aesthetically (and possibly functionally) problematic.

      It looks like you could probably get it down to 22″ no problem (which is a decent length for a hunting rifle), maybe 20″. Any more than that and you’d probably need a new barrel.

      • Andrew Tuohy

        Yeah, regardless of the performance, I would not want a high-dollar rifle shortened to the middle of the fluting. It would just look like I was too cheap to have it rebarreled properly.

  • PCP

    Any opinions on the Sako Finnlight?

    • Andrew Tuohy

      Other than that I’ve been eyeing one for a while and want to try it out, no.

  • Cameron Bissell

    Do you think the long pep also had to do with the balance point on the rifle?

  • George Osmer

    several years ago, I decided I needed a 280 Remington rifle. after wandering through cabelas, I found a used lightweight weatherby. I never looked back on the rifle or the round.

    • Samuel Suggs

      Your cabelas is different than mine. I walk in and “it’s you wanna buy one our 50 10/22′s how bout a pump shotee? No? Well then git we ain’t got no ammo!”

  • Tony

    For once an honest product review! Nicely done. I only wish all product reviews on TFB were as impartial, objective and based on as detailed testing as this one.

    ” If I hadn’t encountered the extraction problems and the rifle had a shorter barrel which was also thicker and free floated (and therefore hopefully more accurate), AND it took AI detachable magazines, I might not ever buy another .308 bolt action.”

    You mean… Like the Ruger Scout? :o) (Well, okay, at least my export version is quite a bit heavier than 5oz something… But it is still decently light, free-floated, capable of 1 MOA accuracy (with Norma Jaktmatch factory ammunition at least), and takes AICS magazines. And even in this country the price was significantly less than 2000USD. :) )

    • Samuel Suggs

      What are you people looking to get out of this website?

    • Andrew Tuohy

      Thanks. Yeah, the Scout is a nice rifle, but I could find a few things to complain about if I spent a year with one, I’m sure. ;)

  • Mat

    One of the downsides of the 54° bolt lift is that there is less mechanical advantage for primary extraction compared to a traditional 90° action.

  • Zius Patagus

    $2,000 Ultra Lightweight hunting rifle with a 24″ bbl and giant scope, LOL.

    • Samuel Suggs

      Why is that funny? Not everyone hunts deer from a stand at 300yrds

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    I have two Weatherbys, one a Vanguard in .308 Winchester, and the other a Vanguard II in .300 Weatherby Magnum. Both work perfectly and with utmost reliability in the most difficult field conditions with minimal maintenance, and are extremely accurate as well, even with repeat shots off a hot barrel. Given Weatherby’s well-deserved reputation for quality and attention to detail, it is disappointing to read of a Weatherby, and a pricey Mark V variation at that, that does not quite deliver. I think a good part of the problem is that Weatherby took the “lightweight” theme too far, and ended up compromising the balance of factors that made up what should have been a superb rifle.

  • John Daniels

    This is the kind of review TFB needs more often. Honest, thorough, the good and the bad together. Thank you.

    • Samuel Suggs

      Read the Vuurwapen blog if you can’t stand the brief news flashes or forgotten weapons or pick you own weaponsman, Joals Gulch, branch out and you will eventually find what you want somewhere http://vuurwapenblog.com/

  • Darryl

    Here is a good article discussing barrel length of a .308.

    http://www.tacticaloperations.com/SWATbarrel/

  • That guy

    2 MOA at 100 yards from a 2K bolt rifle? Ouch. I’d be wanting my money back. I know it’s a light weight build and all, but that’s one hell of a price to pay when there are lots of well sub 1K bolt actions that will do sub 3/4 MOA at 100 easily.

  • Jason

    I would agree with the author in the caption. I am not sure Bolt Actions will stick around in the near future, with Semi-Autos reaching sub MOA accuracy in smaller packages. The gun is a great looking gun however, but I would go with a 308 AR platform for cheaper.

    • Samuel Suggs

      random picture of an early m1911? wish I could get away with that

  • SemiSalt

    I think you are unrealistic in your expectations of accuracy. You know that when a builder wants a more accurate rifle, the first thing he does is add weight to the barrel, but here, where the barrel is stripped down to the minimum, you expect heavy barrel performance. You also seem to think it’s obvious that floating the barrel would be good thing even when you quote the Weatherby guys who have actually tried it and found that it wasn’t.

    • Andrew Tuohy

      If you want to disagree with me, fine…but disagree with what I actually said, not what you would like to argue against.

      I said I would want to know how much worse the free floated version was, not that it would have been “obviously” better. I said that a thicker and free floated barrel would “hopefully” be more accurate, not “obviously” more accurate.

      I can also think of many things that a builder would do to make a more accurate rifle before adding weight to the barrel.

      I simply fail to see why a 24″, thin, fluted barrel which shoots kinda okay but really not very well was chosen over a shorter, thicker barrel which perhaps could maintain the same overall weight but potentially increase accuracy while definitely increasing maneuverability.

      I did not expect heavy barrel performance. I have owned thin profile and/or lightweight bolt action and semi automatic rifles which shot smaller groups than this Weatherby. Hence my disappointment.

  • idahoguy101

    Nice rifles. Just very pricey

  • Tom

    If you want an accurate lightweight rifle, I would point you towards an Ultralight Arms (or New Ultralight Arms as they are now called). Mel Forbes has spent a lifetime perfecting just what you are looking for. You would be hard pressed to beat one. He designed his own action to trim weight, yet I’ve heard Nosler uses his action for proof testing. Strong enough.

    They are very accurate, but like you discovered, all rifle will change POI as the barrels heat up. Thin ones more that heavy contours.

    Try one, you will like them.

    • Samuel Suggs

      their website is facinating in the same way that an ak-47 that was buried with an african cheiftan 20 years ago and still works is facinating

  • Mad Mantis

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this review. Looking forward to seeing more like it.

  • Laserbait

    I would love to shorten that down to 18″ and freefloat it, then retest.

  • cogboy

    I just shot my 270 ultralight and couldn’t get a 4inch group ! Seems like I wasted 1700 on this rifle .

  • Achmed

    Good review. My purely crass opinion is that it’s a Weatherby. Weatherby has always been a great rifle builder, but frankly they don’t have to try that hard to meet sales targets. It’s light, got a cool stock, and it’s a Weatherby. The typical FUDD shoots the rifle twice a year to zero it and that’s about it. Why the long barrel? Because old timer lore is you need a long barrel to reach out. It would be better with a short stiffer barrel. Thanks for the honest, rigorous review.

  • Mike

    Doesn’t Weatherby have a guarantee that their rifles will shoot 1 1/2″ or less at a 100 yd’s or they don’t leave the factory?